Matakana Link Rd fast-tracked

Imagine you’re spent years pushing a motorway project, promising it will deliver travel time savings and economic nirvana for an entire region and then add in that you’re on the cusp on construction as the contract for the project, that will end up costing you over $1 billion, is about to be signed. Yet you also know that after it’s finished, the first time there is a holiday, the users of that road will wonder why you bothered as they’re all forced through an intersection that can’t handle the volumes thrown at it resulting congestion and frustrated drivers. There is a potential solution but it relies on a 3rd party and they don’t have it as a priority. What do you do?

That’s the situation the NZTA found themselves in with the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway which is due to have its PPP contract signed off in October. The vast majority of the users of the new motorway are expected not to head to Northland – like the rhetoric claims – but to Warkworth and the nearby eastern beaches such as Omaha. That would continue to see huge volumes of traffic forced through the notorious Hill St intersection which has long been the bane of many locals and holiday maker’s journeys. The solution is a new road that bypasses the intersection for those travelling to Matakana and beyond but is a project not on the current funding agenda till after 2025.

Hill St GIS

The Hill St intersection as it is today

To address this, yesterday Auckland Transport and the NZTA agreed to fast track the $25-40 million Matakana Link Rd (below) which is not in the council’s current Long Term Plan so it can open at the same time as the new motorway in 2022. The NZTA will even pay for it upfront and have AT pay it back in the future, or more specifically the NZTA won’t give them as much money for future projects.

Matakana Link Rd location

The Matakana Link Rd is shown by the green arrow


Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency have signed an agreement that will speed up improvements to transport links in and between Warkworth and the eastern communities and help ease some frustrations around Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection.

The Transport Agency will provide early funding for construction of the Matakana Link Road project if Auckland Transport funds are not available.

The agreement means the project can be delivered ahead of schedule.

Once completed the Matakana Link Road will provide a connection between Matakana Road and State Highway 1 (SH1), just south of the intersection with the Transport Agency’s Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Warkworth highway, expected to be open in 2022. It will give locals an alternative route between western and eastern areas of Warkworth and will bypass the SH1 Hill Street intersection, improving traffic flow and safety.

Both AT and the Transport Agency recognise that there’s an urgent need to improve transport links in Warkworth ahead of its expected future population growth, and to address frustrations around Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection.

Andrew Scoggins, Auckland Transport Group Manager Major Projects, says: “With Warkworth expected to grow by an additional 7,900 new dwellings over the next 30 years, the Matakana Link Road will be a key road network improvement to help address existing and future travel needs of the community”.

The Transport Agency’s Auckland and Northland Highway Manager, Brett Gliddon says the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway has always been a part of a bigger vision to provide Warkworth with the transport connections it needs to ensure its residents can easily move around the growing town for work and leisure, as well as improving safety and efficiency on the link to Auckland.

“Over the years the Warkworth community has told us that Matakana Link Road is a priority for them. We’re grateful for their ongoing support while we work with Auckland Transport to speed up the delivery of this important transport link.”

Planning and consenting works for the Matakana Link Road project are already underway and construction of the road is expected to begin in the second half of 2019. The new road is scheduled for completion just ahead of the Transport Agency’s new state highway opening in 2022.

The new Matakana Link Road will also align with AT’s new Warkworth Western Collector project – a three-stage plan to improve road connections to the west of the state highway. Stage One of the Western Collector route, connecting Mansel Drive to Falls Road, is currently under construction and will be completed in February 2017. The exact route of the remaining two stages have yet to be determined but will connect to the State Highway in the vicinity of McKinney Road in the south and the Matakana Link Road intersection in the north.

AT say the cost of the project is likely to be $25-40 million but that will depend on the final design and they haven’t even agreed on some of the basics yet, such as whether it will have two or four lanes, be a rural or urban road (footpaths, kerb & channel, lighting etc.). Some indicative costs were included in a closed session board paper that was later released.


Below are some basic cross sections for the types of infrastructure options suggested and priced above


What do you think of this project jumping the queue to get funding? Imagine if the same urgency was put into projects like needed bus and train interchanges which are a vital part of getting the new network to work.

Waterview Mitigation Needed

We’re now only months away from the opening of New Zealand’s biggest transport project to date, the Waterview tunnels – likely to be sometime between January and March. Waterview should have represented the last major new urban highway connection in Auckland but of course the NZTA and others have since started pushing other projects such as the East-West Link and an Additional Waitemata Harbour crossing.

While there are some positive things to the project, we’ve been concerned for some time about the impact the project will have across a number of areas, in particular the ongoing operational cost of the infrastructure and the traffic impacts. The concern for the latter issue was further strengthened by comments in the April Auckland Transport board report talking about how an Operational Risk Assessment had looked at expected traffic demand and that some additional physical mitigation works were needed and that workshops were taking place between AT and the NZTA. So I decided to OIA the information.

First up the issue of operational costs. Here’s what the NZTA said in response.

The latest cost estimate for Waterview Tunnels to maintain and operate on an annual basis is approximately $16 million.

To put that $16 million in perspective, in the 2014/15 financial year, the last for which data is currently available, the NZTA spent $108 million to operate, maintain and renwe the entire State Highway network in Auckland (up from about $90 million in the few years prior to that). That means the new Waterview Tunnels add almost 15% to the annual state highway operational bill in Auckland. Diving a bit deeper, the Auckland State Highway network is 1048km in length (by lane km). Waterview adds about 24km to that total, an increase of just over 2%. I guess what this highlights is that tunnels are really expensive, not only to build but also to operate.

OPEX spending on Auckland State Highways 2002-2015

On to the Operational Risk Analysis

We’ve long noted that one of the outcomes of Waterview is that it is likely to create a lot more pressure on the motorway network, especially east of Waterview as people from the southern isthmus use the new connection to drive towards the city or North Shore. When combined with all of the existing and new traffic from the west it’s likely to cause a lot of issues. We’ve also heard suggestions that for safety purposes the NZTA don’t want cars stopping in the tunnels because as I understand it, the ventilation system is designed based on moving vehicles to help push air through the tunnels so it can exhaust the fumes – happy to be corrected on this though.

Regardless it looks like we were right to be concerned and the NZTA are now pushing through a number of mitigation measures to state highways and local roads in a bid to boost vehicle capacity, possibly at the expense of PT and cycle infrastructure and potentially including the Northwest busway. What’s also not clear is why all of these mitigation measures wasn’t part of the initial assessment for project to begin with.

The Operational Risk Analysis is essentially a heap of new traffic modelling to try and determine if and where any issues might arise within the first six months and to test potential options to mitigate those issues. It’s the result of NZTA wanting to avoid the operational and reputational risk from something like a repeat of back in 2010 when they opened the SH20 to SH1 link at Manukau and finding it caused a heap of issues that they’re only now working to fix.

The modelling, which makes up the bulk of the report, highlights the areas of concern and is also assessed against three groups of mitigation measures – a summary of these mitigation groups are shown below.

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Mitigation Groups

Ultimately the report recommends focusing on the Group 2 mitigations. These are:

It is strongly recommended that as many of the individual mitigations from Group 2 as possible be implemented prior to the opening of the WVT to manage the risks associated with tunnel operations and the operational and associated reputational risk that accompanies such a significant change to the configuration of the network.

Specific actions are recommended as follows:

  • Urgently engage with Auckland Transport to investigate if minor arterial corridor mitigations could provide a small increase in off ramp discharge capacity at the following three locations:
    • Maioro Street northbound off ramp.
    • Te Atatu Road westbound off ramp.
    • Royal Road westbound off ramp.
  • Design an additional lane at the following locations (using existing hard shoulders where feasible) to enable implementation prior to WVT opening:
    • SH20 southbound from Maioro Street on ramp to Hillsborough Rd on ramp.
    • SH20 northbound from Orpheus Drive on ramp to Queenstown Rd off ramp.
    • SH20 northbound auxiliary lane on approach to Maioro Street off ramp.
    • SH16 eastbound to from WVT to Western Springs off ramp and from Western Springs on ramp to tie-in to the existing five lane section near the Bond Street Bridge.
  • Carry out further assessment on the following:
    • Potential for operating some or all of the additional lanes recommended above as dynamic part-time (hard shoulder running) lanes.
    • Potential three laning between Lincoln Road and Royal Road (both directions).
    • Potential northbound auxiliary lanes on SH20 from Puhinui Rd on ramp to Massey off ramp and from Massey on ramp to SH20A off ramp.
    • Minor layout changes at CMJ:
  • Ramp signaling the SH16 eastbound to SH1 northbound and Port to SH1 northbound links separately.
  • Re-configuring the SH16 eastbound approach to CMJ to allow two lanes for AM peak queuing for the SH1 southbound link (merging to one lane before joining SH1) at the expense of one of the lanes leading to the port.

A second part of this assessment has still to be completed. This will relate to assessment of abnormal operations, mainly incidents. This assessment will include assessment of operating additional lanes as dynamic part-time running lanes (Hard Shoulder Running) to assist in incident management.

This is also shown in the diagram below

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Mitigation Map

Below is an example of one of the modelling outputs It is a heatmap showing where, when the severity of congestion based on a scenario to a specific level of extra demand. As you can see the modelling suggests significant improvements to the motorway.

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Heat Map example

There is no mention of just how much this mitigation will cost although the NZTA claim it will achieve $15 million in travel time savings per year.

The OIA also includes the minutes from a couple of workshops and they too contain some interesting information. I’ve just extracted a couple of items from each paper which are shown with the bullet points. The names/initials of the participants except for those from the NZTA have been removed so I’ve just used XX as a replacement.

Workshop 1

There’s a concern that because the NZTA are focusing on pumping as many cars off the motorways as possible it might now affect bus routes.

  • XX explained there would be more bus routes and increased frequency especially around Te Atatu and Lincoln Road. He expressed concern about the future reliability of these new services in light of the risk of congestion following the opening Waterview Connection

It sounds like AT want bus lanes or other layout changes to Blockhouse Bay Rd but that possibly the NZTA want it kept as is just in case something goes wrong with the tunnels.

  • XX mentioned that AT would be protecting Nelson Street capacity during peak times (CBD tactical team to maintain off-ramp capacity) from the motorway and with respect to planned work on the AT network. AT want to do any major maintenance work either before tunnel opening e.g. City bound buses lanes proposed for Blockhouse Bay Road.
  • XX mentioned that Blockhouse Bay Road would be a planned and incident diversion route for Waterview Tunnel closures and that if AT propose to reassign capacity, freed up by Waterview Connection, then these intentions of use of Blockhouse Bay Road could be in direct conflict with each other.


Workshop 2

Given this was in March of this year, how on earth were the NZTA not aware AT were looking at busway options for SH16?

  • XX talked about the need to consider the northwest busway with respect to the mitigation projects. XX mentioned there were some ‘medium term’ busway proposals to consider which include shoulder bus provision and highlighted a possible conflict.
  • XX NZTA now aware of a possible busway, need to know details and have a recommendation before deciding if there is a conflict. This has been passed on to the transport planning team at The Agency.

The minutes don’t say which school but given most of the focus seems to be around the Maioro St interchange, I’m guessing this refers to Wesley Intermediate. Why the school wouldn’t want kids to be safer is absurd.

  • XX said that the school did not support a mid-block crossing and preferred the provision to be provided at the intersection itself.

It seems the NZTA are planning a full interchange at Northside Dr near Westgate

  • GO, XX provided an update on Northside drive proposals, including consideration for a full diamond interchange.

So all up it seems we have the NZTA rushing to trying and add more motorway and local road capacity in a desperate bid to stop the shiny new centrepiece of their system from getting congested. What do you think of the papers?

Additional Harbour Crossing – Is NZTA Following The Law?

ATAP - Interim Report - AWHC

Back in May in this post, Matt highlighted the NZTA’s strategy of designating only for road tunnels across the Waitemata Harbour, leaving any rail designation up to Auckland Transport.  The NZTA have a total budget of $27m for the designation work, $14m million of which is an additional appropriation, approved under the delegated authority of the Chief Executive, to cover enlarged works at Esmonde Road and Victoria Park.   The work is proceeding even though the comparative Preliminary Business Case for a road only crossing calculated a BCR of 0.4.  The Western Ring route, which is designed to reduce pressure on the existing Harbour Bridge, is yet to open.

On the back of this I wrote to NZTA CEO Fergus Gammie pointing out that the NZTA’s governing legislation, the Land Transport Management Act (LTMA),  was not being complied with and therefore the route protection work currently underway should be placed on hold until a number of issues had been resolved.

NZTA have responded to the letter but, before we look at that, let’s take a quick look at the LTMA.

The LTMA was introduced by the Labour / Green government in 2003, and a ministerial press release at the time promised that it would “broaden the focus of the land transport system beyond just roads and represent a true multi-modal, integrated, approach to land transport.”

Since then the LTMA has been amended, but it still defines the objective of the NZTA to “undertake its functions in a way that contributes to an effective, efficient, and safe land transport system in the public interest.”

Key functions are:

  • to manage the State highway system, including planning, funding, design, supervision, construction, and maintenance and operations
  • determine whether particular activities should be included in a national land transport programme
  • approve activities or combinations of activities

The operating principles the NZTA must abide by include:

  • exhibiting a sense of social and environmental responsibility
  • using its revenue in a manner that seeks value for money
  • ensuring that it gives, when making decisions in respect of land transport planning and funding , the same level of scrutiny to its own proposed activities and combinations of activities as it would give to those proposed by approved organisations

When approving a proposed activity or combination of activities for funding, the NZTA must be satisfied that:

  • The activity is consistent with the GPS on land transport; and
  • is efficient and effective; and
  • contributes to the Agency’s objective; and
  • has been assessed against other land transport options and alternatives
  • relevant consultation requirements have been complied with

The NZTA must also take into account any national energy efficiency and conservation strategies, and act in accordance with its operating principles.

