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.

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31 comments

    1. Ding dong the East West link is dead! It should never have been proposed in the first place and is an embarrassment to NZTA – bad political decision of the Minister pushing a roading/ trucking lobby project when it obviously doesn’t stackup and no one at NZTA or AT/ Auckland Council stands up and says this is madness (maybe they did – please speak up if so).

      It was never put to fit and proper scrutiny (including ATAP) – and struggled to have any independent assessment. Thanks to the Transport Blog for speaking truth to power. It shows a need for an independent non political body to assess these major spend projects and provide proper public scrutiny to them. Thanks again Transport Blog, and opponents, for publicising this squandering of public resources.

    1. Yes now that this won’t be happening I hope Panuku will go back and continue their plants to redevelop the waterfront, a plan that was cancelled after NZTA and National planned to ram this project through the middle of it. Panuku were forced to divest the land to NZTA for it.

      1. Having recently cycled through the Mangere inlet at high tide through to Onehunga at high tide a lot of it is less than 1m above high tide and long term the sea wall and path will need to be raised and protected from the sea. At the Onehunga end near the cemetary there is some superb native planting. The far mangere end is scrappy and weedy but is next to a fantastic mangrove forest which is especially large and extensive as the inlet sweeps south by the rail line (historic maori portage route to Waitemata). I don’t really see much room for reclamation but possibly a floating board walk right around the harbours end and showing off the mangrove forest and historic site near rail line. Chump change versus $1.6 Billion+ for EW link.

  1. Looking at the last map the Mangere Inlet stands out as potentially valuable for reclamation (in my brain a a recent ad for Dubai tourism – man made islands). Driving by it doesn’t look deep – so is it feasible, has it ever been proposed, who would own any reclaimed land?

      1. Thanks for the link. I liked the disagreement about the ecological quality of the inlet and the idea of running a railway across it seems worthy of discussion. With $1b to spend they might achieve something worthwhile – a string of islands could be fun.

    1. +1 Bob and Shard.
      Close off the inlet from the old Manukau Bridge, fill it in and use the thousands of hectares created as highly valuable, centrally located, well connected land for development.
      Could build a nice new beach etc and possibly even leave a canal through it. Could house tens of thousands and provide thousands of jobs etc.

  2. I am looking forward to far more (read any) cooperation from Central government to Auckland Council but rather than the next decade, if National had remained, we would got light rail, sometime in the late ’40’s, such was their antipathy to the greater public good.

    I agree that the SH20 connection to Neilson St badly needs sorting for vehicles travelling from the Mangere direction. It’s as if someone forgot about that and hurriedly stuck it on to the bottom of Onehunga Mall.

    Although nothing is impossible a Church St link south bound on SH1 will have a fair few issues to contend with, none cheap, namely the bottle neck at Mt Wellington highway.

    One other headwind that will test this governments resolve is that any decisions not contributing to the trucking and roading lobby and the few will have the wrath of god thrown back at them by the corporate media.

    Remember, according to the NZ Herald, Jacinda cursed the All Blacks!

  3. Option B creates a lot of extra costs with the location of those SH1 south facing only ramps/links, NZTA consultants told me at the public feedback sessions that it cuts into the northern side of Hamlins hill quite some way to make rooms for the new lanes so will severely reduce the amenity of Hamlin Hill even a lot more than it is now. As well require expensive earthworks and bridges/viaducts to get the lanes from the motorway around the north west corner of the Hamlins Hill.

    There was a better option than B that achieved similar outcomes put the Church St link to SH1 along the back of Sylvia Park Road and didn’t need as much earthworks and avoided the Mt Wellington Highway area.
    Plus the existing motorway corridor could accommodate most of the on/off ramps without the need for extensive land acquisition.

    Thats the better option that should be chosen. It was also the “crowd favourite” during the many public consultation sessions that happened nearly 2 years ago.

    However, I think the Gloucester Road interchange [western] end with SH20 needs to be properly redesigned, using the information gathered from the Waterview tunnel. Because when they were consulting on this 2 years ago NZTA admitted they had no idea of the effect on SH20 at Onehunga that Waterview would have.

    Now they will have, and can design something that works as a integrated transport network solution, not a bunch of expensive truck by passes.

  4. Sanity prevails.

    One could make the case that with this decision on the East-West link the new Labour-led Government has improved the welfare of New Zealanders by approximately $1 billion.

    Hopefully they can keep up finding savings like this, rather than just spending more.

