When the seven roads of national significance were announced back in March this year I don’t think I quite appreciated the extent to which transport prioritisation would be based around them. However, one thing did stand out at the time – and that was how strange it was to include the link between Puhoi and Wellsford. I could have understood Puhoi to Warkworth at a stretch, but all the way to Wellsford? For those of you who don’t know, the road from Puhoi to Warkworth is pretty windy and hilly, but the road from Warkworth to Wellsford basically goes through a range of hills – through what’s called the “Dome Valley”. It’s a very windy stretch of road that does have a pretty poor safety record, but would be incredibly difficult to ever get something resembling a motorway alignment along it due to the hills.

So yeah, needless to say I was pretty surprised an upgrade of that road to something like motorway standard was considered one of the top seven transport priorities in the entire country. Since that time, we haven’t learned particularly much more about what is proposed for this road of national significance, other than it’s likely to cost around $2 billion and that $100 million has been set aside over the next three years in the National Land Transport Programme to conduct a detailed investigation into the route, to analyse its economic benefits and to undertake some land purchasing to secure a future designation for a realignment.

With a project like this, I imagine that most of its possible benefits would arise from “travel time savings”. Now it’s no secret that I am skeptical of travel time savings as the way to determine whether or not a project goes ahead (generally because studies show that improving the road networks encourage people to drive further and more often, rather than for them to have shorter trips). But anyway, I suppose that for now we’ll just have to accept that this is the way NZTA analyse projects. So what would the benefits of this $2 billion project be?

Now obviously I’m not NZTA and I don’t have a huge amount of complicated software and traffic modeling programmes to do this properly, but from what I’ve learned via the analysis of the Waterview Connection project, I think I have some idea about how things work. The Waterview Connection’s justification is largely on the basis of the motorway link providing $2.6 billion in time savings benefits – with this apparently being the result of 90,000 vehicles a day each saving around 15 minutes in travel time compared to the ‘do nothing’ option. NZTA basically assign a dollar value to each minute saved, then add it all up over the course of however many years are taken into account. Now this system is flawed in my opinion, due to questions over how it deals with induced demand, but for now let’s put that aside and apply the formula to the Puhoi-Wellsford link.

The existing road is about 37 kilometres long – between Puhoi in the south and Wellsford in the north. Warkworth is slightly on the Puhoi side of in the middle of the two routes. According to Wises Maps, the 37 km trip should take about 27 minutes. This is shown in the diagram below:wises-pw

That’s an average speed of 83 kilometres per hour – to do the 37.7 km in 27 minutes. Not too unrealistic as the Puhoi to Wellsford stretch is typically quite gentle and easy to go 100 kph apart from a few nasty corners. The Warkworth-Wellsford stretch is slower from experience, and has an 80 kph speed limit along much of it these days too. But once you’re north of Wayby, the road is pretty straight all the way to Wellsford.

So, looking at alternative alignments, the map below shows a possible alternative that would shave about 6km off the length of the journey, and would also manage to miss the nasty hills of the Dome Valley. There is one area where the road might need to have a tunnel – to the south of Warkworth at the last mountain before it reaches the flatter land where the railway line (the black line) runs.alt-alignment So, assuming that this new alignment is motorway grade and you can do an average speed of 100 kph along it, it would take about 19 minutes to make the trip between Puhoi and Wellsford along this new route. So that’s an 8 minute time saving from the current route. To be generous, I’ll say a 10 minute time saving – just to make up for whether Wises have taken into account the 80 kph speed limit through Dome Valley (I think they’re a bit optimistic saying only 27 minutes from Puhoi-Wellsford).

Well a 10 minute time-savings is obviously not bad, although it is lower than the 15 minutes that the Waterview Connection will supposedly bring. The next part of analyzing the actual “time savings benefits” is to look at the number of vehicles that will use the road. Fortunately, that data is easily accessible on the NZTA website. I include detail of the relevant traffic counts below, showing counts at various points between Puhoi and Wellsford over the past five years, as well as averages for the whole route:traffic-data

So generally there’s a vehicle count of around 15,000 vehicles-per-day along this stretch of road. Furthermore, over the past five years the flow hasn’t really gone anywhere – so it’s reasonable to suggest that levels are fairly stable and are unlikely to increase dramatically in the short to medium term future.