It should be clear from any reasonable interpretation of the law that any work on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing does not qualify for payments from the National Land Transport Fund as most, if not all, of the above criteria have not been met. But let’s return to the NZTA’s response and see what they have to say.

Under the Land Transport Management Act heading, the NZTA claim:


The NZTA claim that other land transport options (which aren’t limited to roads by the LTMA) have been assessed.  But what the NZTA neglect to say is that the 2008 Summary Report found that for passenger transport alone, passenger transport in a new tunnel or on a new bridge between Esmonde and Britomart was the best option. No comparative cost benefit analysis was done for a rail only vs a road crossing – it was just assumed by the report that a road crossing was also needed.

The NZTA claim that the additional crossing was consulted on as part of the Regional Land Transport Plan (PDF 5 Mb).  The RLTP contains a single line item for the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing, for which no discussion on the shape or form of the route protection was consulted on:


The NZTA suggest “as the proposal is only to seek route protection at present, there is no need to include (or consult on) the construction of the crossing in the Regional Land Transport Plan”. I disagree.  Route protection defines the envelope of the project, and necessarily needs to cater for a chosen mode.  Right now on-going route protection work affects Victoria Park, Esmonde Rd and sensitive ecological areas. Exhaust stacks at Wynyard and Northcote or Esmonde Rd are included in the designation work because the chosen solution is a pair of three lane road tunnels, yet there has been no public consultation to date.  It is socially irresponsible and in bad faith for NZTA to leave consultation to the Board of Inquiry process.  The NZTA need to be getting feedback from the public and businesses now on the desired mode and how much road users would be willing to pay in tolls for the new crossing and also potentially the existing Harbour Bridge.

The NZTA don’t address the issue of efficiency or effectiveness in their response. Instead they rely on the fact that there will be a business case completed after the $27m budget for a road crossing designation has been spent. That business case will not examine whether a road crossing is required at all, because the decision has already been made.  The NZTA is clearly not using it’s revenue in a way that seeks value for money, nor has it adequately considered alternatives.


Even the Government Policy Statement appears to be disregarded by the NZTA in its pursuit of a road only crossing.   The GPS has the objective of mitigating the effects of land transport on the environment. The focus for Auckland is investment to maximise throughput of people and freight as Auckland grows, something the AWHC project which is dedicated to the movement of single occupant cars cannot achieve.

So what do you think? Is the NZTA following the law?

Lincoln to Westgate Motorway Widening Underway

On Friday while we were basking in the glow of the opening of another great cycling project, the government were busy turning the sod of the next motorway widening project to get underway, something with decidedly less fanfare – to the point there hasn’t even been a press release about it. This was for the Lincoln Rd to Westgate section of SH16 with the most prominent thing I’ve seen being this tweet from Prime Minister John Key

The NZTA also published this video which includes Transport Minister Simon Bridges praising the project.

As mentioned, this $100 million project is widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate includes: adding more motorway lanes, some bus lanes, a cycleway as well as upgrading the Royal Rd interchange. Some of the work was originally meant to have been done as part of that the over budget Lincoln Rd interchange project.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate Motorway Widening Map

While there are a few useful things coming as part of the project, like all non-motorway features, they generally appear to be half arsed and incomplete. This includes:

  • The cycleway will be a useful addition, mainly because it will be at a nicer grade than the local road alternatives. I currently ride through this area when going to/from work on the North Shore and the local network options drop below the motorway before rising up above it creating some very steep streets to navigate. But while the cycleway will be useful, the NZTA will force cyclists off at Royal Rd interchange, up a steep section of Makora Rd and through the intersection with Royal Rd. Given the grades, a simple underpass of the off-ramp seems like it should have been easy as well as presenting an easier grade for cyclists.

Makora Rd Steepness

  • Bus shoulder lanes are being added to the motorway. While this is definitely an improvement it’s not the dedicated NW Busway that we need and buses heading further west will be forced to merge out of the bus lane at the Royal Rd interchange. That means to get a proper busway in the future we’re going to have to go back and widen the motorway further, likely taking homes and probably rebuilding the cycleway again when it could have all be integrated at the same time. I recall that back when the NZTA were consenting Waterview and the causeway, they used the excuse that the former ARC plans didn’t list that section of SH16 as a rapid transit route as to why they weren’t including a busway. But those same plans did list Henderson to Constellation via the motorway as a future RTN route as one so it seems the NZTA pick and choose which of the plans it listens too.

Busway schematic

There’s another feature of this project the NZTA have not said a single word about, that they’re taking 7547m² of land from a local reserve under the public works act plus another 1666m² as an easement for access, all of which is hidden under the brief bullet point above of Stormwater treatment. Information on the NZTA’s plans for Lowtherhurst Reserve are detailed in the agenda to the Henderson-Massey Local board at the beginning of April and the land they want for a stormwater pond is shown below in pink. The land in question is also what can be seen in the background of the video above.

The reserve is almost 44,000m² but most of that is steep and covered in bush. Only about 14,500m² is flat and grassed so the NZTA want to take half of that. I know somewhat well as I ride through it as part of my commute.

Lincoln to Westgate - Lowthehurst Reserve Land

The NZTA offered the council/local board one of two options:

A. base option is financial compensation for the land only. Boundary fenced off from the reserve

B. the development and use of a wetland walkway and multi-activity use area for the local community with Auckland Council maintaining the footpath and multi-activity area at an ongoing cost of $500 a year (this will be cost neutral as there is a cost saving of $555 from reduced mowing on the reserve resulting from the divestment of land).

More detail on each of them is provided in the report but the minutes show the local board supported selling the land and chose option B. They’ve also requested the money received by the council for the sale of the land go to other open space priorities in the local board area.

According to the NZTA website, the project is due to be finished in February 2019.

A new Road Only Harbour crossing option unpopular

Back in May I wrote about how it appeared a road only harbour crossing might be on the cards following some NZTA documents I recieved as part of an offical information act request. That prompted our friends at Generation Zero to initiate a survey to see just how much support there was for various options. The results are now back in.

The survey was conducted by UMR Research and had a sample size of 500 with a margin of error of ±4.4%. The survey asked the following question.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is planning to build an additional Auckland harbour crossing in the next decade. They’re considering three options. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means “strongly oppose” and 10 means “strongly support” how strongly do you support each of these options?

  • A rail-only crossing, that would mean rail could go from Albany to the CBD, which costs approximately $3.5 billion
  • A road-only crossing which costs approximately $5 billion
  • A rail and road crossing, that would mean rail could go from Albany to the CBD, which costs approximately $7 billion

Of the three the road only option was deeply unpopular with just 22% of respondents saying they support or strongly support it compared with almost twice as many (41%) opposing the idea. By comparison the rail only option had 42% support compared with 29% opposition while the idea with the most support was combined option.

