National pledges new tunnel and highway in Wellington transport plan

The National Party has pledged a $4 billion infrastructure package for Wellington and the Hutt Valley if it is voted into government.National Party leader Judith Collins announces the party's $4b transport infrastructure plan for Wellington and the Hutt Valley, on 5 August 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins announcing the party’s Wellington region transport policy in Petone today. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Leader Judith Collins made the policy announcement in Petone today, as part of its $31b transport infrastructure policy announced last month.

The package includes fast-tracking the construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and building a second Terrace Tunnel.

The party is also promising to construct a new highway connecting Seaview, Lower Hutt, to State Highway 1 north of Wellington and introducing rapid buses or trackless trams between Wellington CBD and the airport.

The Wellington and Hutt Valley transport Package includes:

  • Fast-tracking construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and delivering a second Terrace Tunnel
  • Fixing congestion at the Basin Reserve through grade-separation
  • Rapid transit between Wellington’s CBD and airport in the form of rapid buses or trackless trams
  • Removing highway traffic from Wellington’s inner-city streets by undergrounding SH1 through Te Aro
  • A new highway connecting Seaview in Lower Hutt to SH1 north of Wellington
  • Upgrading Wellington’s metro network, including new trains to improve services between Wellington, Masterton and Palmerston North
  • Widening SH1 to four lanes between Wellington’s CBD and airport (Ruahine St and Wellington Rd)
  • Widening SH2 to four lanes between Silverstream and Whakatiki St in Upper Hutt, and fixing dangerous intersections through new interchanges

Collins said the spending would be in addition to funding already been promised through regional council and government’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

She said a new Mt Victoria Tunnel will deliver more reliable travel times between Wellington’s CBD and eastern suburbs, as well as the airport.

“This region is choked by congestion. Wellington has the worst traffic in Australasia for a city under one million people,” Collins said.

As part of the package the party is looking to establish a new body to deliver National’s redesigned let’s Get Wellington Moving package.

Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said a Wellington Transport agency wasn’t a new idea, but it was one that had real merit.

“Transport in Wellington has been a debacle for far too long – we only have to look at the lasagna of failure two years ago with the buses.”

Bishop said at the time the regional council blamed the city council and the city council blamed the regional council.

“Wellingtonians were just left there saying ‘what on earth has gone wrong’ and ‘why can’t the buses go on time anymore?’,” he said.

Labour’s transport spokesperson Phil Twyford agreed a new agency could be a good idea if the councils agreed.

But he hit back at National’s lasagna claim.

“I would say the National Party cooked that lasagna, the bus-tastrophe that happened over the last couple of years was a direct result of the public transport operating framework that National legislated and we’ll be fixing it,” he said.

He also questioned how the National Party would pay for an extra $31 billion in its infrastructure programme on top of what Labour had already committed to.

“They’re not telling Kiwis how they’ll fund these massive promises, what projects are they going to cut?” he said.

Twyford said Labour was committed to a second Victoria Tunnel – however, it had previously pushed back construction to as late as 2029.

Twyford said a second Terrace Tunnel was not priority.

In previous transport announcements National promised to connect Ōtaki to Wellington’s electric commuter train network, fast-track a four-lane expressway from Ōtaki to Levin and a Palmerston North rural ring road.

NZTA gets $1bn from recovery fund to keep large projects afloat

The government is spending over a billion dollars from its Covid-19 recovery fund on the Transport Agency, to make up for a drop in revenue.New Zealand currency held fanned out in someones hand

File image. Photo: 123rf.com

It is providing a $600 million top-up to the national transport fund to help cover the lower-than-expected revenue from fuel taxes, road user charges and vehicle registrations due to the pandemic.

It also made $425m immediately available to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency to be repaid over seven years, with the option to borrow $300m more.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said that without the money large projects would have to be put off or cancelled.

This included completing the Waikato expressway, starting the Manawatū Gorge highway replacement and continuing its road maintenance programme.

Auckland traffic reduced as more people work from home

More Aucklanders are believed to be working from home after the Covid-19 lockdown, leaving the city’s notoriously packed motorways to flow a little freer. no caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Traffic at key sites at most of the country’s major cities has returned to pre-lockdown levels, but Auckland is the exception.

Data collected from traffic counters between the Queenstown Rd and Hillsborough Rd on and off ramps showed there were about 112,700 vehicles passing through each week, excluding weekend days.

This was 89.7 percent of the previous year’s 125,569 vehicles, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency’s latest statistics from the end of June.

Meanwhile, traffic counters at specific sites in Wellington showed traffic was about 95.9 percent of the previous year, Christchurch at 104.6 percent, Hamilton at 100.2 percent, and Dunedin at 99.7 percent.

This drop was also mirrored in public transport use.

Patronage was 67.5 percent of last year in Auckland, which meant about 45,000 fewer people taking return trips.

This compares to Wellington’s 89.4 percent and Christchurch’s 74.6 percent.

Auckland-based Frog Recruitment founder Jane Kennelly said there was no doubt more people were working from home.

For example, she knew of a large corporate company with only 10 percent of their staff coming into the office every day.

Kennelly said working from home options were highly desired by Auckland job-hunters.

“Particularly for Auckland, one of the things that we’ve talked about for the last number of years with candidates is their dislike of sitting in traffic,” she said.

“That dead time when you’re in peak hour traffic and it takes so long to get to work.”

There was a strong trend of people opting to work closer to home as well – even if their salary dropped.

In her opinion, the Covid-19 lockdown had opened up a “world of opportunity” in working arrangements for both employers and employees.

“[It has shown] that working from home is a very viable option – that money can be saved, time can be saved, family time can be gained and it’s a significant key attribute in their minds when it comes to their work.”

NZTA’s Auckland system manager Andrea Williamson said fewer people heading to the airport was also contributing to the decline.

She was not certain why Auckland traffic did not bounce back like the other main centres, but she hoped traffic volumes stayed down.

“If there’s less cars on the motorway, then there’s a smaller queue which means that everyone is a little bit happier when they get on the motorway.”

The environment also benefited with fewer cars on the road, she said.

Auckland Transport’s metro services manager Stacey van der Putten said university students – who were not currently on campus – usually made up about 14 percent of public transport users.

This had put a dent in the number of people taking public transport, she said.

Greater Auckland director Matt Lowrie said cycleway data showed more people were jumping on their bike, but they weren’t necessarily heading to work.

“In many of the cycleways there is an increase in usage, particularly some of the recreational ones,” he said.

“But the big commuting cycleways, particularly things like the Northwestern, remain down on what they were last year.”

The smaller rumbling of cars on the road could also be detected underground.

GNS science operation specialist Sam Taylor-Offord said data pulled from a seismic sensor about 40 metres underground at Eden Park illustrated the traffic activity.

Noise levels traditionally peaked during the middle of the week and were quieter during the weekend.

This was stable until Covid revved up in March.

“You can see actually the day that we go into level 4 it hits the floor. It stays there until we hit level 3, then it steps back up. When it gets to about level 1, it actually flattens out.”

He said the data showed the sound levels during the week at level 1 were comparable to weekends in February, before alert levels were introduced.

Manukau Harbour ‘wouldn’t work’ as new Auckland port

Manukau Harbour would never work as a new location for Auckland’s port, transport company director Chris Carr says.Manukau Harbour

Manukau Harbour. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

A report by economic consultancy Sapere published yesterday ranked Manukau Harbour as the best option. It considered Northport, Manukau, the Firth of Thames, the Port of Tauranga and a shared increase in capacity at both Northport and the Port of Tauranga.

An earlier report, backed by New Zealand First, identified Northport at Marsden Point as the best option. The report was completed by a government working group led by former Far North mayor Wayne Brown.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called the previous Northport work ‘shoddy’ and Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it “had a clearly pre-determined outcome” in favour of moving the port to Marsden Point.

New Zealand First still backs Northport as a new location, with MP Shane Jones saying Manukau was the most treacherous harbour in the country and unfit as an alternative site for Ports of Auckland.

Carr and Haslam director Chris Carr said he didn’t know how the Sapere report had come up with Manukau Harbour.

“It’s probably about the only time in the world I’ll ever agree with Shane Jones,” Carr told told Morning Report.

“The prevailing weather comes in on the western side of the country. Ports don’t exist in the west coast of New Zealand, they exist on the east coast.

“I’m no maritime person but all the shipping companies say that they won’t go to the west coast and that in itself would tend to make Manukau the first shipless port that we’d have in the country.

“It’s simply not suitable operationally and it wouldn’t work no matter how much we might try and make it fit.”

If port had to be moved from Auckland it should be to somewhere ships can get in and out safely, he said.

“You also want to go somewhere near the largest consumption area which is the Auckland-Tauranga-Hamilton-Waikato area.

“The only place you can do that is the Firth of Thames. It’s not ideal.”

He agreed with the Sapere report that Ports of Auckland could keep operating for more than 30 years before it ran out of space where it was.

“But New Zealand’s not good at doing this sort of stuff and we take so long to do it that we need to start working at it and looking at it.

“If you look at it from a logistical point of view the decisions become quite easy – it’s when you get politics involved it becomes quite hard.

“The shipping companies who in the end of the day determine where their vessels come would not choose Manukau, ever.”

Shane Jones told Morning Report he had come off second best to people opposed to a relocation to Northland.

“I had professionally and personally campaigned with my leader for the expansion of Northport and relocation of Ports of Auckland activity to Tauranga and Northland,” he said.

He invoked the sinking of the Orpheus in 1863, in which 189 people died, as reason to not build a port at Manukau Harbour.

“I will prophesy that a thousand years will pass before a new port will ever be located in Manukau Harbour.

“[The Sapere report] wants to take us over the bar of the most treacherous harbour in New Zealand and dredge to a level of spill that will rival Mt Cook somewhere in New Zealand or it’ll be dumped in the ocean.”

Jones said work on a new port needed to “get cracking” in 10 to 15 years.

“In New Zealand we leave too many infrastructure decisions to the last minute.”

No decision is to be made before the election, leaving it for political parties to campaign on.

Transport lobby opposes port move north

Northport should stick to what it's already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northport should stick to what it’s already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte

NZ Insights By: Imran Ali

The National Road Carriers’ Association has released a report it commissioned from TG Enterprises, which opposes shifting Ports of Auckland to Whangārei, saying it would be logistically impractical and cost-prohibitive to do so, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, based on interviews with trucking companies and stakeholders, concluded that Auckland’s port provided the best value for money and should continue in its current location until it could not cope with future growth, which it expected would be at least 30 years away.

But those lobbying for the move to Northport, including former Far North mayor Wayne Brown and Northland Mayoral Forum chairman Jason Smith, say the argument for the status quo lacks logic.

With a focus on road freight, the report said the issue was not port location but the efficiency and safety of road (and rail) access to the upper North Island ports of Northport, Auckland and Tauranga. It said servicing customers by road freight from Northport would be nearly eight times more expensive, or more than $1 billion annually, than from Ports of Auckland.

An analysis of road freight cost showed a container truck that made five trips a day between Ports of Auckland and South Auckland for $50 would be only able to achieve one from Northport, at an estimated cost of $230.

“With Auckland’s business growth moving south, and Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty dominating the upper North Island’s economic growth, Northport is too far away,” the report said, while moving to Whangārei would add more than 125,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for container road freight, compared with about 27,000 tonnes from Ports of Auckland to South Auckland.

That would seriously undermine New Zealand’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, it said.

“The decision to move the port from Auckland to Northport is being rushed. We need to stop. Take stock. Reassess,” the report added.

But Brown said the association had a vested interest ensuring that the port didn’t move north.

He described claims about greenhouse gas emissions, as “total and absolute crap,” saying goods transported to and from Northport by rail freight would mean less pollution and traffic congestion.

“At the moment, more stuff goes to Auckland from Tauranga, which is further away from Northport. Milk from Northland goes to Tauranga for export,” he said.

“Auckland is planning 50,000 houses in the south and 86,000 houses north of (the city). Where are the biggest new commercial businesses like IKEA and Costco going? To West Auckland, not south,” Brown said.

He led the Upper North Island Supply Chain (Unisc) working group, whose report promised an economic boom for Northland if the $10 billion port move happened.

“There’s nothing that will make Northland do better than shifting the port from Auckland,” he said.

Smith said the days of Ports of Auckland were numbered, whereas Northport offered the best deepwater port in the upper North Island.

“Everyone is aware of the growth in Waikato and further south, but the next era of growth in New Zealand will, in my view, be on the north side of Auckland,” he said.

“Ships will be getting bigger in future, and the risk for New Zealand is they won’t be able to come here. That’s where the deepwater port at Northport has an advantage.”

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the report was built around fear and apprehension, citing points of weakness in the state of the trucking industry.

“We’ll see more electric trucks in future, but for now we see a significant role for rail, and I think the trucking industry is churlish in not acknowledging the $700 million put aside for a four-lane highway out of Whangārei heading south,” Jones said.

Through its Provincial Growth Fund, the Government has provided $300 million for work on the existing rail line between Auckland and Whangārei.

Government looking behind schedule on road safety targets

The government is being accused by the Opposition of failing to deliver on its road safety targets.No caption

National’s transport spokesperson says the government hasn’t delivered. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The government committed $1.4 billion at the end of 2018 towards a three-year programme to make roads safer – the goal of which was to stop 160 deaths and serious injuries each year.

But so far, according to written parliamentary questions, only $474 million had been spent on the Safe Network Programme by the end of March.

Progress is going well on rumble strips with almost 3,000km being installed out of its 3,500km target by mid-2021.

RNZ reported in July last year that just 16km of median barriers had been installed in a year.

But as of the end of May this year, 18km has been installed out of its 198km target.

Only 151km of side barriers had been built so far out of a target of 322km.

National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said those figures weren’t good enough.

“When you go through all the numbers the government has talked a big game on road safety measures but has simply failed to deliver,” he said.

Spokesperson for road safety charity, Brake, Caroline Perry said the progress was disappointing.

“We’d obviously like to see these measures rolled out as quickly as we can, they are measures that are proven to reduce deaths and injuries on roads and so in order to save lives and improve road safety we need to see more of them in place,” she said.

Perry said Covid-19 would have had an impact on work, but what she really wanted to see now is more barriers being installed and more speed limit changes.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said work will now start to speed up.

“Up until our government put the big focus on road safety and median barriers, it was incredibly difficult for the New Zealand Transport Agency to implement them, but that process has been streamlined and I expect it to really start to ramp up in the next few years,” she said.

Safer speed limits are a key element of the safe network programme, but only 35km of roads have had their limits changed so far.

Genter said that’s because the speed limit changes has been subject to a lot of consultation.

“I expect that with community input those decisions will be made soon,” she said.

When asked if NZTA will meet its targets in 2021, Julie-Anne Genter said saving lives is the most important target and she was confident that will be met.

Transmission Gully project ‘likely’ pushed out to 2021

You can forget November. And there will be no Christmas present for frustrated Wellington region motorists either. Transmission Gully won’t be open in 2020.

Delivery of the $1 billion highway will likely be extended to 2021, the New Zealand Transport Agency has confirmed.

The project has been flattened by Covid-19 and steamrolled by the Government’s alert level restrictions. Now it also faces the challenges of winter.

But it’s unclear whether the likely delay will mean the public-private consortium tasked with building it will be fined thousands of dollars every day it misses its original deadline.

The latest assigned Transmission Gully delivery date was November 1, with NZTA previously warning of a $16,000 fine for each day it was late.

If the road wasn’t open by December 18, it was to be slapped with a $10 million penalty.

“As [NZTA] is currently involved in negotiations with the JV [joint venture], we’re not in a position to provide further comment at this time,” a spokeswoman said on Sunday, when asked about whether the fines would still occur.

Transmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFTransmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.

Andrew Thackwray, NZTA senior manager in project delivery, said it was clear the Level 4 lockdown and Level 3 restrictions “will have an impact on the completion date, which will likely extend into 2021”.

“As the project is a public-private partnership with different commercial terms, Waka Kotahi [NZTA] is negotiating with the builder, CPB/HEB Joint Venture, to confirm and agree a new completion date.”

Work resumed on April 29 at a number of sites along the 27-kilometre route, Thackwray said. New work sites were being progressively started as crews were re-inducted to ensure compliance with Covid-19.

“We understand that the builder has made adjustments to the programme of work in line with the change of season,” Thackwray said.

“Typically these changes would be more gradual as we go through the seasons, however all work was suspended during the lockdown and we are now heading into winter so we expect changes need to be made to reflect that.

“Many of the activities due to be completed were not scheduled to be worked on at the onset of winter so this requires a major change in how work on Transmission Gully will need to be delivered.”

Work was under way to develop a new delivery plan as quickly as possible, using local resources, Thackwray said.

He said there were 182 people working across four reopened sites. Another 59 were working from home to support the project.

A “significant portion” of site engineering and supervision team – about 80 roles – and some of the operations personnel were still overseas at home, unable to return to the site with border restrictions, he said.

Nick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.
THE-PRESSNick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.

When the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was announced, reports emerged of a mass exodus of Australian construction workers, who chose to head home rather than wait out the lockdown here.

News of the likely delay comes after Nick Leggett, chief executive of the forum which represented several regional trucking associations, said there were suggestions the project’s budget had been cut and the timeline extended for two years.

“In the final straight of construction of such a large project, which was due to be completed by the end of this year, it is a worry to hear that contracts for supply and equipment have been cut, and workforce numbers reduced.”

National Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as "excessive" and "extremely concerning". ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFNational Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as “excessive” and “extremely concerning”. ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

National’s Transport spokesman Chris Bishop echoed Leggett’s concerns, saying the Government’s rhetoric wasn’t matching up with what’s happening on the ground and called for urgent clarification.

Covid 19 coronavirus: 2500 construction workers set for work on transport projects

Auckland Transport will reopen 160 worksites and get 2500 workers back on the job next week. Photo / Michael Craig
Auckland Transport will reopen 160 worksites and get 2500 workers back on the job next week. Photo / Michael Craig
Ben Leahy

By: Ben LeahyBen Leahy is a reporter for the New Zealand HeraldBen.Leahy@nzherald.co.nz

Around 2500 construction workers are set to head back to work on Auckland Transport projects next week.

AT had earlier closed down 160 worksites across the city during the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown, but they would now reopen from next Tuesday.

“These projects are worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” AT chief executive Shane Ellison said.

“Some are high profile, like the huge Eastern Busway project, the Downtown programme and Karangahape Rd enhancements, while others are smaller local projects, like road sealing, footpath works and building pedestrian crossings.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said getting the 160 sites going again would be a big boost for the local economy, but it wouldn’t be the only one.

The Government announced in January it was putting up money under the Infrastructure Upgrade to invest in a series of big projects.

Goff said new projects that were shovel-ready and able to tap into that funding would be announced next month.

Getting worksites up to new safety standards was important, he said.

“But it’s also important that we can start to regenerate economic activity and contribute to a growth of income and jobs needed to drag the city and country out of recession.”

AT’s Ellison said that while reduced traffic on city streets offered a great chance to get on with the projects, going back to work would look different for some time into the future.

“Lunch break, for instance, is going to be very different with the workers still having to maintain safe distancing and bubbles,” he said.

Each project site has developed a health and safety plan based on Ministry of Health guidance and the Covid-19 Standard for NZ Construction Operations.

These measures include physical distancing, construction bubbles, compulsory personal protective equipment, hygiene practices on-site and separating teams into zones on larger projects.

One of AT’s most high-profile projects was in the city centre, where 190 construction workers would be back on the job from Tuesday.

Programme director Eric van Essen said workers would be kept in about 30 bubbles on six sites.

“Each worker will be assigned to a bubble and, if they need to go between bubbles, they will have to wear a mask and keep 2m distance.

“We will keep a strict record of anyone entering or leaving a bubble, including anyone making site deliveries,” van Essen said.

The first activity on the site will be setting up cleaning and hygiene stations and bubble entry and exit points.

“We will do this preparation work ahead of Tuesday and then be ready when alert level 3 kicks in on Tuesday and the workers turn up for this new, more challenging way to work.”

AT said it had helped construction companies keep workers in jobs by making $18 million in advance payments to contractors on existing projects.

The cash injection came through an Advance Entitlement Payment scheme for construction contractors, with the NZ Transport Agency also offering a similar scheme to its contractors.

How AT plans to keep workers safe during alert level 3

* Inductions for new project staff and compulsory Covid-19 education and training will be part of ongoing site protocols while in level 2 and 3 scenarios

* Crews will stay in their work bubbles when travelling to and from work and while at work and going on toilet and meal breaks

* Whenever possible, individuals will maintain at least 1m distance from others.

* There will be no entering other work bubbles unless prior approval is granted.

* Masks will be worn if individuals are working within 2m of their team member or enter a different bubble.

* There will be no sharing of any food, drink or cigarettes or kitchen utensils, cups, plates and other equipment.

* There will be no sharing of plant, equipment and tools across bubbles and there will be minimal sharing within each work bubble.

* All crews are to follow hygiene guidance.

* All crews are to follow existing PPE requirements, including the wearing of gloves and safety glasses.

* No person is to come to work if they, or any members of their home bubble experience flu-like symptoms.

*Every person is to keep a record of all interactions with anyone outside of their home and work bubbles in case contact tracing is required.

NZ Transport Agency planning for restart of billions-worth of roading projects

Joel Maxwell05:00, Apr 21 2020

Planning is underway to restart significant roading projects such as Transmission Gully, untouched since lockdown.

However questions remain about whether there are even enough staff left in New Zealand to complete them – or when they might now be finished.

Last week the Government released a broad-stroke outline of what could happen when the nation steps down to Level 3 restrictions: allowing construction work with health, safety and distancing controls.

NZ Transport Agency senior manager Andrew Thackwray said on Friday staff were developing plans for restarting work nationwide on its highway project sites.

The Gully route cuts through the hills beside the existing State Highway 1. FILE
SUPPLIEDThe Gully route cuts through the hills beside the existing State Highway 1. FILE

Billions-worth of highway projects around New Zealand  – including the long sought-after Transmission Gully – were shut down during Level 4.

Thackwray said the planning, in tandem with the Government, covered how work would restart during different alert levels, while following coronavirus restrictions and protections for workers and road users. 

It was too early to say when work might resume on specific capital projects or non-essential highway maintenance activity he said, speaking before the Government announced Level 4 would end on April 27.

The agency did not answer questions on whether sufficient staff were even available to work on Transmission Gully once it was allowed to restart. It could not say what effect the delay would have on planned penalties, including a $10m penalty if the road was not opened by December 18.

Works stopped on Transmission Gully at the start of the level 4 lockdown. FILE
ROSS GIBLINWorks stopped on Transmission Gully at the start of the level 4 lockdown. FILE

As previously reported by Stuff, a Transmission Gully contractor, who did not wish to be named, said work was likely to be delayed even before lockdown because staff were leaving “in droves”. Many Australian staff due to return from their days off decided to quit rather than be stuck in New Zealand. 

Thackwray said the Level 4 shutdown “and other effects of Covid-19” would likely have an impact on the completion dates for many projects.

“But it is too early to say what the impact may be for individual projects.”

About $1.3b worth of roading work was underway on State Highway 1 in the Wellington region – split between the billion-dollar Transmission Gully project and the northern section of the Kāpiti expressway.

Transmission Gully roading works at Pauatahanui. FILE
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFTransmission Gully roading works at Pauatahanui. FILE

The Peka Peka to Ōtaki section of the expressway was initially expected to open this year but is now planned to open early next year. 

Transmission Gully, planned in one form or another for about a century, was initially expected to open this month – then, pre-coronavirus, was planned to open by November.

After this date late penalties would kick in for the contracted builder, including a $10m penalty if the road is not opened by December 18.

Construction began in 2015 on the 27 kilometre-long road, connecting Linden in north Wellington to just north of Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast​.

Once both sections are opened there will be four lanes running continuously from north of Ōtaki to the Terrace Tunnel, in central Wellington.

The $650m first section of the Kāpiti expressway opened in 2017.

Using Road Funds For Rail “highway Robbery”

The Government’s plan for “user-pays” road funding to further subsidise KiwiRail is highway robbery, Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says.

“The RTF opposes funding rail from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), which is funded by road users, and we have made a submission to Parliament’s Infrastructure Select Committee considering this law change,” Leggett says.

“We believe the excessive funding planned for rail is ideologically driven, rather than based in any business reality, and we don’t believe road users should have to pay for that. It’s highway robbery.

“The Government is expecting the NLTF to cover the already depleted road and rail infrastructure from a finite revenue source, and it will be road users paying for that. As the road money gets siphoned off for rail, we expect to see even more unsafe roads.

“Despite this Government’s desire to control markets, customers decide which freight mode best suits them. The Ministry of Transport’s National Freight Demand Study 2017/18 shows demand for road freight increased by 16%, while demand for rail freight declined by 17%. This is because the advantages of road over rail are many.

“Rail’s environmental benefits over road are simply illusionary, as any level of success for rail transport is entirely dependent on truck transport. Measuring environmental performance solely on the basis of the relative performance of the truck versus train, instead of the reality of point-to-point sender to receiver, is a very narrow perspective, typically favoured by academics without any interest in economics.

“This Bill stacks up the rail track network, owned exclusively by KiwiRail, against roading infrastructure utilised by all road users, owned by the Crown and a number of road controlling authorities (RCAs).

“Road users who pay into the NLTF have no ownership rights whatsoever, but are obliged to pay prescribed fees to use and maintain roads, ensuring safety expectations are met.

“Road users are also subject to property rates for providing accessibility to the roading network. This makes the suggested funding model in this Bill inequitable for road users.

“While the Bill attempts to counter this inequity with reference to track user fees (TUCs), there is no evidence of what those TUCs might look like.

“The road freight sector does not believe TUCs are going to meet the rail programme spend, which the Government has indicated will be significant. The principal rail operator arguably has no mandate to operate on a full cost recovery basis, so this puts road freight at a disadvantage to its heavily subsidised freight competition. “We agree rail services need support to provide a service complementary to road freight, however, rail freight’s strength is in long distance transportation (over 500km) of high volumes of relatively low value products, such as coal.

“In New Zealand’s freight market, the two modes should operate as complementary, not competitive,” Leggett says.