The CBD Rail Loop and the Taniwha

The Auckland CBD Rail Loop has become quite a hot topic recently, with it now being said by the Maori Statutory Board that they can’t build this because of a taniwha (see http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/taniwha if you aren’t too sure what a taniwha is) living underneath the Auckland Town Hall. But really, why do we even want this?

Should we even have a CBD Rail Loop?

Simple answer, no. Sure, it may be useful to have this CBD Rail Loop, but surely it makes more sense to sort out the public transport you have before you bring in more services that will be as underfunded as what we already have. Maybe when we have a bus system that works, we can have a CBD Rail Loop. Or maybe, the train service from the North Shore through to Britomart that Len Brown promised when campaigning… Would be nice to have a politician actually give the people what was promised…

The Taniwha – should this stop the Rail Loop

See http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5114496/Taniwha-in-the-way-of-Auckland-rail-loop for what this is about.

While there are plenty of good reasons for stopping the CBD Rail Loop, this taniwha is not a good one. I did a bit of research into this, and I could not find a single shred of evidence to this taniwha existing that dates back before the CBD Rail Loop. It just seems suspicious to me. I’m not the biggest fan of the Maori Statutory Board to begin with, but it does just seem like they are saying this in order to get their way, which I really don’t like.

Though, if anyone can find evidence to suggest otherwise, please do leave a comment with that evidence. I do sort of want to be proved wrong on this, because I do know it seems like I am being disrespectful of the Maori culture. I do want to point out that I have no problem with respecting Maori culture, but when it is used falsely to get something out of the system, I do rage a little bit.

This post originally appeared on Daniel-Farrell.com.

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Posted on June 9, 2011, in New Zealand Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Daniel, no disrespect my friend, but your reasons for us not needing a CBD rail loop are drivel and show a complete lack of understanding for the project and why we need it now. I’d be more than happy to win you over using a compelling spectacularly well-reasoned argument…

    “Maybe when we have a functioning bus system” – consider why we don’t have a bus system that doesn’t work very well now? Buses account for the vast majority of PT trips in Auckland – close to 50 million out of 65 million. Most of them run lengthy routes all the way into the city sharing the roads with cars and therefore sharing in their congestion, and causing a great deal of congestion of their own. There are close to 90 buses an hour on Fanshawe/Albert Streets atm, and 110 on Symonds – without the CBD rail loop that increases to 260, 260 and 320 respectively. Huge liveability and pedestrian amenity effects there. Not to mention 10,000 more cars at peak time. Government’s review seemed to assume limitless road capacity when in reality roads in the CBD are already at saturation point. Rail corridors on the other hand have a huge amount of idle capacity – 6 trains per hour on each line can become 12 per hour with a CBD tunnel – meaning 18 trains per hour (plus two for Onehunga) becomes 36+ trains per hour into town with it.

    A CBD rail loop would unlock capacity on all lines by removing the dead-end constraint at Britomart – 6 trains per hour on the Southern/Western/Eastern lines becomes 12 trains per hour, drastically increasing the capacity of the entire system across the region. This means less people on buses, more people by rail. Buses are re-routed to feed into rail stations that act as the trunks – the way it should be. Best practice is never for buses to be providing trunk services into the central city – bus should feed into rail. It’s the only way you retain any amenity in the city centre – otherwise you get buses filling town like in Auckland. There is a fundamental imbalance between buses and trains in Auckland that is all wrong, brought about by the lack of rail infrastructure and exclusive investment in roads since 1956. We needed the CBD rail loop when Robbie campaigned for it in the 1970s, we need it even more now as we see the effects of not having it – a poorly functioning PT network too reliant on slow, congested and congestion-causing buses.

    And as for your question about priorities – rail to the North Shore – the existing network constraint at Britomart means that NO extra trains can be run – all paths in and out of Britomart will be in use by 2013 – without a CBD rail loop there will be no rail to the airport, no rail to the North shore, because the network has a dead-end at Britomart that limits the number of trains it can handle per hour. Len Brown has always said priority #1 is the CBD rail loop in 5-7 years, which will ENABLE the Airport link to be done in 10 years, and the North Shore link to done in 15 years. He never committed to North Shore rail tomorrow – that would be stupid while the Northern Busway has sufficient capacity to cope in the meantime. In the meantime, the CBD loop helps North Shore buses as it will take more western/southern/central/eastern buses off CBD streets, decreasing bus lane congestion for bus services with no rail alternative – i.e. the North Shore.

    I could go on but sadly I have a life haha…

    • Oh lordie. That was quite the comment, Liam. Longer than the original post!

      I must admit, when I wrote this, I was misinformed of where the line would be running. I had been told it would effectively be along Queen Street and back to Britomart. Having just seen the actual route, I can sort of see some benefits. However, I don’t see how this would free up Britomart, considering the trains still need to go to and from Britomart. I also don’t think there is a large enough population in Auckland. It works in Sydney, but they have four times as many people as Auckland. There simply wouldn’t be the demand, particuarly given Aucklanders’ love of cars. Creating a CBD Rail Loop isn’t going to change this, as much as the Green Party suggests people will “want to use the new shiny public transport system”. To begin with, yes people will use it as part of the novelty factor, but in the long run, I fear there would be little patronage.

      Could we not just expand Britomart? Sure it’s a bit difficult to expand outwards, but why not expand downwards?

      Also, Liam, I would like to point out, you are CLEARLY doing the right degree.

      Thanks for the comment. Always appreciate it, whether I agree or not!

  2. Yes well that misinformation would be the fault of the media mainly, the council also – a poor job overall at articulating exactly what it is and why it’s needed. There is a perception that it’s just a loop around the city which isn’t true at all – if that were the case then we already have the Link for that don’t we? The whole point is unlocking the capacity of Britomart.

    “I don’t see how this would unlock Britomart” – Britomart is served from the east by a twin track tunnel, down which ALL trains from ALL lines have to run in and out of to reach Britomart. Because it only has two tracks, this tunnel can only take 20-22 trains per hour. That translates roughly to 6 trains per hour on the three main lines, 2 on the Onehunga line. The problem is that each of the lines has a much higher capacity than 6 trains per hour – in fact they can all take double that, but they’re all constrained by having to go through the same narrow approach tunnel to Britomart. The tunnel effectively means that trains from the west no longer have to go ‘around’ town via Newmarket, and trains from the east and south no longer have to ‘reverse’ out of Britomart the same way they came in – there’s currently train congestion at that eastern portal due to the constraint. Train routes would turn into Western-Southern line via CBD loop and Onehunga-Eastern line via CBD loop – two services, easy to understand, operated at 5 minute frequency.

    The only way you could “expand Britomart” is to widen the twin-track tunnel at the eastern entrance to four tracks or something, but that involves taking out the foundations of the Vector Arena and a few apartment blocks down there. And I think there’s some sort of taniwha issue there too.

    “Not a large enough population in Auckland” – what’s true is that the current rail system is bursting at the seams – on track to hit 10 million trips per annum, five times what it was a decade ago – and with the capacity constraints, that can’t go any higher – the existing system is overloaded with passengers. Given that rail corridors are the only mode with any idle capacity, we need to unlock it to satisfy demand. And on the population point – we’re projected to increase by a million in the next 30 years – putting them all on roads will fuck us all over big time – growth strategies aim to put alot of these people near transit stations, maximising their patronage. Sydney has a larger population yes, but it’s population density is actually lower. Perth’s population is the same as Auckland’s at around half the density, yet it’s rail system supports over 30 million trips per annum compared to under 10 million for Auckland currently.

    “Aucklanders’ love of cars” – Aucklanders aren’t some unique car-loving species. We only ‘love’ cars because we’ve had exclusively state highway/road investment in since 1956 and no PT infrastructure investment. And we opened up the door to Jap imports. And much of the 1950s-1990s planning was designed for the car – much of suburban North Shore, Albany being the best example. Before 1956 the tram system in Auckland had a higher annual patronage (80 million trips) than the entire 2010 public transport system (64 million), despite only having a third the population because it was quality and they invested in the infrastructure.