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Overview

I think it’s quite good that Gen Z included costs in the options as often these types of surveys don’t but the result is quite interesting in that the most expensive option was the most preferred. This suggests that Aucklanders want more of everything regardless of cost, and that lines up with what we’ve seen from other surveys and the likes of Mayor Len Brown often says he gets told to just get on with it. As we know, some of those views might change a little when it comes time to push the button on increasing rates or taxes to cover this extra infrastructure costs but regardless, it has interesting implications for future funding discussions.

The report also takes a look at the demographics of those who responded and they too have some interesting outcomes.

  • People under 45 were more likely to support a single mode crossing compared to those 45 and over while they were comparatively less supportive of the combined option. I wonder if this reflects them taking more account of the costs of these projects while those 45+ were more inclined just to get stuff done.
  • A rail only crossing had the lowest level of support from those in the South which seems to tie in with a the highest level of support for a road only crossing from that area. Perhaps this suggests that the people surveyed from the South were more likely to need to drive over the harbour and so favoured that. Conversely of the single mode options, those in central areas were more likely to support a rail only crossing which perhaps suggests a greater concern about the impacts of a road only connection.
  • The combined crossing option has the most support amongst those in the highest household income brackets and also those who own a home with a mortgage

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Rail

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Road

AWHC - Gen Z Survey Result - Combined

Overall a useful survey and thanks to Generation Zero for organising it.

You might recall that the recent ATAP interim report poured a little bit of cold water on the AWHC, noting

Improving access to and from the North Shore

  • The bridge and its approaches are a pinch-point on the transport network, particularly during the evening peak in both directions.
  • An additional crossing significantly improves accessibility to/from the North Shore, but does not appear to substantially improve congestion results.
  • Projected growth in public transport demand appears likely to trigger the need for a new crossing within the next 30 years. There is potential for a shared road/PT crossing, but the costs and benefits of different options require further analysis.

High cost of potential solutions

  • Because any new crossing will be tunnelled, there is a significant opportunity cost arising from this investment. Fully understanding key drivers, alternatives, cost and benefits will be crucial before any investment decisions are made.
  • It makes sense to protect the route for a new harbour crossing in a way that integrates potential future roading and public transport requirements.

In light of this, if a survey were to be done again it would be interesting to see how people supported the various options if they knew the road options also result in a considerable congestion impact on and around the motorways in the future.

ATAP - Interim Report - AWHC


Northern Corridor moving ahead

Auckland has no shortage of big road projects on the go at the moment but one of them that has at least improved a bit over the last few years has been the Northern Corridor Improvements project. This plans to convert the last remaining part of SH18 to full motorway standard with some direct motorway to motorway ramps to the north along with extra lanes. The improvement has come in the form of the NZTA now confirming that an extension of the Northern Busway will be part of the project. This a significant change as it had been specifically excluded by the government when the project was accelerated by the government in 2013 – which we understand was against the advice of the NZTA at the time.

The NZTA say the next stage of the project has now been approved which means they’ll be working towards getting consents before starting construction in 2018. As part of this they’ve now come out with an “Approved Draft Plan” which they say includes:

  • A new direct motorway to motorway connection between SH18 and SH1, separating motorway traffic from local road traffic.
  • Additional motorway lanes in both directions on the Northern Motorway (SH1) between Greville Road and Constellation Drive.
  • Extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. Auckland Transport is investigating a new bus station along the extension in the Rosedale area.
  • A 5km dedicated shared walking and cycling path on the eastern side of the Northern Motorway (SH1), built alongside the new Busway extension and alongside Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) all the way to Albany Highway. A proposed new walking and cycling bridge across SH1 in Albany will connect Pinehill and East Coast Bays residents with Albany’s shopping, employment and university areas.
  • Local road improvements through the Constellation Drive and Caribbean Drive intersections, and a new Paul Matthews Road bridge.
  • Further investigation of a proposed bridge over SH18 to improve connections for the Unsworth Heights community


Here is the latest plan which also includes a few changes from the last time we saw the project almost a year ago. The main changes I can see compared to then are:

  • They’ve now clarified the connections around Paul Matthews Rd
  • They’ve dropped a big swooping on-ramp providing a direct connection from Albany Expressway to the motorway southbound.
  • Previously buses would use the bridge at McClymonts Rd to access the busway station before looping back to the motorway via Oteha Valley Rd. Now a new busway bridge will be built directly across the motorway to the station.
  • They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr
  • Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway

Northern Corridor - June-16 Design


On the busway they say in more detail

It’s now confirmed that the project will include an extension of the popular Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. This means buses will be able to travel on a dedicated busway all the way to Albany, reducing travel times and improving public transport options. Auckland Transport is also investigating a new bus station and Park & Ride options in Rosedale along the new busway extension. As part of this, Auckland Transport will look at local road improvements and additional feeder services that could help transport people in and out of the station from the East Coast Bays, North Harbour, and Rosedale. Similar to Smales Farm, it is expected that this station will be a destination station for the many people who work, go to schools or attend sporting activities in the area. It will also provide another station to catch the Northern Express service to and from the city

Northern Corridor - June-16 Busway

As part of this final step before going to consenting they are giving people another chance to have a say on the project. Unfortunately, this post is too late for any of the open days but you can still email them or fill in their survey which is focused on a few specific issues like urban design, the new busway station, walking and cycling options and some other local road changes like the potential Unsworth Rd Bridge.

I’d like to see is the busway built first as it would have an added benefit of giving people options during the inevitable disruption that will occur during the construction of the motorway.

One aspect that the NZTA hasn’t talked about since the project was announced is the cost. Back then it was estimated at $450 million but that was without the busway.

ATAP Interim Report

Yesterday, the second Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) report was released, with the third and final report due in August. ATAP is the council and government working together to come up with an agreed transport plan for Auckland, one that ultimately performs better than what is currently planned.

The first Foundation Report was about agreeing on the assumptions they would use (such as land use, growth rates etc), and looked at how the currently planned transport projects would perform in the future based on these assumptions. There was a lot of interesting information, but ultimately the report found that by 2046 the outcomes weren’t great, and highlighted that we need to improve our plans or face even greater congestion.

Now we have the Interim Report (2.1MB), which explains the outcomes and thinking so far from the work to look at how our transport plans could be better. The work so far includes looking at a range of transport interventions to see how what impact they have.

So far the media have focused on one very specific outcome of this interim report – road pricing – but there are a lot of other important points that needs to be covered. Perhaps more than anything, the important thing from ATAP so far is that it hints at thr old business saying of ‘joined up thinking’. That’s because it doesn’t just take a “build more stuff” approach, but looks at a mix of building stuff and also managing demand. So let’s go through what I thought were some of the key and interesting points found in the Interim Report.

Revenue Assumptions

While the purpose of ATAP is to come up with a better and aligned transport plan, it’s also important to consider how much that might cost. To that end, the ATAP team have taken a stab at how much money might be available to spend in the future. Investment in transport in Auckland has been much higher over the last decade, as the city has gone into catch-up mode, however they’ve projected that level of investment forward based on a couple of options. Continuing the current investment:

  • as a share of Auckland’s projected GDP – currently estimated at over 2.5%
  • on the same per capita basis.

