City Rail Link should have been open by now, says frustrated Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

The AM Show 23/07/2019

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has blamed the previous National Government for driving his city down a path of congestion and gridlock.

The Automobile Association (AA) on Monday released its latest Auckland Congestion Report, which claims drivers in the city lost 85 hours to congestion last year, up from 79 the year before. 

We want to see some really firm congestion targets for Auckland.

"We want progress to be measured against those," AA spokesperson Barney Irvine told Newshub.

"We want to see a lot of progress made on the investigation into congestion charging, and we want to see some new roading projects brought forward."

The AA fears Auckland's growing population and vehicle fleet means congestion is only going to get worse, despite the growing popularity of public transport. Irvine says the Government's congestion goals rely on projects being finished on time, which he doubts will happen.

"If we aren't going to meet this target, how bad are things going to be? And what's going to be done about it? This is far and away the number one transport issue for AA members." 

Goff told The AM Show on Monday there has been record investment in transport since Labour and NZ First took over, and the city's most ambitious project - the City Rail Link (CRL) - should have been open by now.

"On Friday I signed the deal for the C3, the tunnels and the stations for the City Rail Link.

I should have been cutting the ribbon to open it. It was five years late, and it's not with us until 2024. That's the frustration.

"The Government of the day didn't believe it was necessary."

Phil Goff. Photo credit: The AM Show

The CRL is expected to double the number of trains that can operate at one time, and slash commuting times. It was first proposed in 2008 by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Auckland Transport's predecessor, and had support from then-Mayor John Banks and the man who'd replace him, Len Brown. 

But for years National opposed its construction - Steven Joyce once said funding it would be "pouring money down a hole", and Gerry Brownlee compared it to the infamous monorail from The Simpsons that nearly bankrupted Springfield. National changed its mind in 2013.

"They came around to that way of thinking," said Goff.

But like everything in New Zealand, we tend to be behind the eight-ball in terms of our infrastructure planning

"But mark my words - whenever you get something coming up and there's a good answer, you'll find that partisanship will blow it apart. One party will say it's a tax-and-spend Government, and the Government won't do it."

Congestion in the past year hasn't gotten worse, says the AA, largely thanks to the Waterview Tunnel.

"I was quite proud to be part of the Government that made that decision - you've got to claim credit for things. You get blamed for everything, so you might as well take credit for what you're responsible for."

Traffic in Auckland isn't getting any better. Photo credit:

Auckland's population has risen by a few hundred thousand people since the CRL was first mooted. The AA report notes that even though growth in the number of people and cars in the city is slowing, because most of the growth has taken place on the outskirts of the city, Aucklanders as a whole are driving further than ever before - about 9,300km a year, up 310km from the year before. 

"We had growth at record levels year after year, and we didn't have more money going into infrastructure. Therein lies the problem," said Goff. 

"The answer is to keep the infrastructure up to speed with the growth. We're starting to get that in housing now - record number of houses being built. Record investment in transport infrastructure... but frankly, you're running faster to stand still. So you've got to keep that pressure on."

AM Show host Duncan Garner asked Goff if free public transport could be the answer. The Mayor said that would stymy Auckland Transport's ability to expand and improve existing services.

"If you charge nothing to go on public transport, that would chew up much of the budget."

As for congestion charging, he said it would happen eventually - but not until Aucklanders had "decent alternatives" for getting in and out of the CBD.

"You can't toll them if they don't have an alternative to getting out of their car."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley