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23rd February 2018

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Road network

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’.

Is it time for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel?

The Cook Strait is a violent body of water. It’s an exception. Unlike other straits around the world, it has opposite tidal flows at either end. When it’s high-tide on the Tasman side, it’s roughly low-tide on the Pacific side and vice versa

Before the end of the last Ice Age, you might have been able to walk between the two islands – if there had been anyone around to do it. But for the last 20,000 years this strait has divided New Zealand in a way most countries have never known.

What if the country could become physically connected again? Is a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel pure fantasy?

What if the country could become physically connected again? Is a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel pure fantasy? Julian Lee ...

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
There would be far more to gain than just the novelty of being able to take a 27 hour 2,000 kilometre drive from Cape Reinga to Bluff: an immense increase in traffic between the two islands, the untold billions saved in shipping and flying costs, the Marlborough and Wellington areas thriving and booming from increased commerce, the tourist dollars, the sheer convenience of replacing a three-hour ferry ride (and its associated on- and off-loading times) with a short drive.

It’s an idea that’s so outrageous even some of our more seasoned politicians have never heard it being raised before.

But Stuff pitched the idea to Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggested a tunnel would be ruled out by the Alpine Fault and a bridge by the strait's ...

BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF
Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggested a tunnel would be ruled out by the Alpine Fault and a bridge by the strait’s rough waters.
 “This is the first time I’ve heard the idea. I know there is a successful tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, but I would have thought our faultline would rule out a tunnel. It is also a very rough stretch of water, and I’m no engineer, but I suspect that would rule out a bridge,” he said.

Judith Collins, who has National’s transport portfolio, was impressed by the idea, but pointed out an obvious flaw.

“Wow, this is a hugely ambitious and audacious idea. Where would be the fun of a Cook Strait pie in the middle of a howling gale though?” she said.

The idea of having a bridge or a tunnel between Wellington, pictured, and the South Island was raised seriously just ...

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
The idea of having a bridge or a tunnel between Wellington, pictured, and the South Island was raised seriously just once by Premier Richard Seddon in 1904.

It seems to have been seriously raised only once by a New Zealand politician. A long time ago.

Hawke’s Bay Herald article from 1904 said that Premier Richard “King Dick” Seddon had been travelling all over the country bragging about how much money the Government had for grandiose projects, including a tunnel through the Cook Strait .

The unnamed reporter at the time felt it was inappropriate given the large loans New Zealand had taken from London. With a tongue-in-cheek, the reporter said that if Seddon told the public about the reality of the Government’s financial position, they might agree to his tunnel plan some time in the future.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to the peninsula east of Picton, the ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to the peninsula east of Picton, the shortest route between the mainland and the North Island, 27km.
 These days something like 1.1 million people and 350,000 vehicles cross the strait every year with the two ferry companies, Interislander and Bluebridge. Should there be a drive option, many more would be guaranteed to use it – those who would normally fly or not take the trip at all.

With a bridge or tunnel, the prohibitively expensive and time-consuming trip from somewhere like Palmerston North to somewhere like Nelson becomes a drive that could be done in less than five hours.

Ask someone in the know and they will quickly explain that it is a pipe dream.

University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo suggests that a "submerged ...

DUNCAN SHAW-BROWN
University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo suggests that a “submerged floating tunnel” could be a better option for the strait.
 “I think given the geometry and the morphologies of the strait, a conventional bridge is not possible. The water is extremely deep and the cost will be prohibitive. Tunnelling will also be very expensive.”

That’s from University of Canterbury structural engineering and materials professor Alessandro Palermo – one of New Zealand’s top bridge specialists.

Palermo does have a proposal, but before that, what are we dealing with here? And most importantly, how much would these projects cost?

The Bluebridge and Interislander ferries, seen here in Picton, both take about three hours to cross the often violent ...

STUFF
The Bluebridge and Interislander ferries, seen here in Picton, both take about three hours to cross the often violent stretch of water.
 It is tempting to look at the strait’s narrowest point of just 22km for a potential crossing from Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. That, however, means building a state-highway tier road through the extremely hilly country behind Karori all the way to the coast, another such road across undeveloped Arapaoa Island in the sounds, a bridge across the Tory Channel and another road to get back to State Highway 1.

A 27km bridge or tunnel from the cape directly to the mainland and bypassing Arapaoa, landing on the peninsula east of Picton, would still involve significant roadworks.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to build a link between the two closest developed points (Wellington city and either Picton or Blenheim), the distance is 64km to Picton and 65km to the shoreline just east of Blenheim.

The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland, pictured, cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km ...

CALLUM MCGILLIVRAY/STUFF
The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland, pictured, cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km tunnel, that’s $15.7b. For a 65km tunnel, that’s $37.9b.
 BRIDGE OR TUNNEL?

Bridges are much cheaper than tunnels. The catch? A bridge would have to withstand a highly turbulent Cook Strait, probable earthquakes and be high enough for ships to get through (or at least able to open up).

A 65km-odd bridge would be New Zealand’s biggest bridge by far. The current longest bridge is Canterbury’s Rakaia Bridge at just 1.8km.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island, the shortest point ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Cape Terawhiti to Arapaoa Island, the shortest point between the two islands, 22km.
 It’s so long, in fact, that if it existed it would be the sixth-longest bridge in the world.

But the cost of a bridge is not impossible for New Zealand.

The 38km Lake Pontchartrain Bridge in Louisiana, United States is the longest in the Western world. It cost roughly NZ$561m in today’s dollars. For a 60km-odd long bridge, that would be more than $1 billion.

Looking towards Wellington city - the starting point for a tunnel or bridge?

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Looking towards Wellington city – the starting point for a tunnel or bridge?
 The 55km Bang Na Expressway in Thailand, which would be closest in size to a Cook Strait Bridge, cost about NZ$1.9b in today’s dollars when it was completed in 2000. Both are a steal compared to the estimated $3.4b cost of Auckland’s City Rail Link.

Tunnels, on the other hand, are much more expensive.

The 2.4km Waterview Tunnel in Auckland cost $1.4b, which equates to about $583m per kilometre. For a 27km tunnel, that’s $15.7b. For a 65km tunnel, that’s $37.9b.

One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Wellington to Picton, the shortest route between two ...

JULIAN LEE/GOOGLE MAPS
One of the possible routes for a Cook Strait bridge or tunnel: Wellington to Picton, the shortest route between two developed centres, 64km.
 Stuff pitched the strait drive options to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). A spokesman pointed out that using the Waterview’s costing was probably not worth while.

“Waterview Tunnel went through rigorous business case and cost/benefit analysis. It’s hard to imagine a serious case for a Cook Strait tunnel that would be more than 10 times longer and three times deeper than Waterview and considerably more expensive.

Nonetheless the NZTA was open-minded.

“To the best of our knowledge there’s never been a serious feasibility study of a Cook Strait tunnel, nor has there been a need for it,” the spokesman said.

“The costs to build and operate such a tunnel would be huge, but anything is possible with unlimited time, money and expertise.”

There does not appear to be a simple way to work out how much tunnels cost.

The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel” connecting Britain and Europe has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world – its total length is 50.45km, just shy of what would be required under the Cook Strait. The Chunnel’s lowest point is 75 metres below sea level – the strait averages almost twice that depth at 128m.

The Chunnel cost £9b at the time of completion in 1994 – something like $30b in today’s New Zealand dollars.

Japan’s Seikan Tunnel is 54km connecting the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, which is much deeper than Cook with a maximum depth of 200m. Japan, like New Zealand, is a shaky country. It cost around NZ$10b in today’s money.

Stuff pitched the idea of crossing the strait to Treasury. A Treasury spokesman said: “In a hypothetical situation such as what you suggest, the Treasury would provide analysis and free and frank advice to the responsible ministers.

“We would factor in a number of aspects, such as cost-benefit analysis, alternative options and solutions for whatever issue the project is intended to address, impact on the Crown accounts, the government’s capital spending allowances, project funding alternatives (eg government-funded, privately funded, a public-private partnership etc), broader considerations such as environmental and social impacts, and other matters.”:

The spokesman also said how much money was in the kitty for transport infrastructure projects: There is $3.4b available this year and another $3.4b next year, but in 2020 there will be only $3.1b and the following year just $2.7b.

In other words, even if the government were to spend 50 per cent of the country’s capital allowances for transport over the next four years, a tunnel starting from Wellington might not even get to the water.

ANOTHER SOLUTION

Having to choose between a bridge that could fall over in the next earthquake and a tunnel that could impoverish the entire country would be enough to make most Kiwis spit their tea out. But perhaps there is a third way.

Palermo, the engineering professor who wrote off the idea of a traditional tunnel or bridge, has another, more modern idea. A “submerged floating tunnel” – a tunnel that floats on or near the surface of the sea and is anchored to the ground.

One has never been built, but the idea is being developed and explored in places like Japan and the USA.

Palermo said sea currents, earthquakes and tsunamis are the main challenges, but: “I think the concept could be feasible. Construction will not be easy, but not far different than building an off-shore petrol platform. The bridge could be manufactured with innovative ultra-high performance concrete and segments of the tunnel prefabricated in a specialised precast yard.

“The great challenge will be the anchors, but it will not be more challenging than an off-shore platform.

“Given the flexibility of the tunnel, its response to earthquakes may not be so problematic and the anchors could be designed to accommodate big ground displacement generated by fault rupture.”

Palermo said the ultra-high performance concrete will reduce the amount of concrete required and guarantee long-lasting durability – perhaps more than a century.

“I also like the possibility to create within the tunnel an outlook with structural glass windows and turning it into an iconic tourist attraction.

“Moreover, it could have a negative carbon footprint (this means that it doesn’t have embedded energy costs) if the impact of currents could be turned into energy to be used for the tunnel or possibly sold out to Wellington and Marlborough.

“It will not have a strong environmental impact and I think it could be seen in the future, especially if there will be a take over with electric cars.”

Palermo said the concept is still being developed and costs are unknown.

The closest New Zealand has ever come to physically uniting the country seems to be a bit of political banter loosely attributed a politician more than a century ago. Seasoned politicians from our own time have not even heard the idea raised once in the halls of Parliament – not even in the back halls.

If New Zealand were to really bridge a 20,000-year-old gap over one of the more problematic stretches of water the world has to offer, it may be time, rather than money, that might be the best bet.

 – Stuff

Hundreds of stranded tourists freed as roads reopen in New Zealand

Hundreds of tourists trapped in a remote New Zealand town for 48 hours after a strong storm damaged roads were freed on Saturday after authorities cleared a highway.

About 600 tourists are now able to leave the remote town of Haast, 426 km (265 miles) northwest of Dunedin on the west coast of the South Island, a world heritage area famous for rugged scenery, after the road was cleared.

State Highway Six reopened at 11 a.m., the NZ Transport Agency told Reuters in an email.

“All stranded motorists have now been able to leave,” it said.

The road was hit by landslips as wild weather from former tropical cyclone Fehi wreaked havoc across the west coast, uprooting trees, felling power lines, collapsing a bridge and blocking roads.

A further 117 motorists stranded at Fox Glacier were also able to move on Saturday after roads were repaired, West Coast Civil Defence officials said by telephone.

The storm flooded the southern city of Dunedin and the west coast town of Buller, forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency and ask people not to travel by road.

Health authorities warned people to avoid contact with flood waters that could be contaminated by sewage, Radio NZ said.

Weather forecaster Metservice said storm-damaged areas on the west coast of the South Island would get a reprieve on Saturday with sheltered, sunny weather before more rain arrives, while heavy rains were forecast for the North Island around Auckland.

 

Improvements for Southern motorway

The New Zealand Transport Agency is advising motorists of the lane changes on SH1 at Takānini and near Papakura, Auckland, from early February.

NZTA’s Senior Manager Project Delivery, Chris Hunt says there will be no lane closures, but the road layout will be different.

“Drivers are encouraged to drive with care as they get used to the new layout and keep to the temporary 80km/h speed limit through the active construction zones.”

The purpose of the changes is to improve safety and journey reliability on Auckland’s Southern Motorway by creating extra lanes.

Motorists will notice the lane changes from February at Takanini where a third lane is being added to the overbridge crossing on Great South Road. The two existing lanes will be split just before the Takanini off-ramp for 800-meters and will re-join south of Great South Road before the on-ramp.

“The new single span bridge will be more resilient and safer for motorists. Completing the work while also keeping the motorway operating will require careful planning and a staged approach,” says Hunt.

A temporary bridge for traffic heading south has been built alongside the existing bridge. Next month north and southbound lanes will be diverted to use the temporary bridge to allow demolition of the old northbound bridge to build a new one.

This process will be duplicated to replace the southbound bridge and once it’s completed the new bridge will have three lanes in each direction.

“In all, it will take three separate shifts of traffic over the next 18 months for the bridge work to be completed but no lanes will be closed. We’ll simply be shifting traffic lanes so work can take place on either side,” says Hunt.

“The Transport Agency asks motorists to be vigilant and patient during this time of change. The outcome will be improved safety, journey reliability and traffic flows on our main highway.”

Once the Southern Corridor Improvements project in 2019, it will provide an extra southbound lane on SH1 between Manukau and Papakura and an extra northbound lane between Papakura and Takānini.

NZTA tight-lipped over gorge

New slips on the Manawatu Gorge Rd. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

The New Zealand Transport Agency is staying tight-lipped about which way it will go when replacing the Manawatu Gorge Rd, but Labour MP Kieran McAnulty says those impacted the most have made their preference known.

The road was closed in April last year after major slips blocked the road, and the agency’s regional transport system manager Ross I’Anson estimated about 1000m3 of new material had fallen onto the road in the last couple of weeks.

A shortlist of four options for a new highway to connect Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu was released in October, with all options projected to take between five and seven years to complete.

Mr McAnulty said the message from communities in Tararua and Manawatu was that options three and four were preferred, with option four being the most popular.

“It was a strong message from the local communities, and I’ve been advocating for that.

“There is a strong preference for option four.”

Option four is to build a new road south of the gorge with a second bridge over the Manawatu River, connecting with the regional ring road in the Manawatu. It will cost between $450m and $550m.

That option was “significantly more expensive” due to the need for an additional bridge over the river.

Option three — a new route south of Saddle Rd at a cost of between $350m and $450 — was also a viable option, he said.

“They want more people moving to Tararua and commuting to Palmerston North, as people do from South Wairarapa to Wellington.

“There’s no reason why option three wouldn’t help with that either,” Mr McAnulty said.

Option four is also the preference of Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis and Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith, and that view was expressed to Transport Minister Phil Twyford and a transport agency representative at a meeting in Martinborough last week.

“People really want certainty, and a decision being made,” Mr McAnulty said.

“I’m having ongoing conversations with relevant ministers on how to support local businesses as they work through the process.”

Emma Speight, the transport agency’s director of regional relationships, said it was carefully considering all feedback and submissions.

“This feedback and input will be weighed up against the technical information for the four shortlisted options and the transport agency will be taking forward the option that best meets the needs of the region and provides a safe, efficient and resilient corridor.”

While progress was being made on assessing the four shortlisted options, the work was not yet complete, she said.

“NZTA is aiming to complete assessment of the shortlisted options, including how they support regional freight connectivity and future economic development, in the first quarter of 2018, with the announcement of a preferred option soon after.”

Mr Twyford confirmed at the meeting in Martinborough that the transport agency would make a public announcement in March.

Auckland Transport throws out its own plan

2 Feb, 2018

Auckland Transport produced this image of how light rail would look but ranked it so low it would not get funding. Photo / Artist Impression
Auckland Transport produced this image of how light rail would look but ranked it so low it would not get funding. Photo / Artist Impression

Comment by Simon Wilson

How embarrassing. The board of Auckland Transport (AT) has rejected the draft of its most important planning document, prepared for it by AT staff. The reason? The recommendations in the draft ignored AT’s own policies. They also ignored the policies of Auckland Council, which AT is supposed to answer to. And they ignored the clearly stated wishes of the new government, which has a say because it co-funds so much of the city’s transport programme.

Will heads roll? Unlikely, but possible.

It started last week, when AT published, under the signature of Shane Ellison, its brand-new CEO, the draft of its new 10-year plan. Nearly half the funding for commuter rail was gone, light rail was ranked so low it would not get any funding at all, and the cycling and walking budget was slashed by 90 per cent.

Cue immediate scrambling for cover. The chair of the AT board, Lester Levy, even rang the Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, to apologise. Twyford tweeted: “I’ve had sincere apology from AT chair Lester Levy for internal ‘budget’ document mistakenly made public. The doc certainly doesn’t reflect my conversations with @phil_goff and @AklTransport board and our shared commitment to building a modern transport system for Auckland.”

Well, good. But this was not some simple “mistake”.

The document was a new draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), which is written anew every six years and refreshed every three. This is a refresh year, although with Labour and the Greens determined to keelhaul National’s transport planning, the right time for a full rethink by AT is now. The document even says as much, although without doing it.

What did it get so wrong?

One, it ignored Auckland Council’s guidelines, which are also AT’s own priorities. Through a “Statement of Intent” agreed with council, AT has prioritised public transport, active transport (cycling and walking), road safety and carbon reduction. The draft RLTP just set all that aside.

Two, it ignored the government’s own signals. Twyford and associate minister Julie-Anne Genter, who looks after active transport and safety, have both been clear. In particular, they’ve told us light rail will be a priority and some of National’s expensive new roads (including the East-West Link from Penrose to Onehunga) will not happen. The draft RLTP, however, effectively pretended Twyford and Genter don’t exist.

Three, the draft wasn’t leaked or released casually. It was an official public document prepared for the AT board and posted online in what is usually a carefully managed process. Damningly, it was signed off by CEO Shane Ellison and two of his senior executives.

 

Four, it included a fabricated “introduction” from Levy. He didn’t write it, which isn’t uncommon, but nor did he see it before publication. That’s astonishing: who releases a statement by the boss without getting it cleared by the boss?

In a lengthy conversation on Wednesday, Levy told me he was especially upset about this and “I have made that very clear to the CEO”.

I asked him if it was humiliating to have to apologise to the minister. He said, “Yes. I spend a lot of my time having to apologise for things I didn’t know about. This is the job, and yes it is embarrassing.” (Levy is also the chair of Auckland’s three health boards.)

The offending draft had two main parts. One was what Levy calls a “narrative”: it described the work of AT in language very much in line with other recent AT documents and with the thinking in council and the new government.

“Our priorities actually align very well with what we know of the Government’s,” Levy told me, and he repeated that at the board meeting. “This government has got some great aspirations,” he said.

But the second part was a list of all the transport projects, both underway and proposed. It ranked them and recommended specific levels of funding for each. It was the guts of the document. Free of rhetoric and wishful thinking, it appeared to reveal what the officials who wrote it think AT should do.

When it got to the AT board yesterday afternoon, Cynthia Gillespie, head of strategy and one of the document’s signatories, attempted an explanation. AT has 320 projects it could be working on, she said. If they did them all, over 10 years they’d cost $19 billion. So obviously they’re not doing them all.

To help choose the best they have a “calculator”, a piece of software that assesses each project against a set of objectives. The calculator reflects the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), an agreement about transport priorities signed by the previous government and the previous council. Gillespie blamed the calculator for scoring light rail and cycling very low.

ATAP is now out of date and under review. And yet AT officials used it produce recommendations that would have suited the old government but were profoundly out of line with the new one, and with council, and with AT itself.

To the board’s credit, they threw them out.

Still, they had a problem. By law, AT must adopt a new draft RLTP, put it out for public consultation and sign it off by the end of June.

But the government will not produce its official transport policy statement until late March. If AT has to wait till after then to produce the new RLTP, the public input phase will suffer.

Board member Sir Michael Cullen saved the day.

“We are pretending we don’t know what we really do know,” he said. He listed various projects Twyford and Genter have said they want prioritised and added, “I don’t think it would be improper for staff to prepare a new draft RLTP that reflects what we can reasonably expect will happen.”

They will now write a new plan, in the expectation it will align with the government’s policy statement when it arrives. Which is what should have happened in the first place.

Meanwhile, Lester Levy still wants to know how all this happened.

I asked if he felt let down by some of the senior management. “I don’t know but I will certainly let you know when I find out.”

He also said, “We have given our new CEO a mandate to deliver culture change in the organisation.”

That’s very good to hear.

Electric campervans, freight trucks and buses coming for ‘clean, green’ NZ’

A 58-tonne electric freight truck, electric buses and developing an electric campervan for tourism are among the initiatives to receive a share of $3.74 million from the Government.

Twenty projects were announced today in the latest round of the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. The funding is being matched by $4.3m from the recipients.

A large proportion of the Government money – $1.7m – is for more charging stations nationwide, including at Foodstuffs supermarkets and golf courses nationwide, Fisher and Paykel stores, Wilson Parking buildings mainly in Auckland, and the Cloudy Bay vineyard in Blenheim.

Local authorities will also receive funding for charging stations in Taranaki, Waikato and the King Country.

“This is really about making sure we’ve got coverage around the country in terms of infrastructure,” Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said during the announcement.

“A big part of what we need to do to up the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand is to make sure we don’t have people stranded, running out of juice.”

Tourism Holdings will receive $402,000 to convert an electric van into a campervan, aiming to have 20 electric campervans on the road within a year.

“New Zealand sells itself to the world as a clean, green paradise,” Woods said.

“One of the things people will be attracted to is the ability to do their trip in a sustainable way. It’s got huge potential and it’s the way we want to sell ourselves to the rest of the world.”

The Motor Tourism Training Organisation will receive $95,000 to develop a qualifications framework for technicians working on electric vehicles.

There is currently no NZQA-registered qualification for this work, and Woods said the new framework will be critical in preparing the workforce for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Electric freight vehicles also had potential to cut into domestic carbon emissions, and a $500,000 grant will go to CODA, in partnership with Zero Emission Vehicles and Bay Dairy, to design and build a 58-tonne electric freight truck for Fonterra.

The announcement was made at Zealandia eco-sanctuary in Wellington, which will receive $118,137 to replace its diesel buses with two electric mini-buses.

“It’s all about reducing emissions, sure, but it’s all about the liveability of our cities, the places where we live, and the healthiness of them,” Zealandia chief executive Paul Atkins said.

Woods said the funding was conditional until contracts are prepared and signed.

“The projects we are funding show there’s an electric vehicle for almost every job or use in New Zealand, be it delivering fruit and veg or taking a holiday.”

Labour’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First includes a promise to have the Government’s vehicle fleet, where practicable, emissions-free by 2025/26.

Woods said the progress of that work will depend on existing Government contracts.

Other funding recipients include:
• Evincible – $263,450 – to co-ordinate the rollout of a battery electric courtesy car and associated charging station for 25 automotive workshops, giving people the chance to test drive an EV while their car is being repaired or serviced.
• Tranzit Group – $397,500 – to invest in permanent drive-through charging stations for buses at the Wellington Railway Station bus interchange, capable of charging four buses simultaneously.
Ohomairangi Trust – $75,000 – to buy six EVs for its teachers, therapists and specialists to use visiting whanau.
Kerikeri Village Trust – $67,250 – to buy four EVs to establish a car share operation for use by residents and staff and install a public charging unit in Kerikeri.

Jon Addison: Specialised trucks mean more freight on roads, not less

There seems to be a widespread belief that heavy trucks will be tossed off our roads and freight moved by rail instead. Photo / 123RF

With the new coalition Government holding the reins there seems to be a widespread belief that heavy trucks will be tossed off our roads and freight moved by rail instead.

Unfortunately that’s almost certainly not going to happen, for a variety of reasons.

The most compelling is the expected growth in freight. A national freight demand study reckons total freight moved in 2017 was about 260 million tonne, growing to 354 million tonne by 2037. About 7 per cent of that is now moved by rail. If rail tripled its share of freight by 2037 there would still be 20 million tonne of the growth to be handled by trucks.

That’s 8 per cent more than carted by trucks this year, meaning more, or larger, trucks on the road.

Almost everyone in the freight industry agrees that coastal shipping, rail and road transport all have roles to play in freight movement. Freight forwarders such as Mainfreight are already among the highest users of rail.

However, the very nature of freight movements around New Zealand make it almost impossible for rail to double, let alone triple, its share of the task.

In the early colonial days most freight was carted on river boats and coastal ships. After the first railways were built in 1863 it soon became obvious trains could move freight to more places than boats could, without being hampered by wind and tide. Now coastal shipping moves about 2 per cent of freight.

After World War I trucks became increasingly efficient at moving freight and the Government, which of course owned the railways, began in 1931 to introduce measures to protect rail freight, culminating in Bob Semple’s 1936 ban on trucks carting more than 30 miles (50km). Protection of rail was scaled back in 1977 and abolished in 1983.

One of the hurdles to a rail comeback is that heavy trucks – over 3500kg loaded weight – have become increasingly specialised. There is little opportunity for trains to replace concrete agitator trucks, for example.

Although there is a very efficient railway line from the gigantic Kaingaroa Forest to the Port of Tauranga, there’s probably no other log cartage operation with sufficient scale to replace trucks. Livestock trucks, fertiliser trucks, fuel tankers, milk tankers and many other trucks operate miles from any railway line.

Then there are delivery trucks, from the big tractor/semi-trailers delivering to supermarkets to little four-wheelers dropping off a new fridge. Or trucks taking supplies to rural centres too small for a railway line to be economic.

In fact of the 132,000 heavy trucks on the roads, only 23,000 are operated by the road freight industry. Put another way, just 19 per cent of freight is general freight and when distance is taken into account, just 8 per cent of the annual tonne/km carted is general freight. The biggest proportion, 29 per cent, is manufactured and retail goods, followed closely by logs and dairy.

Rail and coastal freight are best at carting bulk freight that is not time-sensitive over long distances. New Zealand’s small, widely dispersed population restricts opportunities for that. I once sat at a level crossing in North Carolina as an extremely long train passed, carting only orange juice from Florida, probably to New York. That one train probably contained more than New Zealand’s annual consumption of orange juice.

There are other handicaps, too. For example, the most efficient freight trains in the United States cart shipping containers two high. New Zealand’s small rail tunnels don’t allow that.

Another issue is that while modern freight handling systems have greatly reduced damage and loss of goods, most problems arise during loading and unloading. Most rail freight has to be carted to and from the train by trucks, which means three times as many handling events compared with a single truck journey.

Just as in the 1880s trains took over from boats because they could cart freight to more places more quickly, trucks have since overtaken rail for the same reason.

The combination of an expanding freight task and the difficulties rail faces in increasing its share mean we’re more likely to see more trucks on our roads than fewer.

• Jon Addison is a retired journalist who specialised in commercial vehicles and road transport for 30 years.

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