Because productivity is expected to improve over time, the share of GDP measure results in a lot more transport spending and over a 30-year period results in total difference of around $23 billion. The two approaches are shown below, with the current expected spending also shown as far as is currently budgeted (10 years). The lump in current investment is the result of a heap of big projects on the books including CRL, East-West link, Puhoi to Warkworth etc.

ATAP - Interim Report - Revenue

Testing Alternative Packages

ATAP have tested alternative scenarios and condensed these down to two packages as shown below.

ATAP - Interim Report - Test Packages

These have then been modelled, to see how they perform relative to the Auckland Plan Transport Network from the Foundation Report. The outcome isn’t great, and they say that while there can be some improvements made in some areas, they are not to the level that would be needed to make a material difference. The colours on the graphs match the colours above.

ATAP - Interim Report - Package Modelling

The graphs above are at a regional level, but at a sub-regional level, things can be quite different. The Foundation Report highlighted big issues with accessibility from the South and West.

The big improvement in the Northwest for PT is the result of building the Northwest Busway, highlighting once again just how stupid it is that the NZTA aren’t building it right now as part of their motorway widening.

ATAP - Interim Report - Package Modelling - South + west

The report also gives a lot of backing to Auckland Transport’s plans for light rail – although without actually mentioning it. It talks about how a number of bus corridors to the city centre (North Shore, Northwest and Isthmus) will be subject to significant capacity issues unless something is done. The example given is of Symonds St showing that by 2045 it is well over capacity.

ATAP - Interim Report - Symonds St

The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing gets a specific mention too, which is unsurprising because as currently planned, it’s by far the single biggest transport project ever planned in New Zealand. What is surprising, though, is that ATAP seems to pour a bit of cold water on the road-building side, saying that it doesn’t improve congestion and seeming to suggest that perhaps a PT-only crossing might be more appropriate.

Improving access to and from the North Shore

  • The bridge and its approaches are a pinch-point on the transport network, particularly during the evening peak in both directions.
  • An additional crossing significantly improves accessibility to/from the North Shore, but does not appear to substantially improve congestion results.
  • Projected growth in public transport demand appears likely to trigger the need for a new crossing within the next 30 years. There is potential for a shared road/PT crossing, but the costs and benefits of different options require further analysis.

High cost of potential solutions

  • Because any new crossing will be tunnelled, there is a significant opportunity cost arising from this investment. Fully understanding key drivers, alternatives, cost and benefits will be crucial before any investment decisions are made.
  • It makes sense to protect the route for a new harbour crossing in a way that integrates potential future roading and public transport requirements.

The congestion issue is highlighted in these results, showing it is just as bad or actually worse.

ATAP - Interim Report - AWHC

New Opportunities

New opportunities represent some of the potential changes that could be made to the system but which are not currently in plans. It’s possible that they might not all become reality, but they were included in a bid to see what impact they could potentially have.

Part of ATAP’s terms of reference was to look at the impact of road pricing as a demand management tool. While the media have picked this up as “motorway tolling”, the outcome ATAP is talking about is quite a different beast. In essence motorway tolling was about raising as much money as possible and trying to do that efficiently. Road pricing for demand management is primarily about trying to get more efficient use of the road resource we have. ATAP is talking about pricing roads regardless of whether they are motorways or local roads, across the entire region i.e. a network-wide solution.

Their hypothetical solution looked at having varying charges between 3c and 40c per kilometre depending on time of day, location and the type of network the travel occurs within. As a comparison, a rough estimate suggests current fuel taxes are about 6c per kilometre now. An example of how the pricing could differ is shown below.

ATAP - Interim Report - Road Pricing Differences

This would still need some infrastructure investment, particularly on PT to give people options and these were included into a fourth package for modelling. As you can see, this fourth package (in blue below) performs significantly better than the other packages above when it comes to congestion.

ATAP - Interim Report - Manage Demand

This initial work suggests that the package of ‘road pricing plus extra public transport investment’ makes a massive difference, for both congestion and accessibility as shown in the two images above. ATAP says more work is needed to determine the exact impact, but it seems that road pricing is likely to have a major role in Auckland in the future. This has also now been confirmed by Simon Bridges, whose predecessors were very negative about earlier tolling ideas. This is a significant change and a welcome one.

In addition, ATAP also considered the impacts of technology, such as higher occupancy vehicles, most likely through ride-sharing and connected vehicles. They say the results are encouraging but also warn they likely reflect a best case scenario. Furthermore, as they don’t include any potential impact on overall travel demand (which could be significant), those savings could disappear.

ATAP - Interim Report - technology

Emerging strategic approach

ATAP say they asked the question of Should we build more or should we address demand? Ultimately, they suggest the outcome is likely going to be a mix of infrastructure and demand management. They highlight that there are likely diminishing returns on infrastructure, since it is increasingly expensive to provide to the existing urban area, so building our way out isn’t an option. This is an issue being faced all over the world.

All of the work above leads to the high level strategy ATAP will take – which is not all that different to what we’ve seen suggested before in various documents.

ATAP - Interim Report - Emerging Stragetic Approach

Overall, ATAP seems to be on the right track with the approach they’re taking. With the government, the council and all of the relevant agencies working together, it’s likely we’ll end up with a lot more agreement on transport in Auckland than we’ve had in the past. Have you read the document, if so what are your thoughts?

The Main Risks of East-West

Last week I wrote about the East West Link Connections and how the cost of the project were ever increasing and how the staging for the project had changed. The post was based on a number of papers I received from the NZTA as a result of an OIA request.

East-West Preferred Option

The preferred East-West option

One aspect I didn’t cover were some of the major risks that have been identified for the project. These are described in the paper from December 2015, I’ve left out the funding risk as not really relevant to this post.

  1. The underlying land use and travel demand assumptions for the project are based on an agreed medium growth scenario associated with the Auckland Plan. Given the preferred option is a long-term response to current and planned future growth, there is a risk that the growth assumptions and associated travel demand may not materialise as planned. This could result in a transport response that is misaligned with the future needs of the network and as such, this will need to be reviewed at each funding stage as the project progresses.
  2. Given the early stage of the project, there is a future cost risk that outturn costs will exceed the expected estimate, based on incomplete knowledge. This has been accounted for by providing additional contingency in the current estimates. The top cost risk items are:
    • Property – the proposed alignment has attempted to minimise impact on industrial zoned property as far as practicable, however there are still a number of properties which will likely be required either in part or whole. Based on the current state of the Auckland property market, any delays to the property acquisition process are likely to result in inflated property costs above and beyond current market rates.
    • Neilson St Interchange – the design of the interchange is a complex task requiring careful balancing of competing priorities and community interests. There are significant consenting challenges both with the presence of natural volcanic features (Hopua tuff ring), but also the close proximity to the town centre and the foreshore, both of which have strong public interest. There is a risk that through the consenting process an alternative proposal is put forward that is significantly more costly (CapEx and/or OpEx) than the currently preferred option.
    • Foreshore – having regard to the NZ Coastal Policy Statement and recent case law, there are significant policy hurdles to pass with the proposed alignment along the foreshore. Conversely, early engagement with key partners has indicated conditional support on the basis that the proposed response could have the greatest opportunity for mitigation, particularly in tidying up historical reclamation and contaminating activities. It is expected that more than just mitigation will need to be considered to enable reclamation to be considered favourably, though the extent of works required and associated costs is unknown at this stage.

