The NZTA not building a Northwest Busway alongside the upgrades to State Highway 16 is already shaping up as one of the biggest in Auckland’s long and notable history of transport mistakes. While investigations have been underway since at least 2011, NZTA have continued to ignore the pressing need for this project in their work to progress this part of the Western Ring Route. This is even the case on the parts under construction right now, for which the NZTA appear to deliberately designed to make a busway harder to build later.
Last year with the publication of ATAP – which placed the busway firmly into the first decade as one of the highest priority projects – I was hopeful that NZTA had been dragged into line.
This was further confirmed in the update to ATAP that was released in August, which noted the following about the Busway:
We also know that an indicative business case is being progressed for this corridor. In June last year NZTA approved funding for the business case, with the following reasons behind their decision:
So just to recap, there is extremely clear direction from ATAP about the project’s inclusion in the first decade, there’s a clear direction from the update to ATAP that major investigation was a priority for the next three years and past decisions by the NZTA board that supported progressing the project’s business case. In addition, during the recent election both major parties supported a major public transport upgrade of this corridor, with only the preferred mode differing (national supporting a busway while Labour supported light-rail). I think we can call that a pretty clear consensus from both a political and technical level of the need for this crucial project.
Given all this, it would be an absolute no-brainer to see the Northwest Busway included in NZTA’s recently published draft 2018-21 State Highway programme for Auckland right? Well, hmmm….
The most they’ll say about the project is that they might add it to the list above list following more discussions and funding and delivery of the project, even though I understand they’ve formally taken the project over from AT.
It is almost as if the NZTA are once again deliberately trying to sabotage this project by trying to ignore it. They’ve been given a crystal clear direction from all the major strategic transport plans that this is a crucial project. Perhaps it’s that they’re so embarrassed by their past decisions to not construct the busway at the same time the motorway was upgraded that they are just hoping everyone will forget and the project will go away. After all, it’s likely that much of what they’ve only built and are building right now, especially the extensions of the NW cycleway, are going to have to be ripped up in a few years to make way for this project.
It’s worth noting that we have heard that the NZTA and AT were just about to go out to consultation on the project but then put it on hold due to the election. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard that they’re just about to consult so it’s become a case of “we’ll believe it when we see it”.
Come on NZTA, just get on with it.
What section gets built first?
While on the topic of the busway, looking again at the update to ATAP that was released in August, I noticed an interesting comment about the timing of the busway in a footnote.
ATAP had the Westgate to Te Atatu section of the Northwestern Busway in the first decade, and the Pt Chevalier to Newton section in the second decade. Subsequent business case work suggests focusing on the Newton to Pt Chevalier and Te Atatu to Lincoln Rd sections first to maximise value for money.
Building the city end part of the busway upfront makes a lot of sense as it could benefit not just buses to the Northwest but also PT on the inner west too, although we’ll still need a lot of capacity on Gt North Rd, especially with all the development going on along that route.