The most expensive road in New Zealand history is coming to Auckland. Why?

Simon Wilson – heart of the City


The government is about to push through a plan to build the most expensive road in New Zealand history – without declaring an up-to-date business case or providing any good evidence of the need. Simon Wilson asks why it wants to waste so much of our money.

Boy did it rain last week. In that rain I drove down the Southern Motorway and took the South-eastern Highway turnoff. From there it took me 11 minutes to drive west along Church St, down into Nielson St and on to Mangere Bridge on SH20, the motorway leading to the airport. The traffic was very heavy.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is going to put a new four-lane highway along that route, called the East-West Link (EWL), or the East-West Connection, depending on which agency you are talking to at the time.

NZTA told me in an email this week the new road will shave 9-15 minutes off the travel time.

Yes, you read that right. NZTA wants to reduce an 11-minute trip basically to no time at all. Truck drivers on the Southern Motorway will be able to hit that off-ramp for the South-eastern and pretty much be teleported onto Mangere Bridge. Hey, it’s only eight kilometres.

Is this just bullshit?

Well, not quite. First, the NZTA figures are future projections: that time saving will apply to the traffic flows they anticipate in 10 years’ time, in 2026. Second, although my 11 minutes could be typical, the traffic on that road is irregular. Sometimes, says NZTA, the trip takes a lot longer.

Still, I didn’t have an easy run. That rain. Most of the route has a 50km/h speed limit and much of the time I was on it we were down to 30 or 40km/h. I had to stop six times, four of them for traffic lights and twice because a truck had pulled up and was backing off the road. There was a major snarl up at the Onehunga end. It’s hard to imagine we could have gone much slower. Besides, I’ve been back and done the route again, at different times, always with heavy traffic, and the times have been pretty consistent.

The obvious conclusion is that NZTA is expecting significantly more traffic on that route than there is now. Fair enough, roads don’t get built in a day and they have to plan ahead.

But there’s another obvious conclusion. If the demand for the EWL is a future demand, why do NZTA and the government want to start building it right now? Auckland has many proposed transport projects where the demand is real and immediate: light rail out of the central city, rapid transit from the eastern suburbs to the central city and to Manukau, a dedicated busway on the Northwest Motorway… Why is the EWL happening now when those others are all on the schedule for sometime maybe another time maybe never?


The EWL will cost $1.85 billion dollars, which is more than the $1.4 billion cost of the motorway tunnel project at Waterview – in its day the most expensive roading project in New Zealand history. The EWL has that dubious honour now. It has a BCA (business case analysis) of 1.9, which sounds good. Technically, anything above 1.0 means there’s a positive economic reason to build, although for various good economic reasons the government usually requires something around 3.

But even at 1.9 there’s less to that BCA than meets the eye. In December 2015 NZTA published its case for the new road, stating the cost would be in the range $1.25 billion to $1.85 billion. The BCA was 1.9 at the low end of that range. One month later NZTA announced the upper end of the range, $1.85 billion, was more likely to be right. It said inflation accounted for the rise, and it also said the BCA was still 1.9. Since then it has consistently refused to produce a new BCA, saying the 2015 one still holds true and a new one will not be required until later.

How do they get away with that? With active government support. The East-West Link is on a fast-track. The Minister of Finance, Steven Joyce, has had it designated a Road of National Significance (RONS) which means it is not subject to some of the usual evaluations. A RONS, by definition, is an economically important road – even if the evidence for that is missing. Strange but true, the status overrides the facts.

Reinforcing that, NZTA was given permission late last year by the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, to apply to the Environmental Protection Authority for approval to build. This circumvents some other procedures laid out in the Resource Management Act. NZTA wants to get the diggers in at the start of 2018.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce wants the EWL built. CEO Michael Barnett says traffic congestion in the area costs freight operators millions of dollars a year. National Road Carriers, representing the freight companies, agrees. “Based on an average 10-minute delay per trip,” says CEO David Aitken, “congestion is costing freight operators a conservative $50 million a year.”

Hmm. Already looked at that “10-minute delay”. But even if his $50 million a year was right, the EWL would take 37 years to make economic sense. Is that a good business case?

The Auckland Council also wants the road built, more or less, sort of, possibly not really. It’s hard to know. On the government’s insistence the EWL was exempted from ATAP (the Auckland Transport Alignment Project), the agreement between council and government announced late last year.


The council has never openly opposed the project, but in December its planning committee (which has all councillors on it) recommended a delay. NZTA ignored that. The council has also expressed environmental concerns. Now it is “seeking more information”. Its chief economist, David Norman, told me, “We want to understand what impacts (if any) there will have been on travel patterns resulting from configuration changes, and therefore what (if any) impact this has on the expected economic benefits. We have also requested the opportunity to look over the original assumptions and calculations of transport and economic benefits such that we can evaluate how these benefits may differ through changes in configuration.”

Translation: the proposal has changed since the end of 2015, so where’s the new cost-analysis? And (I’m putting words in his mouth now, but hey) what are they hiding?

NZTA’s refusal to produce a new BCA is more than peculiar. The only justification for the new road is to provide economic benefit, so what is that benefit?

The Green Party has done its own calculations, based on the available information. Transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter points out that the NZTA’s existing BCA report states “capital costs would need to increase by some $800 million for the BCR to reduce below zero”. That appears to have happened. Genter believes the BCA is now likely to be less than 1.0.

On top of that, the big question remains: if nearly $2 billion dollars of funding is available right now for Auckland transport projects, which ones should it be? The opportunity cost of the EWL is enormous. (On this site Monday we’ll introduce some pretty exciting options.)


Other questions arise. First, what’s wrong with the present road? The answer is, quite a bit. The Penrose-Onehunga industrial area is a sprawling precinct full of factories, warehouses and enormous bases for freight carriers like Toll and Mainfreight. According to NZTA, nearly 70,000 people work there. It’s also the route to Metroport, an inland port storage facility. Metroport has stacks of containers as far as the eye can see and big rigs constantly coming and going.

No question, all this requires an efficient roadway giving access to state highway 1 to the east and the airport to the west. It also needs to link efficiently to the other inland freight storage precinct at Wiri, on SH20B from Manukau to the airport. Wiri is also enormous.

The EWL route is now the only part of the roads those freight trucks travel in Auckland that is not a motorway. You can see why they’d want to complete the loop – except the EWL will be a four-lane arterial route, not a motorway.

Yes, you read that right too. The most expensive roading project in our history will not even be a motorway.

That’s because it can’t be. A lot of the traffic on Neilson St is not using it as a through route: many, if not most, of those vehicles start or stop their journeys along this route. Trucks entering and leaving the road, slowing others, are inevitable. The route, even if converted to a four-lane highway, will remain a difficult road.

Freight trucks from the port don’t use it when they’re headed to the airport: they barrel on down to Manukau and then take the route across SH20B, through Wiri. And when the Waterview tunnels open they’ll avoid the choke points of SH1 altogether by taking the new ring route through the Waterview Connection. So the EWL is not for them.


Other problems. Neilson St has its own choke points. One is at the Onehunga end, where the road takes a ridiculously complicated tour around the backstreets off Onehunga Mall in order to reach SH20. This section can get really clogged up – but that problem could be fixed for a few million, not $1.8 billion.

There is also a choke point at the Metroport intersection, right by a little café from which the smell of cheese scones fills the morning air. At that intersection trucks coming out of the facility for a journey south must turn right across the traffic, which can create real delays. And yet there are no traffic lights! If egress from Metroport is an issue you might think that was a relatively simple way to solve it.

Driving that road, it’s hard to see there has been much thought given to making it as efficient as possible now. It’s like they’re waiting because they want to build a motorway, or near as, instead. I know, I’m not a traffic engineer, but that does seem like poor traffic management.

There are environmental concerns, especially as the EWL would run along the mangrove foreshore of the Manukau inlet. It’s a habitat for national and international migratory birds, several species of which were previously extinct in the locality and have re-established themselves.

In July last year NZTA actually stated: “The proposal will therefore likely result in significant, irreversible changes to the environment.”

Will the suburb of Onehunga retain its links to the foreshore, parklands and beaches that have just recently been redeveloped? NZTA says none of that work will be undone and the recreational facilities on the foreshore will be enhanced. The new road would begin at the Mangere Bridge, past the newly restored beaches and lagoon. Still, it will be disruptive.

Onehunga will have tens of thousands more residents over the next couple of decades. A “Wynyard Quarter-style” development is planned. The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES), a powerhouse in the area, has just released its own big future plans, which suggest a different approach from the EWL.

Another problem: regardless of the road, over the coming decades the industrial heart of the city is expected to migrate south. It’s Wiri and west of Wiri to the airport that will see the most substantial growth.


There’s more. NZTA has actually produced six options for the EWL. Two of them (options A and B) basically involve upgrading the existing road. They do not run along the foreshore and were expected to cost as little as $600 million. They carry the highest BCA of the six, and used to be favoured by the council. Somehow, NZTA has managed to discard them in favour of the most expensive and environmentally disruptive option of the six. It’s called option F and it will cost three times as much as options A and B.

A week ago NZTA took out large newspaper ads to extol the virtues of the EWL. They made generalised claims for the road and didn’t address any of the specific issues. What’s going on?

On top of all this there is potentially the biggest issue of all: rail. It’s simply absurd that the government’s transport agency in charge of roads is making its plans independent of any planning for the future of rail.

Rail is a freight issue: it’s already used to move freight from the port to the inland port and it’s a viable option for medium and long-distance haulage from the airport as well. Some freight companies believe the most pressing need is not for the EWL but for a third line on the rail track. That would allow freight to move by rail from the port without having to work around the timetables of the commuter trains. The EWL contains no provision for this because NZTA does not plan the railways.

And guess what? That third line would cost a mere $58 million. The government is going to spend close to $2 billion on a problem that could, to a considerable degree, be resolved by spending a little less than $60 million instead.

Rail is also a commuter issue. As Auckland’s rail network improves, ever more of those 70,000 workers in Penrose-Onehunga will be catching the train to work. There are another 20,000 people working in and around the airport and most of them will, one day, be catching the train to work too. Does anyone seriously think there will not be a rail link to the airport within the next 15 years?

And rail is a traveller issue. Eighteen million passengers a year now pass through Auckland Airport. The “council-controlled” Auckland Transport favours a light rail link, but the option of heavy rail connecting Manukau and/or Onehunga to the airport has not been ruled out; on the contrary, there are some indications the government itself may want to rule it in. There’s more to come on that.

This is the way transport planning currently works: NZTA does roads while rail is considered separately. Planning is done in silos. So the EWL sucks up money that might be better spent on light rail or other rapid-transit projects and roads planning is not strategically linked to heavy rail planning either.

If you’re looking for a really good example of the folly of planning in silos, that’s it right there: the East-West Link.

It feels like a last gasp of an old way of planning for the needs of the city. More traffic needs more roads, we are told. Vested business interests demand special privileges, so they can keep on doing things the old way, causing problems instead of solving them. No integrated planning. No proper strategic planning for a better city. And grandiose roading projects that trump simpler solutions.

Auckland’s better than that. The freight companies should be too. So should the government. And so should the council, which knows much better and must stand up to this.

Push for Auckland light rail network in new plan

RNZ – An independent plan for what’s being touted as a better public transport network for Auckland has been unveiled.

An artists' visualisation for Auckland Transport of light rail in the city.

Greater Auckland says light rail needs to be introduced sooner than planned, and more extensively. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Transport

Public transport advocate group Greater Auckland is proposing a light rail or rapid bus network – on the same scale as the current commuter rail system – focused on high-growth areas.

It says the $14bn rapid transit network would offer congestion-free travel sooner and more cheaply than currently planned.

The group’s plan, Congestion Free Network 2, includes projects already proposed, but defers most roading work until after the rapid transit public transport element is completed.

“We believe it’s urgent. It was proposed in the 1960s to build these two networks, road and rapid transit together, but we haven’t,” said Greater Auckland spokesperson Patrick Reynolds.

Read the full report: here.

The suggested network has found early political support, with senior Auckland councillor Chris Darby saying it reflected the view of the current council and the mayor Phil Goff.

Greater Auckland proposes a network of rapid transit routes extending further north and north-west than presently planned

Greater Auckland proposes a network of rapid transit routes extending further north and north-west than presently planned. Photo: Supplied / Greater Auckland

The plan aimed to join employment and social centres across the region with rapid transit routes.

  • North Shore gets Light Rail to Orewa, crossing the harbour on its own new bridge, and rapid bus on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and to Glenfield
  • North West gets Light Rail to the CBD and a busway to the North Shore
  • South extends electric rail to Pukekohe, and a third main rail line for freight and commuter trains
  • South-east connects across to the Airport with a busway
  • Central Auckland gets Light Rail from Wynyard Quarter to the airport, and a big crosstown bus route

Current funding through fuel taxes and road user charges would be scrapped and what the group calls smarter pricing – road charges that increase at peak times – would be brought in.

“One of the reasons why the establishment doesn’t have this network planned in the near term is there’s simply no funding mechanism for anything other than roads,” said Mr Reynolds.

“That’s the stumbling block. It’s not from the analysis of need.”

He said another feature is to plan, and in some cases build, dedicated rapid transit routes into high growth greenfield areas, such as Waimauku in the northwest, so the transport service can shape the way growth occurs.

“If we build it on an auto-dependency model for the next 30 years, we’ll have an entirely auto-dependent place which is very spread out. Wide roads – we’ll also spend all of our money on roads.”

Mr Darby, who chaired the planning committee that will receive a presentation from Greater Auckland this month, said it confirmed the need for Auckland to make a step change in the provision of a public transport network.

“We have been putting in incremental change, but we’re really treading water.

“We’ve got major congestion and now’s the time to make that transformative shift – and that’s what the Congestion Free Network offers us.”

He said the joint transport programme between the council and government, ATAP, was already outdated, as it was based on 2013 data, and was being refereshed.

“The CFN really confirms we need to focus much more on a public transport network. For 60 years, we’ve been focussing on a roading network,” said Mr Darby.

Auckland roads could grind to a halt – AA

More needs to be done to alleviate traffic congestion on Auckland’s roads, before the whole city becomes gridlocked, say the AA.

Auckland traffic generic

Congestion on Auckland’s roads is increasing at such a high rate it is predicted one third of the network will be congested by 2020.

Rapid growth in the number of people driving in the city has exceeded the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport’s ability to increase the road network.

The Transport Agency said the number of vehicles on Auckland’s roads had grown even more than the rate of population, with 44,000 more vehicles than this time last year.

NZTA said all the land available for transport corridors had now been developed, forcing existing transport corridors to absorb more traffic.

Auckland Transport said the rate of congestion had grown by 2.4 percent each year, and presuming this continues about a third of the arterial network will be congested by 2020.

AA spokesperson Barney Irvine said he was pretty confident the council and government had the right plan for the long term.

But he wanted to make sure the city did not grind to a halt before then.

He suggested bringing some projects forward, and using better technology, such as smart traffic lights.

Mr Irvine said it was not possible to get rid of congestion completely, but authorities had to do all they could to prevent its growth and keep the impact to a minimum.

World’s largest containership MOL Triumph delivered

TOKYO-Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. has announced that the world’s largest containership, MOL Triumph was delivered from Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (SHI; President and CEO:Dae-young Park) on March 27, 2017.

MOL’s newest vessel, the first of a fleet of six 20,000 TEU-class containerships for the company, was named MOL Triumph in a ceremony at SHI in South Korea on March 15, 2017. At 400 meters in length and 58.8 meters in width, MOL Triumph is currently the world’s largest containership. With a capacity of 20,170 TEU, the vessel is the first 20,000 TEU-class containership deployed in THE Alliance’s Asia to Europe trade via the FE2 service.

MOL Triumph will set off on her maiden voyage from Xingang in April 2017 and will sail to Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong, Yantian and Singapore. She will then transit through the Suez Canal and continue on to Tangier, Southampton, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Le Havre. She will then call at Tangier and Jebel Ali on the way back to Asia.

Junichiro Ikeda, President and CEO of MOL said: “The MOL Group is honored to unveil this new vessel, which is the largest containership in the world. The vessel is equipped with various new sustainable technologies to provide more efficient fuel consumption and improved environmental performance.”

In line with the eco-sailing initiative of MOL, the new 20,000 TEU-class containerships are equipped with various highly advanced energy-saving technologies including low friction underwater paint, high efficiency propeller and rudder, Savor Stator as a stream fin on the hull body, and an optimized fine hull form which together can further reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per container moved by about 25-30% when compared to 14,000 TEU-class containerships. Additionally, the vessel has also been designed with the retrofit option to convert to LNG fueled ship in view of the implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s new regulation to limit SOx emission in marine fuels which will come into effect in 2020.

MOL will take the delivery of the second 20,000 TEU-class vessel in May 2017. Eventually there will be six of the 20,000 TEU-class containerships unveiled and they will be phased in gradually on the existing trade routes of MOL.

Safety concerns on alternate Picton to Chc route – RNZ

At least 12 truck drivers have quit because they are concerned about the safety of a new alternative highway between Picton and Christchurch, their union says.

Railway tracks ripped from the line along State Highway 1 - North of Kaikoura.

Railway tracks ripped from the line along SH1, north of Kaikōura, which has been blocked by massive slips since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in November. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The inland route via the Lewis Pass was never intended to be a main arterial route but that changed when the Kaikōura earthquake forced coastal sections of State Highway 1 to be closed.

Five people have died in crashes on the alternative route since the quake in November, with the latest smash occurring on 28 March when two people died after a car and a truck collided just north of Culverden.

Before SH1 became impassable, the Picton to Christchurch route took drivers about 4.5 hours, giving them enough time to make the return journey on the same day.

The windy narrow inland route had nearly doubled their drive time, but First Union organiser Bryce Hamilton said freight companies and their customers were still insisting the trip was done in one day.

This pressure, combined with driving a road that was never meant to be the main highway, was the reason so many were now either quitting the industry altogether or finding work on less dangerous routes, he said.

The inland route became the main way to get from Picton to Christchurch after November's Kaikōura earthquake.

Google estimates the inland route via Lewis Pass takes more than six hours, but the nature of the route means it is likely to take trucks drivers longer than that. Photo: Google Earth

“They know that on a long enough timeline their survival rate will drop to zero if they keep driving that road because they’ve been in the game for, some of them, upwards of 30 years and they know that it’s dangerous in their heart of hearts.

“They say to their employer, look, you know, thanks for the employment but I don’t want to do this, it’s just too unsafe.”

There was not enough incentive for those employing drivers to make their jobs safer, he said.

“We want to see better regulation, we want to see WorkSafe investigating road incidents with trucks. We want to stop the blaming of drivers because they’re very professional at their job. We actually want some of these operators to be held to account because we’re putting people out on the road there that have accidents and they do kill.”

The Road Transport Association’s Marlborough chairman and a trucking company owner, Peter Heagney, agreed some owner-operator drivers were pushing the limits and making the route unsafe.

“People [are] doing unrealistic schedules on their trucks to try to get the work done in that period. Some of the ones that are working for some people, they’ve got them screwed down to such a ridiculous rate, people are most probably pushing the envelope a bit harder to try and make a dollar,” Mr Heagney said.

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton.

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

And because the route now took almost twice as long to cover, more drivers had to be hired – which meant there were more inexperienced drivers on the road.

“The last thing we want is an accident and we don’t want other people having accidents.”

Marlborough’s head of road policing, Sergeant Barrie Greenall, said the end of the busy summer period and a fall in numbers using the roads had bred complacency amongst some drivers.

“What we’ve seen recently is, as the traffic volumes start to drop off, the opportunities for those that want to make poor choices and try and cut down the time has increased and we’re starting to see a rise in incidents and accidents,” Mr Greenall said.

NZ Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said $60 million had been spent upgrading the road and the agency was about to begin consultation on bringing in permanent speed restrictions on parts of the alternative highway.

One of the major slips on SH1 north of Kaikōura

One of the major slips on SH1 north of Kaikōura Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

China Railway investment not ruled out – Stuff

While a deal may not be in the immediate pipeline, there is a possibility China Railway could become investors in Northland’s infrastructure needs.

China is looking to fund infrastructure projects in New Zealand. It’s part of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative which is creating land and maritime corridors around the world. What it could offer Northland has not yet been disclosed.

Northland Regional Council’s chief executive office Malcolm Nicolson rejects claims by Northland MP Winston Peters that a  Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Northland Regional Council (NRC) and China Railway exists yet, however admits one is expected to be finalised shortly.

“A MOU outlining a proposed, high-level strategic relationship between the council and China Railway – effectively a ‘handshake on paper’ – is currently under development,” Nicolson says.

“The council’s role includes advocating for infrastructural improvement in Northland and attracting investment and associated job creation into the region.”

It does this both in its own right and via its council controlled organisation Northland Inc –  its regional economic development agency, Nicolson says.

“The intent of the MOU is to facilitate introductions between agencies, private businesses and potential Chinese investors.”

“The regional council is not in the business of building roads, rail and other similar infrastructure itself and has no say in national roading contracts,” Nicolson says.

A New Zealand Transport Agency spokesperson says the upgrade of State Highway 1 between Whangarei and Port Marsden Highway (SH15) alluded to by Peters as being one attracting Chinese interest, would be subject to funding approval through the National Land Transport Programme which  was the usual funding process.

On Tuesday chief executive of Northland Inc, David Wilson said “Northland needs its infrastructure fast tracked as quickly as possible, but any foreign investment has to work for us – it has to be a win win situation.”

He didn’t discount the possibilities of a private, public partnership and/or toll roads but noted the outcome had to be  advantageous to Northland.  “It has to mean jobs for locals…it’s got to mean we can supply some of the contracts and be involved in the build itself.

“Any foreign Investments has to benefit the local economy or it’s not worth it,” he says.

Wilson says most Northlanders agree better connectivity to Auckland and the world and good infrastructure were needed to do this.

KiwiRail and CRRC

CRRC and KiwiRail signed a letter of intent to expand their co-operation during a visit to New Zealand by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on March 27. Chinese companies have delivered diesel locomotives and wagons to New Zealand since 2009, and future projects could involve the passenger rolling stock sector. Northland Regional Council also discussed possible Chinese participation in the development of new road and rail links.

Electric Vehicle Registrations Hit 3,000

Hon Simon Bridges
Minister of Transport
20 March 2017 Media Statement


More than 3,000 electric vehicles (EVs) are now registered in New Zealand, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

“I am delighted with the number of EV registrations we are now seeing. This year there has been 517 EV registrations bringing the total number of EVs in New Zealand to 3005. With nine months to go we are already half way to achieving our 2017 target,” Mr Bridges says.

“While 1,513 EVs were registered in New Zealand in 2016, in Australia only about 220 EVs were. This clearly demonstrates the success of the New Zealand Government’s EV programme at pushing up purchasing.

“We’re also seeing more new models coming onto the market and an increased interest from EV manufacturers – with both Hyundai Ioniq and Tesla, for example, recently announcing their entry into New Zealand.

“There’s also been a big increase in the models and quantity of used EVs being brought into New Zealand. This means more EVs, at a range of prices, giving more choice to New Zealander’s when they decide to step up on this,” Mr Bridges says.

Infrastructure and charging stations are ever-expanding across the country to support the growing number of EVs on our roads. There are now about 50 fast chargers available throughout the length of the country, with more coming, giving EV driver’s greater confidence on longer journeys.

“Electric vehicles are the future. A move from petrol and diesel to low emission transport is a natural evolution. We are working hard to encourage this and it’s fantastic to see more and more New Zealanders recognising the benefits of EVs,” Mr Bridges says.

Driving an electric vehicle in New Zealand produces 80 percent fewer carbon emissions than a petrol or diesel car due to New Zealand’s abundant renewable electricity.

In May 2016, the Government announced its Electric Vehicle Programme, a wide ranging package of measures to encourage the uptake of EVs in New Zealand. The target is to double the fleet each year, reaching 64,000 EV registrations by the end of 2021.

The Government’s EV website can be found at:

North Shore rail steaming towards Auckland – eventually

Tidd Niall – RNZ

Commuter rail to Auckland’s North Shore will go ahead – but the project may still take decades to get underway.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge

Commuter rail would likely be incorporated into a second Auckland harbour crossing. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland and the government’s transport agencies have confirmed that progress will be made this year to decide whether light or conventional rail will eventually cross the Waitemata Harbour.

However, it could be decades before the project would actually get underway.

An Auckland Transport report, released by the Green Party, shows that even with the current expansion of the North Shore Busway, choke points will appear in a decade’s time, and in 20 years up to five stations will struggle.

The busway is one of the city’s biggest public transport successes, with patronage rising by 10 percent a year.

Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency said it was always known the busway would reach capacity.

Light rail has previously appeared in reports by government officials, but the politicians who would lead the decision-making – Auckland mayor Phil Goff and Transport Minister Simon Bridges – have been restrained in their enthusiasm.

Auckland Transport is assessing the timing of an eventual switch from bus to rail, to ensure that the tentatively-planned cross-harbour tunnels can accommodate either option.

It was also considering further improvements to extend the life of the busway.

Parnell train station opens

RNZ – 13/3/17

Auckland’s newest commuter train station opens in Parnell this morning.

Parnell Station being readied for today's official opening.

Parnell Station being readied for today’s official opening. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Transport

The station is the closest to the downtown terminus at Britomart, and sits adjacent to Auckland Domain.

It features the 108-year-old Newmarket Station building which was moved on to the site.

In peak hours trains, from the Southern Line will stop at Parnell. Off-peak, Western Line trains will also stop there.

The development will eventually cost $19 million once a second stage with improved access is completed, and up to 2000 passengers are expected to use it during the morning rush hour.

An artist's impression of Parnell Station.

An artist’s impression of Parnell Station. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Transport