The CRL Targets

Are we talking to the right person to get the City Rail Link started early




If you mean by talking to Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee then no sorry wrong person

If you mean by talking to the Minister of Finance, Number Two of National, and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English then yes he would be the right person to talk to.

Talking to our Minister of Finance about what? The City Rail Link construction date of course after all Bill holds the Cheque Book not Gerry (putting it in a very simplistic and general way)


I picked up this remark from Transport Blog’s “CRL back in the spotlight” post this morning:

One last comment from someone who spoke to Bill English on the subject recently

I was just at a function with Bill English. I had a bit of a chat to him in private about the CRL. His views on it:
“It will happen. Its just a matter of when”
“There is a bit of back and forth between the government and the Auckland council on who is going to pay what portion. Our argument is that the public as users should pay a little more, and the public through government taxes should pay a little less.”
“There are a number of milestones for starting the project that the council realise are just never going to be able to be met. So we are sitting down with them to work out a more reasonable structure for the whole project”
“Whether its 2016, 2017, or 2022, it’ll happen.”
He then asked me if i wanted it to go ahead. My reply:
“Absolutely. My vote this election will be decided based on it”
He didn’t seem to impressed and thats where we left our conversation

Well yes I expected Bill not to be too impressed with the final remark there. Then again is 33% of voting Auckland at the minimum told him the exact same I bet our Minister of Finance will be up a few nights crunching numbers and making some noises from his office in Wellington.

However, in the 14 years I have been a member of National and had breakfasts, drinks at Party functions etc. through those years Bill has always been quite a conversationalist as well as being very pragmatic as Minister of Finance. Sure Bill English is that of the Centre-Right and for sure I do not agree with everything he does as Minister but they are not reasons for me to play the open hostilities game.


What has been picked up in Transport Blog and repeated here above in regards to Bill English and the City Rail Link does not surprise me one little bit. The Minister of Finance (like Auckland Transport with the Manukau South Rail Link) is going through the usual hoop jumping and negotiations with Auckland Council over “milestones,” conditions and most likely money in regards to the City Rail Link start date (rather than outright denial). This again shows the pragmatism I have come to expect from Bill English and shows we in Auckland need to change tact in our “negotiations” with the Government.


As I said in Twitter:

At the end of the day the Minister of Transport will need approval from the Minister of Finance to get the appropriations set (the funding) for the City Rail Link. Also at the end of the day the rest of Cabinet will oblige by what the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance set about at the end of the decision-making process. It is the nature of our Westminster Democracy with power concentrated in the Executive rather than the Legislature. So in my line of thoughts I would bypass Gerry Brownlee entirely and go straight to Bill English with CRL negotiations.


To make the negotiations just that little more complex though Auckland will need a Centre Right person (preferably a leader)  to be at the talking end rather than the Mayor and even Deputy Mayor. That said I would also have the Deputy Mayor (rather than the Mayor) in the number two seat though (call it a personal gut feeling). Don’t ask me why I would call for this as my reply would be I am following the (NCIS) Gibbs Gut when it comes to a situation. I just have that gut feeling (leaders are those who can follow evidence, trends and their gut – something managers can not do (as they only follow evidence)) a Centre-Righter would get some more measured success talking with Bill bit by bit.


Taking a look at Bill English’s remarks on the fact the City Rail Link will happen – whether it be 2016, 2017 (the start date I believe it will happen) or 2022 (hopefully not) shows he is still open on the start dates. What Auckland needs (apart from say a different negotiator) is to look at what the PwC report has said about Government Targets for the City Rail Link and work it from there.


Now this is where I get critical of not Bill English but the Council and Auckland Transport.

I have read the the PwC ‘Review of Government Targets for Accelerating the City Rail Link’ report that was commissioned by Auckland Council in April. The report has been sent to me today (as it has to others) after a request for a copy. I thank the Mayor’s Office for forwarding the report for reading and my own interpretation from the report.

The PwC Report can be read below


The Executive Summary stipulates that the rail patronage targets are achievable but the City Centre (CBD) employment figures are not which were both set by the Government. However, it is noted from the report that we will be hard pressed (especially with Auckland Transport constantly lowering the rail patronage targets by 15% in their draft Statement of Intent (see Auckland Transport Lowering Patronage Targets Again)) to reach those rail patronage targets due to electrification not fully on-line until the Western Line is ready late 2015 (four to six months late from original estimates). It was also noted that owing to long lead in times for new towers in Auckland’s CBD that we could not achieve the 25% employment growth target until 2021 at the minimum.


