Twyford says there is a “great deal of interest” in investing in New Zealand’s transport infrastructure

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has sent a clear message to would-be investors in New Zealand’s transport infrastructure – “the Government is open for business.”

He is sending Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones on a fact-finding mission to Australia tomorrow to investigate the best ways investors can work with the Government on public-private partnerships (PPP).

“The message from our Government is we’re open for business,” Twyford said after addressing a business and local Government summit on the “changing direction in transport for New Zealand.”

Twyford says it is likely projects, such as Auckland’s light rail and rapid transit, will be funded in collaboration with the private sector through PPPs.

He says it’s too early to put a figure on how much the Government is expecting private capital providers to stump up with but says it’s likely to be on “multiple billion-dollar projects.”

Twyford says there has been a “great deal of interest” from parties looking at getting involved in a PPP with the Government.

“We’re very happy to work with private capital to make these big investments.”

The Government has previously indicated it would be looking at PPPs as a way to meet some of its investment expectations but, at the moment, the process for investors is too complex.

This is the reason Jones is heading off to Australia tomorrow.

“We need to configure ourselves better within the state so there is less static when either foreign or domestic investors approach the state to play a role in our infrastructure turbocharging,” Jones says.

 

But PPPs would require more debt from the Government.

Twyford says there are options when it comes to new revenue streams to help pay for this – for example, through land value capture and infrastructure bonds.

But the projects would be long-term and, according to Twyford, it would be “nuts to try and pay for it out of next year’s road user charges or a petrol tax.”

“We should be spreading that debt over multiple generations who are going to benefit from the infrastructure.”

But taking on more debt would be problematic.

As it stands, some of New Zealand’s council’s – including Auckland’s – are close to their debt limits and the Government has committed to reducing net core Crown debt levels to 20% of GDP by 2021/22.

But Twyford says there is a way the Government could take on more debt to fund the PPPs without abandoning its debt target and pushing councils over its limit.

“We intend to build on some of the work that was done by the previous Government in establishing Crown infrastructure partners as a special purpose vehicle.

“It’s a balance sheet that’s not council or Governments – it’s a public purpose hybrid if you like.”

He says through this, a lot of capital could be borrowed to pay for the infrastructure needs the country is facing.

Jacinda Ardern sets out Government’s transport plan, including nationwide fuel tax

KEY POINTS:

  • The Government has released its draft 10-year policy statement on land transport
  • A fuel tax increase of between 9 and 12 cents a litre has been proposed
  • Aucklanders face fuel tax hikes of about 20 cents a litre if the Government’s increases and a regional fuel tax are brought in
  • Funding on public transport will increase by 46 per cent
  • Funding allocated for state highways will be cut by 11 per cent
  • $4 billion will be allocated over 10 years to establish Rapid Transit, such as light rail, initially focusing on Auckland

Aucklanders face a double whammy of fuel tax hikes of about 20 cents a litre if central government fuel levy increases and a regional fuel tax are brought in, but Transport Minister Phil Twyford says he believes Aucklanders understand the need for it.

Auckland Council is expected to introduce about 10 cents a litre in regional fuel taxes to pay for its share of major transport projects and the Government’s new 10-year policy plan for transport proposes a further nationwide increase of 9-12 cents litre over three to four years.

That is to fund projects such as light rail in Auckland and other measures.

Twyford said he believed Aucklanders realised the gridlock that was happening now could not continue and it was not fair to ask those who lived in places like Levin and Whanganui to pay for all of Auckland’s transport woes.

Twyford said other cities would also benefit from rail and rapid transit options, as well as Auckland.

The Government’s new transport plan will cut the funding allocated for state highways by 11 per cent while an initial investment of $4 billion over 10 years will be ploughed into Labour’s plans for light rail in Auckland.

The overall plan

The Government has released its draft 10-year policy statement on land transport – the guide which sets how the Land Transport fund should allocate about $4 billion in funding each year.

It will see funding on public transport increase by 46 per cent to expand the routes available and subsidies for public transport.

On top of that, it sets a new class of Rapid Transit under which $4 billion will be allocated over 10 years to establish rapid transit investment, such as light rail, initially focusing on Auckland. That would ramp up over time.

About four times as much will be spent on expanding cycling and pedestrian pathways than under National.

The money for regional roads will double from about $90 million a year to $180 million a year in 2019/20 and up to $210 million for four years after that.

That comes at a cost for future large-scale motorway upgrades such as National’s policy of $10 billion for 10 further Roads of National Significance.

Instead, Twyford said there will be “targeted” improvements to state highways.

Twyford said it was an important step to making roads safer to reduce the road toll.

“We’re going to invest in what makes the most difference – regional and local roads and targeted improvements to the State Highway network.”

Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford answer questions about the proposal. Photo / NZH
Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford answer questions about the proposal. Photo / NZH

“The previous Government did not spend enough on road safety and instead wasted funds on a few low-value motorway projects. This has created an imbalance in what is funded with a few roads benefiting at the expense of other areas.”

One of Labour’s key election policies was to build light rail from the CBD to the airport and extend that to include routes to the central suburbs and West Auckland over the next decade and then to the North Shore.

It also wanted a bus rapid transit line from the eastern suburb of Howick.

The new statement sets safety as the top priority, followed by access, the environment and value for money.

That contrasts with National’s policy statement which had economic growth and productivity as the top priority, followed by safety and value for money.

Those with an interest in the plan such as local government, transport bodies and community groups have until May 2 to submit on it.

Petrol levy increases

Twyford said there would be petrol levy increases, but those would be at the lowest end of what National would have needed had its motorway proposals gone ahead.

He said the previous government had not disclosed that transport officials had advised it that petrol levies needed to increase to fund its plans for expressways.

“We’ve chosen to limit increases in petrol levies to the lowest end of [former Transport Minister] Simon Bridges’ range.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Labour was seeking feedback on proposed fuel tax increases of between 9 and 12 cents a litre to fund its transport proposals.

Julie Anne Genter said making it safer for people to walk and cycle was also a priority. Photo / NZH
Julie Anne Genter said making it safer for people to walk and cycle was also a priority. Photo / NZH

She said National leader Bridges had been told that to meet National’s ambitions, they would need a fuel levy increase of 10-20 cents a litre.

Ardern said the Government was prioritising safety and investing in roads neglected by the former government.

“What you won’t see is investment in a small number of dual carriage highways while local roads and other transport options suffer.”

Twyford said over Easter eight people had died, the worst road toll in several years.

He said early work by officials suggested $800 million worth of safety improvements that could make a significant difference.

“This shifts policy priorities away from costly white elephants.”

He said transport spending in many regions had decreased under the previous government.

“Half of vehicle journeys are on local roads, yet less than 5 per cent of the funding has been spent on improving them.”

He said the rapid transit network would help free up roads.

“This is the first time spending on rapid transport will take place under the Land Transport Fund.”

It also proposed spending money on rail under the fund for the first time, saying Labour believed all forms of transport should be funded under it.

Phil Twyford said there would be petrol levy increases, but those would be at the lowest end of what National would have needed had its motorway proposals gone ahead. Photo / NZH
Phil Twyford said there would be petrol levy increases, but those would be at the lowest end of what National would have needed had its motorway proposals gone ahead. Photo / NZH

Walking and cycling a priority

Associate Transport Minister Green MP Julie Anne Genter said making it safer for people to walk and cycle was also a priority and it would provide safe cycleways that were separate from vehicle traffic.

The areas around schools would be a focus.

She said every day in Auckland a pedestrian or cyclist was hit by a car and injured or killed.

Regional Development Minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones said he was expecting some backlash from the regions because many had been “fed a line” that motorway upgrades would resolve their problems.

He said KiwiRail was a key part of NZ First’s plans on better freight and tourism offerings so he welcomed its inclusion under the plan.

The Government is also considering allowing coastal shipping to be funded under the fund.

Roads of national significance

Twyford said about seven of National’s Roads of National Significance which were already underway would continue – but the nine further RONS projects it had put up as an election policy were not funded and would not go ahead.

While some work would take place on those roads it would not be to the same extent.

Asked about the proposal to get four lanes through to Whangarei, Jones said he would prefer to see unsafe local roads fixed “rather than this pipe dream that by 2032 we were going to get four lanes through to Whangarei”.

He said the short-term focus was tidying dangerous areas and increasing rail.

Matt Lowrie from transport advocacy group Greater Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Matt Lowrie from transport advocacy group Greater Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Transport groups reply to Government’s new policy

Matt Lowrie from transport advocacy group Greater Auckland said the new plans so far look “very impressive”.

“It is a big step forward from what we have had in the past and giving focus on areas that have been lacking for quite some time – particularly around safety and public transport,” he said.

“The safety one is a big one. We have just had the worst Easter road fatalities for a number of years, and the death toll on our roads is increasing.

“That is a really concerning trend as it had been trending down for a long time before that, so we do need to improve our safety.”

Lowrie said the announcements looked to improve on former government policy.

“A lot of that funding for the last decade was pulled away and put into some really large motorway projects. While they are safe, they are very expensive and sucked a lot of funding away from the necessary projects that can actually help improve safety for a lot of people.

“What I think we are going to see now is a focus on a lot more areas which have actually shown to be working well, particularly safety, where we can safe peoples’ lives and reduce the number of people dying on our roads.”

Lowrie said it was also good to see a strong acknowledgement of public transport funding.

“Some of that is coming through in the form of rapid transit funding – which is light rail and busways – it is the high quality options that are key to driving up public transport use, which is going to make it easier to get around as well.”

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website Dog and Lemon, also described the policy as a welcome change of direction.

“The fact is we don’t need new motorways, we need to fix up the roads we already have. It is rural roads where people are dying and it is rural roads where the money needs to be spent so this is plain common sense,” he said.

“Also, the roads with the lowest road toll tend to be the ones with the best public transport systems so it is not just freeing up gridlock, it is actually likely to save lives.”

Although Matthew-Wilson did not agree with fuel taxes, calling them “misguided”.

This view was mirrored by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union who said the government’s proposal to increase fuel levies breaks Jacinda Ardern’s promise of “no new taxes”.

“Fuel tax is particularly harmful because of its regressive nature – the people it hurts most are poorer families living in fringe suburbs. This will ultimately mean less food on the table,” executive director Jordan Williams said.

“And as if fuel tax hikes didn’t sting enough, the Government is going to be using the revenue to fund cycleways and trams, at the same time they’re slashing funding for highways. In other words, drivers are paying more to receive less.”

Simon Wilson: 10 pieces of nonsense they’re talking about transport

Labour’s transport plan met with a roar of disaproval. But it was was clearly signposted and should have surprised no one.

1. There’s a difference between a tax and an excise.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has argued this in Parliament and in various media, but it’s nonsense. Excise is another word for tax.

2. Raising the fuel excise does not count as a new tax.

In the 2017 election campaign Ardern promised no new taxes, and critics say this breaks that promise. Ardern says no. She argues that because the existing fuel tax has gone up by a few percentage points a litre most years, raising it in 2018 and beyond isn’t new.

The critics are right: a tax hike is a tax hike, whether or not it’s expected. Besides, although it’s likely a National government would have continued to raise the fuel tax, as it did in most years of its last term, we don’t know if that’s true.

3. The government is giving up on the regions.

National’s leader Simon Bridges and his transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross have both argued this in Parliament and to various media. Ross also says the government is “taking money from the regions to give to Auckland’s trams”. Commentator Matthew Hooton says the regions are having their roads neglected.

In fact, over 10 years Labour plans to spend $530 million on regional improvements, to National’s $425 million. It will spend $2.1 billion on state highway maintenance, to National’s $1.98 billion.

It’s true National would have spent more on state highway improvements: $4.6 billion to Labour’s $3.85 billion. But that’s because of its proposed new “Roads of National Significance” (RONS), most of which did not have a sound business case.

The government also has new funding still to announce for rail, which will target the regions, and it has that $1 billion a year regional economic development fund. It’s absurd to say Labour is giving up on the regions.

4. The government hates cars and it hates people in cars too.

NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking said this. Perhaps he wasn’t being entirely serious, but he did say it.

What are the circumstances in which that might be true? Having a law to stop you driving? Taking away all the cars? Ensuring the roads are so congested that it’s pointless even to attempt to drive? Maybe just deciding to spend no more money on roads?

For the record, the new policy statement allocates 78 per cent of transport funding over the next 10 years to roads. To suggest that’s the policy of a car-hating government is an overreaction.

Public transport gets 21 per cent, and active transport (walking and cycling) gets a massive 1 per cent.

5. Aucklanders love their cars.

Hosking again, and yes, some do, but some not so much. Aucklanders use their cars a lot, and one reason is that very often they do not have a choice. The new policy is designed to create choice, to make non-car forms of transport more viable for more people.

The best example of why this will work is the Northern Busway, which now carries more than half of all peak-time commuters over the harbour bridge. Before it was built, critics claimed no one would use it. Because, that’s right, Aucklanders love their cars.

6. Using the Road Transport Fund to pay for rail or other public transport is theft.

National MP Judith Collins has argued this on Twitter and in Parliament. Hosking says the tax is “for roads and bridges”. In fact, it’s a tax to be spent on land transport.

Collins and Hosking might be on stronger ground if motorists did not benefit from spending on rail and other public transport. But they will. Better public transport is the key to addressing congestion on the roads. Once our PT network is citywide and efficient, many more people will leave their cars at home and those who don’t will benefit from that.

7. The government is prioritising the needs of tourists getting to and from the airport.

National’s Jami-Lee Ross told Parliament this. But a great many air travellers are not tourists, they’re locals. Moreover, the proposed light rail line to the airport will be a commuter line connecting Aucklanders with one of the biggest employment precincts in the city. Tourists will benefit, but they’re not the main reason for creating that line.

8. Light rail to the airport is the number one priority.

Transport minister Phil Twyford has announced this. But should it be? Light rail to the airport was an election talking point and it makes for a good headline. But the part of Auckland in most desperate need of good public transport is the east.

Rapid transit is proposed to link the airport to Puhinui and Manukau, and then Flat Bush, Botany and Howick. It will be a busway like the Northern Busway, to start. Twyford lists that project as number two, but he needs to ensure it gets an early start.

9. A congestion tax would be better than a fuel tax in Auckland.

Most economist-minded commentators say this. Fuel taxes are not especially fair, because the people they hurt the most are those least able to afford them. This makes them “regressive”.

In fact, fuel taxes are regressive in several ways. Poor people spend a higher proportion of their incomes on petrol, so the damage to their disposable income is more severe. They tend to drive vehicles that a less fuel-efficient, to live in outer suburbs and to have less access to efficient public transport, all of which mean they need to buy more petrol. And if they do shift work, public transport may never be available.

So, congestion charging on the motorways and in the city centre would be fairer: if you’re taking part in the worst congestion, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.

But congestion charging (like other forms of demand pricing) takes several years to set up. The last government seemed to favour it, but was in no hurry to get the work done.

That tardiness has fed the crisis we’re in today. Fuel taxes are proposed because they can be implemented quickly and easily, while we wait for a better approach to be developed. But those fuel taxes have to be used to fund the services that are needed most urgently: a much stronger public transport network in the poorer parts of the city.

10. We can’t do much about road safety.

Reducing the carnage on our roads is the top policy goal of the new transport framework, but many commentators mutter than maybe it just can’t be done.

The death rate on New Zealand roads has risen sharply in just the last few years: 253 in 2013 became 379 in 2017. Why? You can blame the cars, the roads, the advertising, whatever, but what it all comes down to is that, for many reasons, not enough of us drive safely.

There are many ways we can reduce the lethal consequences of that fact, and they are not all expensive. Putting a median barrier down the middle of all state highways, for example, would cost only half what the last government was going to spend on the proposed new East West Link between Penrose and Onehunga.

11. It’s all nonsense.

Pretty much everyone who’s complained has said this.

The government’s transport policy statement was clearly signposted during the election and should have surprised no one. It prioritises safety, goes some way to redressing a long-standing imbalance between roads for private use and public transport, slots into a larger framework for regional development and makes a serious attempt to address the crisis of roads congestion – especially in Auckland.

It’s transport, there are no overnight solutions and whatever we do will be complex and often expensive. But it’s not nonsense. And yet, although the need to develop and debate long-term strategy is obvious, the debate has been sound-bited into “punitive taxes”, “robbing the regions” and “penalising motorists”. None of those things are true.

How are we going to face up to the big difficult issues if politicians and commentators prefer the lazy option of easy trash talk?

Proposed Levin bypass routes balance safety, travel time and impact – transport agency

The southern options for the Ōtaki to north of Levin expressway have their own pros and cons, according to the road ...

NZTA
The southern options for the Ōtaki to north of Levin expressway have their own pros and cons, according to the road project manager.

All options for an expressway to the east of Levin have their problems, but the project manager says they are better than going to the west of the town.

But if the Ōtaki to north of Levin highway goes ahead – it is currently in limbo, with the Labour-led Government yet to release its policy statement on roading – construction will not start until 2022 at the earliest.

The road’s project manager, Lonnie Dalzell, gave Horizons Regional Council’s regional transport committee an update on the road on Wednesday.

The expressway would start just north of Ōtaki, take traffic around Levin and end somewhere south of the Manawatū River.

A longlist of options for the NZ Transport Agency gave routes both to the east and west of Levin, but has since been whittled down to options solely to the east.

Many have criticised going east, as 75 per cent of people who took part in early engagement about the routes wanted it to go to the west.

Dalzell said going to the east would improve traffic flow better.

Models showed northbound traffic would split evenly into three if the road went to the west, going on the new road, through Levin, and on State Highway 57 to the west.

Although traffic on a western route would get massive time savings, there would be no improvements, and possibly longer travel times, for the other two-thirds, Dalzell said.

Going west would also fail to deal with the area’s horrific road toll. There had been 57 deaths on roads in the area between 2012 and 2017, with three deaths and five serious injuries in the past six months, Dalzell said.

The crashes were spread over a wide area, meaning changing one or two sections of road would not solve the risk. However, taking traffic to the east would give the best time savings and make things safer for almost everyone, Dalzell said.

There are three options for the southern section of the expressway: One just to the east of the current SH1, another further east, and a final option  that starts further east, but then comes in and runs along the same route as the first option.

Dalzell said they all had problems.

The one furthest to the east  affected fewer properties, but would require more bridges, hiking the price.

The one closer to the current SH1 was “technically a better-performing option”, with better travel time and a much lower cost than the far east option, Dalzell said.

“The one thing against it was it impacted twice as many dwellings.”

The third option split the difference between the two, he said.

The options for the northern part of the route were less controversial, as no-one was technically better than the other, Dalzell said.

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon had one thing on his mind when Dalzell asked for questions.

“When will the first machine arrive?”

Dalzell said the New Zealand Transport Agency board would pick a preferred option in mid-2018, after which it would take 18 months to create a detailed business case.

The consents process would then take another 18 months, but could be delayed if there were appeals taken to the Environment Court.

“Everything going to plan… it’s at least four years away from today,” Dalzell said.

Roads debate rages on at full speed

NZTA is working on improving state highway 27 between Matamata and Waharoa.

Lawrence Gullery
NZTA is working on improving state highway 27 between Matamata and Waharoa.

Details of future Waikato roading upgrades and extensions are under wraps until the new Government finishes penning yet another transport policy.

Matamata-Piako was waiting to hear if its pot-holed state highways connecting the district’s three towns would be repaired while National is putting the pressure on for Labour to follow through on a major four-lane project between Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai.

Confirmation depends on what’s inside the new Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, due to be released for consultation later this month.

State Highway 27, Ngarua has a pot hole problem that has been the topic of conversation for people who travel the road daily.

Katrina Tanirau
State Highway 27, Ngarua has a pot hole problem that has been the topic of conversation for people who travel the road daily.

Matamata-Piako District Council had lobbied New Zealand Transport Agency to fix up problem areas along state highways 27 and 29. The poor condition of the roads had been a talking point at council meetings and among those using the busy roads daily.

 

Matamata-Piako district Mayor Jan Barnes said she and the council’s CEO Don McLeod were in regular meetings with NZTA and she was ever hopeful that the Piarere roundabout and Waikato Expressway extension from Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai Ranges would go ahead.

“The continuing economic development of this region depends on having that extension finished,” she said.

While not defending the poor condition of state highways in the district and the time it was taking for upgrades to be done, Barnes said NZTA had given assurances that safety would be paramount and work would be completed promptly after a new contractor was brought in to finish the SH27 safety upgrade.

“We met again just last week and will continue to meet until we get some reassurances that the community voice is being heard.”

New Zealand Transport Agency Director Regional Relationships, Parekawhia McLean said the agency was committed to working closely with communities, key stakeholders and the Government to deliver solutions that met transport needs.

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport guides the transport investment decisions made by the transport agency.

The Minister of Transport Phil Twyford is developing the statement and has indicated it will provide a different emphasis for the transport system.

It included prioritising safety, improving access to liveable cities and thriving regions through more investment in public transport, walking and cycling, better environmental outcomes and delivering the best value for money.

“We can’t pre-empt what will be in the new statement or give further detail about projects until it is released,” McLean said.

A hint that plans on the Waikato Expressway extension from Cambridge to Tirau and from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range may be canned, had prompted National MPs David Bennett and Louise Upston to start a series of petitions.

“This is one of a series of petitions National is launching aimed at saving regional highway projects that are at risk of being canned by the new Government,” Upston said.

Twyford said the Labour-led Government understands the importance of making sure roads were safe.

“That’s why we will be putting more focus on safety than the previous government,” he said.

“This will be reflected in the draft policy statement.”

Twyford said current roading projects would continue as planned.

The Government has not asked for any current projects to be reviewed except Auckland’s East West Link.

Officials were working to identify lower-cost, higher-value options there, he said.

“New Zealand Transport Agency makes operational and funding decisions at arm’s length on the priority and timing of projects,” Twyford said.

“However, the final Government Policy Statement is likely to include new priorities for transport investment throughout New Zealand, and this will influence the timing and funding required for work programmes to proceed.”

Government forms intelligent transport group to tap $1.5b opportunity

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has announced formation of a Future Technology Leadership Group saying it will help New Zealand harness some of the $1.5 billion a year estimated value to the economy from Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) as well as the social benefits they create.

The move follows release by Business NZ of a report commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics, Unlocking commercial opportunities from intelligent transport systems. The report said intelligent transport systems could be a sunrise tech industry for New Zealand, earning up to $1.5 billion a year.

Twyford announced formation of the group at the T-Tech Conference in Auckland on 19 March saying it would develop a 10-year Land Transport Technology Roadmap. He said New Zealand was seen as a world leader in ITS, and the group would bring together the best domestic knowledge, as well as international expertise.

“The Business NZ report focused on three areas – drones, smart logistics and autonomous self-driving vehicles – and found New Zealand has a good regulatory and business environment to benefit from ITS,” he said.

“A good example of how technology can save lives was the NZTA ‘hackathon’ Save One More Life which last weekend saw 120 developers, and tech, engineering and transport experts spend 48 hours designing ways to make our roads safer. This resulted in a new app to improve driving by teenagers and those on restricted licenses, expected to save 55 young lives a year.”

Business NZ said its report was “a call to action for both business and the Government, recognising the enormous potential for developing and manufacturing intelligent transport systems such as self-driving cars and drones in New Zealand.”

The report calls for greater collaboration between the Government and business to unlock innovation and export growth around ITS technology and services, along with data sharing, greater R&D, the upskilling of regulators, and aligning education and skills training with New Zealand’s future needs.

The chair of Business NZ’s Intelligent Transport Systems Advisory Group, David Prentice, said New Zealand was a good location for the new industry because of its growing high tech manufacturing sector, experience in manufacturing niche component parts, and reputation as a test bed for new technologies and world-class connectivity.

ITS products already produced in New Zealand included GPS systems, drones, robotic port cranes, airport baggage handling systems and wireless charging technology, according to Prentice.

He said the report highlighted the potential for New Zealand to respond to global demand and become a first mover in an innovative, high-growth industry that is set to transform transport throughout the world.

“Intelligent transport systems have the potential to significantly improve traffic flows, reduce road congestion, increase logistics productivity, lower transport emissions and improve the safety and efficiency of personal travel.

“Businesses already operating in the tech sector and new businesses looking for growth opportunities should consider the economic and social benefits to be gained from moving into this new area.”

He added: “And the business community wants to continue working with Government to develop policies that will allow an ITS ecosystem to flourish and help business and transport system users address our local transport challenges and compete on the world stage.”

Future Transport Group members

NZ Transport Agency, Ministry of Transport, Auckland Transport, Christchurch City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Google, Machine zone, ITS New Zealand, ITS Australia, Ministry of Education, Local Government NZ, Fulton Hogan, Transport Accident Investigation Commission, Australia New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), Telecom Users Association, Vodafone, KiwiRail, Toyota NZ, HMI Technologies, BECA, UShare, Road Transport Forum, Automobile Association, Westpac, Gladeye, Foodstuffs, Bike Auckland, Chapman Tripp, Uber, GoBus, Datacom, Arup, CISCO, Synapsis, L.E.K. Consulting, Business NZ,.

KiwiRail freight moving along Kaikoura line again after big clean up

One of the slips along the Kaikoura highway at Jacob's Ladder after clearing and terracing.

One of the slips along the Kaikoura highway at Jacob’s Ladder after clearing and terracing.
 KiwiRail freight services are on the move again along the main north line between Picton and Christchurch after repairs to damage caused by former Cyclone Gita.

​Group general manager Todd Moyle said all four scheduled services ran last night after the work was completed by KiwiRail and North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery teams.

“Much of the work focused on clearing the debris flows triggered by the exceptional levels of rain. We have been able to largely restore the track to the same condition it was prior to the storm. ”

Loss of earnings and repair work on the line have been one of the causes of KiwiRail’s recent $193 million loss, with a revenue shortfall of about $25m attributed to the main north line.

Most of the freight carried on the main north line is general merchandise and commodities including malt and grain. Quantities were commercially sensitive, a spokesman said.

KiwiRail is restricted to night services to allow road crews to continue working safely during the day.

The highway is also back in action during daylight hours from 7.30am to 7.30pm with the Hundalees the most affected area, reduced to one-lane traffic.

Rainfall levels in the Kaikoura area during the Gita storm were the highest recorded since the November 2016 earthquake with one site showing 300 millimetres in 15 hours – more than three times the usual monthly average.

“Our teams also took advantage of the line being closed to bring forward other works. One of the temporary bridges put in to enable the early re-opening in September has been replaced with a new permanent structure,” Moyle said.

“Our teams will continue to focus on works that improve the reliability of the line and reduce transit times, so we can better support our customers and resume pre-earthquake levels of operations as soon as possible.”

About 300,000 cubic metres of material had been spread across 60 sites from Parnassus to Clarence, closing road and rail.

 – Stuff

Electric car charging stations on the rise in New Zealand

Kiwis driving electric cars are more confidently going on longer cruises because of a roll out of easy to find charging stations, the Transport Agency says.

It said New Zealand now had about 6,500 electric vehicles around the country.

A prototype video from Tesla shows an arm which finds its own way into the charging port of an electric vehicle.

There were 91 charging stations on our state highways as of the end of January, the NZTA said in a statement.

“Prominent signage along our state highways shows everyday Kiwis and visitors to New Zealand that driving, and charging, an electric vehicle is as easy and convenient as any conventional vehicle,” the agency’s Harry Wilson said.

It’s also better for the environment.

Driving an electric car created 80 per cent fewer carbon emissions than a petrol or diesel car because of New Zealand’s large supply of renewable electricity, he said.

“Supporting the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand and encouraging people to make the switch to electric is crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our transport sector,” he said.

It comes as there were 91 rapid charging stations along New Zealand’s state highways as of January.

The transport agency hopes to eventually have the stations located every 75kms along major routes, with these rapid charging stations – using direct current or DC – to be supplemented by slower-charging alternating current (AC) stations.

“There is also an ever increasing number of public charging stations popping up around New Zealand – at shopping malls, airports, supermarkets and even some petrol stations,” Mr Wilson said.

Hamilton to Auckland transport corridor ‘near top of list’

Waikato's transport corridor to Auckland is a priority for the Labour-led government.

NZTA
Waikato’s transport corridor to Auckland is a priority for the Labour-led government.
 Transport Minister Phil Twyford has called mayors from Waikato and Auckland to the Beehive to discuss the commuter rail plan, in the most concrete sign yet of central government support for an Auckland Hamilton link.

Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waikato Regional councils will meet with New Zealand Transport Agency bosses, Waikato-Tainui, Auckland Council and KiwiRail for a 2-hour hui at Twyford’s Beehive office on February 26, said Hamilton-based Labour List MP Jamie Strange.

“It will be with Minister Phil Twyford particularly, as minister for housing and transport, and Nanaia Mahuta,” Strange said.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford is meeting with key players in the Hamilton to Auckland transport equation.

BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF
Transport Minister Phil Twyford is meeting with key players in the Hamilton to Auckland transport equation.
“The Minister is keen for investment in our region around transport particularly rail but roading and housing as well.”

Waikato Regional Council included commuter rail in its draft long term plan in January. Hamilton City Council has already made investment in a park and ride site and want 75 per cent of funding, for the proposed interim service, to come from central government.

Hamilton City Mayor Andrew King is confident the commuter rail initiative will go through.

TOM LEE/STUFF
Hamilton City Mayor Andrew King is confident the commuter rail initiative will go through.
The meeting will look at integrating light and heavy rail with roads and housing to capitalise on Hamilton and Waikato’s growth.

The transport corridor between the cities offers huge untapped potential, Strange said, and will be an important location for the government’s KiwiBuild programme which aims to roll out 100,000 new homes in 10-years with half of them in Auckland.

Collective work done with Waikato councils – the Waikato Plan and the Future Proof document – have mapped a path for central government to follow.

Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston says work around transport in Waikato is dovetailing nicely.

STUFF
Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston says work around transport in Waikato is dovetailing nicely.

“There is a strong sense of unity in our region among councils. This certainly building on what’s been done there.”

The Labour-led government is prioritising rail between Hamilton and Auckland. In a list of rail projects government is looking at, the Hamilton to Auckland corridor is “near the top of the list”, he said.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said things are moving in the right direction.

The Rail Opportunity Network spokeswoman Susan Trodden is surprised by the speed the government is moving.

KELLY HODEL/STUFF
The Rail Opportunity Network spokeswoman Susan Trodden is surprised by the speed the government is moving.
“I’m confident we will get there,” King said. “It’s something central government wants and Hamilton City Council is working very closely with neighbouring Waikato District and Waikato Regional councils and between us all, I think we are all aligned.”

Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston said the transport corridor is a strategic look at opportunities that could open up for the region.

“Everything is dove tailing nicely, Livingston said. “Central government is looking for support and direction and it’s working, from a timing perspective, ideally.”

Spokeswoman for rail advocate group The Rail Opportunity Network Susan Trodden is not surprised by the meeting but is moving faster than anticipated.

“Government are really wanting to make it happen this year, as promised, and now it’s been built into the 10-year plan for the regional council, and Hamilton City Council are committing time and money and space, there is the opportunity to step forward,” Trodden said.

Congestion charges on table in fight against Auckland gridlock

Commuters have been warned Auckland’s gridlock nightmare is set to dramatically escalate, and the thorny issues of congestion charges is back on the agenda as Auckland Council grapples with solutions.

Aucklanders already spend the equivalent of four working weeks, or 160 hours, in traffic, but a new council report prepared for Tuesday’s planning committee meeting reveals motorists should brace for even longer trips to work.

The report said severe congestion is expected to increase by 30 per cent at peak hours, and 50 per cent between the morning and evening peaks.

And while the Waterview Tunnel has successfully reduced congestion, the report warns that could be short-lived.

“This means that Aucklanders’ access to jobs, education and other opportunities will become more difficult,” the report says.

Thousands of Aucklanders have already packed up and left town in the face of the traffic chaos and expensive house prices.

But one of the options mooted to reduce congestion – congestion tolls – could be up to a decade away.

The report is the first in a three-step project which could lead to motorists being charged at different times of the day and in different locations across the city.

The report is the first phase of investigating ways of easing congestion by charging motorists to encourage them to change the time, route or way in which they travel.

The first phase updates the growing congestion problem facing the city, looks at models overseas and recommends moving to the next phase of developing options by August this year. The third phase is expected to recommend a final option. No date has been given for the final report.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff have approved the project to proceed to the second phase.

A spokeswoman said Goff had not read the report and could not comment at this stage.

While the first phase found congestion pricing would have a greater potential impact on transport than any transport project, the report said Auckland was heading into “uncharted territory” when it comes to introducing congestion pricing.

If Auckland does proceed with congestion-busting tolls, the report recommends a “bespoke” approach reflecting the city’s geographic, social and transport characteristics and introducing any system in steps.

The report said a number of international cities have successfully introduced congestion pricing but “no ‘New World’ cities with dispersed trips patterns and relatively low density of housing has yet introduced congestion pricing”.

The latest plan for tolls in Auckland comes after the former National Government and Auckland Council decided last June to look at the “taboo” subject of charging motorists at different times of the day and different locations across the city.

Three years earlier the council worked up a tolling scheme that would have seen motorists pay $2 each time they used the motorway, which the Government rejected.

Alarming figures released last year by Auckland Transport show a quarter of the city’s busiest roads, including Lake Rd, Lincoln Rd and routes to the airport are already clogged during the morning and evening peaks and one in three main roads will be congested by 2020.

The morning crawl from Westgate to Nelson St also doubled from 15 minutes to 30 minutes between 2012 and 2016 and the evening peak journey from Hobson St to Te Irirangi Drive has gone from 18 minutes to 24 minutes.

The report to be tabled to the council committee again highlighted congestion levels had appeared to have stabilised since the opening of the Waterview tunnel last July, but the authors revealed they expect that continued growth in demand for travel will see congestion levels increase again.

Journeys from the airport to the CBD via the tunnel in the afternoon peak now take 25 minutes, compared to between 35 and 44 minutes via Manukau Rd and Gillies Ave, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Automobile Association's principal infrastructure adviser Barney Irvine. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Automobile Association’s principal infrastructure adviser Barney Irvine. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Barney Irvine, the Automobile Association’s principal infrastructure adviser, said congestion charging had potential to help get Auckland moving, but warned it was a “complex and controversial business”.

Some of those concerns had come through via survey work of the AA’s Auckland members.

“There’s a lot of impact on the people who can least afford to pay,” he said. “There are also a lot of folk out there who don’t like the idea of paying to drive on roads they have already paid for.

“Congestion charging is a complex and controversial business – that’s why plenty of cities around the world talk about it, but very few have actually implemented it, and none in car-oriented, low-density cities like Auckland.”

He added if politicians could make a strong case for the introduction of congestion charges, then the programme shouldn’t take 10 years to implement.

National Road Carriers boss David Aitken said the industry would be in favour of road pricing on the proviso it made a difference and freed up journey times.

Something had to be done, said Aitken, who was concerned at the prospect of many roading projects in Auckland being canned by the new Government.

Building public understanding and acceptance will be critical to successfully introduce congestion pricing, the report said.

The project was originally called the ‘Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project’, but has been renamed ‘The Congestion Question’.