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Transmission Gully to start next year

The prime minister has announced that work on Transmission Gully will start next year, just before the elections.

Construction on Wellington’s controversial Transmission Gully road link will begin in the second half of next year – and open to traffic in 2020.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed the move at a keynote speech to Wellington’s Chamber of Commerce this afternoon.

It follows contentious comments he made earlier this year, claiming the city is “dying”.

Key confirmed work on the $2.5 billion “northern corridor” – from Levin to the city’s airport – will begin next year.

The preferred bidder would be announced early next year, probably February, Key said.

He emphasised the Capital’s importance as a transport hub.

“The recent earthquakes have boosted the already-strong case to upgrade routes into and out of the region so it can better cope with such events,” he added.

The upgrade will shave 40 minutes off the morning peak travel time from Levin to the Capital, he said. It will also cut road fatalities from 140 to 100 within five years of opening.

And he claims it will create “thousands of new construction jobs”.

However, the project has encountered opposition from locals.

The route also lies on a fault line.

Others say the money should be spent on upgrading a rail link.

A public-private partnership will maintain and operate the link for up to 25 years.

There are a lot of issues with Transmission Gully that I will try to go into in greater detail in a future post however the main problems are that:

  • it performs poorly economically -primarily due to its massive cost at about $1 billion.
  • it isn’t all that clear it would perform any better in an earthquake than the existing coastal road
  • it will be built as a PPP which will save us the upfront cost but will lock us in to paying huge annual fees over a 25 year period that will see us paying about 3 times what it cost to build. The NZTA have even removed the risk for the winning companies as they will have to pay for the road even if no one uses.
  • Due to some steep elevation changes it is unclear that trucks will even bother using the route, especially if it is tolled

The map below shows where the road is going

The image below shows the change in elevation over the route.

While the videos below give an idea of what it will look like. You can see there are going to be some absolutely massive cuts into the sides of hills along with some massive embankments just to build the route.

143 comments to Transmission Gully to start next year

  • NZTA have their spin on this here (Note the name change to the “Northern Corridor”) :

    There is much more robust analysis behind the “strategic fit” test than Mr Morgan and Mr Simmons suggest. The Northern Corridor is judged to have high strategic fit not just because it is a Road of National Significance, but because it ticks five out of the six quantifiable measures of a national strategic route.

    For example, to be a strategic freight route, it must carry more than 2 million tonnes, or $3 billion by value, annually.

    The second is effectiveness – does the project do the job it is intended to? That is, will it prevent fatal and serious crashes, reduce journey times, and make our region more secure in natural disasters?

    Links to regional strategies and objectives are an important test of a project’s effectiveness.

    The third is economic efficiency, in which all possible monetised benefits and costs are compared. The BCR for the corridor is 1.7, within a range of 1.4 to 2.3 depending on the discount rate (how we value the future stream of benefits).

    Based on these criteria, there is a highly robust case for the Northern Corridor. The corridor unequivocally performs the role that we so vitally demand of it.

    No explanation of why a PPP is more economically efficient over standard contract procurement. Maybe because it isn’t.

    • Bryce P

      So the construction sector gets money (billions of dollars) to sustain it? Not playing favourites at all.

      • Waspman

        What lunatic (or person/s somehow connected with the construction companies doing this project) signs off tax payer money like this for the next 25 years. its a black hole.

    • Frank McRae

      Morgan and Simmons criticised the ‘strategic fit’ criteria for failing to take into account anything not already included in the BCR. NZTA respond to this criticism by listing the “six quantifiable measures” of strategic fit – all of which are already counted in the BCR.

    • The ‘Northern Corridor’ is the whole RoNS project defined as from Wellington Airport to north of Levin and it has always been called that, albeit usually with ‘Wellington’ beforehand. This section is either known as ‘Transmission Gully’ (unofficially) or ‘Linden to McKays’.

    • conan

      Cameron is the BCR broken down by section? 1.7 sounds high for $1 billion project with the traffic it carries.

    • Cam- those “quantifiable measures of a national strategic route” would seem to make Operation Lifesaver the only solution for the Holiday Highway route would it not?

      Or do the rules change on a case by case basis…?

  • kris_b

    Wow, that hill up to the Wainui saddle from 4m15s onwards is going to be BRUTAL. Trucks what?

  • Whoever drew that map has no flaming idea where Eastbourne is!

  • I am somewhat concerned by this line from John Key:

    โ€œThe recent earthquakes have boosted the already-strong case to upgrade routes into and out of the region so it can better cope with such events,โ€

    I would have thought that the case for the road was made through technical analysis of earthquake risks by qualified persons. I don’t see how their analysis would change after a single seismic event, especially considering in that case the existing road was undamaged.

    [Although the railway line was closed down, do we need to create a third set of tracks in that will need to be closed also but maybe not for quite as long?]

    • Tony Randle

      I agree that the case for supporting Transmission Gully because it would possibly provide an alternative escape/access route following a major earthquake is not strong in terms of quantitative analysis. However, I believe that it is this issue that delivered the strongest support from Wellington City residents (as opposed to Kapiti and Porirua residents who will benefit daily from building this road) when the region overwhelmingly rejected the upgraded coastal route a few years ago.

      Anyone who has driven SH1 along the current coastal route and on SH2 over the Rumataka’s knows they will likely unusable due to landslides following any major quake in Wellington. Transmission Gully will be a third land route that might be less damaged than the others. Sure, it is also likely to be subject to major landslips but it could be the key to saving Wellington in such a disaster . . . who really knows ? This reasoning is really simple (and perhaps not even that valid) but it resonated with Wellington residents and so Transmission Gully was/is preferred.

      • conan

        That’s an awful lot of money for quite a few mights and coulds. Wouldn’t the money be better spend on a huge fleet of diggers and trucks ready to reinstate the coastal road if access after an earthquake is the primary aim here?