    1. Absolutely Stu, it is a savings. Building a rail only second harbour crossing will also be a savings.
      Or the country (and I am thinking Auckland) could do something completely different and, like Vienna, have a yearly public transport pass. (The yearly pass costs about NZ $2 per day.) This pass is so successful that the number issued now exceeds car ownership in the city. Vienna has a goal of 80% of city trips being by sustainable methods by 2025. Compare this with AT which hasn’t managed to reduce car trips to the city by any amount over the last 10 years; and despite their policies seems to have little likelihood of doing so in the next ten years. Sadly the city represents the easiest area in which to reduce car usage.
      Vienna have found that this increased public transport usage (940 million trips per annum cf Auckland 90 million for the same population) has markedly decreased household spending on transport. In Auckland it may eliminate the need to build any new roads.
      https://www.wien.gv.at/statistik/pdf/viennainfigures-2016.pdf
      Auckland’s system and the country’s system for private vehicle transport is failing and I am keen to see other options.
      Would the million that you have talked of cover high speed rail to Hamilton and Tauranga as well as rail to Whangerei? And maybe these projects may also take some of the pressure off Auckland’s housing market?our

      1. As well as progressing rail to the shore, it’d be great to see the Onehunga branch extended to Mangere Bridge. The corridor already exists and with the east west link gone, construction becomes simpler.

      2. I always bought annual passes in Prague, which was about NZ$250 per annum for travel anywhere in the metropolitan area on any vehicle. They are great value and would really encourage people to use PT more as they have already paid.

        The game changer would be if FBT is cancelled on buying PT passes for employees. I don’t see the difference with supplying unallocated parking for employees which is also FBT exempt.

  5. I wonder whether the Board of Inquiry can be tasked with giving some guidance on alternatives. That is not part of their current powers, but they have heard so much evidence, that their input would be valuable.

  6. I’d like to see the whole area transformed into a lovely beachfront with apartments and wide boardwalks to encourage people to use the area, therefore even if National gets in next time they can’t ram a motorway through there.

  7. As much as they may disagree the trucking lobby does not run this country. Time for Mainfreight’s Don Braid to provide some advice to the government on freight strategy.

    1. I am thinking the best solution is to develop more Road Rail transfer points away from the Penrose Westfield Onehunga area. Already a lot of containers are now moving by road in and out of Massey road. Maybe it would be possible for more freight to be handled at Wuri with trains going directly south. There is also land at both Papatoetoe and Puhinui stations which could possible be used as well although any sidings would complicate train running but then the third main could help. Tamaki and Henderson have being used in the past. I suppose I am thinking of new to rail transport companies setting up with sidings away from the transport hotspot of Penrose, Westfield and Onehunga area. Although maybe some existing companies would like to develop more rail linked depots. For example the Mainfreight group of companies already have three sites and they look pretty full up with wagons everytime I go past on the train.

      1. It’s probably unlikely that the freight volumes being handled by such rail linked depots would justify direct main line trains to/ from the depots. Therefore additional shunting services would need to operate from Westfield/ Southdown to transfer wagons from mainline services starting and terminating there. This will require additional pathways to be found between AT passenger services, Port Shuttles and other freight services.

        1. Still it gets the trucks out of the congested area even if the freight needs to be shunted up to Westfield. Another thing would be to be to run a siding into the Warehouse site. I expect a lot of the containers I see running along on trucks on Papatoetoe station road are going there. If a heavy rail connection was made to the airport from Puhinui it would give opportunity to develop more rail served sites. So spread the load around a bit rather than have it all concentrated. And I believe that the present rail road sites are getting congested as well with just not enough wagon siding space to handle the freight which is available. And we have a new govt which wants to increase the amount of freight on rail. One last thing I keep looking at the old port at Onehunga its being used for container storage with a scaled down East west link a new siding could be laid in there giving another road rail transfer point. And it is not completely out of the question that coastal shipping service could return. Pity about the overbridge though.

  8. So my question is: If they pare it back down to something a bit more appropriate, does NZTA have to go back to apply for a different corridor designation? And if so, how on earth do they sell that to a judge after swearing blind that the motorway solution was the ideal solution?

  9. The whole reason the Pakuranga Motorway was linked to Neilson Street via the big flyover at Sylvia Park, the Southern Motorway underpass and the Church Street railway grade separation was to create an east-west link serving the industrial areas. It’s been in place since the late 1990s, but was never quite completed with the Neilson Street upgrade, particularly the Neilson St-Church St intersection, and with all Southern Motorway connections built. All they ever needed to do was complete this pre-existing relatively new east-west link, not build a whole new one from scratch.

  10. Now’s the time to start looking at scoping and designing a crossing for LR (or HR ;p ) to the Airport, while incorporating that into Panuku’s plans for a revitalised and reconnected port precint.

  11. The Otahuhu off ramp upgrade is long due.
    The new design has better cycling and walking as well as improving safety and improving the surrounding.

    It is a pity if that upgrade get cancelled.

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