Let’s just step through them a bit

Land Use and Travel Demand assumptions – A lot of assumptions seem to be based most of the Onehunga/Penrose area staying industrial. Most of the area to the west of Onehunga Mall is already earmarked for mixed use and with land prices and demand the way they are it’s likely that over the medium to long term all of those will end up residential. It’s also quite likely that over time, a lot of the other commercial land in the area will be converted to residential, most likely through private plan changes. That will fundamentally change the transport demand for the area and likely the whole purpose of this project.

Neilson St Interchange – The NZTA’s predecessor originally planned to build this interchange as part of the Manukau Harbour Crossing project before revising their consent to not include it. From memory this was due to the significant impact it would have had on the area, especially the Hopua Tuff Ring and the need reclamation to accommodate it. It appears the road builders are emboldened to try again and with what appears to be very similar to what was originally proposed in 2006.

East-West - Neilson St Interchange Recomended Option

It’s also worth noting that Panuku is meant to be redeveloping the Onehunga Port area to be more people friendly just like they’ve done at the Wynyard Quarter. It remains to be seen how they’re going to make that a success when it will be cut off from the rest of the city by what is effectively a motorway and seemingly poor access for PT and active modes.

Foreshore – The impact on the foreshore where the main thing that originally inspired this post. A number of the documents referenced in the post last week made mention of it and in particular mentioned NZ Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS). Looking at it the NZCPS it’s easy to see why they’re concerned as it basically says they shouldn’t do it. Now to be fair I haven’t read all 30 pages of the document but if you have and I’ve got parts of it wrong then please let me know in the comments. For this I’m just going to focus on a couple of sections.

  • Reclamation – As mentioned it basically says that reclamation should be avoided unless there are no other options. But that isn’t the case with the East-West project as we know that other options not only exist but also perform better economically. Here’s what the NZCPS says about reclamation:

Reclamation and de-reclamation

  1. Avoid reclamation of land in the coastal marine area, unless:
    • land outside the coastal marine area is not available for the proposed activity;
    • the activity which requires reclamation can only occur in or adjacent to the coastal marine area;
    • there are no practicable alternative methods of providing the activity; and
    • the reclamation will provide significant regional or national benefit.
  2. Where a reclamation is considered to be a suitable use of the coastal marine area, in considering its form and design have particular regard to:
    • the potential effects on the site of climate change, including sea level rise, over no less than 100 years;
    • the shape of the reclamation and, where appropriate, whether the materials used are visually and aesthetically compatible with the adjoining coast;
    • the use of materials in the reclamation, including avoiding the use of contaminated materials that could significantly adversely affect water quality, aquatic ecosystems and indigenous biodiversity in the coastal marine area;
    • providing public access, including providing access to and along the coastal marine area at high tide where practicable, unless a restriction on public access is appropriate as provided for in Policy 19;
    • the ability to remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the coastal environment;
    • whether the proposed activity will affect cultural landscapes and sites of significance to tangata whenua; and
    • the ability to avoid consequential erosion and accretion, and other natural hazards.
  3. In considering proposed reclamations, have particular regard to the extent to which the reclamation and intended purpose would provide for the efficient operation of infrastructure, including ports, airports, coastal roads, pipelines, electricity transmission, railways and ferry terminals, and of marinas and electricity generation.
  • Walking Access – As mentioned in the quote above, public access should be provided to the coastal area.  The section on walking access expands on this more and none of the reasons given for reasons to restrict public from the foreshore seem to be relevant to this project.

Walking Access

  1. Recognise the public expectation of and need for walking access to and along the coast that is practical, free of charge and safe for pedestrian use.
  2. Maintain and enhance public walking access to, along and adjacent to the coastal marine area, including by:
    1. identifying how information on where the public have walking access will be made publicly available;
    2. avoiding, remedying or mitigating any loss of public walking access resulting from subdivision, use, or development; and
    3. identifying opportunities to enhance or restore public walking access, for example where:
      1. connections between existing public areas can be provided; or
      2. improving access would promote outdoor recreation; or
      3. physical access for people with disabilities is desirable; or
      4. the long-term availability of public access is threatened by erosion or sea level rise; or
      5. access to areas or sites of historic or cultural significance is important; or
      6. subdivision, use, or development of land adjacent to the coastal marine area has reduced public access, or has the potential to do so.
  3. Only impose a restriction on public walking access to, along or adjacent to the coastal marine area where such a restriction is necessary:
    1. to protect threatened indigenous species; or
    2. to protect dunes, estuaries and other sensitive natural areas or habitats; or
    3. to protect sites and activities of cultural value to Māori; or
    4. to protect historic heritage; or
    5. to protect public health or safety; or
    6. to avoid or reduce conflict between public uses of the coastal marine area and its margins; or
    7. for temporary activities or special events; or
    8. for defence purposes in accordance with the Defence Act 1990; or
    9. to ensure a level of security consistent with the purpose of a resource consent; or
    10. in other exceptional circumstances sufficient to justify the restriction.
  4. Before imposing any restriction under (3), consider and where practicable provide for alternative routes that are available to the public free of charge at all times.

Now the reason this is important is so far the NZTA have yet to say whether provision will be made for the public to have access, like they currently – a photo essay of which can be seen here. So far from what I’ve seen the NZTA have only resorted to saying that they haven’t decided yet.

The drawings developed for the detailed business case (46MB) suggest there will be a narrow path along the seaward side of the massive reclamation as well as the existing walking/cycling path but the new path appears a fairly barren and exposed place to be – perhaps a bit like the cycleway on the causeway along SH16. You can also see the intersection for this new road with Captain Springs Rd will also require people on foot or bikes to make up to three crossings to get across this new mega road.

The drawings also highlight the massive extent of the planned reclamation. As a quick estimation, it appears to be at least 50m wide, if not wider in places and even straighter than the current foreshore which doesn’t seem to meet the requirements in the NZCPS.

It’s worth noting for these drawings the comments in the grey box which says that the “alignment is for cost estimation and to establish an indicative footprint” and that “the actual footprint and location is subject to change“. These drawings are also just a selection of what is in the document but for the foreshore are all fairly consistent.

East-West - Technical Drawing - 1


East-West - Technical Drawing - 4

East-West - Technical Drawing - 5

East-West - Technical Drawing - 9

The red part is a bridge

If this project does go ahead, it seems like a much better job needs to be done on the on the foreshore. As it stands, it appears the NZTA are going for the cheapest option available – which at $1.8 billion is not cheap.

East-West an ever increasing cost

I recently received back an OIA request from the NZTA on a few projects. One part of that was related to the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing and the other which I’ll cover in this post was about the East West Link Connections. Among other things the documents highlight a project that is rapidly increasing in cost to a level around three times initial suggestions. Like I did with the AWHC post, I’ll highlight what I found interesting from each of the nine documents in chronological order.

East-West Preferred Option

The preferred East-West option

September 2014

A briefing to the former Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee giving an update on the project and informing that they would soon start public consultation on the various options they had come up with. They also offered to walk him through the options and “get any input you wish to make on the next phase of the project”. A later document hints at some of that feedback.

December 2014

A paper to the NZTA board with the recommended approach following the public consultation. This first highlights the initial expected cost at well less than $1 billion.

The East West Link (as it was previously known) was considered by the Board in February 2014 (14/02/112) and was reported to the Minister as part of the Auckland Accelerated Package. The basis for the recommendations at that stage was a scope that is roughly equivalent to the current Option C, with a cost range of $550 million to $660 million.

For reference this was Option C was an upgrade of part of Neilson St and then a route in a little from the foreshore but the costs mentioned don’t quite add up with the ones also listed in the document as shown below

East-West - OIA - Dec14 - Option Costs

The NZTA ended up choosing option F but also bringing in some of the elements of other options too. In their listing of the reasons for choosing it they praise it for being a new route and one without driveways like Neilson St has. That highlights one of the odd things about this whole project, it’s supposedly about improving freight connections but it’s being pushed mainly for through traffic so all of the local freight traffic will still be trudging through all of the local routes.

They also like Option F as they’d identified four distinct phases. These are shown below along with some of the information about each stage. Stage 2 looks to be over a bridge over 1.2km in length. The section on risks also acknowledges it creates issues for rail to the Airport.

East-West - OIA - Dec14 - Option staging

East-West - OIA - Dec14 - Option staging info 1

East-West - OIA - Dec14 - Option staging info 2

As mentioned earlier there was some mention of the Ministers response with the NZTA saying this.

The expectation was that the Transport Agency would report back to the Minister and Treasury on the preferred option to inform funding decisions as part of Budget 2015. Included in this, the previous Minister of Transport asked the Transport Agency to investigate an option for providing a complete link between State Highway 1 and State Highway 20.

The paper says this in relation to rail. This seems to suggest that rail improvements are a justification for more roads. But why then is the third main not included as part of the East-West project, the cost of doing it would be tiny in comparison the cost of the overall project and would go some way to addressing the MOAR ROADZ feeling of it all.

East-West - OIA - Dec14 - Kiwirail

February 2015

A memo for the CEO’s board report. It suggests that the board didn’t confirm the preferred option listed above at that time and that more work was being done for approval in April. It notes that if approved to move towards consenting, which is currently happening, that part of the process is expected to cost $20-25 million over a two-year period.

May 2015

A paper to the board seeking approval of the preferred approach to the project. The first thing I note is they’ve reduced the project to three stages and suggests progressing stages 1 and 2 in the short the medium term with stage 3 not being needed till later, possibly around 2035.

East-West - OIA - May15 - Option Staging

The cost for the project is also confirmed and that it’s not possible to fund it based on normal funding sources.

  • The expected scheme cost of a complete staged link is in the range of $1,050 million (at the 50th percentile) to $1,400 (at the 95th percentile) with a benefit cost ratio range of 1.4 to 1.9.
  • The financial case being progressed indicates that delivery of the full staged project within a ten year timeframe is not affordable with funding from the NLTF alone. This view is based on the current mix of the forward capital works programme. A change in the forward capital works programme mix or additional sources of funding may change this view.
June 2015

Following the above, a briefing note was sent to the Simon Bridges as Minister of Transport. There isn’t a lot of new information that wasn’t in the document above but it does note that property costs alone are expected to exceed $100 million. It also says Iwi are supportive of the planned reclamation.

July 2015

Another briefing was sent to Simon Bridges on the feedback from the Auckland Business Forum ahead of a meeting between Bridges and Michael Barnett. It responds to some of the talking points you occasionally hear in the media such as why not widen the bridge at Mt Wellington. It also suggests that the new E-W road is being designed to expressway standards rather than motorway standards. This is what the NZTA say about the difference between the two.

What’s the difference between a motorway and an expressway?

Motorways are access-controlled, high-speed roads that normally have ‘grade-separated intersections’ – which means they have overbridges (or underpasses) so road users don’t have to stop at traffic lights.

Expressways are also high-speed roads, but they may include well-spaced ‘at-grade intersections’ – which means they often have accesses and driveways on to them and sometimes traffic signals or roundabouts.

October 2015

Next we have an internal memo in to the CEO giving an update about the project. It mentions that the detailed business case was close to being finalised confirming the route all along the foreshore and also highlighting that the costs had increased further.

  1. The Detailed Business Case is currently being finalised and will be considered for approval by the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport Boards in December. The business case recommends a new full link between SH1 and SH20 along the northern foreshore of the Mangere Inlet as the preferred long term response to the issues in the Onehunga-Penrose area (refer Attachment 1). It is proposed that the new link is a new state highway, to be planned, delivered, operated, and maintained by the NZ Transport Agency.
  2. The cost of the project is estimated to be in the range of $1.25 billion to $1.85 billion (escalated costs) with a BCR range of 1.4 to 1.9.

So the project has potentially increased in cost more than threefold. It’s interesting how there are politicians who decry spending on the CRL just in case costs increase but stay eerily silent on this project. Further how is it the costs increase but the BCR manages to stay the same?

The memo notes that the earliest they could possibly start the project was in 2018 after going through a Board of Inquiry process. It seems this memo could have been in response to press release from the Auckland Business Forum complaining that the project was going too slow. That press release is at the end of the document.

December 2015

Another paper to the NZTA board, it seeks approval to move towards the consent process following the completion of the Detailed Business Case. It notes that they now want stage 3 started immediately after stage two and the entire project completed by 2028 because they say Neilson St will be too congested “because of additional traffic attracted to Neilson St through the improved access from SH1”. A classic more roads beget more roads scenario. I wonder if they’ve addressed some of the issues with the indicative business case that Cam highlighted very well in December.

As part of the “key outcomes” of the project they talk about travel time savings and reduced congestion but they also claim it will deliver “At least 5.5km of new dedicated cycle paths”. Given that about 4km of cycle paths already exist along the foreshore is this being double counted?

They think they will be able to fund this out of the National Land Transport Fund as a result of the Basin Reserve decision delaying spending in Wellington by what they estimate to be 5 years. If the Wellington planning work is finalised sooner than expected they will either need to re-prioritise work or potentially get a short term interest free loan from the government. On the costs they sought or noted the following amounts:

  • $30 million for the NZTA to progress the project for consents etc.
  • $135 million to start property acquisition along the route.
  • $15 million for the NZTA’s early works projects.
  • $32 million for Auckland Transport’s early works projects (which would be subject to NZTA funding assistance).