      • Waspman

        Is this motorway guaranteed earthquake proof? I mean thats a hell of a lot of amount of money for a distant what if scenario, what about Aucklands predicament if the Volcanoes erupt or Dunedin if Martians invade. Are they building a nuclear underground bunker for Wellington if the North Koreans go feral with an atom bomb, I mean its not to dissimilar now is it? Is this now the formula for spending billions of dollars of tax payer money based on a fanciful worst case scenario story? Please dont think that using some faux justification like an earthquake suddenly fools the rest of us.

        • Matthew

          The government’s Earthquake Response Plan:

          In the event of an earthquake damaging Wellington would all Wellingtonians please drive to Bulls and get an ice-cream.

          • Tony Randle

            Following the Magnitude 5 Cook Strait quake in September Geonet stated:

            On 1 October, the probability of a magnitude 6 or above in the next year in this region is approximately three times greater than what we would normally expect from our National Seismic Hazard model due to this sequence. As the aftershock rates decrease, this difference will decrease as well.

            So, are you trolling on what is, for Wellington residents, a very serious concern ?

          • Matthew

            The line we’re being sold that a new TG motorway with giant earthworks, steep gradients and built on a faultline is going to miraculously survive a giant quake that takes out all other infrastructure in the region and therefore the overblown expensive boondoggle is needed is such a BS argument.

            So not trolling. Taking the Piss.

            It’s 50 km from Welly to Paraparaumu. It’s a stupid commute. At 48km it’s still a stupid commute. If Welly is to grow it should grow with increased density. If Kapiti is to grow the jobs should be local.

            Subsidising a stupid commute is a stupid policy. Porirua, Kapiti and Horowhenua councils are all broke. More suburbanisation is a Ponzi scheme and the councils are going to be more in debt afterwards.

            Someone above talked about building Raumati, Lindale stations and increasing frequency. Hear hear. The whole of the Palmy/Welly corridor should be looked at and how it could be economically grown without locking us into billion dollar parallel roads and locking people into giant, unproductive commutes.

          • Phil Hayward

            Matthew, I like this:

            “….Subsidising a stupid commute is a stupid policy…..”

            Presumably that applies to train rides of 30 km that costs the ratepayer/taxpayer several dollars per trip, as well as car drives of 30 km that cost the ratepayer/taxpayer a lesser amount.

            I strongly believe that NZ should direct its urban economic growth onto regions of flat land where infrastructure costs will be lower. Jobs-housing balance is a no-brainer. It is incoherent to focus on transport mode share rather than trip distance.

            “The Woodlands”, near Houston, is a model worth studying. Unleash the potential for private sector planning of a whole new town on legally bought rural land at only a few thousand dollars per acre. A heck of a lot can then be done by way of planning and provision of amenities. We are beating our brains out expecting to be able to do much with available capital if we have to pay land bankers seven figures per acre before we can even do anything on fringe greenfields; or expecting to be able to do much if developers have to start with sites in mature locations that already have buildings on them that need to be demolished, and that cost tens of millions of dollars per acre.

            Desirable employers were attracted to “The Woodlands” by literally gifting them serviced sites. This is the sort of thing a forward looking private sector urban planner can do, along with space sacrificed to parks and bike paths and schools and wide roads and footpaths and rights of way (essential for future low cost of infrastructure maintenance and upgrading) and whatever else. The average income in “The Woodlands” is above the US average – and here is a housing search with some filters applied:


      • Bryce P

        Forgive me if wiki’s figures are wrong but in the event of a major quake, this $2.5B motorway (or more with the PPP?) will service roughly 220,000 people (Wellington / Porirua). And they say the CRL’s figures don’t stack up?

    • Tony Randle

      Todays DomPost story on approving Transmission Gully had some more substantive support for Transmission Gully as a superior emergency access route in case of earthquake:

      A report by the Wellington Lifelines Group and Wellington Region Emergency Management Office released last year stated that Centennial Highway along the coast would likely be cut off for up to 120 days in a major event, whereas access to Transmission Gully could be restored after 30 days.

      Regional Emergency Management Group co-ordinator Bruce Pepperell said having different routes – and roads that could be cleared quickly – was vital in emergency management.

      “It will give us a lot more options, and allow us to restore a degree of normalcy a lot quicker.”

      Of particular importance was the need to get goods, such as groceries, into the city if roads and the ports were damaged, he said.

      • Dave B

        If earthquake-resilience and emergency-egress are the main justifications for this road, then there is no need for it to be a full-blown, 100Km/hr motorway. A cheaper, slower, 2-lane road at a fraction of the proposed cost would provide the necessary emergency access. The gold-plating of this scheme is primarily to cater for (and encourage!) peak-hour car-commuting from Kapiti to Wellington. Oh, and the bank-holiday rush a few times a year. The reality is that the commuter-demand is the easiest to off-load from the road with good public transport alternatives. Let’s stop pretending that the full-blown RoNS scheme is in any way justifiable, in any holistic sense.

      • SteveC

        no mention of rail links, but with the number of tunnels, the possibility of rail being ineffective is also high

  • The traffic projections are seriously flawed for this road. The projections have been made on the base of no tolling, but all along has been suggested that tolling is necessary. I feel in future a high toll will need to be charged ($5 a trip for cars), combined with major traffic calming of the existing route to ensure cars actually use Transmission Gully. Outside of peak times may be of limited benefit so toll will put many off using it.
    Most of the existing SH1 should be cut from 4 to 2 lanes, and lots more traffic lights added. Unbelievably can’t walk or cycle from Porirua to Paremata. 2 of the road lanes should go and me turned into walk and cycleway. The huge roundabouts should be removed as well, and be replaced by traffic lights that give priority back to local traffic. Same should apply in Paekakariki.
    Of course what many existing users don’t realise is that people using the motorway from Plimmerton/Porirua will not be joining the main road at a new onramp in Tawa, where priority given to existing motorway traffic. Many existing users will actually be delayed by this project, to the benefit of people driving from Kapiti.

  • tuktuk

    This road by any stretch is a huge economic fail – an outrageous waste of money. Opposition parties really now need to be providing alternative schemes to spend that money on. Given that the motorway is being promoted as an economic development tool, the alternatives should be not necessarily transport related.