Now if we put all the pieces of this puzzle together we can come up with some fairly interesting results. I have worked out Puhoi-Wellsford’s time savings benefits by basically applying the same ratio of hours saved per day between the two projects to time savings benefits between the two projects (ie. Puhoi-Wellsford only provides 11% of the time savings as Waterview):


Now I’m sure there are other benefits that the road will bring, like safety benefits and congestion relief benefits (goodness knows how they’re different to time savings benefits, but they were counted separately by the Waterview Connection business case…) So perhaps these might add on another $100 million in benefits (I do feel like I’m being really generous here.)

In the end though, whatever way you look at it, $389 million of benefits is NOT worth $2 billion being spent on this link. That’s a cost benefit ratio of 0.19. Less than 20c of economic return for every dollar spent. Surely other projects make more sense than this?

Share this


  1. Interesting, but not sure that the cost-benefit analysis is as simple as you make out. Have you had a look at what NZTA publish on the cost benefit analysis? Pro-rata’ing isn’t a great solution – in general it’s an interesting first stab at this, but don’t forget to factor in the reduction in carbon emissions from a shorter, more direct route, potential economic stimulus to the satellite suburbs up north, etc – and note that your safety analyses are basically a guess.

    Very good to see some working presented though, more than most bloggers manage to do.

  2. Oh absolutely this is a stab in the dark in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. However, the fact that my analysis would have to under-estimate benefits by at least a factor of 5 for the project to merely ‘break even’ is a pretty telling result in my opinion.

  3. It just tells us what a blind, learning disabled monkey could see within 2 minutes… That even the $100 million dollars investigating this is the biggest waste of money in NZ transport history…

  4. The cost-benefit anaylsis is very detailed and this is a very basic insight, remembering every accident fatal and not is also included in the analysis, (time savings as you mentioned), reduced emissions, freight benefits, fuel savings, etc. I’m not at all saying this project should be priority as the government has basically said I’m just saying a more depth anaylsis needs to be undertaken before we can comment to much on the cost-benefit value of the project.

    The priority of the analysis of the different projects is what the major problem seems to be.

  5. Nice analysis. Have to say that it will cut the trip time by 1/3 which is still considerable.

    The other unspoken question is the CBR of 0.2 vs the CBD rail tunnel’s CBR when calculated.

  6. Yes it will be interesting to see what the CBD Rail tunnel has as its cost-benefit ratio. ARTA has indicated that it has huge wider benefits in terms of effects on the CBD but I do not know how they will be measure. Around 32,000 trips per weekday are currently made on the Auckland rail network, and with electrification and integrated ticketing this is likely to double by the time we build this tunnel – so it will potentially benefit many many more people than the Puhoi-Wellsford road.

  7. They will need to spend some money improving the links into Warkworth if they go that far west. People coming from Matakana, Snells, Leigh and Warkworth will need to travel a lot further if they want to take advantage of the road.

  8. Nice work Josh. Yes, it’s back of a weetbix packet figures but the EEM is a ridiculously complicated document. As you say it would need to be wrong by a magnitude of 5 just to make it cost neutral (BCR 1). Non-RONS projects need a BCR of 4 to get a “High” ranking.

    To put the $100m for investigation of that ridiculous Holiday Highway project in perspective – a couple of weeks ago the Auckland regions Councils were told that there’s a total of $5.8m this year to spend on Transport Planning projects FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY. Thats for all transport project investigations, studies, strategies etc. The Auckland Region by itself had around $30m last year for the same category… Basically if Councils want to investigate transport projects like bus lanes, park and ride, or local roading projects they’ll be entirely funded from rates. Not the RONS though, plenty of $$ for those magical projects!

    Rumour lately is that the Minister is particularly miffed that the Auckland region are less than excited about his Puhoi-Wellsford pet project. He’s apparently investigating ways to force RLTS’s have to “give effect” to the GPS and RONS philosophy. You shall obey!

  9. The RLTS is to be released for consultation in the next week, so prepare for a great big amount of proverbial poo to hit the fan when that happens, as the changes made to it recently will ensure that it is a very strongly pro-PT document.

