With the year drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year and all of the important events that have occurred. Because there’s so much to cover, I’ll be splitting this up over multiple posts, starting with public transport.
It’s been another big year for PT with a lot of progress being made on a number of fronts. Here are some of the big changes this year.
City Rail Link
Auckland’s most important transport project has made some good progress this year and it’s hard to miss the construction underway at the northern end of the city centre. From the bright red Bentonite tanks outside Britomart to the now 18m deep trench up Albert St, the area is a hive of activity. On Albert St the tunnel slab has now started to be poured and whilst at the Commercial Bay site the tunnels are now clearly visible.
The ‘early works’ have provided the visible sign of progress and behind the scenes work is still progressing on the rest of the project. This includes tendering for the ‘main works’ on the project which will build the rest of the tunnels and the stations. We were hoping the two companies to be shortlisted for this would have been announced by now, but regardless, it won’t be till sometime in 2018 that we know who’ll be tasked with building it.
Things haven’t been perfect though and we’ve been critical of some of the decisions made, particularly in relation to the Karangahape Rd station and the potential to future-proof for longer trains. At K Rd, we believe that it’s important entrances are built at both Beresford Square and Mercury Lane for day one, not just the latter like currently planned. One reason for this is that an entrance at Beresford provides better accessibility for those with disabilities. Comments by the head of the CRL project that the steep walk up to K Rd as being “not a difficult walk” that’s “good for you”, and later that it’s fine because other streets in the city are steep, have shown a huge lack of understanding of the need to build an inclusive city for all. This is something we hope will be rectified in 2018.
This year we’ve seen the rollout of the West Auckland New Network and earlier this month, the Eastern network
The good news is that the numbers for both South and West Auckland are showing improvement on what they were prior to each being implemented.
The area we’ve been most disappointed with as part of the new network is the abysmal frequencies on the rail network off peak and on weekends. Rail is meant to be the strategic core of the network, yet at times it’s running less frequently than the services that connect to it.
Light Rail has been one of the most talked about issues this year. The former National government were not huge supporters of the project, and like they were with the CRL, kept trying to throw roadblocks up ahead of it. One of those was the Advanced Bus Study, to see if buses could do the job, ultimately finding they couldn’t. Following that, the NZTA board agreed that Light Rail would be needed eventually and the government agreed too. But eventually was discussed as being 30 years away when it’s needed now.
That all changed with the election of a new government, who have been highly supportive of expanding our PT system, including specifying light rail to the airport and to the Northwest.
Northern Busway Extension and Rosedale Station
In October a Board of Inquiry granted consent for the Northern Corridor Improvements. Part of that project will see the hugely successful Northern Busway extended from Constellation station to Albany. As part of that work, just this month, it was announced that a new station at Rosedale Rd will be built. It’s an impressive looking station.
In April we launched the second iteration of our Congestion Free Network. We updated and redesigned the CFN to take into account the latest thinking and understanding on transport in Auckland.
A key part of the CFN is of course to push forward the discussion of transport. On that front we’ve been astounded by the response to the network and are proud the new government has adopted it as part of their official transport policy.
Regional Rapid Rail
In August we launched Regional Rapid Rail, to push the discussion of regional connections. Again we’ve been astounded by the response. Particularly that it was quickly adopted by both Labour and the Greens.
The change in government has resulted in a significant shift in the discussion of transport. Projects like Light Rail are not only supported by the government but enshrined in the agreements between the political parties involved. The new Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, has already shown a great understanding of transport issues, and importantly, how it integrates with land use. That’s important given his other portfolio is Housing. Combined with Julie Anne Genter and Shane Jones as Associate Ministers of Transport and it’s going to be an interesting three years.
It’s been a big year for ridership with a number of milestones reached. For the 12 months to the end of November overall ridership was up 7.6%. There are now more than 90 million trips on the network, passing that milestone in September. That’s up more than 20 million trips in just 4 years.
Milestones were also reached on our Rapid Transit network. In August we surpassed 20 million trips on the rail network, a milestone the Ministry of Transport didn’t expect us to reach before 2020. In the same month we also passed 5 million trips on the Northern Busway.
I think that’s enough for this post. Is there anything major I missed?