Auckland light rail may be scaled back

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford says that the Government may scale back plans for light rail in Auckland.

Auckland light rail projects were a big deal for Labour. They campaigned on it for the 2017 election, and it was included in their policy on Auckland transport.

Labour will:

  • Build light rail from the CBD to Auckland Airport. This will be part of a new light rail network that will be built over the next decade with routes to the central suburbs, the airport, and West Auckland, and will later be extended to the North Shore

It was included in their Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Green Party:

2. Reduce congestion and carbon emissions by substantially increasing investment in safe walking and cycling, frequent and affordable passenger transport, rail, and sea freight.

b. National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and walking.

d. Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland

Now from NZ Herald:  Auckland’s $6 billion light rail programme could be scaled back, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford

The Government may have to scale back its $6 billion light rail programme for Auckland by scrapping a line from the city centre to west Auckland, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

The MP for Te Atatu said it was his strong preference to see light rail built from the city centre to the west and to the airport, but if it is not possible to fund and finance both lines, then light rail to the airport will get priority.

If that happened, a rapid bus network – along the lines of the Northern Busway – would be considered along State Highway 16 to the north-west, he said.

Along with KiwiBuild, light rail is one of Labour’s flagship policies. It was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her first public appearance as Leader of the Opposition in August 2017 where she called it a “game-changer” and a solution to the city’s congestion.

Ardern promised to build light rail to Mt Roskill within four years, followed by light rail from Mt Roskill to the airport and to Westgate in west Auckland within 10 years. Labour later said it would extend the western line a further 9km to Kumeu.

Last month, the Herald reported work on light rail, or modern-day trams, is making slow progress as bureaucrats grapple with the complexities of one of the biggest projects in New Zealand’s history.

“It’s only a contingency. If we weren’t able to fund and finance it, there are many, many calls on the transport purse, then with that corridor (to west Auckland) we would need to look at some other options. It could be bus rapid transit or other things,” he said.

“Obviously money does not grow on trees,” Twyford told the Herald.

It looks like light rail from central Auckland to somewhere near the airport may still go ahead, but other projects may be ditched.

‘Let’s do this’ Ardern promise for light rail now ‘let’s do this later, if NZ First let us’

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has admitted that a Labour promise for a light rail line in Auckland to be completed by 2021 will not be kept, but he says that the Jacinda Ardern promise was made before she was Prime Minister.

Newshub: Jacinda Ardern breaks the first promise she made as Labour leader

The first promise Jacinda Ardern made as Labour leader looks to have gone up in smoke.

During her first big public outing as leader during the election, she promised rail for all – including a line from the Auckland waterfront to Dominion Rd to Mount Roskill, all to be completed by 2021.

The promise was part of a $15 billion package and came with a plea from Ms Ardern – she needed cash to fund it.

“You can call a regional fuel tax ‘crowd-sourcing’ if you like,” she told the public.

That part of the promise did come true: Aucklanders are paying the 10 cents a litre more at the pump.

But Labour hasn’t done the rail part.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford admitted the Government would fail to build light rail down Dominion Rd by 2021. Instead, he only expects work to start on it next year.

Mr Twyford’s defence is that promises made by Jacinda Ardern as Labour leader are completely different from promises made by Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister.

NZ Herald (6 August 2017): Jacinda Ardern outlines Labour’s light rail plan for Auckland

Labour is promising to build a 20km light rail line from the city to the airport as a priority – partly funded by higher petrol prices – leader Jacinda Ardern announced today.

She says Labour will build light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill within four years, followed by light rail from Mt Roskill to the airport and light rail to West Auckland within 10 years.

I wonder if this is another scrapping of an interim target but retaining the 10 year target (as the Government has done with KiwiBuild targets).

“I believe Labour’s plan is a game-changer. It will reduce the $2b a year that congestion costs Auckland. It will realise Auckland’s potential to be a truly world class city,” said Ardern.

She said Labour will give Auckland Council the power to introduce a regional petrol tax – understood to be 10 cents a litre – to help pay for light rail. Infrastructure bonds and targeted rates will also be used to fund transport in Auckland.

A world class city needs a rail connection from the CBD to its international airport – that’s why Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority, said Ardern.

The fuel tax to fund it was a priority – it is already being paid in Auckland.

But the actual building seems to be less of a priority – or it was a promise made without a proper assessment of how long it might take to do.

Twyford was still talking up light rail in Auckland as a game changer yesterday in parliament, but the game was going into extra time.

Question No. 8—Transport

8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Is he committed to building light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland and if so, when will work begin?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes. Light rail will be a game-changer for Auckland. It will be a magnet for private investment in urban renewal, and each line will be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour, the equivalent of four lanes of motorway. The light rail project will extend Auckland’s rapid transit network, a core part of our plan to build a modern transport system for the city. There is a procurement process under way now, so work has already started.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the Government on track to have built light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill within four years of becoming Government, as promised by Jacinda Ardern in August 2017?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: At that point, Jacinda Ardern was not the Prime Minister.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That’s not answering—

SPEAKER: Well, it answered as much as the Minister has any responsibility for it.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, the core part of the question was—

SPEAKER: Well, the member can ask it again. Ask another question if he wants to.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the Government on track to have built light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill within four years of becoming Government?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’ve expressed the view that we hope to have shovels in the ground in 2020. There’s a procurement process under way; that’s what we’re working towards.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is that another target he no longer intends to keep?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the premise of the question.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister agree with infrastructure Minister Shane Jones’ message to Phil Goff about the light rail project: “I would say before Phil Goff gets too enthusiastic about the Dominion Road idea he needs to sort out how he’s going to fund the CRL project. It hasn’t been completed yet and now he’s got to find $500 million to $1 billion for that.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would point out that the light rail project is being pursued through the Auckland Transport Alignment Project and is expected to be funded and financed as part of that 30-year transport plan, and funded partly through the National Land Transport Programme. The member will know that the City Rail Link project that was entered into under the former National Government is funded through Crown contributions—completely separate from the National Land Transport Programme.

Twyford fobbed off the promise as “At that point, Jacinda Ardern was not the Prime Minister.” Does that mean that any promises made by Ardern during the election campaign are not worth the PR they were written by?

An implication raised here is that NZ First are not playing ball in Labour’s ambitious game changer.

Can any election ‘promise’ be taken seriously when governing agreements negate them?

Single party claims like “Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority” are meaningless if Labour is not going to run a majority Government alone.

Super Fund proposal to build and operate Auckland light rail

The Government has revealed an ‘unsolicited proposal’ from the New Zealand Super Fund to design, build and operate two light rail projects in Auckland.

Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford: Auckland light rail a step closer

A modern, rapid transit light rail network to transform Auckland is a step closer with Cabinet agreeing to launch a procurement process, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced today.

“The Government is committed to progressing light rail to transform Auckland. It will be a magnet for private investment in urban renewal and will be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour – the equivalent of four lanes of motorway,” Phil Twyford says.

“We are investigating innovative solutions to tackle congestion and build a vibrant and modern city.”

“The New Zealand Transport Agency will now set up a robust process to explore a range of possible procurement, financing and project delivery options. This process will invite and assess all potential proposals and report back to the Ministers of Finance and Transport. The Transport Agency will work with the Treasury and the Ministry of Transport in this process,” Grant Robertson says.

The procurement process covers both the city to Mangere and the city to North West lines. The recently announced 10-year transport plan for Auckland earmarked $1.8 billion in seed funding with the option of securing private investment in the network.

“Last month, the Government received an unsolicited proposal from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which proposed they would form an international consortium to design, build and operate Auckland’s light rail network,” Phil Twyford says.

“The Government will not be commenting further on the proposal other than to say that we welcome the strong interest in light rail and acknowledge that any investors will require a reasonable commercial return. The procurement process agreed by Cabinet will review all other proposals in the same way as the Super Fund’s proposal is assessed.

“It’s good to see that investors recognise this project will be a game-changer for Auckland commuters and the first step in tackling Auckland’s ever-increasing congestion,” Phil Twyford says.

This would be a variation on a public-private partnership, with in involvement in the Super Fund  working alongside international investors in a consortium.

The Super Fund is a Government owned fund – that means a taxpayer owned fund. The new Government has just resumed putting more money into the fund after the National Government suspended payments when the Global Financial Crisis struck – it didn’t make sense to borrow heavily and put money aside as an investment at the same time.

The Super Fund explains it’s purpose and mandate:

In response to the challenge of New Zealand’s ageing population, the NZ Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 established:

  • the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, a pool of assets on the Crown’s balance sheet; and
  • the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation, a Crown entity charged with managing the Fund.

