Minister Puts Down Auck Rail (Again)


Sorry, but this is getting tiresome.

Transport minister Steven Joyce told parliament this afternoon the Puhoi Holiday Highway  ”carries more traffic and more people per day than the entire Auckland commuter rail network currently.”
He added to Labour’s David Shearer: “It is good that we are investing in commuter rail, because it has the potential to grow over time, but the member is deluding himself if he thinks that is the solution.”

The minister said the roading system carries by far the vast bulk of commuters.

JOYCE:" Roading system carries by far vast bulk of commuters"

The debate was about the  global IBM global study in which investment in public transportation is key to reducing congestion and commuter stress.

It soon developed into discussing the Holiday Highway (a term the minister himself did not use) and the CBD loop.

(Greens) Gareth Hughes: Can he confirm that the majority of conventional economic benefits from the central business district rail loop in Auckland would be congestion reduction for road users?

Steven Joyce: Yes, I could. Unfortunately, the numbers are not as high as that, and it is not until we get out to the “transformational benefits”—which Treasury, for example, has rather severe doubts over—that we actually get to much larger benefit-cost ratios. But we will assess that project over time. It is important that we assess it carefully and with clear eyes because, as the member may have noted from earlier in this session, the Government has to be very careful fiscally.

Gareth Hughes: Given that the central business district rail loop will significantly benefit motorists, stimulate three times as many wider economic benefits as the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway”, and is supported by Auckland, will he now prioritise the central business district rail loop?

SJ: The member is well ahead of himself in that respect. I point out to him that he is talking about notional future demand versus current demand in comparing two projects. Also, he is comparing a commuter project with an interregional roading project. The two are rather different. There are many questions to be answered in the central business district rail case before we even consider who might fund it—for example, exactly how many cars it might take off the road 5 years after it opens, which is not apparent from the business case and would seem to be reasonably important for something that is promoted as a congestion buster.

Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister has said that more analysis is needed, why did he commit billions of dollars to the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway” in March 2009 when the business case was not completed until 9 months later, in December 2009, and, as the Minister said only 4 weeks ago, “No work had been done on this project prior to it being confirmed as a road of national significance”?

SJ: I point out to the member that the nomination of a road of national significance is not the final shape of the project; it continues, of course, to be refined. Again, I refer to the difference between a notional project, which talks about projected possible demand in the future, and a project that is creating the demand and is under spec right now. It is quite obvious that the road that he keeps trying to compare with this commuter rail project has demand on it right now and needs to be addressed for a range of reasons including safety, economic growth, and connection between Northland and the city of Auckland.

Gareth Hughes: When will the Minister admit that all the evidence demonstrates that public transport, like the central business district rail loop in Auckland, is a better way to cut congestion and reduce commuter stress than wasting billions on his pet uneconomic motorways?

SJ: I have to say I think that the member’s suggestion is reasonably adolescent. Debating which projects should proceed does not mean unquestioning support for any project on the grounds that one transport mode is good and another one is bad. We have to be slightly more mature than that.

Here is the full discussion:




  1. Matt L says:

    What a hypocritical tosser, P2W is ok because it will create the demand but the CBDRL will only be ok when the demand exists. Also based on figures he has given in the past the rail network is already carrying more people per day than P2W

  2. Sam says:

    Has anyone actually emailed these opposition transport spokesmen with the referenced figures showing that Aucklands commuter rail network is far more used than the Puhoi to Welsford Road?

    Joyce has said the opposite many times now, and it seems time that someone is prepared to point out to him that he is wrong next time this comes up- surely he is twisting many peoples minds with his imaginary facts.

  3. Sam says:

    Plus, it doesn’t take much extrapolation of patronage over time graphs to find that Britomart will be over capacity years before the CBD loop could open, even if the digging started tomorrow. So the demand is pretty much there now- it is also on all the CBD roads operating over capacity. I would love to see him announcing “there is no demand for more transport infrastructure here!” as he crawls up Queen street with pedestrians passing his car.

  4. Luke says:

    The AADT of the Puhoi - Warkworth section is only about 16,000. However the rail network must carry about 30,000 people per day. I really cant see how the holiday highway carries more people.

    It jumps to 21,000 in Warkworth itself but that would be ridiculous including all the warkworth residents driving to the dairy or to school. Surely Joyce wouldnt do that….

