Transport Blog: Herald’s CRL Overruns Overblown #AKLPols

Formal complaint also to be made


In the flurry that was our usual three Councillors (Wood, Quax and Brewer) all rallying against the City Rail Link citing over-runs thanks to a Bernard Orsman article in the Herald last week did they forget to check with Auckland Transport themselves on the true figures.


From Transport Blog:

CRL Cost Blowout Overblown

On Saturday the Herald proclaimed that the cost of the City Rail Link had blown out by $500 million which came on the heels of Prime Minister John Key saying that the project will “almost certainly cost more than they thought

The cost of Auckland’s most expensive project – the $2.5 billion City Rail Link (CRL) – has jumped to more than $3b.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton says the project needs more money in the rail network that could easily take the “combined project cost” above $3b.

He understood that Prime Minister John Key was referring to additional investment in the rail network when he claimed last month the CRL will “almost certainly cost more than they thought”.

The article also quotes some unnamed sources, presumably from the government, claims extra work is needed for the CRL

A second source said that a “bit more rigour and discipline” since the Government had agreed to bring forward a business plan had identified work that should have been costed in the first place.


Of course it didn’t take long for the three councillors who have consistently opposed improvements to the city to jump on board and claim they predicted doom and gloom all along.

Confirmation by Auckland Transport that the cost of the City Rail Link will undoubtedly rise to over $3 billion does not surprise three Auckland councillors who recently wrote to the Auditor-General outlining their concerns about the project and urging the Office of the Auditor-General to ensure a close oversight. The trio now wonder what the ‘no go’ point is with the CRL.

It equally didn’t take long for Auckland Transport to (unusually) get in touch and tell me that the article was wrong and that they’d be making a formal complaint about it. They later provided me with the information David Warburton sent Orsman who seems to have confused and conflated a couple of issues.

Firstly, AT say the estimated price of the project remains $2.5 billion but the crucial aspect is that they say it has always been the centre of a range that could be +/- 20% – in other words they say it will cost between $2 billion and $3 billion depending on how tendering goes. It seems that Orsman and the herald have only taken the upper limit of this range to fit their narrative. They also say that “recent tenders for large civil works contracts in NZ have come in at 10% to 15% under the initial QS estimate“. They won’t actually give any examples of these projects though, saying their “pricing analysis is to assist in competitive indexing“. They also claim that the only people to benefit from claiming the prices have gone up are the those tendering for the work “creating an environment of high price expectation“. The CRL business case estimated the impact of the cost increasing by 20% and shows that even if that happens, the BCR drops from around 1.6 to 1.3, conversely if costs dropped by 20% the BCR rises to 1.9. This is shown below with the figures in 2015 $.


You can see the full post here: CRL Cost Blowout Overblown


Where the extra costs come from that have been (wrongly) tacked on to the City Rail Link price tag is Kiwi Rail and Auckland Transport both committing to upgrading the rail network pre and post CRL as well as purchasing more trains (which we need with rail patronage growth at 22% month on month. This is no different to the $80m being spent on the Southern Motorway upgrade, ~$500m on the North Western Motorway (with no bus way) and the $500m on the Northern Motorway (including bus way extensions) upgrade to support the Western Ring Route ($1.4b).

So conflating the CRL with wider network upgrade costs without specifically providing a breakdown like Transport Blog did is very disingenuous to the point of deliberately skewering the facts.


Will the three Councillors retract and correct themselves with Auckland Transport to make a formal complaint on the Orsman story? I doubt it which means do we have an integrity problem with some of our elected representatives?


Britomart station drawing Source: Auckland Council
Britomart station drawing
Source: Auckland Council

One thought on “Transport Blog: Herald’s CRL Overruns Overblown #AKLPols

Comments are closed.