The Government uses the Fund to save now in order to help pay for the future cost of providing universal superannuation. In this way the Fund helps smooth the cost of superannuation between today’s taxpayers and future generations.

The Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation is the Crown entity charged with managing and administering the Fund. It operates by investing initial Government contributions – and returns generated from these investments – in New Zealand and internationally, in order to grow the size of the Fund over the long term.

Government contributions to the Super Fund were suspended between 2009 and 2017. In December 2017 contributions resumed, with an initial payment of $500 million planned for the financial year to 2018. From around 2035/36, the Government will begin to withdraw money from the Fund to help pay for New Zealand Superannuation. The Fund will continue to grow until it peaks in size in 2070s.

The Fund is therefore a long-term, growth-oriented, global investment fund.

So for the Super Fund to invest in Auckland’s light rail projects they would have to see them as growth orientated. This would be a financial risk, unless the Government guaranteed a reasonable rate of return.

If light rail gets superceded by other more flexible and more economic forms of transport like electric buses and cars, or if less centralised work arrangements (like working from home) become more prevalanet, it could become an expensive white elephant. The Government could end up propping up light rail to protect the Super Fund investment.

How unsolicited was the Super Fund proposal? Investing in New Zealand infrastructure projects has been proposed before – by Winston Peters.

On re-establishing contributions on 18 July 2017:  Only One Party Can Be Trusted on NZ Super

“Labour, like National, has a record of flip flopping on NZ Super,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“No party can be trusted on NZ Super, except NZ Super’s long standing friend – New Zealand First.

“We’ll restore contributions in full to the NZ Superannuation Fund, so there will be a nest egg to cushion demand, which was the original purpose for its establishment.”

On investing in infrastructure on 28 September 2017: Cullen Fund Performs, But National Taxes It

“New Zealand First would encourage the fund’s managers to invest in infrastructure in New Zealand so it works for New Zealand’s long term interests,” says Mr Peters.

Maybe that’s where the NZ Super Fund got the idea from.

Investing in Auckland light rail will only be in New Zealand’s long term interests if it is financially viable.

Will the NZ Super Fund only consider big city projects, or will they also consider investing in regional projects?

They will need to be careful they don’t come to rely too much on local government projects. Andy investment fund should spread it’s risks.

Trains and light rail versus roads and buses

The Government has an obvious preference for railway lines over roads, but there are concerns about the rail option in the US, where in many areas passenger numbers are static or falling.

Installing railway lines is expensive, and it is relatively inflexible, both in the short term and the long term. It’s far easier to deploy buses over a wider area, and to move buses to where they are most needed at any given time.

I suspect the preference for rail is because it can be electric, while battery run buses don’t seem to have caught on yet. And roads for buses can mean roads available for cars as well.

But what if there are big advances in battery and fast charging technologies, making electric buses more viable? That would be a great alternative energy industry to invest in, but if successful it could make newly installed  light rail infrastructure limited and expensive.

Stuff: As Government signals big light rail spend, public transport concerns grow in US

As the Government signals it wants to spend billions on light rail in Auckland and billions less on major roading projects in the decade ahead, worries about the future of public transport are growing in the US.

Those concerns were summed up by a story in The Washington Post last month, headlined Falling transit ridership poses an ’emergency’ for cities, experts fear.

Data showed 2017 was the lowest year of overall transit ridership in the US since 2005. A 5 per cent decline in bus ridership was the main problem, but some commentators suggest the figures indicate light rail is also struggling, given the heavy investment in the mode in recent years.

In the US, the debate about light rail is particularly fierce, with skeptics often suggesting buses will do the job perfectly well if organised properly, as well as being lower cost and more flexible.

In its transport policy for the 2017 election, Labour said light rail to Auckland Airport was part of a range of projects that would ease congestion. “A world-class city in the 21st century needs a rail connection from its CBD to its airport.”

But that is just one route. The population is scattered across a wide area in Auckland.

Auckland Transport said light rail would have fewer stops, but be more frequent and travel faster than buses.

Fewer stops and more frequent only for those with easy access to the rail routes.

Light rail also had much greater capacity than buses and cars.

Really? Again, the capacity is only where their are rail routes. And it depends on how many buses or cars you use. Obviously, one train has more capacity than one car, but it’s not a one to one equation.

