National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith backs Treasury concerns about the proposed Auckland light rail project, saying it is politically driven

National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith backs Treasury concerns about the proposed Auckland light rail project, saying it is politically driven

National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith says the Auckland light rail project doesn’t stack up and is only being considered because of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

“It has been driven by the politicians,” Goldsmith says. “It’s hard to find anyone who thinks it makes sense, or that it is a sensible priority for such a large slice of our limited transport funds.” 

He says a Treasury report has raised legitimate concerns over the Auckland light rail project.

“There’s no question that Treasury is right that constructing a slow tram down Dominion Road is going to be extremely disruptive to local businesses and have a significant impact on traffic congestion. And at the same time, costing billions of dollars more than alternative options that are available to the Government,” Goldsmith says.

And he says attempts by Transport Minister Phil Twyford to defer questions from about the project’s procurement to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is simply not good enough.

The Treasury report says a new in-depth business case for the project is vital and will need to spell out the strategic and economic basis for the project, as well as consider alternative options and a cost-benefit analysis of the preferred option.

The paper was written by David Taylor from Treasury’s National Infrastructure Unit and also highlights the delays and cost blow-outs experienced with a similar project in the UK.

It refers to a light rail project in Edinburgh that was beset with major delays and budget blow outs and eventually took six years to build and cost more than twice the initial estimates.

“Given the size of the project, the fiscal risks and the build and operational challenges, we consider a strong examination of the implementation choices is essential.

“A well-developed business plan provides assurance that the project will not end up in failure. Business cases have been put together by Auckland Transport, but we consider that these should be updated to reflect a new procurer (NZTA); and the Government’s broader urban development objectives.

“This is one of the biggest projects New Zealand has seen and extremely complex, given that it is to be built through the middle of some of the busiest streets in Auckland. It entails digging up the streets to a considerable depth, causing major disruptions to traffic and to businesses,” the Treasury report says.

And while Goldsmith says he’s also keen to see the business case himself it could take time. Last week reported that the business case for the project was supposed to be delivered at the end of last year. But according to NZTA, which is leading the project, it’s still a work in progress.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has estimated that the Auckland project will cost about $6 billion, making it the biggest transport project in New Zealand history.

It will see two light rail lines established in Auckland. One leading from downtown Auckland out to the airport at Mangere, while a second line will run from the central city along State Highway 16 to Kumeu/Huapai.

Announcing the procurement process last May, Twyford said the Government was committed to progressing light rail in Auckland.

"It will be a magnet for private investment in urban renewal and will be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour – the equivalent of four lanes of motorway,” Twyford said. “We are investigating innovative solutions to tackle congestion and build a vibrant and modern city.”

The NZTA is leading the development of the Auckland light rail programme with the support of partners, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport (AT) and HLC, a wholly owned development subsidiary of Housing NZ. A spokesperson for Transport Minister Phil Twyford confirmed that he hadn’t received the business case for the Auckland light rail project.

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If Goldsmith thinks there are alternatives to Light Rail on Dominion Road and in the North West quarter, he should name them.

The National Party have second generation RoNS projects that they are proposing around the country, such as 4 laning rural highways to places like Ashburton that they consider more important. These projects are uncosted and without business cases.

So we need to put a light rail line between Ashburton and Timaru?

Road building in canterbury is extremely cheap. flat land, dry with few water courses, and greatly improves productivity of what is probably the most productive region in country. Cost of 4-laning Rolleston to Ashburton is probably same as 1-2km of tram in Auckland.

The problem National has with light rail is that it is neither expensive enough nor enough of a subsidy to private business.

Labour need to be building more roads. And lots of them. Nice big expensive roads.

No - it is for the promoters of LR to show that their proposals make sense and represents value for taxpayers money.

Light rail needs passengers in very large numbers to be viable to and from the airport .

We are not London , Singapore , LA or Shanghai with massive dense population concentrations , we are a little city with under 2,0m people

2 million ? I always tell people 1.5 - 1.6 million people Auckland
I guess it’s been so many years since I lived in kiwiland
So now there’s 2 million in Auckland & still no replacement for the Auckland harbour bridge
Don’t get distracted by lobbyists who will earn commi$$ions on LR

Why do we need to replace the harbour bridge?

Boatman you are correct - it is not worth spending billions of dollars on the relatively small number of people going to or from Auckland Airport. Luckily the Airport Light Rail also serves people going to or from Mangere, Mangere Bridge, Onehunga, Hillsbourough, Mt Roskill, Mt Eden, Sandringham, K Road, Aotea, Britomart and Wynyard Quarter. Some of these suburbs have almost as many people as our regional cities do.