  10. “very strongly pro-PT document”, which means in Auckland, “Very strongly pro-road, but not overwhelmingly anti-PT document”. 😉

    It would be nice if they followed up on the rhetoric with some funding too…

  11. Once you get as far as Warkworth you lose all of the traffic for Matakana, and dare I say it Omaha, so really to there is the only bit that matters anyway.

    I do find myself wondering though if this would come off the priority list if there was a prime ministerial helicopter and a heliport at Omaha.

  12. At R.Lin, that is troubling, why should I pay rates that go to transport if a minister (no one elected by the way) can over-ride my local politican’s (I did elect) decisions..?

  13. As others have said this analysis is a good try, but light years away from resembling a BCR. A blind learning disabled monkey is a poor analogy for those who apply economics debated over many years to a cheap and dirty effort.

    You need to project forward 25 years from opening date for growth of traffic, for that you need forecasts for population and economic growth for the connected regions. Despite the politicking by some in Auckland about it being a Holiday Highway (one might say typical JAFA talk in thinking everything north of Auckland is for the recreation of Aucklanders rather than productive land that produces exports), this is the only major arterial link between Northland and the rest of the country. If you want a holiday highway it is called Kopu Bridge.

    You need to include the impact on local air quality and delays to bypassed communities, and like you said there are likely to be not inconsiderable safety benefits, as well as fuel savings and other vehicle wear and tear for users. Safety benefits have a high value, so you need to consider the number of fatalities on the current route and estimate a reduction. Dual carriageways with median barriers eliminate head ons and the alignment would dramatically reduce loss of control accidents, and a motorway will remove intersection based accidents. I would expect safety benefits would easily be as much as time savings for this route alone, if not more.

    So I’d say your gap in benefits comes from:
    – No projected traffic growth, which in a 25 year timeframe assuming population growth, is unlikely. Traffic growth has exceeded growth in GDP for some time, which also exceeds population growth. So compounding 0.971% average nationwide population growth over 25 years, is a 26% increase in traffic, and benefits, and magnitude as more traffic compounds travel time savings.
    – Safety not being considered when it is likely to be at least the same benefits again, if not substantially more.
    – Fuel and vehicle operating costs, typically much less than time savings.
    – Local air quality benefits and travel savings for traffic not using highway for long periods. Not high.

    but then it needs discounting, and costs haven’t been considered yet.

    So I would suggest the gap is a lot closer than you may think, but I’m not convinced of the case to build it. However the $100m to investigate and buy land is money well spent in that case.

    R.Lin: No if Auckland councils want to investigate a major project that they wish to apply for funding from NZTA they will get funding from NZTA for investigations based on the current financial assistance rate. You should look at the NLTP.

    For example, Auckland City is getting $9.8m this year alone to investigate AMETI. ARTA $1.5m for generic transport planning, there are quite a few other allocations to investigation projects in the $100k-$1m range. It helps to look at the NLTP and frankly if you are commenting on this specialist area it’s rather ignorant to not use it.

  14. I realise this is not a robust BCA, it is merely to get a broad idea of where this project stands. Even with say $300 million of safety benefits added (and I am sure safety could be improved via more minor upgrades) this project will still have a BCR of 0.4. Even if I have under-estimated traffic flows by 25% then the BCR would only rise to 0.5 or 0.6.

  15. This post just reveals Liberty’s bias… Any rail expenditure, any, is referred to on his blog as the dirty ARC council meedling in people’s freedom trying to force people to live in TOD projects near transport while $100 million (scarce dollars) is well spent studying a dream motorway which has no chance of being anything other than the biggest waste of tax payers money on a transport project in NZ history…

    Where’s his calls for $20 tolls on this project..?

  16. “Well Nick, the RLTS is going to say “build the CBD rail loop by 2021″ and the airport line by not long after that. So that’s pretty pro-PT.”

    I’ll wait and see, I guess I’m a bit disollusioned after an analysis of the equivalent document for Victoria. On the surface it is very pro-PT, but if you get deep into the figures and plans it is more of the same freeway heavy nonsense under a smokescreen of public friendly talk of metro tunnels and cycleways (not as bad as Auckland, but not that much better either). I can’t help but thinking the RLTS will be exactly the same, talking up the CBD tunnel and airport line but doing little to actually make them priority.

