The report tells you the line is costing $90 million:
$50 million from Kiwirail. He doesn't tell you that Kiwirail didn't raise the money through a loan, to be paid off from future access charges from Veolia (the operator of passenger trains in Auckland). No. It comes from tax. Kiwirail will never get a cent of this back to return. $50 million is for the track, alone. Note that the last government paid $81 million for the entire Auckland rail network between Swanson to the west and Papakura to the south, with all branches in between. $50 million for 2 km of track tells you how little it is worth once it is built. You wont be able to sell the line for a tenth of that.
$33 million from Manukau City Council. This is for the new station and associated bus station, and the earthworks associated with the project. At least buildings have alternative uses, but $33 million? $39 million is the cost for the expanded Wellington international airport terminal. The difference is that the users (airlines and passengers) are paying for that. No doubt this could all be reused so will have some value. By the way, the money comes from ratepayers in Manukau City.
$7 million from a combination of Auckland Regional Holdings (the money from the privatisation of the Yellow Bus Company that is sitting around accumulating interest waiting to be wasted on projects like this), and NZTA (for the local road improvements around the site). ARH money is Aucklanders' money, NZTA is from road users.
Not a cent from future users? Matthew didn't ask why.
The line will carry trains how often? Every 20 minutes at peak times (I assume he made a typo). So watch the tumbleweeds go past the rest of the time. Meanwhile, the parallel motorway being built - the Manukau extension to SH20, which will link the Southern Motorway to the recently extended SouthWestern motorway through to Mt Roskill, wont be sitting for 20 minute intervals without a single vehicle.
600000 users a YEAR are predicted. Wow, sounds a lot? Hmmm. That's 2400 a day, if divided up to every weekday, excluding public holidays. To get some perspective on this we are talking about:
- The new motorway will carry 30,000 vehicles a day on average each with at least one person
- Wellington Cable Car (one vehicle every 10 minutes) carries around 3200 a day, 7 days a week.
- Fullers Ferries carry around 1.2 million users a year;
- the Northern Express bus route using the Northern Busway carries over 120,000 users a MONTH;
- Wellington's Johnsonville line carries 1.2 million users a year, it's long been considered marginal at best, and at off peak times has trains carrying less than single bus loads every half hour.
So 600000 a year for $90 million, let's say a 30 year payback period for the line, except the users aren't paying for it. So it is $5 per person per trip over 30 years, excluding interest, plus the cost of the train subsidy ($3.69 per passenger trip in 2002) plus the cost of the train itself.
I also remember seeing an economic benefit cost analysis, which said for every dollar spent on this project, it would generate 40c in savings for users and motorists. So it destroys wealth on every measure.
It would have been nice had Matthew Dearnaley in the NZ Herald had asked some simple questions like that. You know, the sort of thing a journalist does. Questions like:
1. What contribution will users make to the costs of building the line and station? (none)
2. What are the NET economic benefits of this project? (negative)
3. How many cars a day will this project take from roads and what will be the reduction in delays? (not a lot)
4. What would $90 million do elsewhere?...
I can answered the last. $90 million would:
- Cover the planned property purchases for the Waterview connection motorway;
- Is almost the total cost of maintaining all of Auckland City Council's roads ($93 million);
- Almost the total cost of renewal of all State Highways in the Waikato ($92 million);
- Pay 90% of the cost of the East Taupo bypass.
Oh and remember this is advocated by local politicians. Take this:
"Manukau Mayor Len Brown says he expects the new station to rival Newmarket as the second busiest in the region behind Britomart when it opens in early 2011".
Given Auckland's trains carry about 7 million trips a year, and Wellington's still carry around 9.5 million, in a metropolitan area with one quarter the population, you can see how it is easy to be a little cynical about vast amounts of money going into the train set.
Especially when the money almost entirely comes from people who wont benefit one jot from it.
Meanwhile, the supercity takes another step closer. Think it's going to stop repeating this nonsense?