The early works are a series of projects mainly in and around Onehunga such as widening the motorway, widening parts of Neilson St and removing the bridge on Neilson St over the rail corridor, presumably to supersize the intersection. This work with the exception of the Galway St link was recently put out to tender.

East-West - OIA - Dec15 - Early Works

I’m not sure if there is enough space under the bridge for two tracks but regardless, removing the bridge is surely just one more nail in the coffin for rail to the airport (light or heavy) which would now likely have to be built on bridge over the road/intersection. The East-West project has already made getting across the harbour difficult as shown in the video a few months ago from AT.

East-West - impact on Airport Rail

February 2016

The final paper and is a briefing to Simon Bridges summarising some of the information from the paper above.

This project is looking to be a classic example of how differently we treat projects. The cost of it is already ballooned to $1.8 billion, seemingly without a single drop of concern and at the current rate it is quite possible it will end up costing taxpayers over $2 billion. Yet despite this and unlike the CRL it hasn’t been subject to detailed cross examination by other government agencies, it hasn’t had usage or job growth targets imposed on it. It was even pulled out of the ATAP process even though that is meant to include projects not yet committed to – which at that stage East-West wasn’t.

Another Road Only Harbour Crossing on the Cards?

The absence of rail as well as walking and cycling options to the North Shore has been considered an oversight by many probably ever since the Harbour Bridge was first approved for construction over 60 years ago. While Skypath will finally rectify the walking and cycling situation, many have looked to the prospect of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) to rectify the rail one.

Some papers I received from the NZTA at the end of last week as part of an official information act request suggest that those hoping for rail to be part of AWHC are likely to be out of luck again. They confirm the NZTA only plan to designate a road based crossing. This is in sharp contrast to how the NZTA have presented the project to the public to date which includes saying that the tunnels include provision for Rapid Transit and have pictures showing tunnels with both cars and trains in them – such as the one below and this one which is described as their current concept. Their plan is to have the tunnels become SH1 with the existing bridge acting as a sort of giant off ramp to the CBD.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

In addition to the likely absence of rail from the project, the documents also suggest that:

  • the NZTA could look to cut the connection to Onewa Rd
  • they are waiting till after the route is protected before doing a detailed business case
  • along with some other public information suggest that the NZTA deliberately ignoring any additional works needed on either side of the harbour

There are five documents in total and are dated between November 2014 and May 2015. They were the result of asking for ‘All advice to senior management, the board or the Minister on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing’

In November 2014 a paper to the NZTAs Senior Leadership Team makes this comment

The additional crossing has been identified as providing for both road and rail. Whilst the road network is mature in this area, there is currently no rail network on the North Shore. As a result Auckland Transport’s support for protecting the route for rail now is unclear. A high level discussion with AT is required to understand their aspirations.

On 10 February 2015 there is a short briefing to the Minister about the route protection process.

On 20 February 2015 there is a much more extensive briefing to the Minister after the minister obviously asked for more info. As part of a series of questions and answers the NZTA say:

The business case, which will be completed in 2017, will consider rapid transit options. Work on rapid transit options will be led by Auckland Transport. The preferred option will be secured through the route protection process.

It’s also from this brief that a small point about Shoal Bay is raised and that there are options to mitigate it.

Impacts on Shoal Bay: The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing would generate significant impacts on Shoal Bay on the North Shore including those resulting from land reclamation. There are opportunities to mitigate these effects.

Just under a month later the Minister announced the NZTA would be moving ahead with the designation process and a few days later this memo was produced discussing the next steps. This is what they say about rail.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Rail

They say a key decision is to ‘Agree with Auckland Transport the extent of rail involvement in the designation process.’

It is also from this document where they raise some of the other issues I mentioned including:

That they are considering holding off on the business case. Along with the rail comment above, deciding this is the other key decision that the memo says needs to be made.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Route Protection and Business Case timing

That they are considering dropping the connection at Onewa.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Esmonde Connection

Recently I’ve been hearing that extending the tunnel all the way to Esmonde to avoid reclamation in Shoal Bay is being progressed and that means anyone who accesses the motorway from Onewa Rd and wanting to go somewhere other than the CBD would have to drive north to Esmonde first then turn around and head down the tunnels. Alternatively they would have to go into the city and travel through city streets before re-joining the motorway.

The final document is a paper to the NZTA board in May 2015 discussing the route protection and other issues. In it they effectively confirm that the NZTA will not be including rail designations as part of its work and that instead it is up to Auckland Transport. They also note that the ‘lack of clarity’ around rail is the main risk to the route protection process.

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail 3

Now obviously this doesn’t mean that rail isn’t going to happen as Auckland Transport could also look to protect a rail route at the same time but it seems fairly clear that the NZTA are fully prepared to designate for a road only crossing if AT don’t get on with a rapid transit option. That seems like a recipe for something going wrong due to miscommunication. We know AT have recently been conducting a study on the future of Rapid Transit to the North Shore but we haven’t even heard the outcome of that yet, let alone have the work needed for a notice of requirement completed to coincide with NZTA’s previously stated desire to start the NOR in the middle of this year.

All of the information also suggests that the NZTA intend on building road tunnels regardless with rail either at best happening concurrently or more likely never. There doesn’t appear to be any consideration a different staging of the project which could see a cheaper rail option built first and a road crossing considered if still needed in the future.


In addition this board paper notes the decision had been made to only do route protection at this time and leave the business case to later.

Next steps are tightly focused on route protection. The wider business case will be progressed as a subsequent piece of work, and subject to a separate funding application.

What is also worth noting from these documents is that appears the NZTA are treating business cases as only being used to inform when a project should start construction and what funding source it would have rather than whether it’s worth doing at all. That means the AWHC with a benefit cost ratio of 0.3 can (from an earlier study) is progressed because it passed the “do we like it” test.

There is also an interesting comment in the board minutes as a result of this paper. Included in the minutes it says ‘Board members discussed how to ensure the NoR process is contained tightly to matters relating to route protection only for the future crossing’. I’ve long understood that for the AWHC to function it will also need some significant widening of the motorway north of Esmonde Rd. It seems the NZTA want to keep discussion away from that.

One additional piece of information that was quite interesting from the 20-Feb paper was a little note on why the NZTA have picked the western alignment rather than going to the East of the city like the NZCID have suggested.

The eastern alignment was not progressed as it would have cost significantly more, including a $1 billion upgrade to Grafton Gully to accommodate additional traffic and improve connections into the central motorway junction. The eastern alignment would also have resulted in congestion on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and underuse of the new crossing.

AWHC - east or west alignment

An extra $1 billion just for Grafton Gully alone which presumably doesn’t include the extra cost of an even longer tunnel.

As I’ve said before, lets get the missing modes completed first before seeing if we need another road crossing. It might just be that a cheaper rail crossing has sufficient impact to delay a more expensive road crossing.