City Centre to Mangere Light Rail (City Centre to Onehunga section) Dead in the Water. Project Stalls

Airport end and Airport to Botany still on track and in good hands

With NZTA still engaging communications blackout on the now delayed City Centre to Mangere Light Rail project (the business case was meant to be out in December) we have had speculation from all corners on what is going on with the $4b project land in the media (including a scheme to tunnel part of the Line UNDER Queen Street).

At the same time the Chief Ombudsman is investigating my complaint against NZTA on their lacklusture response to my Official Information Act request on which end the City Centre to Mangere (CC2M) project will start at (see: UPDATES: Ombudsman Instructs NZTA CEO to Investigate. Inadequate Response from NZTA on City Centre to Mangere Light Rail sparks Ombudsman Complaint). To go throw another spanner Treasury seems to be at loggerheads with the Transport Minister over CC2M as well (see: Treasury at Loggerheads with Transport Minister over City Centre to Mangere Light Rail Project. Opaqueness from NZTA does no favours). And if you want another spanner Auckland Transport has long said starting CC2M at the Queen Street end was a risk and could not be done until after the America’s Cup in 2021 – something that is only dawning on a few now (NZTA Have NOT Ruled Out Starting City Centre to Mangere Light Rail from Airport End First, Queen Street End won’t start until AFTER 2021).

However, even with all the above CC2M seems to have suffered from Project Capture that causes conflicts between two rival projects. A letter sent to Industry players waiting extremely patiently on more information on City Centre to Mangere Light Rail were presented a letter from NZTA on the situation.

The letter reads (as it was forwarded to me):

Subject: Auckland Light Rail Market Engagement Update

Kia ora,

Since May 2018 we have been developing a business case for the City Centre to Māngere light rail line in Auckland, which includes a procurement strategy and initial meetings with partners and key stakeholders.

This work is nearing completion and will continue to be refined. Alongside this the New Zealand Super Fund (NZSF) and CDPQ Infra have presented an unsolicited alternative approach to fund, design, build and operate light rail in Auckland, based on a public-public investment model. 

In light of this, the Government has asked the Ministry of Transport and Treasury to assess the potential for alternative funding, delivery and operating models for the City Centre to Māngere project. This will specifically consider the NZSF and CDPQ proposal, as well as the potential for other similar joint ventures.

The Government appreciates that a number of parties have expressed an interest in being involved in delivering light rail in Auckland and welcomes this interest. The priority is to provide certainty to the market as soon as possible, and the Government has requested the Ministry of Transport and Treasury provide their advice on alternative funding, delivery and operating models in March 2019. 

Your experience and insights are valuable inputs to inform the procurement and delivery approach for Auckland light rail and we thank you for your keen interest and participation to date. Last year we indicated we would report back to the market in Q4 2018 on the next steps for the market engagement process.

Meeting the commitments that we make to our suppliers is the basis of our reputation and we take this very seriously. We acknowledge that we’ve not been able to meet this deadline on this occasion. We understand that this parallel process creates planning uncertainty for the market.

We intend to keep you as informed as we are able within current constraints and will be back in touch in March 2019. For any questions regarding the NZTA process please feel free to contact XYZ at 123 .Finally, we would like to extend our best wishes for 2019 to all our industry colleagues. We look forward to being in touch again soon.

Kind Regards, 

What we are looking at is Project Capture by one group that is causing a crowding out of everything else via the TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN and ironically No Chief to lead it at all situation.

There should absolutely be no reason for any parallel processes with CC2M in getting it mapped out and set for construction by 2021. Doing this is basically wasting the Industry’s time and quite frankly ours (the Taxpayer and Citizens’) with the communication blackout making things that uncertain.

Anyone wishing to place a Bid with CC2M should place it that is a given BUT they are all considered together in one big pot and the most optimal one then adapted and run with.

Fallout Misses the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project

While City Centre to Mangere Light Rail has landed itself in a mess the good news is Airport to Botany Rapid Transit (the sister Airport Line) continues to be on track with Stage 1 due to be operational December 2020. Rather ironically it seems NZTA got themselves in a pickle over CC2M while A2B which is being run by Auckland Transport is not (the irony being it was though NZTA would get the cut through after they took CC2M off AT).

The mess over CC2M will not impact on Airport to Botany (A2B) however, it may present an opportunity.

Airport to Botany Rapid Transit Extended

With City Centre to Mangere Light Rail (Onehunga to City Centre) seems to be bogged down the Onehunga to Airport end (the often forgotten about end) does not seem to be impacted. This presents an opportunity for the Airport to Onehunga section of CC2M to be tied into the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit giving us an “enhanced” A2B Line.

The overall Southern Rapid Transit Concept

That enhanced line would become the Southern Rapid Transit Concept as pictured above and yes I have blogged on it before: Enhancing the Southern Auckland Transit Network – By Expanding Rapid Transit Network South.

It has long been argued that the Light Rail scheme for Auckland should start at the Airport end first and head both north (to Onehunga via Mangere) and east (to Manukau via Puhinui) with the depot placed on State Highway 20B (part of the Puhinui Gateway). Once the Light Rail reaches Onehunga and Manukau it can then make its way bit by bit to their final destinations of the City Centre and Botany (by 2028) giving us that new transit spine.

The beauty of doing the Purple and Red sections as seen in the picture above is it gives us a workable and viable demonstration Line to plan, test and work out the kinks with our first Light Rail project before going into more complex areas like Dominion Road. Given Southern Auckland is very receptive towards Light Rail I am sure Mangere, Puhinui and Manukau wouldn’t mind being the test subjects for this First-of-its-class project.

So it seems we have a case of Too Many Cooks and not even a Chief in the kitchen that is City Centre to Mangere Light Rail. Why you would run a parallel process alongside what Industry is doing is daft as we get Project Capture.

The continual blackout of information and delays is certainly not helping anyone but at least Airport to Botany is not affected and still in good hands.

I wonder what is next?

City Centre to Mangere Light Rail. Source: Auckland Transport