Linking in heavy rail at Puhinui would seem to be a good option - I'm pro rail but I'm dubious about the proposal as it stands.

Dubious? ..... and you should be , its simply not viable

Please Read before going ahead Auckland ;

Overall, it is more expensive to operate one light rail vehicle than one bus. Because of this fact, cost-effective use of light rail requires a large passenger demand. This is a demand that only exists in a few American cities, most of which already have extensive rapid transit systems.

Light Rail Versus Bus Costs for Fifteen American Cities With Both (Source NTD)
Light Rail vs Bus
City Bus Cost Light Rail Cost
Dallas $122.38 $451.33
Salt Lake $118.24 $124.01
Denver $102.76 $170.18
Sacramento $119.51 $232.00
Los Angeles $127.28 $391.43
Portland, OR $134.39 $187.55
Minneapolis $123.64 $183.82
Phoenix $102.82 $180.35
Baltimore $163.96 $246.73
Philadelphia $141.34 $166.26
Boston $142.96 $216.45
San Diego $84.61 $137.67
Cleveland $126.12 $292.31
Buffalo $114.23 $280.97
Mean $121.87 $232.82
Max $163.96 $451.33
Min $84.61 $124.01
Median $122.38 $216.45
SD $19.50 $90.89

Guess who will subsidize Auckland Light Rail ? Ratepayers

Seems as if bus is cheaper in every US city. It is also more resilient - changing a route to fit in a new satellite suburb is a piece of cake. Also faster to get working after tidal wave of earthquake.

Passing light rail off as a public transport option for the Auckland Airport is laughable. Having it as an option for the greater West Auckland definitely has some merit but I'm not quite sure it meets the large costs associated.

Dominion road is going to need a huge amount of work for it to be tram friendly. Heavy rail already exists to Huapai/Kumeu, there is also options in Onehunga and Manukau that could be extended to the Airport. These could all link to the new inner city link, then possibly Auckland could have a public transport network, not a hodge podge of ineffective services.

Light Rail has been chosen for a reason for Dominion Road; again, HR will do nothing for CBD bus congestion, has limited number of stops for roughly the same cost, can't connect the South West like LRT can and will require extensive tunneling due to gradient issues.

Agreed ........this light rail is stuff suitable for a Walter Mitty sequel , and has about as much wishful thinking about it as the Kiwibuild plan.

Until we have a proper competitive bus service at a reasonable price ( instead of an overpriced rate-payer subsidized oligopoly ) and stop allowing the tail - to -wag - the -dog with bus route allocation , we will get nowhere fast .

Sometimes the bus companies argue between themselves for years over to-be - allocated routes , before instructing Auckland Council who will get the route .

Its a disgrace.

Have they even got Britomart trains running on time yet ?

The light rail may be better to be broken to its three constituent parts.

Its first part is light rail down Dominion Road and into downtown Auckland. This is necessary because bus priority lanes are now at full capacity and the buses are causing congestion and delays. Light rail has higher capacity i.e. it carry the same volume of people traffic as a 4 lane motorway but in a fraction of the space and without the road congestion and climate change problems of a 4 lane motorway. This first part of the light rail project has been considerably investigated by the previous government administration and by the likes of AT. The business case is much stronger and has been more closely examined than National's uncosted Roads of National Significance proposals for instance.

The second part of the light rail project is connecting Dominion Road with Mangere and the Airport. Again after considerable investigation which predated this government administration light rail was found to be the most viable option for providing a connection to the airport and it has the benefit of expanding the congestion free rapid transit network so it services more people. The big state housing areas in Mt Roskill and Mangere are being intensified with old state houses on large plots being replace by 3 to 5 new dwellings. Light rail with the capacity of a 4 lane motorway is integral for making these housing intensification projects viable.

The third part of the light rail project is connecting the large greenfield areas to the north-west out to Kumeu and Huapai with rapid transit. This will mean a large housing supply can be facilitated where residents have multi-modal travel choices -they can use the existing motorway network or using a congestion free rapid transit service. This means new affordable housing can be provided whilst minimising the congestion effects on wider Auckland. This housing can fund a considerable part of the light rail project through mechanisms like land readjustment, targeted rates and increasing patronage/fare revenue.

