Govt Moves On CBD Loop (Update II)


Cabinet will make a decision about Auckland’s CBD rail link about April.

It’s now getting serious about the CBD business case, as Auckland Transport has joined in with Auckland’s new council and Mayor Len Brown in wholeheartedly endorsing the business case and wanting the link to go ahead.

Transport minister Steven Joyce, instead of wanting a complete review of the whole business case is now satisfied to have a more focused review covering key areas. And he says he wants that assessment to “be able to come to a consensus position with Auckland Transport and Auckland Council.”

Mr Joyce today rang Auckland Mayor Len Brown who has agreed that a formal assessment of the business case by central government agencies is a necessary step.

“The findings of this review will help us determine if, how and when to progress with the CBD rail link project and will give both central and local government the certainty needed,” says Mr Joyce.

Mayor Brown says the review is another important step on the path towards the construction of the rail link.

“Auckland Council is committed to work collaboratively with the Government on this review. This project is a vital piece of infrastructure not only for Auckland but for the country as a whole. As the business case put it, the Auckland CBD rail link is perhaps the most critical element in Auckland’s transformation into a globally competitive urban centre. However it can only be built in partnership with the Government and this review is just another example of that partnership.”

The review for the minister will be done by officials from the Ministry of Transport, the Treasury and the NZ Transport Agency working with Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and other agencies.

The review will be followed by further discussions in the New Year.

“I look to discussing the best way forward for the project with Mr Joyce at that time,” Len Brown says.

Meanwhile Auckland Transport has given to the NZTA to pass on to the minister the specific questions the minister raised in parliament about what he thought the case did not answer (some of which is in fact in the case).

The review of the business case requested by the minister will focus on:

  • Does the business case include the full capital and operating costs needed to realise the project?
  • How many additional passengers will the rail tunnel attract over the $1.6 billion electrified network currently being built?
  • What impact will the rail tunnel have on car travel and congestion?
  • When will the tunnel be needed?
  • How does the tunnel project relate to the growth and productivity of the CBD and Auckland more widely?

Then a paper that will go to Cabinet in March or April for the decision. That paper will focus on:

  • The merits of the CBD link as a transport and economic investment
  • Whether or not to proceed with route designation
  • When the project will be required to be constructed
  • Whether or not to proceed with further work on construction funding and procurement

The lowering of the temperature at a government level comes as the Government’s new structure, Auckland Transport, joins with Auckland Council in fully supporting the project and wanting it to happen as soon as possible.

Auckland Transport Chair Mark Ford said bluntly today: “The key is we want this project to move forward.”

At last month’s inaugural Auckland Transport board meeting, then held behind closed doors, Ford moved a resolution that was passed, saying Auckland Transport

“endorse the business case for the CBD rail loop as providing the best possible strategic solution for meeting the transport and economic growth requirements of the central city and an excellent economic justification”

The meeting noted (contrary to some of the earlier rhetoric out of the Beehive) that:

  • The case is consistent with the standard NZTA economic evaluation model
  • The 8% discount is required by Treasury. the range of discount rates from 8% to 4% shows the sensitivity of long life assets
  • The loop allows Britomart to support additional services
  • The project will also need to be supported by above ground plans, especially the Spatial plan and the district plan for the full benefits to be addressed
  • CBD loop: It's starting to move ahead

Auckland Transport’s recommendation at its earlier meeting also:

  • Authorised the CEO to write to Auckland Council recommending that it urgently work with Auckland Transport to undertake the work to develop funding options to determine its contribution to both the designation of the route and construction of the rail tunnel
  • Authorised management to work with the council, MoT, NZTA, KiwiRail and Treasury to develop and recommend a joint funding proposal for the lodgement of the NoR (notice of requirement to protect the route).
  • Authorised management to work with KiwiRail on the preparation of the detailed commercial, financial and management cases required by Treasury to procure and fund the construction of the loop.