    How far would $2.5 billion go toward providing affordable homes?
    As a grant toward a clean-tech energy sector that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
    What economic value would return to NZ Inc if that money was invested into the movie industry as tax breaks to make our movie industry internationally competitive again?
    Hope Green Party and Labour are considering their counter arguments carefully. This Transmission Gully project deserves to be flamed and I’m sure the construction industry itself could be usefully re-directed elsewhere into schemes that will give a better return to NZ Inc.

    • Labour support the road, well certainly the local MP does..

      From May 2013
      “Labour Mana MP Kris Faafoi said the board of inquiry was the biggest bureaucratic hurdle the project faced. “I think it’s a big opportunity in terms of making sure we get Transmission Gully built. ”

    • John Polkinghorne

      This is an excellent point, tuktuk – thanks.
      Although I’d be quite surprised if the movie industry was objectively found to be the most deserving sector for investment ๐Ÿ™‚

      • tuktuk

        ‘Although Iโ€™d be quite surprised if the movie industry was objectively found to be the most deserving sector for investment’
        LOL….you must admit that Transmission Gully does set the bar pretty low!

        More seriously, given the PM’s infamous remark that he didn’t know what to do in regard to Wellington’s economic future, quite clearly the movie industry is an important part of Wellington’s economy and is currently at an important juncture. Current reports suggest that it could die out altogether with a loss of competitive edge against overseas studios. Yet with government support it could build on recent growth and help Wellington be a vibrant, wealthy and clever city, one that is less dependent on government job cycles that reflect the colour of who-ever is in power. I would argue that a small measure of support for the movie industry will yield a far greater long term economic benefits to Wellington Inc than Transmission Gully.

        It would be good if a political party could do some background number crunching and arrive at a set of figures that compare the wider economic benefits of investing the Transmission Gully money into various other ventures.

  • BD

    I cannot emphasise the anger and hatred that I have towards John Key and his cronies, this is a bad day for NZ, more money wasted and climate change neglected even further. Even the recent poll ratings are doing very little to dent National poll lead, which I find making my blood boil, go do the decent thing Key and resign!!!!!!!!!

    • Humpers

      Try to keep the unhinged political rants to a minimum. We don’t need this forum becoming another Standard or left-wing rant. By all means critique the transport project, though it appears to have a bipartisan support.

  • Anthony
    โ€œThere has been a long history of advocacy for the Transmission Gully route from both sides of politics so itโ€™s great to see that hard work has paid off”
    “Labour in Budget 2007 put $84 million towards preliminary planning work on the project”

    It would be quite a flip flop if Labour reversed it’s prior enthusiasm.

    BCR of 1.7, 40 minutes off the morning peak travel time from Levin to the Capital, cut road fatalities from 140 to 100 within five years of opening, all sound quite marketable to the electorate along with a construction start prior to the election.

    A PPP allows Bill English to show a surplus on time.

  • Matthew

    At least the Greens aren’t so daft:

    Their link to the traffic stats makes for interesting reading :

    Indeed the number of vehicles using the parallel road has been falling.

  • jonno1

    Wow! What a brilliant piece of engineering, well done NZTA. When it’s finished I might make a special road trip to Wellington just to use it. I usually fly as time is money, and when I drive I often go via the Wairarapa as the Rimutakas are such fun, but maybe just once…

    Someone above suggested tolling – I’m not sure whether that is actually proposed, but a $5 toll would be saved on petrol alone compared with the existing tortuous route, so even the Greens should be happy with that. The big problem with tolls is collection costs, although an automated system like the Brisbane Gateway bridge might work. I would love to see a higher speed limit too, but you don’t have to tell me, I know I’m dreaming.

    • Steve D

      Transmission Gully is actually 2km longer than the current route, as well as having a much higher climb, so your car would have to have really, really bad economy at lower speeds to manage to save $5 (> 2 litres!) of petrol.

      • jonno1

        Steve, I think you’ve misunderstood my point – fuel economy is achieved at constant speeds (even high speeds) vis a vis continual speed adjustment. Case in point – I spent the weekend at Coromandel; according to my car computer fuel usage on the motorway section and on SH2 was around 8 l/100km at reasonably constant speeds of 105 km/h (95 km/h on the SH2 bit). Fuel economy from Thames to Colville at an average speed of around 70 km/h was 12 l/100 km.

        • Patrick Reynolds

          What tosh jonno; those hill climbs will kill any fuel advantage, you know, like driving over the hills in Coromandel. And you’re really excited by that amount of earthmoving? Wow. What it really needs to be clever is a lot of tunneling, but because it’s a stupid waste of money done badly they can’t even consider doing it well.

          • jonno1

            Heh, had to look that up: tosh = foolish nonsense. That’s my second new word today; I had to look up “shiv” too, courtesy of Scott Adams. BTW, according to Matt’s graph there’s a net difference in elevation of <50 m end to end. Think about it.

          • Frank McRae

            jonno1 – What do you mean there’s a net difference in elevation of 50 metres? It looks more like 300 metres to me. The existing route has a single ascent to 85 metres, where Transmission Gully has one ascent to 170 m and another to 262 m. Correct me if I’ve missed something.

          • jonno1

            Frank, we’re talking about two different things. My response was to Patrick who disputed my rough estimates of fuel consumption, my point being that increased consumption uphill is partially compensated for by essentially coasting downhill. If your car computer displays consumption in real time you’ll see that – mine goes off-scale (30+ l/100 km) under acceleration, and back to zero downhill, with the average also recorded.

            However, you and Patrick are correct in pointing out that there are some high bits on this route so it may not be as economical as the Auckland motorway overall. But winding routes such as the existing coastal road are much less fuel-efficient. I was also suggesting that if a toll were imposed the fuel savings would at least partially compensate, although the time savings might have an even higher value.

          • Frank McRae

            I see what you’re saying, but given that most destinations in New Zealand are on or near the coast, most routes will have a net difference in elevation close to 0 m.

        • Bryce P

          12l/100 km? A V8 Commodore could get that on the trip you’ve described.

          • SteveC

            whatever the issue is for private cars, heavy traffic will find the gradients and undulations hard on engines, transmissions and brakes, fuel consumption is only part of the cost equation for commercial traffic but the emissions cost of Transmission Gully would not be insignificant

        • Steve D


          You may have missed my point. Generally the geometry on the existing route is good enough to drive the route at a fairly constant speed through each section (there’s 50km/h, 70km/h, 80km/h, and 100km/h sections). In peak time it does slow down, but it’s not stop-start. There’s also not a lot of sharp corners, so really, the only major difference is the lower average speed. Some cars, like mine, get marginally better economy at 100 than 70, but mostly it’s stopping and starting that makes a huge difference. So the only major difference between the old route and the new from an economy point of view is the two roundabouts and two (or three? can’t remember) traffic lights, all in a short 50km/h stretch in Mana.

          You might save a little petrol on TG, but in any half-decent car you’d burn barely more than 2 litres of petrol on the existing route. That means (in today’s money and petrol prices) you’d need to drive the 27km length of Transmission Gully without burning any fuel at all in order to save the price of a $5 toll.

          Also, as Frank McRae points out, TG has a significantly worse elevation change than the existing route – there’s around 350m more climbing.

          • Matthew

            It also takes a few joules of energy to lift 1500kg of metal up 400 metres of vertical.

          • Steve D

            5.88 million Joules, at least.

          • I assume the issue with hills isn’t the fact you burn more fuel to climb them, but that you have to brake going downhill and therefore don’t recover nearly as much energy as you expended.

          • jonno1

            Steve D, sorry, I answered Frank above before scrolling down to your comment. I’m not a Wellingtonian, however my recollection is that there’s quite a bit of slowing down and speeding up required over the whole coastal route. As for fuel savings, yes maybe I was being a bit optimistic, but the principle is still valid.

            Matthew/Hamish – I acknowledge that will make some difference to the overall equation.

          • Steve D

            jonno1: I lived my whole life in Wellington until early last year, although I’ve never lived as far north as TG will be. I’ve driven that route north in the evening peak plenty of times (perhaps half of the Friday nights during winter :-), and the traffic always moved steadily, except at two major bottlenecks: Mana roundabout, and the Pukerua Bay merge from two lanes to one. Those both coincide with the only two places where the speed limit lowers to 50, so in practice the traffic moves at a pretty steady 50 until after Mana (except for the occasional red light) , speeds up for a few km to Pukerua Bay, slows to merge and go through Pukerua Bay, then 70-80 along the coast and finally back to 100 shortly before where TG would rejoin.

            It’s nothing like the Coromandel road where you’d slow down for every corner and pretty much never get up to the speed limit at all. We’re talking half a dozen noticeable changes in speed over the course of 25km.

  • Steve D

    I wonder how much change we’d get – if we took that $1 billion and instead of wasting it on a motorway, we extended electrification and double-tracking to Otaki, bought enough trains to run them every 10 minutes and built new stations at Raumati and Linden? Since that would add a similar amount of peak capacity.

    I wonder how much more pressure there’s going to be to widen SH1 and city streets in Wellington once there’s another motorway lane feeding in?

    I wonder how people in Porirua, Mana and Pukerua Bay who supported TG are going to enjoy the four lanes-to-two merge at Linden? Maybe the existing motorway from Porirua will go through ramp lights, like SH20/SH1 in Auckland.

    I wonder whether this motorway will actually, for once, produce lasting time savings? Can there really be enough people who want to live in new sprawl in Kapiti to fill up that motorway?

    • obi

      “I wonder how people in Porirua, Mana and Pukerua Bay who supported TG are going to enjoy the four lanes-to-two merge at Linden? ”

      No idea. But I imagine the people of Mana and Pukerua Bay will be overjoyed that they won’t have the equivalent of a motorway of traffic snaking the way down their main street. They’re both pretty miserable places at the moment. Post-TG they will be a lot quieter and can be made a bit urban.

      • Steve D

        Mana will undoubtedly be better, but I think NZTA’s estimate of how much traffic will stop using the coastal route is pretty optimistic, especially if TG is tolled. The motorway only serves traffic coming from north of Raumati and going to the Hutt or south of Tawa. So there’s still going to be a lot of traffic using the coastal route.

        The road through Pukerua Bay would probably still be impossible to cross with only half the traffic, although every little bit helps.

        In any case, both Mana and Pukerua Bay would have been bypassed as part of the coastal route, and I think one could do two-lane bypasses of Mana, Pukerua Bay, do something to fix the horrible intersection at Paekakariki, AND do all the rail improvements I suggested for less than the $1 billion Transmission Gully will cost (or would cost, if it weren’t being done as a PPP).

        • The roads aren’t designed as expressways in those areas so it really isn’t too bad, just look like standard busy NZ main streets. Only 2 lanes wide most of the time except the peak hour. Traffic doesn’t create severance, but road design does.

          • Steve D

            In Pukerua Bay, it might as well be an expressway. There’s no pedestrian crossings or traffic lights anywhere in the town. The sheer volume of traffic makes it impossible in practice to cross the road during the peak, and it can take a long time to wait for a gap in traffic the rest of the time. For many people, I think that pedestrian overbridge about halfway along the main road (nowhere near the shops or either railway station) is the only option.

            It’s not surprising that given that situation, there’s very little to walk to, either. Whether or not TG goes ahead, Pukerua Bay really needs a bypass, and a total rethink of the main street. At the very least, while SH1 still runs through the middle of town: traffic lights (or a zebra crossing) at the corner of Teihana Rd and SH1, so people can walk to the railway station, school and shops nearby.

        • obi

          “In any case, both Mana and Pukerua Bay would have been bypassed as part of the coastal route”

          I’m scratching my head wondering how you would bypass Mana. You could go to the west and build on the Domain, but there is an issue with needing two flyovers high enough to clear the railway lines. You also have development on the Plimmerton end of Mana with no where to go except to clear away a lot of houses or reclaim land and build it in the harbour. I just don’t see any other affordable route.

          TG should have been built 20 years ago. That would have avoided the expense of upgrading the section between Pukerua Bay and Plimmerton. I suppose it was the Project Lifesaver of its day… It includes a shockingly dangerous junction at Whenua Tapu, really cheap and nasty 50km/hr sections at each end, and the need for a proper route still exists so it was just a waste of money in the long term.

