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Portugal’s Ghost Roads

In the comments, “Handlebars Matt” provided a link to this video about how nobody is using Portugal’s motorway system – which was built at vast cost over the past decade:

I often fear that this is the future for many of the Roads of National Significance that are either under construction or due to begin construction in the next few years. Particular candidates for incredibly low levels of use seem to be:

  • Puhoi-Warkworth. Due to the new road not being much faster than what’s currently there, the Puhoi ramps providing a link between the existing Northern Gateway Road (which does provide a significant time saving) and the existing SH1 likely to be faster and cheaper for most people compared to a toll road that doesn’t even connect well to Warkworth and requires people to double back through the messy Hill Street intersection to get to the eastern beaches.
  • Tauranga Eastern Link. We all know the history of toll roads in Tauranga and I struggle to see how this won’t be another empty toll road offering drivers little incentive to use it rather than the existing route.
  • Hamilton bypass. Current projections only see 7,000 vehicles using a section of this $890 million section of the Waikato Expressway by 2021. This route seems unlikely to be tolled but will still be something of a “ghost road” even if the notoriously optimistic projections are correct.

The same might be true of many parts of the Wellington RoNS, although if they are “successful” and attract traffic the main impact will be worse congestion in downtown Wellington and reduced use of the railway line.

A shame we won’t be able to learn from Portugal until many billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money has been wasted.

13 comments to Portugal’s Ghost Roads

  • will

    I spent a week driving through Portugal a couple of months ago. It was not hard to see how they got into such a precarious financial position. The 6 lane toll roads were almost empty.
    In saying that – they have also invested in what I thought was an excellent metro system in Lisbon, and wind farms (though since sold to overseas companies) across the country.

    • I did the same in 2010 and yes the motorways were incredibly empty, and this was in the middle of August at the height of the tourist season.

      I also agree with you on Lisbon. We travelled around Lisbon by public transport and the Metro and trams were great.

  • JimboJones

    In terms of the Hamilton bypass, something needs to be done for traffic going south because 1B is ridiculous with loads of intersections, 1 via Hamilton tends to take an extra 1/2 hour, and 27 via Matamata just adds more traffic to the dangerous and already busy Highway 2. It might not need to be motorway standard, but I’m guessing the cost difference isn’t actually that much. Currently the trucks seem to take 27 which goes to show how bad the current highway 1 routes really are.

    • Luke E

      +1

      1B is very well used, and has numerous, unsafe intersections. Hanilton needs. Proper bypass, regardless of its form.

      We’re those estimates made before or after Tainui announced their plans for the inland port at Ruakura? I feel like that would significantly increase traffic levels on that section. And hell, it’s probably worth making it expressway standard, considering the sections north and south of it will be. It’ll also provide a useful eastern edge to the city, and stop it sprawling on and on…

  • I hope we don’t end up like Portugal!
    Was there in August and talking to locals the economy (especially for youth employment) is well and truly tanked. Suspect the road building didn’t help, but they put the blame on banks and a massive oversupply of housing construction.
    Ghost roads and ghost towns.
    Great place though!

  • Top gear had a similar demonstration of the state of the Spanish economy/motorway/apartment construction/new airports etc with their “budget” supercar episode last season,

    Although, they deliberately mislead (in best daily mail fashion) over an alpine road they went up that appeared to stop in the middle of nowhere, without informing the viewers of the large alpine resort the road had just passed through and the reason the road had ended there ( about 2 minutes past the resort) was that was where the skifields began, – rather they just told viewers it would be great if the rest of the road was built…

  • Duncan McKenzie

    You will no doubt be aware that Puhoi-Warkworth was notified last weekend with submissions closing 13 December

    • Luke E

      Oh? You mean the little bit of land just over the expressway from the future town centre? It’s “large lot residential”, and isn’t envisioned to be intensified. The city’s planners were actually considering having it transferred to the Waikato District, just to help them keep it from becoming sprawl. The expressway will be the city’s eastern edge for a considerable amount of time, from what I’ve heard of the plans.

      That being said, Peacockes and Rotokauri growth cells are going to provide plenty of sprawl for the city for the foreseeable future, sadly.

  • MillAhab

    These deserted motorways sure did help me get to Faro to catch a flight that I was late for one morning though! I think I saw about 6 other cars over the course of an hour while travelling at a speed somewhat above the signposted limit… It was a Clarkson style wet-dream!

  • […] Zealand’s transportblog speculates on a similar outcome for their Roads of National Significance either under construction or due to […]

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