This is where Auckland needs to get savvy as well with it. The rail targets regardless of electrification should be very easy to reach but wont be when you see this kind of stuff pulled.

From the NZ Herald

$2.8b cuts to cap city rates touted

New 10-year budget

At risk
*New libraries and sports fields
*Electrification of rail to Pukekohe
*Spending on roads, buses, ferries
*$2.86 billion City Rail Link
*Spending in central city and South Auckland


Putting the $110 million Pukekohe Electrification project at risk due to a $2.8 billion short fall is not politically nor economically wise at all! If we are short then slash the East West Link and the Mill Road Corridor projects out entirely and there is about $1.3 billion in savings as is. And I bet I can find a few more road projects to get the $2.8b savings we need WITHOUT harming Auckland’s transportation system.


With Southern Auckland moving from 38% of Auckland’s population to 45% by the end of the Unitary Plan in 2040 (meaning the South is under rapid growth) (Auckland’s population is expected to go from 1.5 million now to 2.5 million by 2040), the increases down in the South would give rail patronage (the South is well served by the Southern, Eastern and Manukau Lines) a pretty strong jolt upwards. Add Pukekohe Electrification by 2016-2017 on top of large Greenfield developments between Drury and Pukekohe and your rail patronage will increase further. Get that Manukau South Link built this Christmas and operating by March next year on 15-20 minute frequencies from Papakura and/or Papakura and watch the patronage figures jolt up again. Increase in Western Line frequencies too from 2015-16 should also give the jolt in patronage later in the game.

So the rail patronage targets set by the Government can be reached in my opinion rather soundly by 2017 for Bill English’s reassurance. We just need Council and Auckland Transport to get their acts together. As the South by the looks of it carrying the can for those growth targets early on with getting those two pieces of intermediate investment done giving further boosts. That being the Pukekohe Electrification at $110 million and the Manukau South Link at $4-5 million.


As for the employment targets well this is where we need to go outside of the box.

Our Minister of Finance likes growth and a growing Auckland region will make Bill a happy Minister. Now the City Rail Link is meant to benefit Auckland as a whole not just existing rail users. Yes the City Rail Link gives us increased frequencies on entire rail system allowing more people to get to either the CBD or else where along the rail network. These increased frequencies right along the network thanks to the City Rail Link has flow on effects to wider Auckland as accessibility increases which brings more people to a given area. More people means economic growth as demand for goods and services increase. To get an added bonus affect; Henderson, New Lynn, Newmarket, Sylvia Park, Papakura, and Manukau (as a Super Metropolitan Centre) all Metropolitan Centres connected to various rail lines in Auckland. So six out of ten Metropolitan Centres (including one Metropolitan Centre) connected to the Rail Network.

So we need to change the tact with the Minister of Finance and leave the CBD employment targets alone as Auckland is more than its CBD. We need to cast the economic benefit net from the CBD to Auckland wide with focus on those Metropolitan Centres. If we (Auckland) can get some concept plans drawn up by the end of the year for the development of the six Metropolitan and Super Metropolitan Centres connected to the rail network during CRL construction and later operation I know the Minister will pay attention. Have those concept plans illustrate the economic benefits and gains to those six Metropolitan and Super Metropolitan Centres because of the City Rail Link and Bill English will be definitely receptive. That said Council needs to pull finger on its share of funding which it should be considering the Tokyo and Hong Kong models as they seem the most viable and least “costly” to the rate payer.

Now for Takapuna, Botany Metropolitan Centres, and the Albany Super Metropolitan Centre it needs to be made very clear to the Minister of Finance what the City Rail Link will allow; the construction of new heavy and light rail lines. My comment in the “The CRL and The Rail Fallacy” post from two years ago points this matter out:

No [person] it does not. I am afraid you miss the point of the CRL entirely. The CRL while in the CBD provides benefits to the ENTIRE rail network and also the ENTIRE population on the North Shore. Let me explain why you should stump up your $2k:

If I remove that 5% from the rail and put them on the road I bet everyone would be screaming very loudly from the increased congestion. In essence that 5% is providing a net benefit to the 95% of others INCLUDING freight users that use the road. So build the CRL which lifts the bottleneck between New Lynn – Newmarket – Britomart – Eastern Line and will cause that 5% to move to 10% as we can now achieve the starting of Cross City Running (West to South and etc) as the bottleneck is removed.

