Auckland Transport’s own figures prove bus cheaper than light rail



Rodney Hide has another blinder.

In an attempt to look into the research done on Auckland’s transport options, he finds he’s being stonewalled at every turn.  But he discovers Tony Randle, who managed to extract the actual spreadsheet from Auckland Transport only to discover what appears to be systematic “errors” somehow all magically in favour of proving light rail is the best option.

My research led me to Wellingtonian Tony Randle, who spent months trying to get the analysis underpinning the 2010 Rail Business Case, succeeding only after a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Once Tony got hold of the analysis he found:

1. Basic spreadsheet errors. The spreadsheet fails to calculate the running costs of the second purchase of 26 trains. That ignores $689 million on the train option.

2. Incorrect exclusion of costs from the rail option. The study excludes the necessary funding to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre. Building this access is a necessary part of the rail option.

3. Addition of a second bus tunnel without explanation, adding hundreds of millions to the bus option.

4. Unreasonable assumptions, including a prediction that under the rail option, present bus capacity into the city centre will carry another 20,000 passengers a day without any new bus lanes or busways.

The errors and poor assumptions total $1.5 billion. The bias is systematic; each and every mistake favours rail over buses. Correcting for the errors reverses the study’s conclusions and shows the CBD bus tunnel more cost-effective than the City Rail Link.

Tony Randle’s review is damning of Auckland Transport’s report. And it’s damning of the rail option. Auckland Transport’s response? Stony silence.

Rodney’s been pushing for his own copy of the spreadsheet.

I followed Randle’s lead and requested the spreadsheets and the relevant model output reports. Auckland Transport has refused to supply them to me.

Its latest is a lawyer’s letter explaining that Auckland Transport will provide what I want but only if I pay them $3850.

Oh, and they won’t send me the spreadsheets.

Instead, they will send a printed output. That’s useless to me. It won’t allow me to check the very calculations that Randle showed were so devastatingly wrong in their first report.

I am left to conclude that Auckland Transport doesn’t trust its own analysis. So how can I trust it? And, more especially, how can you?

I am left to conclude Rodney Hide is being too careful.

I am left to conclude I smell corruption.

We now have Labour and the Green Taliban going hard out for an Auckland Rail Loop, while Auckland Transport’s own research, once added up without the errors, proves busses to be the correct answer.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • According to what I read in the Herald; it would appear that Auckland Transport is undemocratic, deceitful yet able to spend billions of other people’s money and they have no say in the matter.

  • Michael

    The rail loop is an obvious waste of money. If Aucklanders lived along a narrow corridor with a big percentage working in the CBD then it would work. But Auckland has sprawled in all directions and workplaces are spread through a number of town centres. You either need a $100 Billion rail network like London, or better road corridors for buses which will cost a lot less, and has the benefit of improving other transport as well.

  • Colin Cloudesley

    You go get them Rodney,
    sounds what Queenstown was like a few years ago.
    Council need to be up front!!!!!

  • ratesarerevolting

    Len Brown is a fucking cunt who has surrounded himself with a cabal duplicitous crooks and spin doctors ….. can we please have someone else to vote for ?

  • Concerned Ratepayer

    I’ve been requesting various things from Auckland council
    using the Official information act with a focus on enforcement fines and costs.
    My experience is that while the people are generally friendly, the organisation
    is not very quick at responding and in the responses so far I’ve received PR
    responses or requests for significant costs to be paid upfront.

    Its concerning as this information is already cut and
    monitored (in the unlikely event that it is, there would be bigger issues) by
    the Auckland council/Auckland transport so no analyst time is required
    (particularly in Rodneys case where it is simply a case of sending out a
    spreadsheet – but it is my opinion that Auckland transport are using ‘costs’ as
    a way to supress information that should be freely available.

    I find that very concerning and will continue requesting
    information from both Auckland council and transport (and escalate if I get
    stonewalled) and encourage everyone to execise their democratic right to
    request information from the council.

    • Mr_Blobby

      Yes have had the same problem. The OIA is not working as it was originally intended. The number of complaints to the ombudsman are rising steadily.

      It would appear Council have a department dedicated to answering, but not answering requests in contradiction of the ACT.

      With enforcement fines I found it interesting that they could tell me that at 3.16pm and 24 seconds I had failed to pay and display. Yet when I asked when the new sign was put up all I got was that the policy changed sometime in 2006 and that the sign would have been put up sometime then. That there were no reports of maintenance at the site, despite the fact that one of the signs was obviously new.

      If the Government or the ombudsman are reluctant to act. Then what is needed is a public campaign, say in a national newspaper, giving examples of questions and the rubbish the is sent back in reply, also encourage people to start asking there own OIA questions, with articles on how to lodge an OIA request.

  • Mr_Blobby

    Auckland transport are a bunch of Fucktards.

    How about we finish the motorway network than was planned back in the 50’s and 60’s get traffic flowing the way it originally envisaged. Finish one project at at time.

  • Anonymouse Coward

    I am not a JAFFA so I don’t have an on the spot perspective but I understand that if an “on the buses” solution is chosen to cope with passenger growth in AKL the central business district will become a gridlocked nightmare.

    • disqus_wMsITO4Q42

      Only if you make the (incorrect) assumption that the same number of cars will come into the CBD. Surely if there is a bus solution, some of the passengers will be ex-car users?

  • Light Rail is a fancy-schmancy term for tramways. Its the same thing. Unless the rails are laid when the roads are repaired, they will cost more to install, however the long term maintenance cost of the track, and the required concrete bed (which doublles as a road bed) is far less than the ongoing maintenance of a normal tar-seal road. . The overhead wire costs less than a trolley bus wire, as it only uses one wire instead of two on a given route. Trams cost more to buy, yet last considerably longer than busses.
    Buying into tramway technology is bloody expensive, yet the long term savings have always been there. The costs of purchase, RUCs, diesel, maintenance and so fort are constantly increasing, whilst its still possible to generate power relatively cheaply.
    Labour is another issue… Multiple-unit trams were operating in Christchurch using one person, back in the 1930’s. It was a case of adding another tram if the load got too big. Cant do that with a bus without doubling the labour cost!
    Melbourne never got rid of their trams, for good reason. The long term costs of retaining the system outweighed the benefits of busses.
    As for the Wynyard tram, It needs to be extended if it is to break even. A tramline from Wynyard to Vector Arena with a Loop to K Road would work. Further extentions would work even better!

    • The money on the Wynyard tram has been spent, so to get the benefit bums need to be put on seats. That means running the trams around the central city, thus eliminating any need for a rail tunnel. If the right guage and electrical gear are used in the trams, then they could come off the regular rail line at Vector, run up Queen St, then get back on regular rail line at Grafton, Mornigside, or wherever.

  • rockape

    I know “enquiery” is a dirty word on this site. Isnt it time we had an enquiery into this. The Government obviously is being asked for several barrow loads of dollar bills. if this is being requested using false information then Question 1. Are Auckland using a false document for pecuniary advantage. Or 2 are they just dumb socialists who caant add up and need their figures checking for them. Either way Time for the Government to step in, hold an audit at the least, and publish the true figures.

    • If they want general tax payers money then I think your point is valid.

    • disqus_wMsITO4Q42

      I wonder who did the Independent Quality Assurance (IQA) Review on this business case? As a secondary, if this was a Central Gummint project, it would be subject to Gateway Reviews. Anyone know if they’ve been done?