  17. Unless you drill a tunnel through the Brynderwyns- SH1 from Auckland-Whangarei will always be limited in its capacity to take large B-doubles and heavy haulage. In addition you have a very deep water port at Marsden. So why not spend the money on rail and road to Marsden?

  18. Well Kiwirail just announced they are taking the rail spur to Marsden to the NOR stage (if I remember correctly, Josh?), good luck getting funding though…

    Doesn’t Victoria have a Labor government at the moment too Nick..?

    1. Yeah I think the designation was recently sorted out with Whangarei District Council. Which is a good start, but as you say, it’s unlikely that Joyce would stump up with the funding for such a project.

      There are also issues with the North Auckland Line that need to be resolved before it can be used a lot more for freight (I think some of the tunnel are under-sized).

  19. Yes, Labor at state and federal level. Which is why the rhetoric about PT is up, but naturally funding and action remains at the same baseline.

  20. My analysis of their 2020 plan gives 37% to roads and 42% to PT (mainly rail) but with almost all the heavy rail plans to be funded from the Infrastructure Australia fund…

  21. Yeah, which is a bit like having a transport strategy calling for a CBD tunnel and airport rail link and assuming the central government will step in and pay for them, without any actual indication that they will.

  22. I do think this RTLS will be – by far – the most pro-PT strategy we’ve seen in Auckland for at least 60 years. However, as you say the regional council is fairly powerless in terms of implementing the strategy – so I don’t really know what kind of impact it will have.

  23. @ Liberty Scott – the NLTP is just a picture of funding at that time of publication (actually, a few weeks before publication, if we’re being picky). Unfortunately the funding has shifted, particularly in that work category (002, 003), since that time. The FAR for that category is 75% (for Councils) but that don’t mean shit if there’s no money there! At the moment that work category is over subscribed by around 400%.

    Another thing that’s interesting to note from the NLTP is that there are a bunch of projects with dollars next to them that aren’t actually funded. The listing is just that what the road controlling authority asked for. The actual money available is listed in the “Group Allocaiton” line which sits above the project lists. It’s a bit like a bulk fund for that category. In some instances (namely 451, 452 – infrastructure for cycling and walking associated with accessibility) the group allocation is $0 for Year 1. The NLTP has $7.6m of projects listed for year 1, but none of them will receive subsidy. So not really that much like a bulk fund at all…

  24. If vehicle travel time is the criteria then the two biggest slow downs on the Auckland Whangarei Rd are Warkworth and Wellsford.
    Bypass those two sections and the average time for the trip will drop for the least amount of money.

  25. Yes I would be very keen to support a by-pass of those two centres and new alignments for the most dangerous parts, that would be well worth the money and also making the stretch of road safer and saving some lives… This proposal is most definitely not cost-effective…

  26. Jeremy Harris: Don’t accuse me of bias. We are talking about funds raised from road users. You do NOT know if Puhoi-Wellsford is worth building or not, you’re guessing as an armchair amateur with no idea at all about how to undertake economic cost-benefit analysis. I don’t know, and frankly if it can be tolled, I’d be happy for it to be tolled. If it has a BCR less than 2 I would regard it with a high degree of scepticism. I’d treat rail the same except, oops the equivalent of tolls never recover opex, and you’ll struggle to find a rail project in NZ with a BCR of 2. On top of that, try using track access charges in New Zealand to spend on new rail capital, it is laughable.

    Who is biased now?

    Admin: Why are state highways NOT self funding? Present the evidence.

    R. Lin: Indeed you are right, but it is nonsense to equate transport planning funding with investigation for individual projects. You could all oppose the around $90 million of taxpayers (not road users’) money going into doing the same for Transmission Gully, which Michael Cullen approved, but you may all be too blinkered in thinking National is that different from Labour.

    Jeremy Harris: Puhoi to Wellsford may indeed mean exactly what you describe, the map at the top of this post is not the proposal, it is a guess by this blog. The investigation will determine the long term strategy for this section of highway. My concern is that you’ve all jumped the gun without really knowing what the likely options will be, as the investigation is part of that.

    Good job only road users are paying for it though!