    It’s well proven that where there’s a high quality alternative put in place that offers people greater convenience and speed, they’ll use it – Britomart catalysed 5x rail patronage in a decade, Northern Busway now takes 40% of harbour bridge traffic every morning etc. The CBD rail loop will shave 15 minutes off the journey time from New Lynn to Britomart, the commute time Morningside to Aotea square will be 8 minutes compared to 20 now, it’ll reduce bus congestion for North Shore commuters, and it will bring the entire CBD within 500m of a train station. If that isn’t a high quality alternative that offers greater speed and convenience I don’t know what is.

  3. Correction – the time savings benefits are 28 down to 8 minutes Morningside-to-future Aotea Station; 45 down to 23 minutes for New Lynn, 50 to 35 from Henderson, 40 to 29 from Onehunga, 32 to 23 from Panmure etc. If these lines are already overflowing with people on existing services, imagine what happens when you actually make it fast!

    Another point before I finally feck off, there’s a resilience benefit to all of this too – what I mean by that is one little accident, one little failure or one event on at Eden Park or something doesn’t mean the entire rail system shuts down. Everytime they run trains to Eden Park there’s no western line rail service, nothing from Newmarket etc. Everytime there’s a breakdown at Britomart the entire system is shut down. Providing a second route into Britomart and forming the loop means there’s alternative ways for trains to go, so the poor old people of Waitakere don’t suffer everytime there’s a feckin rugby game on etc.

    • So, correct me if I’m wrong here, but the two lane tunnel is currently on the left side if you’re standing at the bottom of the escalators going down to the platforms, right? Surely, you can just build a tunnel downwards to the right. I’ve made a side-on view of what I’m talking about here http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7357712/Potential%20Britomart%20Expansion.jpg.

      Effectively, put that to the right of the current tunnel. Make it go below the foundations of Vector Arena and the Apartments. That would reduce to cost of the project significantly too.

      I will accept your comment on population. That makes sense. So, Auckland potentially does have the population, or at least the population density, to allow for an internal rail loop.

      I do admit, I like the look of the time savings. Quite a bit, actually haha.

      I really don’t understand why one event at Eden Park shuts down the entire rail system. It shouldn’t stop the trains going further than Eden Park, it should just increase the number of trains.

      I must say, you are quite close to convincing me! I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on this topic. I’m just simply telling it as I see it. I like it when someone comes out and proves me wrong. It makes me more knowledgeable. And that’s good. So, thank you, Liam.

  4. So I’m just gunna go ahead and jump in here 😀 Funnily enough, I’ve just been doing a project looking at Auckland’s transport infrastructure, so this is quite relevant haha.

    Ok, so as to why a tunnel on the right wouldn’t work, it’s not the amount of space in Britomart that’s the problem, it’s that the trains have to go out on the same lines they come in. I don’t know exactly how they schedule the trains to avoid each other currently, but the basic fact is that there aren’t that many lines in the area around the old Strand station, and not much room to build more, due to the gradients trains require for cornering and stuff. So another tunnel out would probably involve a massive criss cross of rail lines, with trains having to do a lot of reversing to get onto the right line, which takes a lot of time in a train. Yes, it would expand the current capacity slightly, but it wouldn’t fix the problem in the long term.

    If the CDB loop was there, another train could arrive in on the line another would otherwise be reversing out on. I feel like I’m kinda repeating what Liam’s already said here, so I’m gunna move on.

    As for why the Western line shuts when events are on, I’m not totally sure, but I imagine its down to capacity – they can’t run enough trains to and from Britomart to service the events, as well as the regular line. This will probably change when the rail system’s electrification is complete, but until then they face these problems. Electrification will allow longer trains, running at higher speeds that the current diesel locos can.

