Photo: Auckland Transport

Auckland a ‘phenomenal’ city for rail growth, says mayor

Auckland mayor Len Brown is set to speak at this year’s New Zealand Rail conference in Wellington. He sat down with Informa Transport to discuss Auckland, its future, and the role rail can play.

Len, the theme of the conference this year is “Rail as the driving force behind economic growth”. What do you think this means for New Zealand?

LEN BROWN: There is much economic, social and environmental upside to rail. It gets heavy freight off highways and urban commuters off urban roads – these have real economic value.

It’s long been understood that heavy freight causes almost all the wear and tear on our road network. Getting trucks off roads saves government and councils considerable sums of money and provides financial returns to the high-fixed-cost rail sector. Getting commuters off the road reduces the economic losses to road congestion. In Auckland losses to congestion cost the regional economy many hundreds of millions each year.

What are the major concerns for the industry this year and looking forward to 2016, particularly in Auckland?

Auckland has phenomenal growth in passenger rail transport. It is currently running at 21% per year and that rate is accelerating. That’s good for commuters – they’re voting with their feet – and it’s good for motorists because it removes congestion and it’s good for the environment.

With the purchase of Auckland’s 57 electric multiple unit trains, we have sorted capacity, efficiency and environmental issues in our rolling stock. We now need to get the constraints out of the network.

Currently Britomart can only handle 20 trains an hour. We have already hit that constraint in our daily peaks. Britomart will hit its people handling capacity in 2018 – we will literally run out of escalator capacity and floor space.

Building the City Rail Link fixes both these problems, allowing trains to pass through instead of having to reverse out, and 40% of passengers who would have to use Britomart will choose to use the new Aotea station on the CRL. It will also give commuters large chunks of their day back – commuters from west Auckland will see up to 50 minutes a day reduction in commuting times.

What will you be discussing at the conference?

Primarily a “transport accord” between the Government and Auckland.

Auckland has several unique features. Its population grows by the equivalent of the population of a city the size of Palmerston North every two years. It has distinct demographic features, especially ethnic diversity. Its economy is heavily and increasingly services oriented and that means the primary economic input is people – so the transport priority for the economy is to move people from their homes to work.

The vast majority of transport movements are within, not into, nor out of, nor through Auckland. It also has a single local authority making service delivery and regulatory decisions. And it has the scale to afford it the sophisticated decision making mechanisms normally only available to Government.

These features strongly suggest that Auckland needs decision making mechanisms that reflect its unique circumstances. A transport accord will provide such a mechanism, where the two major and equal transport decision makers share the same knowledge base, plan together, explicitly agree what they can agree and agree to continue to discuss those matters on which they are yet to reach agreement.

Whose other presentation are you looking forward to hearing at the conference?

This year’s speaker line up is first rate. I want to hear everyone and I and my office will be there for the entirety of the conference.

New Zealand Rail will take place in Wellington, New Zealand, from June 4 to 5. Key speakers include:

  • The Hon Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport
  • Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland
  • Howard Collins, CEO, Sydney Trains
  • Peter Reidy, CEO, KiwiRail
  • Bryan Nye, CEO, ARA
  • Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Council
  • Philip Chalk, Director Asset Management & Maintenance, ANZ, Network Rail
  • Megan Drayton, Foundation Manager, TrackSAFE
  • Simon Wood, Associate Director, AECOM
  • Brent Efford, NZ Agent, Light Rail Transit Association
  • Anthony Eid, Operations Director, Sydney Trains
  • Noel Burton, Head Engineering NZ, Siemens Rail Automation
  • Ken Shirley, CEO, Road Transport Forum

View the full agenda and more information here.