  27. Liberty, aren’t you getting far too caught up in the process by which things are funded rather than the final product? I mean surely if there’s $2 billion in funds available for transport then we should spend them in the way that makes the most logical sense – rather than having it determined by who has paid for it.

    Otherwise we might say that only high earners should get access to health systems or education or….. oh crap, that’s right, you’re a Libertarian. That IS what you propose.

  28. Liberty you are biased by the fact that the means is more important than the end to you due to your rampant non-sensical ideology… I thought you Libbers were big believers in free speech not allowed to be critised eh..?

    Luckily for me I have too functioning eyes and a brain, it doesn’t take rocket science to see this road will have a pathetically low BCR unless it is artifically inflated by time savings or by MoT staff (there have been reports of reports being politically interfered with to make roads seem more economic…

    I don’t think I have a massive bias, I do favour active modes and PT over roads I think thats fair to say and this is only true in Auckland I’ll explain why further down the page, the only rail project I’ve absolutely convinced about is the CBD loop, I don’t particularly like trains but I do recognise two things:
    – The fabulous invention the car is and the value of the freedom it allows
    – The unrivalled ability of rail to move large numbers of people or freight

    So why do I have a leaning towards PT and active modes in Auckland (and too a lesser extent Wellington)..?

    Well we have reached car and road saturation in Auckland, we’ve run out of room to put more (except for the very expensive underground options we see with the VPT and Waterview), I take into account the needs of the hundreds of thousand who are too young, elderly, disabled or poor to drive, I take into account what those overseas are doing, I realise (from studying evolution) that an unadaptable transport system based on one resource oil (think anteater minus ants) is an inherently dangerous thing to have, I believe sprawl and too much car use is bad for your health and for the social and liveablity qualities of a city and finally I recognise that if public transport, active mode and roading infrastructure is provided as a public good those cities that have extensive PT and active mode use and systems spend far less of their GDP than we here in Auckland do…

    I take all these factors into account when thinking about transport, not just who pays what or what looks best on a piece of paper at the end of a flawed BCR process…

  29. Nice ‘back of the envelope’ BCR effort Jarbury!

    But as an aside, I totally agree with Nick R – ARC and ARTA long-term plans are far too little too late on PT. CBD rail by 2021 is 12 years off, when the rail laying crews are due to finish the West line doubliung in a year or so. And passenger numbers are putting pressure on peak capacity today (and wait for the patronage surge when the West track doubling finishes).

    In other words, we need urgent PT action from ARC (soon to be $upercity). Guys like Mike Lee and Joel Cayford are good pro-PT people, but they accept the planners dismally pessimistic predictions too readily. Recall the planners had Onehunga rail off the 20 year plan just a few years ago – now it’s rapidly being finished! Shows what can be done when a fire is lit under their a**.

    How to fund it? Redirect ARC rates from roads to PT, and pick the low-hanging fruit first. There is far too much emphasis on expensive, lengthy PT projects that don’t rapidly build patronage.

    Two key projects would be to extend Onehunga rail across Manukau harbour to Mangere Bridge, and to build a stub line from Sylvia Park over Tamaki river to Pakuranga shopping centre. Why these? Because they shift passnegers into rail *instead* of crossing the existing road bridges. Big numbers jumping onto trains to cross the waterways (and hok into the rest of the rail network) cuts the need for duplicate motorway bridges (the SH20 duplicate bridge is already being built, but Pakuranga is still scheduled). Far more patronage growth to be had from these than even the CBD tunnel.

  30. Admin: Please don’t misrepresent libertarian politics, besides which this is not the place to discuss it. No libertarian says people should not have access to health and education, but anyway I digress. Most of the transport sector works with user pays rather well, yet urban public transport doesn’t. Why? It is because subsidising public transport is the second best alternative to road pricing – it is what is done to offset when marginal cost road pricing does not exist, because cars do not pay for the full costs of their externalities at peak times in cities. That is it. That is the sole economic argument for it. Every other argument is about transfers between income brackets, and that is best achieved by vouchers for fares, petrol or parking. Wherever you take the funds from already sends a price signal to those generating it, and whatever you subsidise does the same thing.

    Jeremy Harris: Throwing insults doesn’t help your argument, it just shows you don’t have an argument.

