Auckland CBD Rail Loop: The Numbers Don’t Stack Up


I’m glad I’m not alone in wondering why officials don’t see the proposed Auckland CBD rail loop as a big driver for

No-one has argued why we don’t need it. Anyone who uses the trains knows of the frustrating wait outside the Britomart tunnel until a berth is available because of the absurd short-sighted one line in, one out build when the place was constructed.

But I thought the argument for the cost was that it would help boost patronage by making it easy for people around the city to catch a train rather than a bus or grab their car.

I must admit some days if I am way uptown and weary, I find it hard to cope with walking all the way down to Britomart at the very bottom of Queen St.

Officials can easily make up numbers in their forward projections. For example, the ARC transport committee has somehow some up with the idea the proposed work in hand will show a 500% increase in peak rail and ferry passengers by 2041.

That’s bordering on being laughable. How do you seriously come to such figures decades ahead? I guess they think of a number, double it, divide by 3 and hey this looks good. Global warming may have got us by then anyway.

But the CDB loop which is not top of the officials list despite assuming it’s necessary and so will happen is being argued to increase the vitality of businesses - something the local business people are working hard on including their awful misguided recent ad campaign and their so far successful bid to lure more prestigious shops into the downtown area.

The officials comparison in their computer projections of rail demands with and without a CBD rail loop indicated the loop system would increase rail and ferry patronage by 23% from 93,000 to 125,000 users during the morning, interpeak and afternoon peak periods.

But they say other proposed rail services such as the airport link will increase by a much more impressive 70%.

So they have concluded that , while it would alleviate the terminal constraints and allow for increased services, the loop will NOT on its own maximise rail use - their jargon for increase rail patronage.

This is not a good statement to make.

How do you persuade a government agency to spend many millions just to correct a mistake made in building Britomart when it won’t give you an increase in passengers?

If the government isn’t commuter rail-friendly and can use the recession as a reason to be careful in handing out funds for increased services - oh wait, that’s true so far - then it may say the CBD rail loop like a second harbour crossing and whatever else is being asked for, is not the priority right now.

Officials at the ARC have done us all a very bad disservice. It’s bad enough officials not getting on earlier to the need to secure underground consents for such a loop or agreeing exactly where it should go and how far.

But by downplaying the fact it will bring more customers and so make more money for rail to justify development, it’s going to be harder if not impossible to convince our present economic-driven hardnosed business - focused politicians as they pour over Excel spreadsheets with stupid computer projections.

When train services increased, there were sceptics who never saw the numbers we are getting today. That tired but true clique if you build it, people will come. Look at the success of the Link bus. Are the officials saying students fighting for expensive car parks each day seeing a train suddenly appear outside Princes St won’t think it’s worth using instead as a way to get to university in the morning?

And yet big cities around the world have such a loop. Anyone who has been to Sydney knows how excellent it is to hop on a train at Town Hall station and end up at Wynyard or wherever.

Related Posts

  1. Auckland Airport Rail Link Becomes Top Future Priority
  2. Auckland Train passenger numbers up 26.7% in a month
  3. Will Auckland Torpedo Hamilton Rail Plan?
  4. Auckland In the Future: Rail Links Everywhere – But What Happens To This Plan Now?
  5. Auckland’s next 10 year rail plan unveiled - another fantasy?




  1. Man in suit says:

    Good point. Officials should be far more careful in their phrasing. I deal with government officials and trust me right now they will wriggle out of anything if they can because the pressure is on not to spend money because the coffers are bare. Shame on the ARC for not putting the CBD rail loop up there and spinning it if they have to that it will boost Auckland’s rail numbers as well as business. Key as an Aucklander and businessman is obsessed about growing Auckland city business community as they see it as the engine room of NZ and Banks is shaping up for the big super city - a project based on growing Auckland business as an international city. You can kiss goodbye to the transport officials accepting spending money on the loop unless it will clearly drive rail patronage. Foolish, stupid, suicidal. Bugger.

  2. Kelburn cable car user says:

    I live in Kelburn and use the cable car every morning which is a delightful and very special Wellington experience. Thank goodness it has been saved and upgraded in recent decades.
    I work at a certain government department and have a special interest in public transport which is why I visit this Website regularly.
    Jon, I congratulate you for being, sadly, 100% on the button here and for your outside the box insight as always.
    I can picture exactly your painted scenario of people pouring over spreadsheets because I have been party to it so often in recent months. You just missed out the boring predictable Microsoft powerpoint slides that accompany such a meeting.
    Look, whats going on now is what you fear. Officials are working out ways to NOT fund things because there is incredible pressure to find a way out for proposed projects - a way not to approve something without having any serious political fallout, although the government ratings remain in honeymoon stage and this is a great time to say no to projects especially while Mr Goff is bumbling around.
    Convincing the - as a hypothetical example of course - Bill Englishs of this world that we need to spend $1.5b on the proposed CBD loop is like climbing Mt Everest right now. The - The NZ Treasury - does not have $1.5b to splash around and there are bigger more important tangible projects or flavours of the month projects like the broadband developments if push comes to shove. And they don’t know if we really are climbing out of a recession so the lid is on.

    The ARC officials were barking mad for not spinning it if they needed to as Man in a Suit put it in his excellent comment.
    It will come back to bite them and hurt all Auckland commuters. If you can not prove increases in rail traffic to justify $1.5b trust me, Bill English will not buy it. Especially as you may suspect rail is a bit of a joke amongst certain shall we say “influential” people I listen to at such meetings - people who think crowded old smelly Auckland trains must be for people on benefits who can’t afford a BMW or why would they bother. And apparently we are already giving these beneficiaries too much.
    Keep the pressure on Jon - and all readers to the site also.

  3. Clark says:

    Thank you Jon. I’m always so impressed with your website. And thank you ‘Kelburn Cable Car User’, you have summed it up brilliantly, as thoroughly depressing as it is.

  4. Peter says:

    Honestly Why didnt they leave the tram in the CBD all those years ago..

    Going through -remuera rd-newmarket- to parnell- to queen st and the university (splits at the bottom of parnell) then up queen to kay and spliting off down bottom of Queen to go up to ponsonby and herne bay?!

    then a train system for out of the central city?

    with plans to extend trams into meadowbank/ down the city etc?


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