Congratulations to the NZTA for coming up with a really unique way to raise some money for charity.
Waterview Xmas gift for Philippines typhoon victims
The giant tunnel boring machine called Alice at Auckland’s Waterview Connection motorway project is at the centre of the workers’ initiative to raise money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
People will have a chance to have a “date” with Alice by bidding for tickets on the Trade Me website for the opportunity to visit the machine. Four separate auctions are planned, and the proceeds from them will be donated to the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan appeal.
The NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker, says the auction was an idea from the Waterview project’s workforce, which includes 10 from the Philippines.
“The devastation and suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan has hit home with the project’s very multi-national team. One engineer had an agonising eight-day wait to find out if his family was safe in the Philippines, and another ‘s wife still has not heard from her parents and four brothers who are living in one of the worst-hit areas.”
Mr Parker says the four successful bidders on Trade Me will get a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the project, which is the largest roading and most challenging project ever undertaken in New Zealand. The tour will include a visit to Alice, who will then be well underground on the first leg of her two-year journey from Owairaka to Waterview and back. Ticket holders will be guided by internationally experienced tunnelling experts.
Waterview Connection workers have already donated several hundred dollars from their own pockets to the typhoon appeal, which is being matched dollar for dollar by the Well-Connected Alliance delivering the project to complete the Western Ring Route.
Mr Parker says the auctions for dates with Alice will close on Sunday 15 December.
“We hope people will generously support this worthwhile appeal – a date with Alice will make a perfect Christmas gift.”
I doubt there are many times anywhere in the world where a member of the general public would have the opportunity to tour a live tunnelling machine.
The auctions can be found here.
On my recent trip to the cities of northern Spain it was hard not to notice how thoughtfully every corridor was designed for all users as outline in this previous post. Of course this is completely unremarkable to the locals, it’s just obvious to them that:
1. The public realm must be built to accommodate all users, and
2. That safety for all is the first priority.
Well here’s another example from what I consider to be one of the most civilised urban places on earth, this is the Eskalduna Zubia, a bridge [Zubia] charged with the quotidian business of carrying a whole lot of traffic over the River Nervión that divides the city, shot on that same autumnal afternoon:
Nothing much to see here; just like a typical four lane arterial in NZ, even a bit of a flush median, that use of roadspace that clearly obsesses Auckland Transport with its universal value. It’s not till you see what’s concealed by the dramatic steel structure on the right of frame that my interest in this Zubia starts to make sense:
Securely separated from the traffic on the same bridge and even protected from the weather! No need to build a barrier between the cyclists and the pedestrians as there is so much width that contact is always easily avoided. The cantilevered roof makes for a completely structureless open side directing the walkers’ attention upstream away from the traffic [for those not staring at their phones]. As everywhere in Bilbao, cycling is not considered a dangerous activity so no one is forced to wear extreme safety equipment as if they are steeplejacks.
Here is an equivalent four lane bridge in inner Auckland, like the Eskalduna Zubia it is between two busy pedestrian and cycling generators; in this case the inner city Universities and the Domain/Parnell/hospital:
I’ve had to use Google maps for the image because it is illegal as well as impossible for anyone not in a moving motorised vehicle to go here. And from above:
There is nothing in this picture except total misery. It’s even laughably hopeless for the only mode its built for. Every time I have driven through here I marvel at its counterintuitive over-complication and the near uselessness it offers for all vehicle movements except the most simple motorway exiting. And of course it is pretty much murderous for anyone on foot or cycling; this glorious intervention in the name of movement efficiency turned a sylvan inner city glade into, at best, an insurmountable barrier and total aesthetic horror. People stay away even from the parts they are ‘allowed’ to be on. Like the once leafy and lovely Grafton Road. The slip lanes at every turn of every intersection make negotiating what footpaths there are there deadly and extremely frustrating to use.
Grafton Rd from Symonds St
I have discussed the waste and hopelessness that is the road engineering in Grafton Gully with many of those involved in its creation and they all cheerfully explain how dysfunctional the process was with Transit and Auckland City Council squabbling over who should pay for any amenity beyond these basic and clumsy roads and neither giving in. Transit arguing it is only responsible for the cheapest way to move traffic and all else is someone else’s problem, and ACC arguing that as it is Transit’s works that are causing the problem they should include the fixes in the cost. I guess we can see who won that argument. NZTA [who inherited this mess but are of the institution that made it] are still happily wasting all this inner city real estate: It is neither being efficiently exploited nor have they returned it to the haven of solitude and clear air it once was for all Aucklanders. And of course it remains part of the fearsome rampart that is the ring of motorway Severance that hacks inner Auckland to shreds.
Here is the one piece of walking and cycling amenity on this whole section of upper Wellesley St:
Yup that’s right, it’s a sign telling you that you can’t walk to that big park right in front of you without going, counterintuitively again, in some completely other direction for some considerably much longer time. I have had to help explain this to baffled european tourists staring at their smart phones showing a nice big park and the Museum right there…. ha, welcome to clean, green, oh wait…..
Grafton Gully and Symonds St Tunnel Plan 1950s
This is how it was sold to us by the first iteration of place-wreckers-by-motorway, it reads:
The Grafton Gully and nearby areas will be the focal point of of a network which will be among the most important in the Auckland Master Transport Plan. The original Grafton Bridge was merely built to span a bush clad gully. Among other things there will be a twin tunnel, nine chains long, with the rest “cut and cover” passes.
Well wouldn’t that have been good? Tunnelling instead of severing. It is a tragedy that not even short sections of these routes aren’t underground. It is time not only for NZTA to complete the range of movement modes across this route but also to make good on the promise to bury their horror as much as is possible so Auckland can get at least a small amount of functionality of this place back.
Let’s see what they do in Bilbao? Do they have motorways there?
Sure they do, and guess what?, a great deal of them are underground, especially under green space, in order to maintain surface continuity and and reduce severance.
The age of severing urban motorways and incomplete streets is well and truly over. Aucklanders have recently managed to stop one appalling new motorway, The Eastern Highway, and got the next one put substantially underground, Waterview. It is vital that we demand that the mistakes of the past are learned from as well as looking at other places that seem to have been able to do things well first time. But also insist that the broken pieces are fixed before our institutions engage in even more destruction.
There is little point in moving tin a little quicker through our city if we substantially harm that place and the quality of life for its inhabitants in the process, and at such high cost.
A bit of a different pic for photo of the day but Alice the Waterview TBM is now officially boring
This post was largely written by good friend of the blog Warren S however I have added some parts too.
Seeing the picture recently of the 14.5 diameter tunnel boring machine to be used in the construction of the Waterview motorway connection started me thinking about the cost of infrastructure and the difference regarding tunnelling for road and tunnelling for rail. Actual costs are hard to come by but certain aspects are evident.
The cost of the Waterview TBM is given as $54 million. I suppose this cost is not great in the overall scheme of things, because the overall cost of this project is roughly $1.4 billion according to the NZTA. The original cost of $54 million will have a residual trade-in value of around $10 million when its Waterview work is done. That is a write-off of some $ 44 million.
I then thought I would compare this TBM with the ones they are using in London for Crossrail. They are all made by Herrenknecht though the U.K. ones come from Germany while our one was manufactured in China to the German design.
Right now Crossrail are using eight TBM’s all simultaneously boring away somewhere under London. These machines are less than half the size of what is being used at Waterview at 7.1m in diameter. Being smaller they also come in considerably cheaper at about $20 million compared to the $54 million for our monster. And interestingly with Crossrail 85% of excavated material is being moved by rail or barge – not by road – so eliminates messy roads during construction. Combine this with the fact that there is also less spoil to remove and less concrete needed to make up the tunnel lining and the costs for tunnelling are likely to be significantly cheaper.
Crossrail is scheduled for completion in 2018 with a capacity of 24 trains per hour or roughly one every two to three minutes, that’s similar to what we can expect from the City Rail Link. While we could probably debate all day the merits of what train technologies to use, using our new EMUs an example each train could easily accommodate 750 passengers. At 24 trains per hour that is a capacity of 18,000 people per hour per direction through a rail tunnel. By comparison if we’re lucky the Waterview tunnels – at three lanes wide – will be able to carry about 6,000 vehicles per hour per direction or about 8,000 people if vehicles were carrying a high occupancy rate.
So some of the benefits compared to a motorway sized tunnel are:
- Smaller and cheaper TBM to do the job
- Less excavation required for rail.
- Rail will be more efficient – one line equivalent to two and a half motorway lanes or better.
- We are not left with a sole reliance on a motorway system can lead to stagnant chaos and long delays when there is an accident as happens frequently. An efficient metro at least gives us a viable alternative.
Being cheaper and having more capacity definitely raises some questions about how we deal with a future Waitemata Harbour crossing. We have seen traffic volumes on the bridge decline over recent years while at the same time more people than ever catch a bus across the harbour. Further once Waterview has been completed it is likely to take even more pressure off the bridge. At the moment the plans are to build a combined road and rail tunnel which might be similar to below however it is expected to cost roughly $5 billion.
