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19th April 2018

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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?

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

Nearly 2000 truck trailer owners to be contacted by NZTA over tow connections

Structural cracks on a cross-member in the skid plate / king pin assembly of a
refrigerated trailer.

NZTA
Structural cracks on a cross-member in the skid plate / king pin assembly of a refrigerated trailer.

The NZ Transport Agency has written to the owners of 1800 heavy vehicles requiring their towing connections to be assessed by a specialist certifier and new certifications issued.

The action follows safety alerts issued by the agency after three incidents of cracking in truck trailers or trailer connections.

But the freight industry appears to be downplaying the significance of the problem, possibly because many trucks are owned by drivers who work for the large firms.

Crack identified on trailer’s drawbar after about two years in service.

NZTA
Crack identified on trailer’s drawbar after about two years in service.

One of the country’s biggest freight firms, Freightways, said it had no issues and wouldn’t comment further.

NZ Trucking Association chief executive Dave Boyce said said he’d had little feedback from members, and so did Road Transport Association chief executive Dennis Robertson, who said cost might become an issue.

The safety alert was the first step in identifying and re-certifying all potentially affected vehicles that have had towing connections certified by Nelson-based Peter Wastney Engineering over the past 10 years.

Independent engineering reviews had established that drawbeams and drawbars identified with cracks and other issues were not adequately designed for the loads to which they had been certified.

The safety alert requires all operators with drawbeams, towbars, or drawbars certified by Peter Wastney Engineering to urgently have them cleaned and inspected for signs of cracks or other failures.

If any cracks or failures are found, operators have been instructed to replace affected parts before using it as a combination vehicle.

A separate safety alert has been issued providing advice on separate issues identified with skid plate couplings for refrigerated trucks.

The safety alert is focusing on monocoque refrigerator semi-trailers primarily but recommends checking of all semi-trailer skid plates as a precaution.

The safety alert follows an incident where the driver of an articulated truck and trailer combination noticed the trailer was not sitting as expected and was able to bring the vehicle to a stop without disconnection.

The safety alert applies to all refrigerated semi-trailers – not just MaxiTrans.

“While the skid plate that failed was a MaxiTrans trailer, the design of other makes of refrigerated semi-trailers is similar, so the alert applies to all refrigerated semi-trailers. We estimate approximately 1000 vehicles could be affected.

In one incident in Nelson-Marlborough in August, a trailer completely disconnected from the truck towing it.

“The trailer failed, it disconnected from the vehicle,” NZ Transport Agency operational standards manager Craig Basher earlier told Radio New Zealand.

In a second incident in December, the driver of a refrigerated semi-trailer noticed the trailer was not sitting as expected. The driver was able to stop the vehicle without the trailer disconnecting.

In the third incident in February, a driver doing a walk around check found a crack that had the potential to “fail catastrophically”, Basher said.

NZTA issued two safety alerts in February related to the incidents, covering almost 3000 truck trailers.

One of the alerts said several recent failures have been identified in both drawbeams and drawbars certified by Peter Wastney Engineering Ltd.

A visual inspection needed to be carried out, if no signs of failure were found, it was recommended the drawbeam/towbar/drawbar be replaced or recertified as soon as possible, NZTA said in Q&A advice. That may involve re-strengthening.

Stuff approached Peter Wastney Engineering Ltd for comment but this was declined.

The second alert covers skid plate failures on all refrigerated semi-trailers.

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

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.

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions

January 24, 2018,  in TOI 

 

There is a technical revolution taking place today. Transport has broadly been run on liquid hydrocarbons the last 130 years. This is about to change. In the small country of Norway, every third new car sold is an electric vehicle and the world’s first electric ferry is crossing a Norwegian fjord 34 times every day. We are thus presently in the forefront of this change.

With just over 5 million inhabitants, in the big scheme of things we do not make much of a difference. But on the other hand, the biggest wave always starts with the smallest ripple. In Norway, the wave is gaining strength. Right now, India could look to Norway to see how green transportation solutions work in practice.

India is a big country. In every sense of the word. The Indian population is set to surpass China and become the largest in the world in the years to come. With a population of such a magnitude, many of India’s choices going forward will have global implications, also for Norway. It will come down to big countries like India, if this mounting wave will bring about the transformation in transportation that will save our planet and create business opportunities for all.

Illustration: Ajit Ninan

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions. We have the highest EV penetration rate in the world. Nearly 40% of new cars sold are EVs. Infrastructure, technologies and solutions are being developed, tested and assessed in Norway. Valuable lessons have been learnt from looking at customer behaviour. For example, the fear of running out of battery power, or range anxiety, has been highlighted as a barrier to EV uptake.

While many drivers experience range anxiety at first, this fear quickly subsides. In fact, only 4% of Norwegian EV drivers report having run out of battery power. Businesses and governments from all over the world are looking to Norway to gain insights into how the beginnings of a mass market for EVs functions in practice.

But how did Norway achieve this? It is the result of targeted and stable transport policies. Firstly, we have a clear goal of selling only zero-emission vehicles and buses by 2025. Secondly, we give tax exemptions to EVs and shift the tax burden to combustion engine cars instead. And thirdly, we invest in EV infrastructure, having built 8,755 charging stations – 1 per 21 electric or hybrid cars.

While the development of EVs are gaining attention, there is still little talk about transport on seas and rivers. Norway is a maritime nation with longstanding traditions of shipbuilding and offshore activities. We have been a global leader in pushing for higher environmental standards in shipping.

The Norwegian ship building industry and shipping industry is now taking steps to develop a new fleet of environmentally friendly ships. The new ships will use the same technology as an electric car but with a battery the size of a storage container, or a combination of battery power and liquid natural gas (LNG), or some other cleaner-burning fuel such as hydrogen.

Right now, we have the world’s first battery driven ferry operating a passenger ferry route crossing the Sognefjord in Norway. The power consumed by the MS Ampere for a single crossing of 6 km costs about Rs 400 – the equivalent of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and yet it’s enough to transport 360 passengers and 120 cars.

For longer distances, ships fuelled by LNG are an important alternative. Norway has the world’s largest fleet of LNG ships. The environmental benefits are massive compared to diesel-fuelled ships – 30% lower CO2 emissions, 85% lower NOx emissions and absolutely no particulate emissions to pollute the air.

The number of vehicles on Indian roads is projected to grow from over 160 million to over 550 million in 2030. This begs the question: Will these cars run on diesel, or will they be electric? In order to service 390 million additional cars on the roads, new infrastructure must be developed. Will there be new gas stations built, or charging stations? For India and for the rest of the world, there is a big difference between these two choices.

There are certainly positive signs that India intends to go green going forward. An ambitious target has been set: 100% of new vehicles sold will be electric by 2030. We believe India should set a similar ambitious target for their shipping fleet.

In this country, you also have vast stretches of rivers and canals. The government’s focus on moving freight on ships on these inland waterways, rather than by trucks on the highways, could reap huge environmental benefits, both in terms of reducing local air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Greening the Indian transport sector will boost India’s energy security by becoming less reliant on imported oil. Currently, India spends over $235 million a day on oil imports. Increasing the share of electrical vehicles, especially in the big cities, will also help reduce the lethal smog encapsulating many Indian cities every year. According to the renowned medical journal Lancet, over 2.5 million Indians die every year because of the toxic air.

While the wave of greener transport solutions is gaining momentum in Norway, we need the weight of big countries, like India, to make it a tidal wave. Norway is eager to support India in this endeavour.

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