  5. Matt L says:

    Some additional questions for him

    The minister has continued to claim that the P2W road carries more people than the entire Auckland rail network and on 16 November 2010 the minister claimed that 24000 people per day use P2W. What maths does he use to determine that it is more than the rail network when even at the most basic calculation the rail network carries 24600 people per day however during on standard working days this could be 50% higher
    He claimed 24k in this question in Parliament

    How fast is rail patronage in Auckland growing and how fast are vehicle numbers growing on the P2W stretch of road.

    How many people per day are expected to use the P2W road after it is upgraded to motorway standard.

    The NZTA has indicated that tolling the road would see about 70% of vehicles using the new road and the rest the old road, in this situation they have estimated that tolling would reduce the BCR by 0.1 – 0.4 depending on how high or low the toll is. As each option would put the BCR below 1 even with WEB’s is the minister going to rule out tolling and if so what impact does that make to how much funding would be available considering the current state of the governments books.

    If two projects are of roughly equal value and have roughly the same number of current users, what is better to invest in, the project that will allow about double the current capacity or the one that will allow about 6 times the capacity over the same period.

    Auckland is set to grow by over 600,000 people in the next few decades, how does he envisage these people getting around the city

    If the P2W route is about improving the economic performance of Northland, have any other options for investment directly in the Northland region been considered.

  6. Mike says:

    So by most posters logic of numbers a truck carring freight intercity is the same as a commuter traveling from say Britomart to say Newmarket.
    How can anyone compare a intercity highway to a commuter rail using numbers of vehicles vs passengers?

  7. Joyce Hates PT and Rail says:

    Joyce still dribbing “incorrect truths” in the house.

    I suggest the Nats need voting out…. the public only like John Key. Joyce isn’t a popular figure with the public. Who likes a liar anyway?

  8. Matt says:

    “Auckland is set to grow by over 600,000 people in the next few decades, how does he envisage these people getting around the city”

    Clearly Steven Joyce lacks any vision. It must be hard to see out through his ideological blinkers.

    Having such a visionless, talentless man as transport minister is surely an insult to us all. What are you going to do about it Prime Minister Key?

    Was all of the rail network building work in Auckland and Wellington approved by the previous government? What new public transport work has been approved by this government since winning the last election?

  9. Matt L says:

    Mike - Depending on where the figures are taken the road carries between 10,000 and 16,000 vehicles a day. The minister has claimed that 24,000 people use it which is about 1.5 people per vehicle. By comparison at the most basic calculation the rail netowrk carries at least 24600 people per day so based on a person vs person count the rail network is bigger.

    Freight makes up only a small single digit percentage of the traffic figures and much of it is bulk products that could be easily moved by rail.

    Also no one is suggesting that the road shouldn’t be upgraded, on the contrary it definitely needs some improvements but they could be done much cheaper than building a brand new motorway for $2bil. Most of the time saving benefits (and therefore most of its justification) can be achieved by just bypassing Warkworth.

  10. Matt says:

    If we conservatively say that there were no trains for 21 days in the year ended October (for the Christmas shut-down, and I think it’s more like 25 days, allowing for Easter, etc), the 9m passenger figure puts average daily rail patronage at over 26k.
    Joyce’s stated figures in Parliament were that the Puford stretch carries 24k people/day.

  11. Luke says:

    that 24,000 probably includes the people of Warkworth going about their daily business, going to the dairy, school and so on using the main highway.

    @Mike Trucks will actually benefit far more from the CBD rail link that the Puford highway.
    Note that trucks going to the port fight their way there in competition with traffic going to the CBD.
    If people have to drive to the CBD as Britomart is full then this will slow down trucks travelling around the CBD even more.

  12. joust says:

    Matt, if you remove all the line closures we’ve had this year too, the number gets even higher.

  13. Matt says:

    joust, of course, but those are much harder to calculate. I’m lazy. It’s easy to account for closing the entire network, because there are no trains at all and thus no patronage.
    Figuring out what individual line closures does requires a hell of a lot more effort, and could only ever be speculation because our passenger stats are not based on a count of 100% of boardings at 100% of stations on 100% of operating days.