With traffic falling – and potentially continuing to do so – it has removed the congestion/traffic growth argument from the debate and the NZTA have now shifted the discussion with them now saying that a new crossing is needed so the clip-ons can eventually be replaced. The problem is they are being hammered at constantly by heavy trucks (although replacement isn’t needed for some time yet). If the main issue is the clip-ons then we need to be asking if the problem is really worth us spending $5 billion just to avoid having to close two lanes while they are replaced. So what’s the alternative?
A rail tunnel under the harbour.
The idea is fairly simple, we build a much cheaper rail tunnel under the harbour to at least Takapuna, if not further up the busway and linking into the Aotea station on the city side. That provides a massive increase in capacity across the harbour and we use that extra capacity along with other tools like road pricing and demand management to encourage as many people as possible to use the rail services. We then close the clip-on lanes (one side at a time) and replace them. That could leave us with replaced clip-ons and with rail across to the shore without the astronomical price tag currently associated with the harbour crossing project.
The Waterview motorway connection would appear to be a high cost ‘gold-plated’ project but it is the last link in that chain. After that I believe we have a strong chance of achieving long term value for Auckland with the CRL and ultimately a rail tunnel link to the North Shore.
We have been fairly critical of the NZTA for choosing to close the bus lanes along SH16, slowing buses considerably which not only makes the bus services less attractive but results in increased operational costs due to needing to run more buses to maintain the same level of service. However it wasn’t just the motorway bus lanes that have closed as the Bus/Truck/T2 lane at the Gt North Rd on-ramp had also been closed meaning that buses have had to struggle just to get on the motorway.
Well the NZTA have announced that they will be doing something about it the interchange at least. Here is the press release.
The NZ Transport Agency is opening a new westbound priority lane to improve access for Aucklanders from the Great North Road intersection with the Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16) this Sunday, 20 October.
The dedicated lane at the intersection can be used only by buses, trucks and T2 vehicles which carry two or more people. The lane will join the new bus, truck and T2 lane on the westbound on-ramp to improve access to the motorway.
The Transport Agency’s State Highway Manager, Tommy Parker, says it is the latest initiative the Transport Agency and its Auckland Transport partner are implementing to help keep people moving as work accelerates to complete the Western Ring Route.
“It is one of a number that have already been introduced or are planned to keep disruption to a minimum, and they will all be monitored to ensure that they are effective. This Sunday’s initiative will benefit people who carpool, or who rely on public transport. It is expected that the priority lane will return bus travel times through this section to what they were before our Western Ring Route construction work began,” Mr Parker says.
The Transport Agency say introduction of the priority lane this Sunday is weather dependent.
“All going well we will have it operational in time. This change is being made amongst some comprehensive construction work and it will take some time for people to get used to the new driving layout. For everyone’s safety, we ask them to drive with care and to be patient.,” says Mr Parker.
Completing the Western Ring Route is one of the Government’s roads of national significance to provide better city and regional transport options. There are five separate projects underway or planned to join the Northwestern and Southwestern Motorways.
The Transport Agency says that the projects will cause disruption and it advises people to use its www.nzta.govt.nz/stayconnected web site to stay informed about changes so that they can better plan their journeys.
My understanding is that the Bus/Truck/T2 lane that going in a case of the agency re-marking one of the lanes on Gt North Rd on the downhill stretch of Gt North Rd to the motorway onramp. That should hopefully allow buses to bypass any congestion caused by cars queuing to get on the motorway. Buses will still have to battle it out with general traffic once on the motorway however the NZTA has also reduced the number of westbound lanes through the Gt North Rd intersection to two so that may help keep the causeway flowing better. It’s good to see the NZTA are starting to work through these issues, perhaps there is hope for them yet.
One question is, does turning one lane into Bus/Truck/T2 lane also count as the first new priority lane in Auckland for over three years? I guess it probably does and it will hopefully be retained once the motorway works have been completed. It does raise the question though, if the NZTA is prepared to use a bit of paint to install a priority lane, why can’t Auckland Transport do the same elsewhere?
The NZTA has been holding an open day on the Waterview Connection to give the public a chance to view the works that have been going on and see Alice – the massive tunnel boring machine that will soon start digging the tunnels. People wanting to visit needed to have signed up for a free ticket a few weeks ago and the NZTA have said that all of the 20,000 tickets were snapped up fairly quickly.
Expecting a lot of people, the NZTA even encouraged people to get there using public transport and put on a free and frequent shuttle from the Mt Albert Train station however stupidly – and this is probably on Auckland Transport – nothing was done about the crappy hourly frequencies on the western line or being a Sunday that services don’t go past Henderson. It’s dumb things like this that put people off even trying PT.
I went along for a look so here are some of the photo’s I took.
Looking South towards the new Richardson Rd bridge
The large elevated structure is a huge conveyor belt that extends from the end of the TBM all the way out of the trench to a processing building . It is apparently acoustically protected to help reduce the noise impact on locals.
The re-aligned Oakley Creek. The new sections actually look better than the old trench the creek used to be in.
The Segment Yard where all of the concrete wall panels are managed before being sent to the TBM for installation.
Looking down into the trench
Further down into the trench you can see the back of the TBM along with the artwork showing where the second tunnel will emerge. The crane that hovers above the site is able to lift 600 tonnes
Getting further into the trench.
The people help give some perspective to how big the machine is.
The cutting shield
Looking south out of the trench.
One of the wall segments that will be installed in the tunnel. A sticker says it weighs 9,900kg
We’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening at Waterview and the construction of Alice the massive TBM that will be used to drill the tunnels. Tunnelling itself is due to start next month and so before that begins, the NZTA are going to be holding an open day so the public can have a look at the project and the machine.
The NZ Transport Agency is delighted to announce a free open day in the central west Auckland suburb of Owairaka on Sunday October 13 to provide members of the public a unique opportunity to view Alice – the giant tunnelling machine that has been custom-built for the $1.4b Waterview Connection project.
With a 14.5m diameter cutting face, and weighing in at over 3600 tonnes, Alice is the world’s 10th largest Tunnel Boring Machine, and will be the largest ever to be used in the Southern Hemisphere. ‘She’ is currently being reassembled in the tunnels’ southern approach trench, in position to start boring the first of the project’s twin tunnels. The Sunday October 13 event will allow close-up viewing of Alice from within the trench, less than three weeks before tunneling is scheduled to commence.
The Transport Agency’s State Highway’s Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says the event will give Aucklanders, and New Zealanders from further afield, the chance to see one of the world’s true mega-machines before it is put to work.
“The $55m boring machine will not only excavate the ground, it will build the tunnels as it goes, leaving a circular concrete lining in its wake and ultimately taking 2.5km of motorway underground.”
The Waterview Connection is by far the biggest project the Transport Agency has ever undertaken, and Mr Parker says the open day will also allow visitors to see first-hand other elements of its unprecedented scope and scale.
“The walkway will pass alongside new bridges, sports fields, wetlands and stream improvements that have already been completed, before descending beneath a 15m shelf of volcanic rock into the excavated trench. Visitors will also be able to walk alongside the 700m long conveyor that will be used to extract the 800,000 cubic metres of spoil from the twin tunnels.”
To safely accommodate up to 20,000 visitors over the course of the day, entrance to the walkway will be by pre-booked ticket only. Tickets will provide 30-minute windows for entry to the walkway, between 10am and 3.30pm, and will be available on a first-come-first-served basis from this Friday at 9am via the project’s website and AliceTBM Facebook page: www.nzta.govt.nz/waterviewconnection and www.facebook.com/AliceTBM
Alice under construction
The work to widen the North Western motorway is becoming ever more prominent – and soon requiring the closure of the bus lanes. So I thought I would look for some old photos from when it was under construction to help show how much the area has changed in the just over 60 years since it was built.
Back in 1949 Auckland was a very different place. For a start there were no motorways and we had trams rolling around most of the isthmus which was where most of urban development was focused. The land on the Avondale and Te Atatu Peninsulas was used for farming and of course the North Western motorway didn’t exist. One of the key reasons for building the motorway was apparently to provide better access to the airport – which at the time was at Whenuapai. This was also to be the main route north out of Auckland and it was only after the harbour bridge opened that plans to run the main highway north cutting through the central city emerged.
Avondale, Whau Creek, Upper Waitemata Harbour, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-23472-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22344505
By late 1951 construction would be well under-way. In the two images below you can see the causeway extending out into the harbour.
Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29676-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23259836
Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29678-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23259842
Further along the route you can see construction in the early stages between Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd
Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29675-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23259316
By late 1955 you can see the Te Atatu Rd interchange starting to emerge.
Development of the North Western Motorway, Te Atatu, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-39904-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/30119523
On the city side, the motorway ended at Pt Chevalier where it joined Gt North Rd. It wasn’t extended to the city till the 1970′s when the CMJ was built.
Point Chevalier entrance, showing the development of the North Western Motorway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-39903-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/30113959
Since opening the motorway has been widened and added to numerous times. It started out as a four lane motorway and by the time the current upgrade is finished, some parts will be up to 11 lanes wide when you include the bus lanes.
This was signalled a few months ago but the NZTA has today announced that more of the bus shoulder lanes alongside SH16 will start closing from next week as part of the upgrade works. Here is the NZTA press release.
People can expect significant changes travelling on Auckland’s Northwestern Motorway (State Highway16) from this Monday (16 September) as part of the NZ Transport Agency’s long term development of the Western Ring Route.
Some bus shoulder lanes along SH16 now need to be closed for up to three years so that contractors can complete their work safely as the Transport Agency’s project to widen and raise the causeway gets under way.
- From Monday morning the eastbound bus shoulder lane from the Causeway Bridge to the Great North Road off-ramp will be closed for three years. The 110m closure extends the existing 700m closure on this section of the motorway.
- Also on Monday, the eastbound bus shoulder lane from the Whau River bridge to the Patiki Road off-ramp (300m) will be closed for two years.
- From Wednesday 18 September, a section of the westbound bus shoulder lane along the causeway to the Rosebank Rd off-ramp (400m) will be closed for three years.
- From early October the westbound bus shoulder lane from the Great North Road on-ramp merge to the Causeway Bridge (400m) will be closed for three years.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager Tommy Parker acknowledges that these long term closures will have a significant impact on people using the route.
“Even with six lanes of motorway here, the corridor is very narrow and space is at a premium. With our work ramping up we need these shoulder lanes to give our workers the room they need to do their job safely. New bus lanes are expected to open in stages from 2015 as the project progresses”, he says.
To help, the Transport Agency is working with its partner Auckland Transport, and Auckland bus companies, to do everything possible to reduce delays and keep people moving. Mr Parker says that in the next few weeks the Transport Agency will introduce a number of measures to manage the impact of the work and help people stay connected with developments.
“One option for Northwestern regulars is to leave the car at home and take the bus to help reduce the number of vehicles using this tight space over the next few years.
Mr Parker says the Causeway Upgrade Project is one in a series of projects to complete the Western Ring Route connecting the Northwestern and Southwestern motorways giving Auckland a better transport network.
“The Western Ring Route is a huge roading project – the largest in NZ to date. To get it all done before the Waterview Tunnels are opened in early 2017 requires a massive programme of construction.
“Regrettably, this does mean impacts on people using the Northwestern over the next few years. We’re asking for your patience and care when driving to help make this a success so we can get the Causeway Upgrade and its neighbouring projects completed and delivering benefits for all New Zealanders.
The Western Ring Route is one of the Government’s seven roads of national significance. When finished, it will provide a motorway alternative to State Highway 1, reducing reliance on this heavily used corridor and providing Aucklanders with more options for travel. The Western Ring Route is also part of improving roading connections between Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty – helping to boost the economy and improve safety.
“There is going to be a lot of disruption as our work accelerates. But at the end of the day when our job is done the Northwestern will be a much improved motorway whether you drive, catch a bus or walk and cycle. In the meantime the Transport Agency thanks you for your support and patience,” Mr Parker says
I can fully understand that the need to reduce the lanes due to construction however it is quite comical for the NZTA to suggest that perhaps people catch a bus to help congestion when at the same they are removing any incentive for doing so as the bus will be stuck in the same congestion as cars. I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite ends up happening with the people who do use buses along this corridor moving back to driving where possible making the situation worse.
As was suggested when this came up in July, they should be considering turning one lane into a bus and high occupancy vehicle lane to encourage people to use those options.
Other possible suggestions could be to do more to encourage people from the Henderson/Lincoln Rd area to try using the trains (not sure if there is capacity though) and also encourage people from the North-West to try out the Hobsonville and West Harbour ferries. I realise the frequencies and sailing times aren’t ideal for many but AT should be giving it a go. Of course the cycleway will still be open and with summer on the way it could be another great way for people to avoid the traffic.
The team building the Waterview Connection have release a video showing the first stages of the TBM being assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle and which gives an indication to the sheer size of it.
In addition here are some photos from the facebook page set up for the machine
The photo above shows the lifting into place of the 260 tonne main drive which the biggest single piece and which required modifications to local roads to allow it to pass. The video below shows it being moved
It’s certainly a massive machine and I hope the NZTA have an open day or event so we can get a look at it before it starts its job.