Wellington’s smart motorway being let down by dumb motorists

The New Zealand Transport Agency says drivers are not sticking to the speed limit on Wellington's smart motorway, on ...

The New Zealand Transport Agency says drivers are not sticking to the speed limit on Wellington’s smart motorway, on State Highway 1 from The Terrace to Johnsonville.

Wellington’s smart motorway is being let down by dumb motorists, whose speeding and poor merging habits are stifling the effectiveness of the $55 million project.

New Zealand Transport Agency data shows peak commute times on the motorway – a section of State Highway 1 between Johnsonville and the Terrace Tunnel – have improved only slightly since it was opened in July last year, while the northbound evening journey has become longer.

The motorway is the first of its kind in New Zealand, and features a computerised system which sets optimal speed limits based on predicted changes in traffic flows.

One of the major congestion points - Ngauranga Gorge where SH2 splits off to the Hutt and further north.

But NZTA highways manager Neil Walker says poor driving habits are restricting the motorway’s benefits, especially at the merge point with State Highway 2 at the bottom of the Ngauranga Gorge.

“There’s a lot of driver behaviour which could make a difference,” he said.

Traffic backed up heading north on the motorway's opening day, in July last year.

“It’s simple things like driving to the end of the merge lanes [which would help traffic flow more smoothly].”

In addition, while drivers were slowing down when they saw reduced speed limits, they were still consistently travelling about 10kmh over them, Walker said.

Speed cameras were not adjustable to the fluctuating speed limits, but that would be considered if the technology became available.

A clear run for motorists.

The average peak weekday journey time from the Ngauranga Gorge to Hobson St had improved by about 30 seconds each in both directions from July to April, compared with the previous 12 months.

The southbound morning journey was down from seven minutes to six-and-a-half minutes, and the northbound evening journey was down from six minutes to five-and-a-half minutes.

However, while the journey from Petone (at the Seaview Recycle and Transfer Station) to Hobson St was about 30 seconds faster during the morning weekday peak, the evening journey north was about two minutes longer.

That was because improved traffic flows along State Highway 1 were putting pressure on the merge point with State Highway 2, which went to Petone.

However, Walker admitted the merge point could operate better, and the agency was considering options to improve it.

Walker reiterated the motorway development was not intended to cut travel times, but to improve journey reliability and safety for the 100,000 vehicles which travelled on the road on an average weekday.

“It’s a fairly busy section of a big network, and we get congestion right along the motorway. At the moment, we’re observing what’s happening to see how people are interacting with it.”

Automobile Association road safety spokesman Dylan Thomsen said the motorway had several advantages and shortened travel times were encouraging.

“It may not look like that much but, obviously, when you multiply that over tens of thousands of vehicles, it adds up to some big numbers.

“We’re getting good benefits out of this technology, but it’s got to be widened and extended over time to look beyond just this motorway in order to know where the bottlenecks are and where the problems are.”

The standstill at the Terrace Tunnel during peak times was a specific area that needed to be addressed, Thomsen said.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie-Anne Genter was not convinced about the project’s benefits, saying the money should have been used to improve public transport.

“The more you improve public transport, the less pressure there is on state highways.

The investment in roading had not improved travel times in Wellington, and a dedicated bus lane or rail line could transport between 10 and 20 times more people an hour during peak time than an extra motorway lane, she said.

 – Stuff

Regional councillors set to debate the future of CentrePort

Quake-hit CentrePort’s should be repurposed as a transport and entertainment hub, a Wellington developer says.

Wellington property developer Ian Cassels has his own ideas of what CentrePort should look like

Wellington property developer Ian Cassels has his own ideas of what CentrePort should look like

Ian Cassels has called for the port, which suffered substantial damage after the 7.8-magnitude Kaikoura earthquake on November 14, to become like Oriental Bay with bars and transport interchanges.

His suggestion comes as the future of Wellington’s quake-hit CentrePort will be up for debate when regional councillors meet on Wednesday morning.

CentrePort container shipping wharf/dock in Wellington received damage after Novembers earthquake.


CentrePort container shipping wharf/dock in Wellington received damage after Novembers earthquake.

At the meeting Greater Wellington regional councillors will get the opportunity to pass comments onto the CentrePort’s management to inform their plans for the coming financial year.


Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said Wednesday's meeting would be the first towards ...


Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said Wednesday’s meeting would be the first towards developing a masterplan for the future of Wellington’s Port.

While returning to business as usual would be part of council plans, Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said the objective was to begin developing a plan beyond that.

“This is essentially about looking further ahead to enabling land owned by the Port to be factored into the decisions we are making, particularly around transport,” he said.

This would be factored into Lets Get Welly Moving initiative, which was set up to help solve the city’s congestion problems.

Property developer Ian Cassels said the earthquake had given Wellingtonians a huge opportunity to decide how the Port ...


Property developer Ian Cassels said the earthquake had given Wellingtonians a huge opportunity to decide how the Port and the city were alligned.

 “We are looking at a longer term development plan for the Port as a whole,” Laidlaw said.

Cassels described the quake as a hidden blessing, allowing Wellingtonians to re-think how the city and the port were best aligned.

“I’m standing in my building looking at the containers on the eastern edge of our port, and nothing could be more inappropriate for the other half of our inner harbour,” he said.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester speaks about earthquakes and flooding


Wellington Mayor Justin Lester speaks about earthquakes and flooding

“It should have magnificent stuff going on. It should look a bit like Oriental Bay. There should be entertainment and bars and water taxis should scoot across there late at night to other parts of the Harbour.”

Cassels suggested small-scale wharfs should also be installed for smaller craft and larger suburban buses should stop at CentrePort and not traverse the inner city.

“If you don’t want to walk there should be other options, but they should be electric mini buses or something. The last thing we want is diesel buses.”

The Port has been eyeing up land around Kaiwharawhara, which would be a natural move, with a similar sized operation more easily maintained off reclaimed land, he said.

But New Zealand Shipping Federation executive director Annabel Young disagreed that CentrePort’s days as a freight destination were numbered.

“If you got the cranes up and running and the wharfs up and running again it’s a case of the ships will go where the cargo is.”

But she would like to see would be a unified terminal for ferries, rather than separate operations for the the Bluebridge and Interislander.

“At the moment we don’t give them a great tourism experience at either terminal.”

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said there were ongoing issues around entry and exit to the Ports, and he commended the council for beginning to come to terms with that.

“We have got the Roads of National Significance virtually from Levin to Wellington Ports but it’s that last bit of interfacing with the Port that’s so important,” he said.

Wellington City Mayor Justin Lester said efforts should focus on getting CentrePort operating as it was before the quakes.

“They are a good business. The only reason we are considering this is because of the earthquake and its response. I would like to see them operate as they were in the past.”

 – Stuff

dave November 23, 2016 No Comments

Centreport container terminal appears munted

A week after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand, CentrePort has resumed most operations and is focussed on minimising disruption to its customers.

Chief Executive Derek Nind says significant progress has been made across the Port and the team has worked diligently to bring essential services online in a safe and planned way.

“We have moved from a situation six days ago when we had no water, no electricity, no phone lines and no email, to the current position where we have large areas of the Port up and running. Engineering inspections were needed everywhere to make the Port safe, and they are ongoing. We had to review all operations and processes in light of the earthquake.

“Safety is our number one priority, and the reality is the seismic engineering inspections take time.

“We understand the importance of the Port to the regional economy, and are committed to resuming operations as soon as practicable.

“It’s important to note all the work carried out in the last week has been done amid continued aftershocks, adverse weather and King tides. We’re also operating in an environment where we’ve been advised there is likelihood of another major earthquake.”

Immediately after the impact of the earthquake, emergency generators were activated to protect refrigerated containers. Within 24 hours, the ferry link between Wellington and Picton was re-established. Within 48 hours the first commercial vessel unloaded cargo at the Port. And within 72 hours a rail link was reopened to begin moving cargo out of the Port.

Five navy ships supporting earthquake efforts at Kaikoura (HMNZS Te Kaha, HMNZS Endeavour, USS Sampson, HMAS Darwin and HMCS Vancouver) called at Wellington Harbour today, while a cargo ship delivered 500 cars to the Port.

Tomorrow (Monday) will see the inaugural visit of the Pacific Aria cruise ship to the Capital. Logs and more commercial ships will begin arriving later in the week.

CentrePort has implemented alternative ways of working. Some staff have been unable to work because of the earthquake, others have been deployed to different roles and we’re looking at possible employment opportunities at other ports.

There is much work to be done, particularly in our container shipping operation, which remains suspended. Potential solutions may mean the Port has to work differently in the short, medium and long term.

Damage to the Port is more extensive than during the 2013 Seddon earthquakes. Many buildings remain off limits, with staff working in back-up locations across the Port and outside the CBD.

CentrePort has welcomed the Government’s technical investigation into the performance of several modern buildings, including Statistics House, which sustained damage to the first and second floors in the North West corner of the building.

Mr Nind says he is optimistic about the future of the Port.  “We’ve come a long way since Monday, thanks to our staff, suppliers and customers, who are pulling out all the stops to reopen the Port, and Wellington, for business. I’ve said it many times over the last few days, and I’ll say it again – I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work being done.

“We’re working on options for getting containers moving through the Port, and finding alternative space for our staff. It’s going to be some time before we return to ‘normal’, but we’re already enabling much-needed economic activity in Wellington.

Wellington is open for business and we are continuing to make great progress.”