Kiwi Rail Third Main Business Case might reveal more than being let on
The case of the Third Main between Wiri and Otahuhu on the Southern and Eastern Lines has thrown up some wider dynamics than otherwise one might have initially seen.
First of all we have The Nation interview with Transport Minister Bridges on both the Third Main and the East West Link here: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2017/06/interview-simon-bridges.html
An interesting Tweet subsequently cropped up pointing out that the Third Main could very well be delivered before the East West Link:
If we take it from the John Key playbook when something is refused to be ruled out then upgraded to “maybe” you can take it that the project is going to happen within the short to medium term. Last year former Prime Minister Key in a post-breakfast interview to the Chamber of Commerce stated they he would not rule out Congestion Charges for Auckland’s road network. Well that is on its way once the paper work is lined up. The same was said about the City Rail Link as well.
However, we come to the curious case of the Third Main and that Kiwi Rail document the Minister still really does not want out there public.
Here is the case for the Third Main (with redactions that are being challenged to the Ombudsman Office):
Fast forward to these two comments made at Greater Auckland about the Third Main:
The question is could the Port of Auckland Wiri Inland Port or the Port of Tauranga Metro Port (at Southdown) be on the move south?
I will come back to the Wiri Inland Port facility later on but first Metro Port located in Southdown.
Metro Port is owned by Port of Tauranga and is the main rail-to-road hub for container traffic between Auckland and Tauranga. Currently there can be up to ~14 Metro Port freight trains (also the longest of the freighters that run in and out of Auckland) between Metro Port and Port of Tauranga’s Sulphur Point container wharf. The Third Main in part is designed to shift those Metro Port freighters onto a dedicated track between Wiri and Otahuhu (the most congested part of Auckland’s rail network) freeing up track space for the increasing amount of passenger trains from the Southern and Eastern Lines. Of course over freight trains would use the Third Main but for now I am focusing on the Metro Ports.
With East West Link Option F (as currently proposed by NZTA) apparently one of the main benefactors and supporters this project is Port of Tauranga given the expressway would connect directly to their Metro Port facility allowing the shifting of goods by road to either State Highways One or Twenty.
Option B of the East West Link would allow the same as well for Metro Port:
Ironically though Option F compared to Option B would in theory allow Metro Port to have their own “dedicated” expressway to State Highway One at Mt Wellington. However, Option B is designed to factor in land-use change from industry to residential, commercial and office as industry moves out of Southdown and into Southern Auckland. More on this further down.
So you can see how the dynamics of both the Third Main and East West come into play.
Time for some Urban Geography
Metro Port goes South
As I have blogged before when surrounding land-use pressures drive the value of land up to an existing heavy industrial complex that complex will often decamp and move to an area where that land-use pressure is not as high. With population growth continuing and the demand for more residential and commercial space on the Isthmus consequently creating pressure on the Onehunga-Southdown industrial complex that complex will begin to decamp south to Wiri, Drury and the northern Waikato.
As an ultimate consequence the viability of Metro Port gets thrown into question with most likely a downscale to occur at the existing site with a new larger site established in Southern Auckland. By downscale I mean something like the Mainfreight facilities at Penrose with some warehouses and a freight spur (so smaller than even the Wiri Inland Port). The new facility would be multi-modal (road-rail) and most likely established on blank industry land out in Drury close to the rail line and Southern Motorway.
Economically this would make sense to bring in (or send out) your goods by the larger trains to the Drury facility then either send smaller shunts to Wiri or the down-scaled Metro Port facility, or straight to the trucks to shuttle the goods out to their final destination. Clustering around an inter-modal facility by supporting industry would also occur (just as we get with the Airport complex) meaning a new employment hub is established (well moved).
Commuter wise it can also make sense given the bulk of the Drury facility’s workforce would be travelling in the opposite direction of the main commute pattern allowing the transport system to work more efficiently.
Wiri Inland Port going South and would the Third Main still stand consequently?
For now it would not make sense for Port of Auckland to shift their facility to Drury even though if they did it could mean the Manukau South Link would be built. Even if Metro Port went to Drury the Wiri facility would act as an intermediary hub supporting the Wiri industrial complex as well as Manukau. Given Wiri still has room to support more industry (and not under thread of a decamp) the Inland Port still has many years of growth in it. The Wiri Inland Port has also just gone major expansion to its facilities and is ramping up its shuttles between itself and Port of Auckland’s wharves so even with possible duplication with Metro Port Wiri will be with us for a while to come. But it does lead to an interesting dynamic of whether the Third Main would still be needed?
Even if the Wiri facility went to Drury the case of the Third Main still stands although it would be expanded to cover from Pukekohe to The Strand where Port of Auckland is located. Why? Shuttling containers between the inland ports at Drury and Wiri to the container wharves up north at Auckland mitigating against the need for more trucks plying the Southern Motorway while still and also keeping track space available for the Southern and Eastern Lines.
While the Third Main would still be required if Metro Port went south the case of the East West Link evaporates quickly.
Geography of the East West Link
The East West Link Option F is touted to allow efficient truck movements through the Southdown complex and out to the motorway networks. Metro Port moving south due to land-use pressures would pretty much eliminate the “need” Option F given that the main truck movement generator has gone south to Drury.
BUT and here is the BUT if NZTA went with East West Link Option B then even if Metro Port went south and the area flipped to residential and commercial (as it is expected to do over the next thirty years) Option B would still be needed.
Option B upgrades existing infrastructure and allows two new south-facing ramps at the South Eastern Arterial (SEART) for traffic to be diverted away from Mt Wellington and Sylvia Park. This would allow the efficient movement of all traffic through an arterial to and from the two motorways and would even allow bus lanes to be applied. Option B is pretty much the universal connection that works with both existing freight traffic and future residential and commercial traffic. Ironically if a national stadium was ever to replace Mt Smart the East West Link Option B is in best place to service such a stadium compared to Option F now and into the future regardless of land-use in the area.
In concluding remarks we have to ask what is really going on with the Third Main and East West Link. While we might find out sooner rather than later (Simon Bridges under investigation over OIA block) some rather hard Urban Geography lessons could be in the mix. A certain Finance Minister could have also thrown all his eggs into one basket and that basket is beginning to unravel as those Urban Geography and transport economic lessons begin to shine very brightly.
The question becomes how much longer will the Transport Minister defend the Finance Minister’s road follies?!