          • Steve D

            Before the duplicate bridge was built at the south end of Mana, I believe the original plan for the upgraded coastal route was indeed to go through the Domain right next to the railway line, probably on the eastern side so it wouldn’t have to cross over, and possibly trenched since it was going to be four lanes. There were various options at the north end – probably a tunnel but it could also run on reclaimed land. The four-lane version was costed at $220m in 2006:

            It would have been expensive, though cheaper than Transmission Gully. I still don’t think either of them are a good use of money, though. They’ll just mean more car-dependent sprawl in Kapiti, more super-long commutes, and more cars choking up Wellington City when they finally get there. If people really want to live 50km from where they work, catch the bloody train or accept that the drive’s going to take ages.

            It is a shame for people living in Mana or Pukerua Bay who have to live with 25,000 cars going past their front doors every day, but we’ve reached a point where we’ve got to say “enough”. There’s always One More motorway, or bypass, or four-laning, or realignment, or passing lane. Building ever more roads isn’t going to cure the problems with all those little towns along the coast, which these days only exist as wholly car-dependent exurbs of greater Wellington.

  • Bob

    Speaking of safety, does anybody know what the conditions on top of Wainui Saddle are like in the middle of winter? Do NZTA have lots of snow ploughs? How safe will it be coming down an ice covered road at those sort of gradients? I know the Rimataka Rd gets closed a lot in winter, will this road be spending long periods being closed in bad weather?

  • Dave B

    The public transport alternative to Transmission Gully and indeed the entire Levin-Airport RoNS, is to extend the regional rail service through Wellington’s CBD and out to the airport. This will provide through trains, not only from Waikanae (+Otaki, +Levin) to Wellington Airport and the currently rail-less south side of the city, but also from nearly all other rail-served parts of the region. At last, Wellington would be joined up, and there would be a credible PT alternative to the RoNS, achieved largely by better-utilising existing assets. Current plans for light rail in Wellington simply do not cut it in this regard and are a distraction from what is really needed.
    Cost objections? The RoNS funding would probably be sufficient, with change left over.

  • They are going to have no problem paying for it. Speed camera fines alone would do it. Those long constant down hills…

  • Yes for the price of Transmission gully a regional rail link could be established.
    Frequent trains Palmerston North – Wellington in 90 minutes would work. But is NZ ready for such a transport culture change. Clearly something needs to be done to improve access to Wellington, but Government /NZTA and many voters can’t see beyond a new road.

  • Malcolm

    It may make commuting into Wellington quicker for people on the Kapiti Coast, but good luck getting THROUGH Wellington and finding a park with all the extra people driving! I really think this road will end up being a white elephant for the next 25 years, especially if its tolled. That big saddle is huge, hard to imagine it being twice the Ngauranga Gorge which is already bad enough.

  • TheBigWheel

    Well within BD’s rant to be fair the key part of the post (no pun intended) is succintly argued.. “a bad day for NZ, more money wasted and climate change neglected even further.” Which is objectively correct if the relatively low BCRs, and very likely increased oil import costs CO2 emissions are considered.

  • SteveC

    anyone else note the irony of the PM announcing Transmission Gully and Gerry promoting walking and cycling in Chch through a 30kph speed limit?

  • people's republic

    An extraordinary amount of money given Wellington’s relatively small and only slowly growing population. Fewer than 0.5 million people live south of Levin…..

  • Matthew

    The Dom Post’s poll is running at over 70% for “Just build it already”.

    Which shows that broken economic policy privileging motorists is still popular with the electorate. Hmmm.

    Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson who said something like “trust the people to make the best decision, and when they don’t, educate them”? Well what an uphill battle, steeper than the climb to the Wainui summit. (of interest to transport nerds, of which I suspect there are a few of here) Wainui was once a stop on the North Island main trunk line, back before it was owned by the government. A farmhouse there still has big white letters of Wainui on it. Behind it is the valley where the road will go, and glancing up (usually quickly, because the current road is usually flowing smoothly) I scratch my head and think the roads going up there?


    Another question: How many people will the first runaway truck coming down from the summit kill?

    • “Which shows that broken economic policy privileging motorists is still popular with the electorate.”

      Or that the only people who bothered to respond were those in favour of the road. If you were against it, why would you bother when it is a fait accompli?

    • Good grief, the comments on that article are depressing. Presumably the commentariat would still be cheering it on even if it cost $5bn or $10bn. As Julie Anne Genter points out, 99.8% of all traffic in NZ won’t use this road. Also dim-witted councils don’t realise that they will become liable for 50% of the maintenance of the “old” coast road once the Northern Corridor is built.

      • I try not to read them because every time I do, I have to seriously question why I returned to this country. We keep throwing money at 1960s solutions to problem with no balance to our transport and most NZers think we are clever and progressive. Just tragic.

    • Max

      Those Dom Post poll numbers are tiny. Not a relevant opinion picture, really.

  • Tony Friedlander, CEO Road Transport Forum, wrote a January Op Ed for Dominion Post about 3 or 4 years ago, saying heavy trucks would not be using the Transmission Gully road because of steep gradients. He then completely switched his tune for another Op Ed the following January, saying that after all they would. Special passing bays are being built so that cars can pass the 53 tonne megatrucks crawling along at 30 to 40km/hr…. but my guess is that they will keep using the shorter easier coastal route through Pukerua Bay and bugging the residents there. But the short Pukerua bypass will never be built as there will be no funds left for that. And when the big earthquake hits, it will be found far easier to bulldoze debris into the sea, rather than clear the slips of the transmission Gully route. So the all the traffic might shift back to the coast, in spite of still making debt payments on the TGM!

    I myself will not be paying a toll for a longer, steeper, less scenic route. Actually, the best option will always be the train, and if we invested in sleepers, than I would also take the train to Auckland on occasions.

    • Dave B

      Thank goodness we have you and a few other likeminded councillors to help counter the Motorway obsessives at the GWRC. It is concerning just how many otherwise normal, thinking people have been swept along by all the hype, right into the Gully Trap.

  • Clarkson

    Whilst I respect everyone’s opinion I believe the reality will always be NZ is a road focused country. We have a tiny population in quite a big, certainly long country. We can not afford to have a rail network that would offer convenience and value anywhere near what we get from road based transport.
    I know you are all keen cyclists and public transport users but the majority of New Zealanders want and expect the door to door convenience of private cars or the near door to door of buses. You simply can not expect a country with limited means and a small population to be able to afford European type inter city trains and metro/under ground systems.
    For that reason transmission gully, the holiday highway, and the new harbour tunnel are going to be the way forward any NZ Government will take.
    You may not like it but it’s true.

    • Matthew

      Clarkson,There are already road options for all the routes you list. You’re just trying to gold plate them.

      We are a small country with limited means which means we can’t afford to gold plate our road infrastructure, especially when it starves funds from other transport modes that can make better sense in terms of urban and environmental policy.

      You may not like it, but it’s true.

    • Frankone

      Um Finland, Norway, Ireland, Scotland etc have relatively small populations yet offer very good intercity train connections for example and most of these have similar if not more difficult topology and weather conditions.

    • Ahh the truth according to Phil

      • Nick R

        Classic troll move, telling us what “everyone” wants based on their own preferences. Is it ignorance or arrogance that leads people to think that everybody must agree with ones own ideology?

  • Clarkson

    That is the problem Mathew, other transport modes do NOT make better sense

  • Clarkson

    Finland has poor PT. it’s mostly roads and most of them are gravel. Helsinki is about the size of Wellington for those of you (99%) who have never been there. Norway is oil rich and has fantastic motorways. Scotland lives off England, and Ireland is broken. Your point?

    • Frankone

      The point? You suggested a low population/geography is a reason for poor PT. The examples given prove otherwise.

      Ireland is broken yes but how does that relate to intercity transport connections? More like the dangers of greed from property speculation (Auckland?) and a lack of banking ethics.

      Have you been to Finland in the last few decades (or at all)? e.g.

      Norway had pretty good connections even before the oil/sovereign wealth fund was created….

      The comment about Scotland… you really think that is why they have public transport?

      A huge number of New Zealanders have been to these places, hence why we realise there is not just one transport mode required. Clear enough now?

    • Matthew

      I did a trip around the Baltic on public transport. I travelled around Finland on a rail pass to some far flung places and it was pretty good service. In Ireland the train service is still there, although quite expensive to use. Norway has some good trains too. Travelled to Narvik from Lulea in Sweden and also got from Bodoe to Tromso to Oslo to Gothenburg to Stockholm all by rail and it was all good.

      Helsinki is also a bigger town than Wellington.

      So what ever your point is Dr Clarkson I do think you’re making a coherent one.

  • Nick R

    Helsinki is far larger than Wellington, with 1.3m residents it is about the same size as Auckland. Funny, when I visited last I arrived on a high speed train from St Petersburg, left on an overnight ferry to Stockholm, and used their metro, suburban rail, trams and commuter ferries while there. I’d have to wonder if you’ve ever been there yourself.

  • Quite relevant in this discussion I think. Sounds just like we are seeing with Transmission Gully and the RoNS in general

    • tuktuk

      Matt L, thankyou for that insightful link which I think worthwhile of its own post in future just to illustrate exactly where the thinking behind our RoNS comes from. Same old neo-con imported ideology. Except that corporate theft seems a better word than ideology. And the public and many of their elected representatives continue to get suckered in.

  • Has the NZTA had a mild case of regulatory capture? Or is it just a natural magnet for petrolheads, just as the police & military can be a natural magnet for Daily Mail types?

  • James

    man that graph of the gradients is over blowing things, see how we’ve got 250m on one scale, and 25km is only 4x longer on the other scale.

    This is what the graph looks like if they’re the same scale

    • Sailor Boy

      Evidently you haven’t seen a graph before, the whole point of a graph is to display information in an easy to understand format. The graph above does that perfectly, you can see the heights at all points clearly, and understand gradients, on yours it is far too wide to even bother looking at.

    • The graph comes from the NZTA

  • Clarkson

    Metro Helsinki is 187km2, Wellington is 290km2. Helsinki is a European backwater while Wellington is a Suth Pacific backwater. Helsinki though is part of Europe and was founded in 1550, it is no wonder it has a small metro line and intercity trains to major European cities. Helsinki, like Wellington has ferry services to nearby ports. Trying to compare Europe with New Zealand is laughable. It is dishonest as comparing Auckland with Nukalofa.
    My point, which unlike the responses, was made polite and without your venom and hysteria, is that NZ is a large country with a small population and until that changes we are far better off with road transport than rail.
    There is of course good arguments for more PT and more cycle infrastructure but both are going to be road based. If you don’t like it then best you move because no electable Government in our country is going to take money from road projects and spend it on train sets.
    As we all know transmission gully is going ahead, the northern motorway extension is going ahead, and according to our PM, the road tunnel under the harbour will be going ahead as well. You may not like it but it’s happening. The only question is why to adults sit around angrily punching on keyboards over projects set in stone?

    • Matthew

      Clarkson, because you are talking out of your arse.

    • Sailor Boy

      “the road tunnel under the harbour will be going ahead”

      Lol what? The project that the current government is promising to do in 2030 when many members may well be dead or retired?

      Also, long thin countries make rail a BETTER option than short, wide countries as almost all traffic moves along a single corridor (SH1), by improving the existing rail links along this route incrementally and increasing service rate to a usable level we can actually get a significant modal shift. The only corridors where we have even close to comparable option at the moment is the Northern Motorway, and look at how many people choose PT on that route.

  • Clarkson

    PS, I do know Helsinki very well thank you. I can recommend Klippan as a restaurant, I went there for Kimi,s wedding. I took public transport, I flew business class on Finair.

    • Nick R

      Simply foolish to call a pair of unfunded projects “set in stone” Phill, nothing is set in stone until construction commences, and often not even then. If they want to complete those pet projects they’ll need to pull about seven billion dollars out of thin air before the next election in twelve months time.

      The latest harbour crossing scheme will go the same way as the last eight proposals, into file storage. No government has five billion to spend on a project with a BCR of 0.3, lest not when traffic volumes are declining, and no government is going to tell North Shore commuters they have to start paying tolls on the bridge in election year.

  • Patrick Reynolds

    You’re point, Phil, is the same senseless one you repeat endlessly under all your different dishonest identities: We are poor so we must spend billions on uneconomic motorways. That you have learnt to be more measured in your language is nice but it doesn’t mean your argument makes any more sense.

    Essentially the idea that we are poor so we must spend more, more stupidly, just gets weaker with repetition.

    Of course you fail to differentiate between urban and rural transport, always lumping NZ together as if all conditions are identical everywhere. Weak. Ak and Gore need different solutions, just writing off Ak’s increasing urbanity as if it isn’t happening simply shows an Ostrich like intelligence.

    It’s great you are such a fan of our site, sitting in the UK and bothering to troll us, how boring your life must be. But having just been I can see how frustrating the debate there must be for an unreconstructed old petrolhead like you. There the current transport debate is between which version of rail investment to do next (after the completion of the huge Crossrail project that has much of London pitted with construction sites) with the most ambitious (HS2) being fiercely championed by the Conservative government and the opposition left to argue that there may be better ones to do instead (I tend to agree). And Boris, another Tory, announcing a programme to spend ยฃ1billion to transform London into a cycling focused city… ouch; why does no one listen to your insight and wisdom even in the country where you live?

    It must get lonely peddling (sorry) last century’s ideology, no one anymore in the UK is still promoting Thatcher’s motorway dream (a failed and abandoned policy called Roads for Prosperity and the ideological model for the RoNS). You really are the Colonel Blimp of this site. Do keep it up.

    • “Essentially the idea that we are poor so we must spend more, more stupidly, just gets weaker with repetition.”

      Or to put it another way, repeating the same experiment and expecting different results.

      While I’m not opposed to TGM per se, no one’s done any scrutiny as to why its cost estimate managed to magically double. And no cost breakdowns either. So I’m wondering if backroom deals with favoured contractors is at play. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to cost as much as it does, without somehow getting Chinese guest workers to build it for chicken feed.

  • Clarkson

    Discussing NZ, not England (where there is huge but IMO wrong opposition to HS2) we need to invest the money available to us on projects that suit or geography, population, and means. I refer you once again to the convenience of a road vrs rail. A road takes you door to door, rail does not. The public wants that convenience and the public should and will get it.
    Tolls on future roads are inevitable. They should just introduce them now with half the money going towards funding more roads and half funding sensible PT.
    5 billion on the tunnel project is money well spent and cheap. The alternative of doing nothing is stupid when the existing bridge is running out of life. Your projections of declining use are a joke as you always chose to ignore population growth. The alternative of a rail tunnel just does not deliver the same flexibility that road does. Passenger rail is better served by bus which can deviate off the main line a rail route would have to stick too and freight rail can go via upper harbour. Remember freight doesn’t care about the direct route, it just needs to arrive.
    Now I am sorry you don’t like cars but they are here to stay. They were the future when we all got off horseback and they remain the future. Mankind is simply too lazy to walk or cycle and trains are from the Victorian era.

    • S

      Would you support a bus only tunnel under the harbour?

    • Matthew

      “5 billion on the tunnel project is money well spent and cheap.”

      You Sir, are completely bonkers.

    • James

      Most polls indicate that the majority of the Auckland public wants the CRL. As demonstrated by numerous polls and, of course, the recent election results. Why do you think it is OK to assume that your views apply to the entire population, despite substantial evidence to the contrary?

    • Not a projection of declining use Phil, a observation of declining traffic. Two very different things.

      Use of the harbour bridge continues to increase, but traffic hasn’t increased since 2003 despite consistent population growth. Perhaps hard for you to accept but north shore residents are increasingly choosing public transport over driving, and driving less per capita as a result. More people crossing the harbour than ever before, but no increase in traffic for ten years. That is the reality of the situation.

      Perhaps in your 20th C heyday population growth, economic growth and traffic growth were the same thing, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time now. A third motorway across the harbour will be literally and figuratively a five billion dollar hole.

    • Sailor Boy

      But rail doesn’t need to offer door to door Phil, you can do door to rail, and rail to door by other modes, such as cycling, walking, driving, bussing, scootering, skateboarding, ferrying.

  • Cars are from the Edwardian era, but so what? Walking is Paleolithic, but so what; we still do it. Cars are great, I love them, in their place. Do try to come up something other than silly emotional tags like; ‘you hate cars’. Actually it’s really that we love successful cities and economies and know place ruining boondoggles when we see them.

  • Clarkson

    A road tunnel under the harbour is going to happen, get out of the flat earth club and accept the inevitable.
    Declines in road traffic are economy based and with cheaper fuel, more jobs, and a return to robust world economies more traffic will come. Building the new crossing is about the future of Auckland in the same way the poms building HS2 is about the future of Britain. I’m sorry you guys can’t see that but I am eternally grateful people like you do not run the country.
    It’s all in the name, RONS, in time I guess even the slow people will work it out.

    • Hammond

      yeah keep dreaming of cheap fuel, Jeremy

    • Matthew

      So only fellow regressives should run a country? Well you’d be happy with Joyce and Brownlee I take it?

      We’re less than 13 months out from an election. Starting work on a $2.5 billion commitment when the government should soon be in caretaker mode is going to be the height of arrogance, especially when other parties could (especially if they were being responsible and not pissing money up a wall) cancel the project.

    • The decline in road traffic started in 2003, under a strong economy where unemployment was 3.8%, years before the GFC hit.

  • Clarkson

    Fracking is the medicin we all prayed for. Not that you are smart enough to understand this but Fracking is a huge game changer to road travel. The Americanscan now dig up Most of their countryside for cheap shale oil which happily for them makes great gasoline. That means there is an abundance of petrol now available from both crude and shale to keep us all going for years.
    Better refining in cheaper labour markets will also bring down the wholesale price of mogas. The only worry to NZ is a recovering US$ will offset lower global prices.
    Still, petrol is cheap, I wouldn’t ride a bike or walk 20 Kim’s in the rain for a dollars worth of petrol.

    • Matthew

      First prayers aren’t answered. Fracked natural gas and shale oil is a Ponzi scheme. It has replaced a small amount of hydrocarbon imports on the US market. They still import and consume more than they produce.

      In 2 years the wells will all be stripper wells, the finance industry won’t be able to fund drilling into what are poor, short lived wells, and the excitement of the people taken in by the marketing (they need suckers to fund the drilling), will all have evaporated as they realise they look like dills.

      Your energy policy thinking is a bit like your transport policy thinking – wishful thinking at best, not thinking at worst.

    • Sailor Boy

      “cheap shale oil”

      Bit of an oxymoron there.

  • Charlie

    i see the admins are deleting peoples posts again, no doubt this one will be deleted as well or not even approved. The readership of this blog will just go down if you dont let poeple have their own opinions and you are just going to end up with a few regular contributors and it will get boring pretty quick.

    now that you have deleted some of the posts from Clarkson above all you are left with are some expletive filled comments from the admins that dont look very professional, you should leave peoples comments and let them be judged by the readers as they are rather than doing it yourself.

    • We have asked Phil to leave numerous times, He repeatedly changes his name to try and hide who he is and in the months that he has been commenting he has yet to provide one piece of evidence to back up his claims despite repeated requests to do so. He is generally not stating opinions but just abusing people with crap like that this is some sort socialist conspiracy.

      He is in constant breach of our blog guidelines which is why we take this action. It’s worth noting that we frequently have others who comment on here and who don’t agree with our point of view. That is fine as they engage constructively but Phil only comes on here to deliberately troll and the ensuing comments have had the effect of blowing threads out which discourages others from engaging.

      • Steve D

        Thanks for making it clear they’re edited, by the way. It got bizarre with comments simply going missing, or being edited but sounding like it was the poster’s own words.

    • tuktuk

      Back to the facts of the matter:

      Refer to this press release –

      $125 million dollars a year for 25 years would purchase a very flash commuter rail system from the Kapiti Coast and indeed all the way from Palmerston North. It would also help provide seed funding to develop a range of high-tech export industries, all of which would be a far more profitable use of taxpayer money than Transmission Gully.

    • Bryce P

      I, for one, read the blog less when Phil starts his derailing of posts. The sooner he decides to harass someone else, the better.

  • Paul McC

    Does anybody know why the alignment of this road turns in after Cannons creek to Linden as opposed to connecting through to Takapu Road and connecting to the motorway at Redwood/Grenada North? The size of the hills they are cutting through and the alignment seem counter intuitive to me. The only reasons I can think of is they want a better link to Porirua or the cost of buying property on Takapu Road was too expensive. This route is flatter terrain and less direct to Wellington.

    • It’s also meant to act as a distributor road for the eastern Porirua suburbs (and allow subdivision at Judgeford). Anyone visiting friends in Whitby, or trying to ride through on a bike, knows what a crazy maze the road system is. That, I am guessing, is why the young Porirua mayor, Nick Leggett, is so keen on it (but it could just be gung-ho brroom-brroom attitude as well). He does seem to be quiet on issues like getting the Capital Connection to stop in Porirua, which you’d think would be a non-brainer for a Porirua mayor interested in transport matters.

    • Steve D

      Transit had definitely planned to put the motorway designation through the Takapu Valley long ago, back when no-one seriously thought the project would ever happen. The locals were not pleased, as you might imagine, and got it killed off.

      Then years later Key’s government took office, and suddenly changed track from the existing plan of gradually upgrading the coastal route, to doing Transmission Gully. I suspect they just wanted the thing built as fast as possible: they didn’t want to re-litigate the planning decisions that had been fought over for decades. Which may also be the reason for Transmission Gully in the first place: compared to the coastal route it’ll be easier to get built, even if it ends up being more expensive and less useful that way.

      • In ten years time, when we are struggling to pay off our huge debt, and only the affluent 10% continue to use our super expressway, I wonder who we will pointing the finger at?

        • Steve D

          I think it’ll get better used than just by the 10%. NZTA and the Government know full well that tolling TG will just push people back to the existing route and make it an embarrassment. I’m betting it won’t be tolled at all.

          The thing about the PPP, though, is that we get to be constantly reminded about our failure for 25 years. A normal project would be built, pay-as-you-go, and then be seen as a sunk cost. Even if it were debt-funded, it would just be part of the government’s general debt. Much harder to forget it when you’ve got a specific Transmission Gully nine-figure cheque going out every year for a generation!

          • A generation of 9 figure payments will remind us that the decision to build it as a PPP is criminally insane, reckless, mad, wasteful, stupid, nonsensical, dumb, expensive, unaffordable, and all Steven Joyce.

            The madness must be stopped. It is such a f*cked in the head decision.

          • And this from a government that claims to be ‘fiscally responsible’. This programme is wildly irresponsible, and cynical too, as they know they won’t be there when the pain really hits.

    • Steve D

      Actually, Paul, was that in response to this development?

      Frankly, that seems nuts, to build a through-road through the valley but not have it be the main road. Still has most of the disadvantages, but people travelling on SH1 now either get to choose a longer trip on the dog-leg “official” route, or snarling things up by rat-running a road that’s just supposed to be a local “link”.

      Unless, of course, this is a sneaky way of going back to the Takapu Valley option by stealth, by pretending that it’s not going to be the main road, but really pushing most through traffic along it.

      • Paul McC

        Thanks for that. Yeah that sounds about right and how Key government would do it.
        No the question wasn’t in response to that, just a coincidence, thanks for the link.
        If you look at the 3d fly through the hills they cut through to come into Linden are massive. Another supprising thing is the difference in elevation between the costal route and transmission gully. At this stage I just hope the project doesn’t happen.

        • Steve D

          The earthworks to go through Takapu Valley would also be pretty major. There’s supposed to be more information on the “link road” released in a couple of weeks, too. That might give a comparison with Linden.

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