Saturday, November 27

Auckland Light Rail from CBD to Airport: Locals Weigh Costs vs. Benefits

Auckland residents are undecided about a possible passenger train from the city via Mount Roskill and to the airport.

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Artist’s impression of the Auckland light rail network.
Photo: Supplied

The government has revealed a short list of three options drawn up by an independent group, priced at between $ 9 billion and $ 16 billion.

The train from the CBD to the airport was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first political promise as Labor leader in 2017, and after attacks and streaks, by the end of the year, we will finally know if she will move forward.

All three options would travel through the Mount Roskill suburb.

In the neighborhood stores, the merchant Yure said that for that amount of money he would prefer to have better roads because the traffic was atrocious.

“Tradies and delivery men, they can’t do that on the train. Right now, with the traffic closed, the traffic is quieter, but when it’s not, I waste a good four hours a day commuting to work. It’s unproductive and not I can get on the bus with my stairs. “

Another man, Kieran, said that he would not ride the train himself, but that he would make a difference for others. And despite the total cost, delaying it would cost more.

“If you wait another 10 years, it will be double,” Kieran said. “They always say do it when you need it. It’s the cheapest time.”

Singaporean expat Tiong said he loved the subway there, but was not in favor of light rail being built here.

He said Auckland was not populated or busy enough that the benefits outweighed the costs.

“Because the end product looks very promising. Light rail looks good. The construction part will take a long time … a lot of business and traffic disruptions. And the cost involved … will skyrocket.”

Each of the options would also travel via Onehunga, where there is already a rail line to the CBD, but not south.

Sulla was in favor of the southern option.

“It’s a brilliant idea. I think it’s time too. Traffic will decrease, people can park their cars in Onehunga and take the train to the airport. Carbon emissions [are] something to think about as well. “

Rosemary, who works in the city and currently drives to work, said the current train was rare and unreliable, but she would take a more regular option.

“If it was once every five minutes, definitely. The Onehunga train line runs once every half hour, and even then it is often delayed. It really doesn’t work for us.”

Dion, the owner of a café on Onehunga Mall Road, said Covid-19 had hit him hard and that the construction disruption would be another setback.

“It’s not just us, all the businesses along Onehunga Mall would have quite a bit of difficulty running their businesses, without their railways starting here.”

Matt Lowrie, editor of the Greater Auckland website and public transport commentator, said some form of rail was the best option for this corridor.

But some things in the proposal didn’t add up, he said, including the cost of the surface option along Dominion Road.

“Most overseas projects cost between $ 60 million and $ 150 million per kilometer to build. They are proposing that this cost $ 375 million per kilometer, so more than double the amount of most comparable cities. they’re spending on these kinds of projects, “Lowrie said.

The cost-benefit ratio of the options is 1: 1 and 1: 2, just above a ratio of one where the benefits are equal to the costs.

If the cost throughout the project were to increase, then the ratio could be at risk of falling below one, where the costs outweigh the benefits.

Lowrie said the price could still go up, but it could also increase the profit Auckland gets from it.

In any case, he said that other transportation projects that are underway are worse.

“There are a lot of highway projects that we are building at a cost-benefit ratio of 0: 2 that we shouldn’t be building either. But we are building much lower value projects in many other parts of the country.”

The government has not decided that this is definitely going to go ahead.

Transport Minister Michael Wood called this a “necessary investment” to reduce congestion, as Auckland grew to 2.5 million people projected by 2050.

“We should have been investing in this type of infrastructure decades ago in Auckland, our largest city. We didn’t, and I don’t think we should keep kicking along the way.”

The cabinet will analyze these options and will have a decision before the end of the year if it wants to go ahead with any of them.

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