It’s often difficult to link elections with major transport decisions. City Rail Link is happening, even though the previous government took a long time to be talked around to supporting the project – maybe it would have happened faster if some elections played out differently, but we’ve got there. Looking forward, I’m pretty sure light-rail would have happened within the next decade regardless of the election outcome – but it will almost certainly happen faster now.
However, on one transport issue it seems the election result will lead to a lasting impact. That is the East West Link project. A re-elected National Government would have pushed on with the project as one of their next generation “roads of national significance” and by the time the 2020 election rolls around this project (unless we see the unlikely situation where its consent is declined) would have probably been under construction. In contrast, Labour have committed to significantly scaling back the project – banking around $1.2 billion of savings. Given the available alternatives to the East West Link are pretty strong and could deliver pretty much the same outcomes for far lower cost and far less environmental damage, it’s difficult to see the East West Link emerging again down the track once these cheaper and less destructive options are pursued.
Furthermore, as so eloquently explained by Infrastructure NZ’s Hamish Glenn the other week in his presentation to the project’s Board of Inquiry hearing, even in the very distant future there is relatively little demand on the East West Link project so it’s highly probable a cheaper option would be effective for a very long time.
This leaves a big question of “now what?” I talked about how this might play out a few months ago, alongside what the much cheaper and more effective alternative options could end up being.
Labour’s numbers say they need to save around $1.2 billion and the current project costs around $1.8 billion, so this still leave around $600 million to spend. For that money I would expect the focus to be on:
- Upgrading the Onehunga motorway interchange
- Upgrading Neilson Street
- Connecting Neilson/Church street with State Highway 1 south-facing ramps
This option is summarised in the diagram below:
The original economic analysis for East West suggests that even though this option (Option B) is much cheaper, it will actually deliver more economic benefits.
So to summarise, we will end up savings over a billion dollars, delivering more economic benefits from the upgrades that are implemented and avoid some pretty horrific environmental impacts on the Mangere Inlet. I think that’s a clear win-win-win.