    Do tell of the reports of reports being politically interfered with. Email the Opposition. If you’re going to make allegations of improper behaviour then do it.

    The transport expenditure on GDP quote is thrown about a lot, could you say what other activities the cities you compared with Auckland spend GDP on? Could you explain how the calculations are made, or is this all part of the “back of an envelope” amateur analyst type of thinking that is seen all too often here?

    In other words, are there any economics papers which state whether or not this matters? NZ spends a lot per capita on transport because transport has very high fixed costs and most of NZ’s transport networks operate far below capacity (and the distances from the rest of the world add a lot as well, plus a relatively low value exchange rate meaning vehicles and oil is expensive).

    Could it be that comparison of cities spending on transport per capita actually isn’t a good measure, unless you compare it on a Purchasing Power Parity basis for starters, and see what else they spend money on? Copenhagen, for example, probably spends much more on heating, for obvious reasons. It may spend more on housing. People may earn more as well. In other words, a lot of interpretations can be made by this seemingly simple comparison, which I think needs a little more thinking. Like I also pointed out elsewhere, a key reason Copenhagen is different from Auckland is cycling – which entirely makes the difference in mode shares between Auckland and Copenhagen for car use. Big efforts into cycling for cities that are well suited (Hamilton, Christchurch) are likely to be far more effective for less money than public transport.

  31. Liberty, see my post today which compares different US cities: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2009/10/26/benefits-of-rail-transit/ with regards to what percentage of wealth different cities spend on transportation.

    In terms of road pricing versus public transport subsidisation, I guess it comes down to which one has the greatest benefits to the city overall. Once again I think it makes sense to focus on the final outcome – the best result – rather than what fits in with your ideological purity the most. Given that almost all cities around the world subsidise public transport (even including cities with congestion charging) they must consider that it’s “worth it”.

  32. Hi, whatever the cost, one thing is sure, it won’t be cheap.
    It concerns me a bit that it is called the Puhoi to Wellsford bypass.
    Does this mean the new road will stop at Wellsford?
    It needs to be continued to the the new section of road just north of TeHana and it would be plain dumb to stop it anywhere south of that.
    There are so many signs up on the stretch of road through the Dome Valley, people need to be watching everything except where they are going. That section of road should have most of those signs removed and instead be promoted as a scenic route. It would be nicer and safer to encourage people to enjoy the drive and not have so many ugly distracting signs up creating a feeling of gloom and doom along the way. The speed limit reduction was a knee jerk reaction to fatalities on the road and has not solved that issue.
    State Highway one does not go through Wellsford, it stops at the south end and starts again at the North End.
    One option could be, perhaps if SHway1 was continued right on through town on the same track and widened and given the same treatment as Huntly and walled for safety with the fronts all turned into backs and new shop fronts built onto the backs creating a new shopping centre on the other side, with a more ambient community atmosphere away from the traffic.
    Another option could be to look at the piece of land bounded by Station road, Matheson Road and Rodney st. Transform that area into a Mall and all the shops etc re-housed into a shopping centre, built with an influence of the Albertlanders to enhance the heritage of the area.
    As the whole of the central shopping area is on the ridge top, underpasses could be built at all the roads through town, linking both sides. This would be far cheaper to do than realigning and building a new highway elswhere and would give Wellsford a well needed refurbishment as well. Houses along the route could be either purchased and removed or where possible, sidings constructed for egress. Way cheaper solution at the Wellsford end of things.

  33. Bypass Warkworth, bypass Wellsford, ease a few nasty corners, build a few concrete barriers at other nasty corners…. spend $200 million and achieve pretty much the same thing that the $2 billion “holiday highway” will achieve.

  34. Holiday highway is a shambles, this piece of motorway will only benefit the people drving up north during the summer season. 90% of the year the motorway will be empty and not very busy as very few people live north of Auckland. Why can’t the government commit to providing Auckland with an airport railway link, which see’s a high number of passengers travel in and out of the airport. This would at least give something to New Zealand that will benefit the majority of the people. As Auckland International Airport grows, the greater the need for a decent railway link to serve the area.