Among the most forceful opponents of light rail in the US is Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. O’Toole blogs as The Antiplanner’ “dedicated to the sunset of government planning”. He’s a big supporter of buses over light rail.

Last October Cato published a paper of his called The Coming Transit Apocalypse. In it he said public transport use in the US had been falling since 2014, with many major systems having “catastrophic declines”.

Ride-hailing services, such as Uber, were the most serious threat “as some predict that within five years those ride-hailing services will begin using driverless cars, which will reduce their fares to rates competitive with transit, but with far more convenient service”.

He made the extreme prediction: “This makes it likely that outside of a few very dense areas, such as New York City, transit will be extinct by the year 2030.”

He did note that in 2014, transit ridership in the US reached its highest level since 1956,with 10.75 billion trips, but was not impressed. “This is hardly a great achievement, however, as increased urban populations meant that annual transit trips per urban resident declined from 98 in 1956 to 42 in 2014.”

n a similar vein is a report published last July by private Chapman University in California, called The Great Train Robbery, written by high profile urbanists Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox.

According to that report, many new transit lines, including light rail, built in US cities had not reduced the percentage of people who commuted alone by private car.

“The focus on new rail services rather than on buses has failed to improve basic mobility for those who need it and has been associated with a decline in transit’s share of commutes in some cities.”

n a similar vein is a report published last July by private Chapman University in California, called The Great Train Robbery, written by high profile urbanists Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox.

According to that report, many new transit lines, including light rail, built in US cities had not reduced the percentage of people who commuted alone by private car.

“The focus on new rail services rather than on buses has failed to improve basic mobility for those who need it and has been associated with a decline in transit’s share of commutes in some cities.”

An Auckland Transport report said more than a third of employment growth in Auckland between 2013 and 2046 – about 100,000 jobs – was expected to be within 5km of the city centre.

That’s still a lot of people outside the city centre.

What if there is a major move towards dispersal of the workforce, around the city and to cheaper areas elsewhere in the country? It’s easy to re-deploy buses, but impractical to re-deploy railway lines.

However this could all be moot. The current Government seems intent on benefiting some with better rail links, but not addressing the needs of those who live away from railway lines.

And regarding the light rail link to the airport – what if we stop using fossil fuels but solar powered long haul aircraft don’t take off?

Or more feasible, what if small capacity shuttle air travel becomes a thing – this could render railway links obsolete.

 

 

 

Labour-Green confidence and supply deal

The coalition deal between Labour and the GHreens was signed today by incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Green leader James Shaw.

From Stuff Live:

Key policies:
  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act with a goal of net zero emissions by 2050
  • A referendum on personal cannabis use by 2020
  • Establish and independent Climate Commission. This would have the power to bring agricultural emissions in but would not do this immediately
  • All new legislation to have a climate impact assessment analysis
  • Investigate a Green Transport Card to reduce public transport costs
  • Reprioritise spending towards rail and cycle infrastructure
  • Stop the Auckland East-West link
  • Begin work on light rail to the airport in Auckland
  • “Significantly increase” the Department of Conservation’s funding
  • Remove “excessive” benefit sanctions
  • Make progress on eliminating the gender pay gap within the core public sector
  • A rent-to-own scheme as part of KiwiBuild
  • Re-establish the Mental Health Commission
  • A wind-down on the government-subsidised irrigation

Climate change will be a major, as will be light rail to Auckland Airport, with a few other bits and pieces.

Removing benefit sanctions will be both welcome and contentious, with mention of liable parents not needing to be named, something that caused grief for Metiria Turei and the Green Party.

Portfolios:

  • Climate Change
  • Associate Finance
  • Associate Transport
  • Conservation
  • Women
  • Land Information New Zealand
  • Associate Environment
  • Associate Health
  • Undersecretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence)

That’s a relatively light line-up compared to what NZ First have got, but will allow the greens to ease into a role they are unfamiliar with, being in government.

Stuff:   Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement 

It doesn’t look like Dominion Road

A bit of debate about what light rail would look like in Auckland:

Hooton: Queen St and Dominion Rd are roads with traffic.

Greater Auckland: They would have a dedicated right of way separated from car lanes with kerbs and signal priority at lights. Seattle’s LRT a better example

For example, like this:

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But it’s hard to imagine Dominion Road looking anything like that.

This is closer to reality (from the greater Auckland website):

Image: Artist’s impression of light rail in Mt Roskill.

Alignment

Most light rail routes are proposed to travel along the centre of the road (median alignment). Median alignment with side platform stops is the simplest and fastest solution for light rail operations, as it:

  • Reduces interaction with cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Allows for higher operating speeds.
  • Eliminates the impact of road traffic slowing down to turn left.
  • Minimises congestion by allowing light rail to travel separately.
  • Minimises impact on parking.

And even the artists impression is fairly flattering. Here’s a shot (Google street view) of Dominion Road during a very quiet traffic time:

DominionRoad

Two light rail lines down the middle of that will be a bit cramped. And here it is with more typical traffic.

Labour: light rail, regional fuel tax

Today in Auckland Jacinda Ardern confirmed plans for a regional fuel tax, plus announcing policy for light rail from the Auckland CBD to the airport within a decade.

Summary:

  • Build a new Bus Rapid Transit line from Howick to the airport, starting with a bus service which will connect Puhinui train station to the airport in one year
  • Invest in more electric trains and build a third main trunk line urgently between Wiri and Papakura
  • Allow Auckland Council to collect a regional fuel tax to fund the acceleration of these investments, along with infrastructure bonds and targeted rates.
  • Scale back the East-West Link to a reasonable cost with better value for money.

Labour to build rail to Auckland Airport

A world class city needs a rail connection from the CBD to its international airport – that’s why Labour will build light rail to Auckland Airport as a priority, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.

“Let’s get Auckland moving by building a light rail network and accelerating investment in heavy rail and bus rapid transit. This is crucial to Auckland’s future growth.

“A world-class city in the 21st century needs a rail connection from its CBD to its airport. Auckland needs this now. Labour’s going to accelerate the solutions to Auckland’s transport problems.

“I believe Labour’s plan is a game-changer. It will reduce the $2 billion a year that congestion costs Auckland. It will realise Auckland’s potential to be a truly world class city.

Another game changer.

 It will reduce the $2 billion a year that congestion costs Auckland. It will realise Auckland’s potential to be a truly world class city.

“Labour will build light rail to Mt Roskill in four years, to the airport and West Auckland within a decade, followed by a line connecting the North Shore to the CBD.

“We’ll also build a Bus Rapid Transit service connecting the airport and East Auckland, and a third main trunk rail line to serve the commuter and freight rail traffic.

“We’ll free up funding by getting better value for money from the East-West Link, and give Auckland the ability to fund its share of the investments through a regional fuel tax, infrastructure bonds, and targeted rates.

“Investing in high quality modern public transport is the best way to unclog our roads. This will ensure Auckland can grow and meet the needs of all who live and work in this great city.

“It’s time to get on with it. It’s time to get Auckland moving. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.

I hope she doesn’t ignore the rest of New Zealand.

Ardern is based in Auckland and is MP for Mt Albert. Her deputy Kelvin Davis is MP for Te Tai Tokerau, the northernmost Maori electorate, from Auckland north.

 

Greens promise something that’s out of their hands

Greens announced today:  Greens to fast-track airport rail for America’s Cup

The Green Party is announcing today that in Government it will fast-track the building of a new rail line to Auckland airport to be completed in 2021, in time for the next America’s Cup.

By light rail it will take approximately 43 minutes to travel from Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street and Dominion Road to the airport. The $2.3 billion rail line will be a project of national significance funded from the transport fund. In Government we will also investigate additional funding sources for this project such as land value capture.

“Light rail to the airport is the most urgently needed transport project in Auckland, and it will start this year when we’re in Government,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“A new rail line will give people the freedom to by-pass congested roads and travel from the city to Dominion Rd and the airport easily and quickly.

“Light rail will mean far more consistent and shorter travel times for people traveling to and from the airport and surrounding suburbs.

“2021 is an ambitious goal that will require unprecedented cooperation between Government and Council, and we can make this happen.

Except that it isn’t their call.

They can try and make it happen, but unless they can convince both Labour and NZ First allow them to make it happen then it won’t happen.

I asked @yournzGreens and @JulieAnneGenter:

In practice that means will make it a priority negotiating point with Labour and NZ First? A bottom line?

Neither responded.  I guess there’s not much they could say except be honest about their chances, and about the political reality their reliance on NZ First (probably) and Labour (definitely) to make anything happen.

What if National agreed with this policy as long as Greens assured of giving them confidence and supply? Would the determination of the Greens to change the Government be stronger than their determination to fast track light rail to Auckland airport?

