Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency are being urged to progress rail to the North Shore, following the ground breaking ceremony for the City Rail Link today.
“The CRL will remove a major bottleneck in the rail network, so the time is right to begin planning for rail to the North Shore,” said Campaign for Better Transport spokesperson Cameron Pitches.
The Government funded NZ Transport Agency has $27m budgeted to progress a legal designation for a six lane road-only tunnel across the Waitemata Harbour, in spite of a preliminary business case indicating the project will only return to the economy 40c for every dollar invested.
“A road-only crossing will simply flood the Auckland CBD and surrounding motorway network with single occupant cars, ultimately just moving bottlenecks elsewhere,” said Mr Pitches.
“It seems obvious that a high capacity, low carbon emission electric rail link across the Waitemata will do far more to move the thousands of people necessary at peak times each working day. With the new Western Ring Route motorway between Manukau and Albany set to be complete in 2017, there is no urgency whatsoever for more road capacity. We have time to get this right.”
A recent Official Information Act request by the TransportBlog website revealed that the NZ Transport Agency is leaving any decision on designating a corridor for rail to Auckland Transport.
“The Transport Agency is actually required by law to consider other land transport options and alternatives as part of the criteria for funding. We’d like to see the NZTA commit its own funds to evaluate a rail only crossing and work with Auckland Transport, rather than pressing on ahead with its own uneconomic project that so far has had zero input from the general public,” said Mr Pitches.
Costing between $4bn and $6bn, a road only tunnel between Victoria Park and Esmonde Road would be the single most expensive transport project ever undertaken in New Zealand, requiring tolling on the tunnel and possibly the existing Harbour Bridge as well to part-fund it.
In comparison, smaller diameter tunnels for rail – the same size as the CRL tunnels – have been estimated to cost up to $1.5bn.
“That would leave a budget of up to $4.5bn for a rail network covering the North Shore and other areas. Building a rail tunnel first will also defer the need for additional road capacity for decades, which will help motorists and freight companies,” said Mr Pitches.
The northshorerail.nz petition has so far gained over 1,200 supporters.