    The Mr Joyce has commited as of 27th January that he will spend billions of dollars of your money on “Holiday Highway” this man cannot be trusted and he doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what NZ really needs to grow into the 21st rather than repeating the same mistake that many countries have done. I certaintly won’t be voting National if we continue to hear more of these ridiculous ancoucments to state highway spending.

  35. The new motorway will NOT “only benefit the people driving north during the summer season.” I know because I live near the section of SH1 between Puhoi and Warkworth.
    The motorway will benefit everyone who travels by road north of Puhoi. The route has a very high density of freight traffic and fuel and transport costs would drop significantly.
    Because it is so dangerous the current Puhoi-Wellsford route claims at least three lives a year.
    The enormous traffic jams are increasing in frequency and seriousness every year. There are now more than 25 days a year when traffic comes to a standstill in one direction or the other between Puhoi and Warkworth. It can happen on a normal sunny weekend, not just holidays.
    At least get your facts right. This is not just a holiday highway, it’s a main transport artery affecting everyone who lives north of Orewa/Puhoi.
    The question is, WHAT kind of road needs to replace the existing highway and where, but not “if” we need one.

  36. “but not “if” we need one”

    Meaning you accept the main premise of SJ – that we NEED a new highway – without challenging it. Doesn’t sound absolutely open-minded to me either.

    And one of the biggest arguments often touted, safety, would actually benefit more from investing a fraction of the money into safety upgrades RIGHT NOW.

    “There are now more than 25 days a year when traffic comes to a standstill in one direction or the other between Puhoi and Warkworth. It can happen on a normal sunny weekend, not just holidays.”

    So once every 10-15 days? Under that logic, we should widen all Auckland motorways, because they come to a stand-still much more often than that. Oh, wait – WE ARE.

    In short, I do not consider your arguments as sound when one remembers that this is not a “with or without” Puhoi Motorway game. It is a zero-sum game, where any money that goes to this oversized dinosaur is missing for desperately needed other projects elsewhere in the country. And in case you think I am Auckland-centric, imagine what could be done if that 1.5 billion was spent doing safety and capacity upgrades on the WHOLE of the route from Auckland to Whangarei. Or even imagine what it would do if it was spent upgrading the rail connection to Northland. For 1.5 billion one could finally give the trucks a run for their money, literally.

    Sorry – it remains the wrong emphasis, at the wrong time. And it remains the holiday highway for me, because SJ is taking a holiday from reality with it, and even his own staff are telling him so with their BCR calculations though they aren’t allowed to do so all that loudly.

    Which is why they dig out “wider economic benefit calculations”, which as of 2010 are about as sound as psycho-analysis and stock forecasting – a stab in the dark, with a fore-ordained outcome supporting whatever the person asking the question wants to hear.

  37. admin – thanks, yes I’ll explore the more recent material.

    Karl – I haven’t accepted outright the premise that a new motorway is needed without considering the alternatives.

    I have thought about the possible benefits of an upgraded rail route to Northland and while I claim no expertise in this area the following issues occur to me:
    – a rail upgrade is likely to have some effect on freight and minimal effect on passenger traffic. Point to point rail travel doesn’t benefit enough people to make it economic between low density populations. Our geography and population distribution unfortunately makes rail and public transport an inconvenient option for too many and an impossible option for some.
    – rail upgrades are also extremely expensive and my guess (it is just a guess) is that the CBR would be precarious even taking into account freight benefits. I don’t know the figures and accept there may be a convincing economic argument for an improved freight service but in New Zealand we always face the risk of lack of political will and chronic shortsightedness when it comes to national infrastructure development.
    – NZ made the historical mistake of choosing narrow gauge railway; we can only maximise the benefits of rail by upgrading to wide gauge track. I doubt we have the foresight or revenue to accomplish this.

    The difference between traffic standstill (or crawl) on Auckland motorways differs from traffic standstill on the Puhoi-Warkworth (P-W) highway for a few reasons. Firstly, Auckland drivers have the option of alternate routes, inconvenient though this may be. Residents along the P-W highway have no alternative – literally no alternate route and no public transport. Also, I think there is a difference between rush-hour delays on urban roads and delays/standstill on a primary national route, not just a statistical difference but a qualitative difference in terms of how people want to live and where and how they want to expend time. Urban congestion can be alleviated by public transport but that is not a practical option for most state highway traffic. There is also a quantitative difference in the impact of the delays. For Auckland commuting traffic the difference is usually in the order of 10-20 minutes per rush-hour journey. Delays on the northern highway can be as much has two hours per journey.