The lead government departments for the light rail and housing projects are the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD). Treasury infrastructure staff may have their nose out of joint because they are not leading this project but Wellington bureaucratic bun fighting whilst Auckland falls apart with a housing crisis and congested roads is a waste of time and resources and should not be tolerated.

The National party is taking advantage of the poor media coverage of the new government departments -MHUD in part particular. Paul Goldsmith will know that light rail is integral with Phil Twyfords large project MHUD/Urban Development Authority developments. He is just trying to meddle and muddle with the process for political advantage. If Paul Goldsmith is successful the losers will be Aucklanders and New Zealanders who want the housing and transport crises fixed.

Brendon - you compare LR to 4 lane motorway and it is favourable. But what about comparing it to a well run bus system?

For the same capacity as on LR per 5 minutes you would need a bus per 30 seconds or so. At that frequency buses become bunched and you need very big bus stops for all the buses to stop at.
Incidentally the National government asked the NZTA to do a feasibility study on buses instead of light rail. I don't know the outcome but National don't seem to be pushing for that anymore so it must have been bad.

oh really, we need it to solve the housing crisis.

You are right to compare them with motorways, but wrong about everything else. They are more expensive - but these are designed to assist the motorway network. When used properly light rail allows mass transit in high density areas, you know the areas Auckland strangles out of existence. In Auckland we are instead going to use these to assist a motorway network that is failing under the torrent of cars our sprawl mad planners are creating.

And yes, light rail is the most viable way to connect to the airport in parallel to a motorway. This thing exists solely because our useless, sprawl crazed mayor decided the he wanted a connection to the airport. It is not viable on any other basis, obviously. I think Auckland has much bigger problems than a connection to the airport, but Phil Goff wants something

Here is a list of things Auckland will not be getting because of this awful waste of resources:
- 24 hour public transport.
- flood protection and development of affordable housing at Takanini.
- rail connection from Swanson to Huapai.
- light rail at Sandringham or 3 Kings.

Pity that National is appearing anti public transport again. It comes across as they just want to build more RONS which most had very poor returns. The light-train network will be a game changer in Auckland just as Britomart and the Northern Busway were.

@nofax ........... so its simple , instead of this stupid light rail , why not buy adjoining land and build a busway ?

Where are all your buses going to go? Are they going to be able to stop to pick up passengers? Are they just going to disappear once they reach the CBD? How much adjoining land do you plan on buying in central Auckland? in Epsom, one of the most expensive parts of Auckland? This is definitely a less stupid idea than Light Rail.

Nat don't like it because it doesn't stack up? Just a gentle reminder ....of the $400 million Crown Irrigation Subsidy that they were throwing at their farming buddies.

Thats different.. they are National voting farmers, not the Hoi Polloi.

The majority of irrigation funding was in the form of loans, not handouts.

Still see people here who don’t understand where majority of NZs foreign earnings come from ?

i agree with national in that running trams to the airport is political not about the best option.
running trams down the main routes, dominion road, new noth road, great south road, manukau road
but even then it needs to be looked at with connections to rail and bus to make sure it fits purpose and just not just create a route to nowhere.
as for the airport you already have a better option of running rail from puhinui station ( while most of the land is undeveloped)
the best option would be to loop it to onehunga but the cost now would blow out as no land was put aside, as well as the bridge that they rebuilt in onehunga is now to low for trains to pass under.
ironic as they put the piles in the harbor for the rail bridge when they built the second motorway bridge and that was 20 years ago

the perfect trial area for that system is the north shore busway
would have cost most likely the same as buy the double deckers

Best thing I’ve seen in this whole comment thread. If it’s going to be done let’s be smart about it.

If you want to live in Auckland pay your bills. That is - Aucklanders should pay all the costs of the slow trams. The New Zealand Government should put it's cheque away and keep out of the discussion.

Auckland Council pays a significant proportion of transport projects. Half of the City Rail Link for example. Probably the biggest road subsidy in NZ is to the infrequently used rural state highway roads which have high build and maintenance costs but only a relatively few vehicles an hour using them -so these sort of road generate very few road user charges. Most of the cars and most of travel is in our major towns and cities yet a lot of the expenditure is in rural/countryside areas. The National party like this subsidy because it feeds its base....

But tourism requires those rural state highways to be sealed. Did you have particular hiways in mind here Brendon, that are infrequently used?

You are in a fact free zone Brendon. Tell us where a lot of money is being spent on infrequently used rural roads.

Cool mind chucking Auckland back the money we chipped in for the Chch rebuild? Should pretty much cover most of what we need.

Aucklanders are not getting their money back, this is pay off for the Green Party and associated backers. Just is like Winston and how attractive a horse looks, this is political money wastage. Some people stand to make a lot of money.

Again: What is your alternative to bus congestion in the CBD and on priority access roads and in the North West of the city?

Go back to when Auckland built 50% less sprawl, like it did 10-20 years ago, so we have less congestion. Increase density of living in the Balmoral/Sandringham/3kings area and create a light rail network to service this. Utilise the existing rail line from Swanson to Kumeu/Huapai.

Everything better than building a polluting costly mockery of light rail.

That's all well and good, but it still doesn't actually go anywhere near the population growth areas at Massey, Westgate, Hobsonville Pt, etc. Don't get me wrong, it's a good interim solution for the far west, but won't do anything for the SH16 corridor.

I am not a big fan of putting in extravagant infrastructure to subsidise sprawl. I'd prefer the investment were made in the Sandringham and 3 Kings area to facilitate compact growth. These pro-sprawl policies of Labour and the Greens and Auckland City aren't my cup of tea.

The NZTA transport spend is actually fairly well spread by population. Auckland does not get more than its fair share, often less.

Why does public transport always need a business case, but roads never need one? And if there is a postiive business case for a road, it relies on time travel savings... which never eventuate

yes all motorways have to have a cost benefit anylsis done before funding can be approved
hence the stop on the east week link as it didn't stack up
same with the motorway up north (which should have be built anyway)

The reason is the same as it was in Roman times: anyone and everything can use a Road. The ultimate transport open-source solution. Horses, camels, goats, bullocks, feet, bicycles, cars, trucks, wagons, scooters, hoverboards. Only trains and trams can use a Track (and bicycles, when the less rigorously costed lines receive their inevitable Beeching Moment).....Rail's essentially a proprietary system (track gauge, signalling, ownership of locos, stock, stations etc) so it's the exact opposite of the Road Democracy. Hence the polarisation of the versus closed.

Democracy is chosing whether to sit on a congested road in a car or on goat?

I’ll have one goat please!

Is it your view that no business case is needed for LR ?

My view is that everything needs a business case; and that "time travel savings" is an unquantifiable benefit and should be ignored.

Given that time travel is still the stuff of sci-fi I'd agree.. But travel time savings on the other hand are real, and have very real effects. Is your worker more productive sitting in his van going to the clients house, or actually fixing the leaky toilet at the customers house?

The parents stuck in traffic while the kids entertain themselves with
Coke and Xbox games, or home at a reasonable hour and preparing a decent dinner and helping them with homework?

Yes, there are some interesting arguments around travel time savings and that they are not in fact real.

Some researchers have argued that because we all use a travel time budget of about an 1 hour per day the long term marginal value is $0. I.e. travel time savings per se have 0 value.

This travel time budget is reasonably consistent through history as cities have grown from walking & horses through to cars.

The researchers argue that value the travel time savings actually provide are the increased accessibility between origins and destinations & the opportunities that arise from these. These are broadly known as wider economic benefits and are typically no more than 10-20% of travel time savings calculated in transport assessments.

i.e. we are overstating benefits by 10x to 5x.

The lightrail in Edinburgh is actually pretty good, took it myself multiple times. Lightyears ahead of whatever we are trying to do here in Old Zealand.

Edinburgh is also a city with half the population and a fraction of the population growth of Auckland. So it is not an apples with apples comparison.

simple solution. Get light rail off existing roads thereby increasing capacity.

Getting the light rail that isn't running on roads at the moment that are already congested will increase exactly?

Light rail can be used to transport people around high density neigbourhoods. When this light rail was originally mooted for Auckland it was to be in Balmoral/Sandringham/3 Kings/Mt Roskill area and this was to become high density living. It was an okay plan, but ran into a major hurdle - the council decided they did not want to have high density in the area.

But then the Gweens won the election. So now we have plans for two absurd light rail tracks though low density housing. Expensive and environmentally destructive light rail is the future.

lot's of fat pay checks for Green aligned consultants though.

Get with the Green Programme man, we need light rail to the airport to be carbon neutral right???

We are really lucky that the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway is going ahead. National just got it started in time or else Labour were going to kill it. This is going to make a huge difference to everyone traveling north an alleviate the traffic congestion through Johnstones Hill tunnel.

True , this COL government does not want us or the economy going anywhere.