    I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject either, but this blog: http://transportblog.co.nz/ is authored by someone who definitely is. It’s got lots (and I do mean pages and pages) of info arguing why the rail link would work, under this tag: http://transportblog.co.nz/tag/cbd-rail-tunnel/ Yes the author likes the Greens, but he still makes valid points.

    As for the thing about the taniwha existing prior to this debate, I’m pretty sure he did, considering what’s now the sewer under Queen St used to be called the Waihorotiu stream (wai for water, of horotiu the tainwha). The Wikipedia page talks about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waihorotiu_Stream Sadly, most of the references are defunct, because of Auckland City Council’s webpages closing down. But I’m pretty sure it’s legit xD

    • Given I have conceded most of the points you made in my reply to Liam, I won’t go into them again.

      However, I will comment on the taniwha point. The reference on the Wikipedia page you gave goes to a NZ Herald article that was from after the debate started. In fact, in that article, it starts by saying “The heritage advisor for Auckland’s main iwi hadn’t heard of an inner-city taniwha before yesterday” (see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10731219). I think that might even prove my point on that….

    • Also, to make it clear, the reply I made to Liam below happened before this reply. I didn’t go into the dashboard to reply to Liam, so I didn’t see this comment, as it needed moderation. Liam’s didn’t because he had already been moderated with previous comments.

      Sorry about the error there, and thanks for commenting, Luke.

  5. One problem with that idea – to go below the foundations of the existing buildings would mean you’re at a different depth to the existing station so you’d need two levels of platforms making Britomart very complicated – it has been done overseas but you’d need a major reconfiguration on Britomart and yeah like I said, an awful lot of building foundations in that area. Plus you’d get none of the time savings or accessibility improvements to the rest of the CBD which are pretty important for the economic benefits in the business case – all you’d be doing is optimising the existing station which admittedly would get rid of the issue for now…but then it’d come up again in twenty odd years time when that reaches capacity – the full tunnel option is a properly future-proofed option.

    Events at Eden Park are extremely disruptive to all other services because of: 1) the constraint at Britomart – the frequency of services to Eden Park (every 10 minutes on a game night I think?) mean that the Eden Park trains end up hogging the twin-track tunnel into Britomart and all it’s platforms so there’s very little room for other trains; and 2) No other Western Line services can run because trains to and from Eden Park have to run on both sets of tracks to move a meaningful number of people in a short time frame – i.e. both tracks westbound or both tracks eastbound at once – you can’t run other services because then they crash into the Eden Park trains going the other way – it’s like turning a two way street into a one-way street to increase capacity. Nothing can run the other way during game time and all the other rail services are replaced by bus services which clog up the roads as it takes alot of buses to replace a train. On a game night the trains run on both tracks from Britomart to Kingsland Station and vice versa; and from the west to Morningside Station and vice versa – everything’s converging on Eden Park – no way trains can run the other way. A third and fourth track on the Western Line could solve that, but a) no room for it in the corridor; and b) then that track would also run into the twin track tunnel at Britomart, exacerbating the capacity and congestion issue there.

  6. I must say, I can’t argue with you. I don’t know if it’s because I have little knowledge on the topic, or if it’s because you’re right, but I do know your argument seems powerful (and legit powerful, not ACT on Campus powerful).

  7. Luke – very right about Transport Blog mate – it’s brilliant – Josh Arbury (the author of that blog) should be in charge of Auckland Transport – extremely informed, onto it, common sense smart guy. Not political but he knows his shit. I have him to thank for most of my knowledge on this topic.

    See my reply for answers on the eastern approach tunnel and the reasons for the Eden Park problem. Chur.

  8. Oh and on the subject of the taniwha in Waihorotiu stream – surely common sense would prevail here – the Waihorotiu stream ran from Myers Park, northwards along what currently is the Queen Street valley and emerging at Britomart. Given that the CBD rail link will run up Albert Street and to the west of Myers Park, surely the taniwha is left undisturbed? I’m unschooled in Maori folklore, but if it lived in the Waihorotiu stream (which currently runs through pipes incidentally), the CBD rail link misses it altogether? That might be terrible ignorance, I don’t know.

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