    There is a very strong case for urgent safety improvements on the Puhoi-Wellsford route. The problems are many and well documented. I have seen some improvements on this highway which don’t make sense, such as overtaking lanes too short to provide any benefit and road surface improvements which have had to be replaced in a year’s time. Parts of the route are a disgrace.

    Some of the benefit analyses I’ve read seem very narrow. For example, when discussing delays in the journey between Auckland and Whangarei, the Warkworth and Wellsford delays might be the most noticeable, however there are many cumulative delays and to make a significant difference they all need addressing to some degree. To address only the Warkworth and Wellsford bottlenecks achieves little more that moving the bottlenecks to different stages of the route. Full benefits are only achieved when average traffic speed and capacity is improved over the entire route where delays are experienced. If experience is anything to go by, planners routinely ignore the traffic density compression-decompression effect of inconsistent flow rates.

    In addition to absolute qualitative analyses, such as cost per passenger journey per kilometre, or number of passenger journeys per hour over a particular route, there are qualitative factors to be taken into consideration. Lifestyle and livelihood hardship factors faced by rural communities should be considered and given weight when making decisions. If decisions were made solely on the basis of the number of people benefitting per dollar investment, no road improvements would take place outside of Auckland city.

    Similarly, in the cut and thrust of statistics and predictions, it’s a mistake to ignore human nature. Highway planning should look far into the future. A dwindling oil supply will force a change in the means of propulsion, but it’s unlikely to shift human preference away from the convenience of private transport. Human nature is also the cause of many fatalities. We can campaign against impatience and aggressive driving all we like, but for so long as we accept roading characteristics that contribute to frustration and anger, we will pay the price for not resolving them.

    I accept that a new motorway completely bypassing the existing route may not be the only solution, and I agree that a significantly improved route as far as Whangarei makes sense. But some sort of new highway between Puhoi and Wellsford is needed. As someone who depends on this route, and who has had to help at road tragedies there, I’m all too familiar with the realities of the problems with the existing road. One thing I’m certain of: in the long term, patching it up in places is not the answer. In the short term, parts of the route must be made less hazardous.

    As it stands, the proposed new motorway goes through my property. I’d prefer it didn’t because my house will be one of the first to be bulldozed. I’m in a lose-lose situation – damned if they build a new highway, damned if they don’t. But I’ve seen how much the situation has worsened in just the past five years and I dread to think how bad it will be in 10-20 years without major improvements which go beyond simple fixes and enhancements to the existing road. It may be appear to be a holiday highway to some, but for just as many it’s a livelihood route. I also believe that shorter (and safer) travelling times between Auckland and the far north will deliver real, widespread economic benefit especially to the latter, as well as lifestyle and livelihood improvements.

    Whatever the outcome, now that my property is in the path of a proposed highway I’ll be paying close attention to all arguments and it will be interesting to see if and how my views change.

    1. Thanks for your comments David, they are very welcome, interesting and well put.

      Essentially I have two problems with the current proposal:

      1) It appears to be a low ‘value-for-money’ way to spend close to $2 billion compared to other transport projects in the Auckland region. I accept that it has benefits, but then so would just about any transport project: the question is whether the extent and level of those benefits justify the expenditure on that project. In my opinion (and I have done quite a lot of research on the business case for the proposal) more cost-effective options should be looked at.

      2) Safety upgrades are needed NOW. If we proceed with a completely new off-line motorway it will be 2019 before the Puhoi to Warkworth section is completed, and 2022 before the Warkworth to Wellsford section is completed. By my calculations, by that time around another 50 people would have died on the road. We are hardly going to see concrete medians, Schedewys Hill deviations and so forth to improve safety on the existing road any time soon if it is going to be bypassed in less than 10 years. Many of the safety upgrades would be within the existing designated area, so theoretically work could start on them tomorrow.

      Another big issue I have is that it encourages urban sprawl in the north Rodney area, which works against most of Auckland’s land-use strategies that seek to encourage intensification and limit urban sprawl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *