Friday, 10th December, 2021
In the coming weeks and months, we’re expecting to see significant steps forward in the planning for what will be by far the largest transport projects in New Zealand’s history: Auckland light rail and an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing. In both cases, we will be calling for fundamental questions to be answered.
For light rail, these centre on affordability, value for money, and why it is that this particular rapid transit connection is being prioritised over others.
For the Harbour crossing, the question is whether the Government’s approach will adequately address the needs of a growing transport network into the future, particularly when it comes to general traffic. At this point, the plan is to hold off on building a road crossing for another 20 years at least, while a rail crossing will be built earlier, in the 15-20 year window.
Further, when the road crossing is built, it will consist of a pair of three-lane tunnels, which would become the main North-South connection, while the existing Harbour Bridge would connect to the central city. This would improve access for people travelling between the North Shore and the CBD, but do little to improve traffic flows on a network-wide basis, because it would provide no additional North-South lane space. Nor would it provide extra resilience – closure of the tunnel would mean North-South traffic would still need to divert to the Western Ring Route, rather than a separate cross-harbour corridor.
For a project set to cost well north of $15 billion, we would struggle to accept this as the best possible outcome – no doubt many Aucklanders would feel the same.