Behind the scenes, work is continuing on the assumption it will happen.

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council are working on how to progress the funding options (as the government insists it would need a regional contribution) and also discussing how to fund the necessary property acquisition if the project is approved. Work continues with KiwiRail on the lodging of a notice of requirement to protect the preferred route and station locations.

With Auckland Transport fully committed to the project, it has become harder for the government to be dismissive of the business case and argue that Auckland does not need it.

After all, the stated justification for the Government’s local body restructuring was to get Auckland to have one voice on major projects when Auckland sought Government financial input.

It now has that with  the CBD rail loop so the Auckland Transport support on this is a very significant step.




  1. joust says:

    significant indeed, quite a different tone from what the Minister was saying earlier. Good that our CCO appears to be promoting the cause of Aucklanders.

  2. Matt says:

    It’ll take a favourable result in April, with no less than a 50:50 cost split and preferably the 60:40 recommended in the business case, before I’ll start thinking about breaking out the champagne.
    Joyce hates rail and will continue to hate rail, and if he can find a way to make the tunnel’s non-appearance the fault of Auckland he will. The man has done precisely nothing to make him come across as anything other than a pawn of the RCF, and I’m quite sure that the only reason we’ve got to this point is Key saying “This could get ugly. Better give a sop to the prolles to get them off our case.”

  3. Mark says:

    I’m not sure if this was raised in the business case - but anotehr element is the NZ National convention centre. While Sky City have put in a “spolier” bid (which they do everytime!) - front runner may well be next to Aotea Centre - which would tie into a new station on the loop.

    Convention cnetre is a priority for Key - and a rail loop helps that case as well. Hotel development in Britomart / harbour end of teh CBD, would be able to jump on a quick rail connection. otherwise theya re on foot/taxis/buses - and they quickly strike limits, as they want this to do the 4000-5000 size conventions.

    These large conventions spin off into tourism around the country, and also oftebn cover teh off peak seasons - so a good CBD loop helps with the business case for a convention centre - and also makes it attractive down the track for conference organisers……

  4. Matt says:

    The convention centre would be even more compelling if there was a rail link to the airport.

  5. Luke says:

    Auckland Council should just keep progressing the rail loop. It cant wait for the govt to muck them around again. The Council should be able to find enough money to go ahead with the designation and more detailed design.

  6. Matt says:

    Luke, KR has to be involved in the designation, since it’s for rail, and KR’s not exactly being lead by a man who’s sympathetic to their case.
    The Council can surely afford to do the work, but the application needs to come from KR as I understand the process.

  7. Doloras says:

    Are you sure that Joyce hates rail, or is he deliberately giving the appearance of hating rail as a negotiating tactic to lower Auckland / AT’s expectations of the government $$$ that might be available?

  8. Matt L says:

    I think they thought they could just dictate what happens and have been surprised once again that people don’t agree with them so are now back peddling a bit. Interesting that they are reviewing some things that have already been independently peer reviewed but I suspect this is just a formality so they don’t look like they are flip flopping under pressure once again.

    I am also not surprised that AT supported it, they were involved in creating the report so them agreeing with Joyce would mean they are questioning themselves. Come April things will be starting to get into the election cycle so National would be wise to remember that.

    As for the convention centre, a mid town stop would be ideal for either Aotea Centre or Skycity as both could be integrated directly into the station which seems like a no brainer to me. Also a while ago John Key was talking about creating a financial hub in the country, the most logical place for that would be the CBD where most of the existing financial institutions are based.

  9. Matt says:

    Doloras, his disdain stretches beyond the realms of Auckland. Look at the pressure he’s putting on KR to close under-performing branch lines, instead of encouraging that the lines be kept open (they’re all in use, if minimally) and improved to try and encourage more use.

    His every action is aimed at promoting the supremacy of road, even as he utters platitudes about the need for multi-modal freight. If he truly believed that, he’d be pushing for a rail link to Marsden Point and remedying of the woeful state of the Northland-Auckland Line.

    I agree with Matt L, I think National are being surprised by the response to their attempts to push a roads-first future onto the electorate.

  10. Doloras says:

    I disagree with Matt L’s analysis, simply because there HASN’T been a big pro-rail outcry from the electorate. The idea is simply not figuring on the popular radar - only in the hothouse atmosphere of highly specialised blogs such as this. I think the idea that “National are surprised by a grassroots surge for rail and are backpeddling” is ridiculous, for this reason. Much more likely is the idea that they grudgingly accept the case for the CBD tunnel and are just playing tough to try to minimise their share of the bill.

  11. Joyce killing KiwiRail slowly says:

    Will Joyce use the tactic, if Auckland gets the CBD rail loop then KR must close regional lines (to help his trucking lobby mates)?

    The CBD is certainly a major issue which will spring up in next years elections!

    What Joyce has failed to see is that a large scale action plan against closing rail lines in NZ is rolling towards the National Party. When many groups around NZ join up to make a united front to Save Rail from Joyce it will cost the Nats plenty of votes.

    Look what happened in the Waikato elections with the campaign - rail became the major topic and it rolled the Hamilton Mayor and plenty of councillors for a pro-rail ones.

    Can Joycey handle a “Save Rail from Joyce” campaign in Auckland, Northland, Gisborne/Napier, Wairarapa and the Waikato (unless they agree to help fund the commuter trains)?

    He’s a prejudiced transport Minister who doesn’t realise how much the public want rail, and freight to stay off the roads.

    So Joyce - prove to us you are not tainted by your close association to the Trucking Forum …or be the reason plenty of votes will leave your party in 2011 for Labour, Greens or NZ First.

  12. Matt says:

    Doloras, there’s also comment being made in the Herald that is far from complimentary. Including from a former director of Transit.
    If OpEd in the National Party’s Auckland Newsletter is critical of their direction, and a lot of the printed reader comment is similarly critical, I think you’re underestimating just how the rail issue is being viewed. It’s not just transport blogs now, and it’ll only get worse next year.

  13. Matt L says:

    Doloras - No there hasn’t been the marching in the streets like with things like the mining issue but I suspect they have been doing some polling and realising that this is what people actually want. If you went and asked a random selection of Auckland if they think the CBD tunnel is a good idea I think that you would find a large number supporting it, and most of them wondering why we don’t have it already, especially amongst those that are likely to vote.

    Also it is guaranteed that the Greens will support it and highly likely that Labour will have it as a policy so in the lolly scramble that is a national election they will probably support it as not doing so might bring more critical attention to their RONS than they will like so finding a way to support this could avoid them having this issue.

  14. Patrick R says:

    Doloras, The AK election became a transit referendum and Joyce + English et al were surprised and angry at the result. Also they are feverish pollers and led by a man whose only over riding idea is to remain popular. I have long said that if they are to come round to the CBDRL and the rest it will be through Key reacting to polls. That is what we are seeing, it is an election year after all, nearly. Nice picture.

  15. DanC says:

    Great to read. I agree that it is power to the people that have driven this and National wants as much popularity as they can. With the CBD rail complete Auckland will flow more freely with both road and rail.

  16. Doloras says:

    “The AK election became a transit referendum”

    No it didn’t, wtf? Banksie was in favour of the CBD loop too. If it was a referendum, it was on the personal qualities of Banksie.

    And I reject the idea that “Joe Average” Aucklander is a big fan of the CBD loop. For the most part, they wouldn’t actually see the point of it until you explained about Britomart’s capacity issues etc. Actual polling says that people like the idea of the airport rail link, but that’s not on offer.

  17. Patrick R says:

    Banks reneged on PT in the led up after being spanked down by Joyce, to his cost. All recent polling shows AKers in favour of improving PT… check it out. This is popular.


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