Regardless of this policy Greens on the cross benches allowing the return of a National led minority government may be a possibility if the Green membership could stomach that more than having NZ First and Labour trampled all over them.

National kettle calling the pork barrelled

Steven Joyce played a significant part in National’s embarrassing result in the Northland by-election, which included a pork barrel promise to build ten bridges.

Now he is accusing Labour of pork barrel politics in the Mount Roskill by-election. He has a point, but so do those who accuse him of hypocrisy.

NZ Herald: National says Labour’s $680m Auckland light rail policy ‘pork barrel politics’

National’s Steven Joyce has accused Labour of panicking and “pork barrel” politics for its Mt Roskill byelection pledge to put $680 million into a light rail system for Auckland.

In an announcement linked to the Mt Roskill byelection on December 3, Labour leader Andrew Little released part of Labour’s transport policy for Auckland – $680m to help pay for the first stage of a light rail system from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill.

Little, joined by Labour’s byelection candidate Michael Wood, set out Labour’s plan on Sunday for the Government to pay half of the $1.36b cost for light rail and Auckland Council the other half.

Joyce said the promise was “taking pork barrel politics to a whole new level”.
“Labour are hitting the panic button fairly early on,” Mr Joyce says. “Promising a $1.4 billion rail link between the electorate and the city looks very desperate.

It has echoes of last year’s Northland byelection, when National was accused of ”pork barrel” politics after Transport Minister Simon Bridges and its candidate Mark Osborne announced a promise to upgrade 10 one-way bridges in the region.

Joyce had overseen that campaign in which NZ First leader Winston Peters took the seat the National Party had long held.

So Joyce is being rather hypocritical.

Little dismissed Joyce’s criticism, saying the light rail policy was completely different to National’s policy to upgrade 10 bridges in Northland.

Labour’s policy to fund 1000 more Police had also been timed for the Mt Roskill by election and Little said it also proposed to re-open a community policing station in the electorate.

Little said no further major announcements were expected for the Mt Roskill by election. A policy announcement he was making on jobs at Labour’s annual conference next weekend would be national.

Meanwhile on the @PaulHenryShow

Labour’s @PhilTwyford insists the pledge for a light rail is about solving the city’s transport woes and not about playing politics.

Twyford is claiming that this isn’t playing politics:

. & announcing for Dom Rd!

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Yeah, right.

Politicians seem to be unaware or uncaring that porcine hypocrisy is likely to raise more cynicism than votes, as National found to their significant cost in Northland.

$680 million for Mt Roskill by election

Labour is promising to spend $680 million on light rail from Britomart into the Mt Roskill electorate. Andrew Littler announced this along with Labour’s candidate for the by-election in Mt Roskill, Michael Wood.

NZ Herald: Labour to fund early start on light rail in Auckland

In an announcement linked to the Mt Roskill byelection on December 3, Labour leader Andrew Little today promised the first stage of a light rail system from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill.

The 13km line would run via Britomart, along Queen St to Dominion Rd, ending near the Stoddard Rd-Sandringham Rd intersection, said Little, who was joined by Labour’s candidate in the byelection, Michael Wood, at Dominion Rd in Balmoral.

Little said accelerating light rail on the Auckland isthmus – known as the “void” because it lacks access to rail and mass transit – would tackle the city’s worsening congestion problems.

“Right now, gridlock is choking Auckland’s ability to grow. Auckland is crying out for infrastructure projects to get the city moving, but the Government is out of touch and ignoring the problem. Labour will deliver, starting with a modern light rail line,” Little said.

Under Labour’s plan, the Government would pay half of the $1.36b cost and Auckland Council the other half.

So it would also cost the Auckland ratepayers $680 million.

The council has no money for light rail, but new mayor and former Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff has promised to bring forward light rail subject to a business case in the next long-term budget in 2018.

Is Goff co-operating with Labour to enhance their chances in the by-election?

This is a fairly expensive carrot for voters.

And a fairly favourable response from The Standard: Labour wants light rail for Auckland!

Vernon Small at Stuff: The unmistakable sound of by-election bribes crackling in the air

Labour leader Andrew Little argued it was not an election bribe, because he was only promising to bring forward from 2028 a project already on the books. And it would provide broader benefits to Auckland. But the timing had that familiar porcine smell.