With the CRL we also have the capacity to then build the airport line allowing CBD or West to Airport; then the North Shore Line allowing Albany to CBD to Airport in 50-55mins; then the Botany Line to capture the poor folks in Dick Quax‘s Ward, then the South West Line (Avondale to Onehunga to Westfield Junction) to allow passenger and freight movements there.

Allow all this to be done by 2035 and in combination with the bus fleet and park and rides you get a truly cross city service serving nearly everyone including those not needing the CBD. I would be safe in saying 30% would be using rail by 2035 giving that other 70% on the road a HUGE benefit in reduced congestion including freight traffic.

So I can see out to 2035 for my kids and the future generations – I see a few here might not be able to. BTW with the conviction I am holding at the moment – I will most likely see the CRL through in my time.

Note: The Botany Line has changed from the original heavy rail concept to the Sky Train concept.


If you can explain the blue text coupled with the benefits to the six Metropolitan and Super Metropolitan Centres already connected to the existing rail network because of the City Rail Link in a clear logical manner to the Minister and I believe we are on to winner. That winner being the CRL construction start date being set for 2017 if not 2018 at the latest.



In my concluding remarks I acknowledge this post will cause controversy especially of the Centre Left.

I acknowledge any bias I might have being a member of the National Party since 2003. I also acknowledge that I could say Vote Labour and get the CRL started in 2016. I also know putting eggs in one basket in our democracy especially when National is tracking well in the post Budget polls including iPredict would be damned stupid of me as an advocate. I also recognise my freedoms to choose any political affiliation I have as well as my freedoms in voting for my representatives at Local and Central levels.


But this post was written as an outside of the box head scratching thinking exercise on alternative ways to advance the City Rail Link with Central Government. Now I can not say it would work but it better than nothing. In any case Council needs to start hauling backsides with our Metropolitan Centres with anti-CBD sentiment bubbling away. This post also shows the pragmatism needed and something I have and use as required. Idealism is great do not get me wrong. But at the end of the day that pragmatism might be needed to get something rolling.


Finally in my own opinion continuously and excessively criticising the Minister of Finance (so slagging off) is going to get Auckland no where AT ALL. For me I see this as earn political capital, spend political capital (welcome to democracy folks). The Holiday Highway and the Second Harbour Crossing that is not sole rail will attract my ire in no uncertain terms. But projects like the Southern Motorway upgrade that was announced by the Minister in this year’s Budget will attract my general support. Again for me personally slagging off the Southern Motorway upgrade runs the extreme risk of squandering capital both in the South and politically as well. That squandering will not assist any advocacy pushing for the City Rail Link that attracts good Auckland support.

So a case of give and take


Also a case of this is an imperfect world, with an imperfect democracy, and imperfect situations needing solutions. We have to make do with what we have initially then build your hand from there.


Hmm seems like I gave a Political Game Theory lesson here 😛


2 thoughts on “The CRL Targets

  1. Great Article Ben. Perhaps another way to really boost the patronage (without much cost to KR or AT or Auckland Council) would be to get that proposed Glenora station built (essentally for free)… Of course you’re right that it’s being dragged down by beauraucracy, but it’s really a no-brainner, or even better yet a golden goose…. I’m personally sick of writing letters to every organisation regarding this station, only to have them point the finger elsewhere. I only hope that the “free station” hasn’t disappeared off the radar once they’ve finally sorted themselves out.
    I live in Takanini/ North Papakura and feel that the mill road highway/motorway will be a valuable asset to the region, but probably not needed until Drury is industrialised. So I’d think your call for scrapping it (at least for now) and getting Puke + the Southern Manukau line up and running is sensible.

    1. Thanks Lance

      On last contact with Auckland Transport we are meant to be hearing a public announcement towards September around both the Manukau South Rail Link and the grade separation of the level crossings. I have an idea the South Link will go ahead (well it better 😛 ). As for the grade separations it better be sorted when that announcements comes out later in the year. Once Walters Road is separated then for heavens sake AT and Papakura can score a very easy win with Glenroa which should include bus interchange and a Park and Ride

      Mill Road I will correct myself and say not scrapped entirely but scaled back that includes some bus lanes all the way through as well as separated cycle ways all done in stages as the area develops

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