Remind we how we recently built a tunnel which is a clear chokepoint already.

Carlos, it may help out the traffic jam formerly known as Warkworth, but it'll also just shunt a decent chunk of the problem a few kilometres north.

So Warkworth is now a traffic jam !
Luckily I missed out on a farm there

Actually Johnstone Hill tunnel will remain a problem in busy traffic because the motorway goes from two lanes to one there.

Not quite sure why though,

Nothing some new painted lines wouldn't fix if we dare assume that most drivers can actually manage to stay in their lane.

It was easier to do the choke there than at the point it joined up with the old SH1. North travel tunnel has capacity for two lanes and will be 2 lane once puhoi warkworth motorway is connected.

Please get the wellsford stage underway coalition - will be extremely expensive and lengthy process to try and restart process once all current workers and organisation disperse whereas if started now it would be a much faster and cheaper build. Do you just not care about the economically impoverished North?

Double edged sword. The new mway brings more traffic,more people....and eventually destroys the attraction and you no longer are 'getting away from it'. Sometimes difficulty of access is a good thing.

We leave Auck because the beeches have poos in the water. How about spending the money on sewerage and not roads?

agree , they need millions to sort out the sewage and as the city grows millions more to accommodate more.
had to laugh at an out of town friend who commented it must be nice to have so many beaches in the hot weather, I said as long as it doesn't rain to flush the system then you find your self swimming with caddy shack friends

Sounds Familiar, Simpsons 1992
Mr Burns has been hiding toxic waste throughout Springfield, but is finally caught in the act, and forced to pay a $3million fine.
Springfield then holds a town meeting to decide what to do with the funds. Marge's idea to use the money to fix Main Street is quickly trumpeted by the townspeople when a loud whistle is heard, and the townspeople's attention is drawn to a man named Lyle Lanley. Lanley's proposal is to use the money to fund a monorail system that he is proposing to have built. Lanley then breaks into a song that quickly turns the townspeople's votes in his favour.
The show concludes with Marge explaining that the monorail was the last 'folly' Springfield ever did...except for the popsicle-stick skyscraper...and the giant magnifying glass...and the escalator to nowhere

Love a good Simpsons reference.

Several cheaper and faster options seem to be available or nearly available:
1/Chinese sky rail system, about $30million per km. 80km/hr. I've used it, a good system.
2/Boring Company tunnel system equivalent of 4-lane highways for $20million/km +$75million per station. could do 30 stations and 200km under Auckland - effectively a whole rapid transit system accomodating both cars and walking passengers for the price of the tram line.
3/Also likely we will see Autonomous buses and minivans and taxis available before the trams can be built. Increase human density (and frequency) of road based public transport making rail pointless.
Can we please just stop this evolving white elephant now?

Light rail to the airport is just a waste of time and money .

Just run more buses at a reasonable price . Right now there is no way in hell I will pay the eye-watering bus fare to the airport

Yes imagine if they dropped some AT subsidy on the Skybus service. Patronage would go through the roof.

you can catch the 380 from the train station
its part of your normal AT fare
a lot cheaper than skybus

380 Airporter

The bright orange 380 Airporter bus operates between Onehunga, Mangere Town Centre, and Manukau, via Papatoetoe and Onehunga Train Stations.
It operates every 15 to 20 minutes, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, during the day.
It stops at bus stops located outside both the domestic and international terminals at Auckland Airport.

Onehunga rail station to the Airport (approx. 30-40mins)
Manukau rail station to the Airport (approx. 35-40min)

Adult Hop card $1.90
Child Hop card $0.99
Adult Cash fare $3.50
Child Cash fare $2.00


AT Hop/ cash
Airport to CBD $4.85 $10.50
Paptoetoe to Airport $1.90 $3.50
Onehunga to Airport $1.90 $3.50
Mangere to Airport $1.90 $3.50

Yep. But from Britomart it means you need to catch a train Onehunga 25 min or Papatoetoe 30 min
Then wait for the connecting bus which will take another 30-40 min to the airport. Absolute best case an hour for a 20 km Journey. A car could do it in 30min total going via the tunnel in reasonable traffic. Current Skybus states 50-minute service via Dominion or Mt Eden Rd. If they put Skybus on the Motorway express via the tunnel with an AT subsidy it could be done in 40 min allowing for a couple of city stops on the way out. Same subsidy rate as Airporter 380 should see the fare at about $5. Current HOP fare for Skybus is $17.50 one way.

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