Case for City Rail Link no strongerTransport
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Sinclair Knight Merz report “City Centre Future Access Study” released this afternoon by Auckland Mayor Len Brown is a useful addition to the debate on long term transport management in central Auckland.
“It also falls some way short of convincing the Government it should provide financial support to any fast tracking of the proposed City Rail Link (CRL),” Mr Brownlee says.
“In a nutshell the report says the case for building the CRL is weak now, improves somewhat if it’s built closer to 2030 – based on some extremely optimistic assumptions about employment growth in the Auckland CBD – and even then would only provide about 20 per cent of the additional transport capacity needed to deal with increased congestion.”
Mr Brownlee says the study’s modelling suggests the CRL is not viable in the next 15 years.
“With a modelled benefit cost ratio of just 44 cents in the dollar, the benefits of the CRL are nowhere near the cost of building it.
“That benefit cost ratio looks decidedly questionable when you take into account the report’s assumed employment growth of 46 per cent in the Auckland city centre over the next 10 years, compared with actual growth of only 18 per cent in the previous decade.
“Yet this assumed employment growth means the bus crowding and congestion problems forecast in the draft report for 2021 are more likely to occur around 2030.
“While I have little doubt Auckland will experience healthy economic growth over the next decade, a nearly three-fold increase in CBD workers over the previous decade seems unlikely, and makes the projections in this report somewhat dubious.”
Mr Brownlee says he had expected a broader review of potential transport solutions for Auckland than the relatively narrow case studies in the report released today, which include a rail tunnel (the CRL), some enhanced existing bus services, and underground bus options.
“The consultants’ own report says they were ‘commissioned to develop a robust and achievable multi-modal programme for transport into the Auckland City Centre which considers a thorough analysis of alternatives.’
“Yet the report underplays State Highways entering the Auckland CBD from the south, both SH1 and SH16, and how improvements to these might impact central city traffic.
“Completion of the Western Ring Route in 2017 will also draw many thousands of traffic movements away from the CBD, yet none of these major transport corridors is explored in detail.
“Also overlooked is that evolving workplace practices and emerging technology will most likely have a considerable impact on peak hour travel over the next 30 years.
“These may offer considerable gains for a fraction of the cost of the CRL.
“The Government is not discounting the potential for enhanced rail services to improve central Auckland congestion in the future, be it along the proposed CRL route or another service,” Mr Brownlee says.
“But this valiant attempt to make the CRL stack up struggles to make the case.
“In the meantime the Ministry of Transport and the Government’s NZ Transport Agency will continue to work on the best and most cost effective solutions for freeing up central Auckland congestion now and into the future.”