  14. Nick R says:

    “I point out to him that he is talking about notional future demand versus current demand… ”

    Erm sorry Mr Minister, but talking about ‘notional future demand’ is usually called ‘planning’. It is a process of developing the economy into what we need it to be.

    Reacting to current demand is about as useful as driving a car by looking out the back window to see what has just happened.

  15. chris R says:

    Unless Labour stand up soon and take this guy on they are history.

    They seem to be more interested in collecting their salaries than actually working for them….

  16. Cam says:

    What a slimy politician this guy is. One of the worst i’ve seen and that’s saying something.

    Could somebody (I know Jacinda Ahern has posted here a few times perhaps she could pass this on??) please correct Joyce on the numbers P2W vs the Auckland rail network. It’s not that hard to do.

    The fact that he is allowed to lie, exaggerate and ignore facts presented to him is showing the opposition up to be very weak. The worst thing about this is he is going to get his way, not because he is right but because most people are blissfully unaware of what’s going on.

    Spending over a bllion dollars on a project with a negative BCR is irresponsible and frankly just stupid. Unfortunatley his rather large ego wont allow him to see that.

    Also we can forget Key stepping in to stop this, as some people have suggested might happen. This guy is Key’s brain. He’s the cheif strategist and policy maker for the National party. This is the guy setting the direction. Key just has a much more palatable personality.

  17. Matt says:

    Cam, it’ll take high-profile, negative media coverage before Key squeezes Joyce’s pimple (the big one on the top of his neck) and tells him to stop being a twatcock.
    I’m thinking Campbell Live getting Josh Arbury, Gareth Hughes and the Minister of Trucks into the studio for a live debate. Actually, that’d be awesome! Seriously, though, that’s the level of negative press that’ll be required before this obscenity of this money wasting breaks into the public consciousness. Especially when we have B’linglish talking about how much is being borrowed (without saying that over $100m of that is going into paying down existing debt) in order to fund tax-cuts and white elephant motorways to the boonies and the cupboard is, consequently, bare.

  18. Matt says:

    Oh, and PS: we have Granny helpfully reporting that petrol has broken the $2/L mark again. I hope the Greens are repeating back at Bill his comments about people continuing the drive, because $2 is a huge psychological barrier.

  19. aucklander says:

    From reading Mr Joyce’s comments we must now assume that he believes Auckland’s population will not grow in size but instead will stagnate. If he is right then Auckland doesn’t need a CBD tunnel.
    Mr Joyce are you kidding us ????

  20. Jon C says:

    Interesting article by Chamber of commerce chief Michael Barnett in the newspaper today. he says: “If it’s true that the current subsidy is $7 per trip (against around $2 per trip in Wellington) and will rise to around $12 per trip, we need to know. If subsidies to run a rail service used by just 10 per of the population keep increasing, the other 90 per cent of tax payers are going to reach a point of saying “enough”.

  21. Mike says:

    Problem is its not 10% of the Auckland region population using rail - its 2%.
    1.4 million people - 26000 a day.

  22. Mike says:

    Opps made a mistake.

    Of the 26000 trips a day a significant amount would be commuters doing 2 trips a day. (in and out)
    1.4 million people - say 17000 people (vs 26000 trips)
    Close to 1.2 % of the Auckland region population using the train each day.

    Don’t get me wrong I believe we need the CBD tunnel. I also believe we need the holiday highway as well. The question is which comes first.

    Best bet I believe for the CBD tunnel is to get Winston Peters on board as I’m sure he will be the King maker in the next election.

  23. Patrick R says:

    Mike, Joyce’s number counts people twice too. You can only sensibly count journeys or trips, not assume every ride is half of a return trip.

  24. Patrick R says:

    Also Jon C, Barnett is being a twonk, if all those 9 million trips on the rail network moved to the roads the place would grind to a halt. That’s the value in the subsidy, he needs telling that we are paying to be able to drive every time we subsidise a rail user; BECAUSE THEY AREN”T ON THE ROADS, doofus.

    Can you confirm those subsidy numbers, surely more people on the trains; lower subsidy per ride? No? Or have SJ’s new phantom charges saved the day for rail haters?

  25. Just to say how much I sympathise with Aucklanders saddled with a prejudiced transport minister who clearly is totally unable to see the overall picture and therefore to give rail its due. We have the same problem here, where, apart from Andrew Adonis in the last Government, all transport ministers have been appointed without any regard for their fitness for the job - and then moved on pretty quickly! (Here we also have the same problem with our Defence Ministers except for the current one.)
    My wife and I have been to NZ five times since 2000 and have enjoyed the rail journeys you offer, including from Papatoetoe to Britomart - a magnificent station by the way - no doubt your present transport minister would have found reasons for opposing the building of that station as well as denigrating the CBD loop; they usually do!
    But when the present developments are complete, i.e. electrification as well as the recently completed Western Line doubling, Aucklanders will see just how good a developed and modernised rail infrastructure is. (Short-sighted, though, that the Western line couldn’t have been electrified to its logical endstation, Waitakere.)
    At the end of the day, regrettably, it would seem that by voting in a National Government you have also voted for bad treatment for the rail industry. We have had the same problem here with the Tories, who ruined our well-functioning rail system in 1994 for reasons of pure dogma, though admittedly the present lot seem to be better now - we shall see.
    Incidentally NZ has long had a noble record where Green issues are concerned. Is it not therefore a logical development for the rail line from Papakura to Tauranga to be electrified next, which would put so many diesels out of business?

  26. Mike says:


    If you read Jon C post above you will read the quote from Michael Barnett stating that 10% of the population use the Auckland commuter rail. This must be wrong.

    Joyce counts numbers on the Puhoi to Wellsford section being the 38km section of expressway proposed to be built. Some people here use the entire Auckland rail usage of 26,000 per day and compare that to one road. Are we comparing apples with apples here ? The real question if people want to compare people numbers is to compare like with like. CDB tunnel numbers vs expressway numbers

  27. AKT says:

    @John Gilbert, Thanks for sharing that with us. I hope you are keeping warm.

  28. Matt says:

    Mike, we do the comparison because Joyce does. He says, paraphrased, “more people use the Puhoi-Wellsford road each day than use the entire Auckland rail network.” He’s said it several times in the House. So if he’s going to make such ridiculous (and objectively wrong) comparisons, we’ll counter them. It wasn’t public transport advocates who started this one.

    Also, whether Puford in all its glory is actually needed is very arguable. Certainly the road needs serious safety upgrades but whether it needs to be motorway standard in order to save seven minutes of travel time is debatable, especially since those travel time savings will largely not accrue to 75% of all trips, or holiday-time freight trips because they generally don’t happen at times of peak congestion: the truck drivers will go at night during holidays, to avoid getting stuck for hours in unproductive traffic jams, and pretty much everyone else is travelling for leisure purposes.

    If saving lives on the road is the key goal, it can be achieved much more quickly and cheaply than Puford grande. Operation Lifesaver could be completed within a couple of years and at less than 1/3 the cost, whereas Puford grande won’t be completed for 15-20 years and lives will continue to be lost.

  29. Matt says:

    Patrick, I see that you read my comment in response to Barnett’s twaddle ;)

  30. Matt L says:

    There is more rubbish from Barnett today, this time he is focusing on the Airport, again making up costs like it will cost $2bil to build a line from Onehunga, claims there will be a $15 subsidy per passenger for it and eventually concludes that we should just put on a better bus service because no one will use it anyway.

  31. Matt says:

    Other Matt, do you have a link? Can’t find it on Granny’s site.

  32. John Dalley says:

    @Matt, click on opinion and you will find it.
    I read it, it’s a bunch of twaddle.

  33. Matt says:

    John, yeah, found it eventually. When I asked it was definitely not there. Seems to take Granny a while to get opinion pieces up online. I read it in the lunch room’s dead-tree copy before it had appeared on the website.
    And yes, definite twaddle. Replied accordingly, suggesting he’d plucked numbers from a fundamental orifice.

  34. Jennifer says:

    Who said we wanted a dedicated line to the airport? We just want a rail link that provides pt to Mangere and the airport. MB’s article misses the point.

  35. Matt says:

    Jennifer, the easiest way for detractors to shoot down any argument is to pick the worst possible interpretation of your aims and then argue against those. They make you sound completely unreasonable and unrealistic, and in the bargain they force you to waste energy explaining why their understanding is wrong as well as explaining why the “good” idea is actually good.

    Though in MB’s case he likely just doesn’t give a damn about the real ideas and just wants to seize on anything he can that might stop it from happening.


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