Quite simply, New Zealand needs Auckland to work, and for that to happen, it needs to work efficiently. Auckland cannot rely on roads and motorways alone to meet the region’s future transport needs, as the city’s roading network is already nearing the practical limits of expansion.
The key thing is, it is not a choice between improving roads and public transport. They are not substitutes, but complementary.
The number of trips made on Auckland’s transport system by 2051 is expected to increase by 65 per cent from 3.2 million to 5.2 million a day.
Plans for an underground rail loop from Britomart southward underneath the CBD to Mt Eden have been debated for nearly a century.
Initial economic evaluation of the CBD tunnel shows that it attracts a higher return than many major roading projects of a similar scale, particularly as rail can shift much larger numbers than any other mode.
So long as it is cheaper per than Labour’s plan to spend $1 to $2 billion on a single tunnel to help then retain Mt Albert!
The Western Ring Route, State Highway 20 and incremental improvements to other motorway networks and roads are critical. However, these improvements and the new Central Connector and development of the bus lane network will meet future demands only if we complete a fully integrated transport system, including a CBD rail loop.
The capacity of Britomart at peak times would potentially more than double to 40 trains per hour, if it were a through-station. These are compelling reasons why we need to push through Britomart, up under Albert St, beneath Karangahape Rd and on to Mt Eden and Kingsland.
Because of its higher capacity, rail is the most effective and efficient way of providing for Auckland’s growth in travel demand, especially to the congested CBD.
So why a loop?
This CBD loop is no ordinary transport project. This project looks ahead 100 years, to the kind of centre a true super city aspires to.
Super cities all over the world have strong centres and with vision, good design and a sound business case, this project unlocks the potential of Auckland’s centre by enabling much greater access from all parts of the region. This will reinforce the existing role of central Auckland as a regional destination for workers, students and residents and it will cater for the projected growth in the size and intensity of the centre of Greater Auckland.
Enhancing access through a CBD rail loop is critical to the central area’s contribution to lifting the entire region’s (and therefore the country’s) economic performance.
This rail loop is more than a rail link. It is a transformational economic development project at the centre of the new Super City.
So what is the cost?
The currently estimated cost of a CBD rail loop is between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. If the rail loop is not constructed, we do have a good handle on that cost, which includes further road and motorway construction to meet demand (at least $3.3 billion for roading and additional parking capacity, according to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority’s latest estimate).
If it can be done for that much money, the economic argument really stacks up.