Words like transformational and step-change get thrown around far too often when talking about transport announcements. But I think yesterday’s release of the updated Auckland Transport Alignment Project is one announcement that certainly qualifies.
At $28 billion over the next decade, the plan the biggest we’ve seen and for the first time it’s fully funded too – although there are a couple of caveats on that¹. Furthermore, of that, about $16.7 billion is for capital projects with almost two thirds dedicated to public transport, walking/cycling and safety. That’s a significant change on Auckland’s history and means we can invest towards a much more balanced and transport system. Even some of the remaining spend, on roads, greenfield projects and network optimisation will likely have some benefits for PT and active modes. The funding breakdown is below.
The $8.4 billion for Rapid Transit really is the star of the show. As a result of this package, by 2028 our nascent rapid transit network will have been developed into something Aucklanders can start to be really proud of. Based on this, by 2028 we should have the following projects completed:
- City Rail Link
- Electrification to Pukekohe
- 3rd Main from Otahuhu to Wiri
- Electric trains (at least two tranches)
- Other network improvements
- City to Airport
- Northwest (possibly as far as Kumeu).
- Northern Busway extension
- Eastern Busway from Panmure to Botany
- Airport to Puhinui
These are shown in the map below.
Of course, this will be supported by significant investments in more bus lanes, other bus infrastructure, the downtown ferry terminal and a range of other things. The cycling investment will further help in connecting people to the network. Oh and did we mention Skypath was coming.
We’re used to getting one of those sized projects every 5-10 years so to get that much improvement over the next decade will make Auckland look and feel like another city. This will be further enhanced as the network is developed post 2028 and the full future map is also remarkably similar to our CFN. This is exciting for us as it is one of the reasons we created the CFN in the first place.
During his speech, as he has at other events, Phil Twyford repeatedly referred to the CFN including this quote from yesterday: “It is government policy to have a congestion free network“. One comment I’ve made to the minister is that while this announcement is great, he needs to get the various agencies to work out how to effectively communicate what is planned. One such example I gave was to ensure a network map showing the planned works were in all trains and buses, like I discussed here.
Some of the potential post 2028 projects get a mention in the report. These projects include:
- Further rail network upgrades to enable express and inter-city trains
- Fourth main rail line between Westfield and Wiri
- Third and ultimately Fourth Main between Wiri and Papakura
- Third Main between Papakura and Pukekohe
- North Shore (Orewa to City, including Takapuna connection, upgrade of the Northern Busway and new harbour crossing)
- Upper Harbour (Westgate to Albany)
- Cross Isthmus (New Lynn to Onehunga)
As part of this, the report makes some interesting comments about the North Shore upgrade to light rail too, which I’ve bolded.
The North Shore corridor is being enhanced over the next decade through committed projects extending the Northern Busway from Constellation to Albany improvements, providing bus shoulder lanes between Albany and Orewa and making bus priority improvements on Fanshawe Street in the city centre. Projected future demand on this corridor is high and detailed investigation by Auckland Transport suggests upgrading the Northern Busway to a higher capacity mode (likely to be light rail) may be required by the mid-2030s, earlier than previously anticipated. This would require a new rapid transit crossing of the Waitematā Harbour on an alignment that connects with the City-Airport light rail corridor at Wynyard Quarter. There is an urgent need to confirm the rapid transit corridor’s future mode and alignment, including how it integrates with a potential future road crossing.
And in a separate section it also notes
Further development of this project should ultimately enable delivery of a multi-modal corridor across the harbour, with flexibility for rapid transit and road to potentially be delivered in separate tunnels at separate times.
This seems to be one of the first steps to separate out any future PT crossing from the road crossing and build it first. We fully support this.
Overall, we’re really happy with how this version of ATAP has turned out, and that it will actually happen. It’s also an announcement we’ve been advocating for over the last 10 years of the blogs existence. Well done to the Minister, Mayor and all others involved.
Finally, some of the responses from other organisations have been interesting
- As you’d expect, National have been upset and put out a press release that I’m not sure contained a single true statement.
- The AA focused on congestion, saying the report/project doesn’t go far enough to reduce congestion – the report says congestion will be at 2016 levels. This ignores that the whole point of investing in rapid transit like the government are, is not to reduce congestion but to allow more people to ‘opt out’ of congestion
- The Chamber of Commerce appear relatively happy and focused primarily on wanting to see the projects delivered on time and budget
- Infrastructure NZ, the lobby group for people that build and finance infrastructure say they’re happy but also want many of the projects, especially the road projects, to be bigger.
- National Road Carriers – a truck lobby, appear happy with the roads that were included, although want some to be bigger.
¹ The $1.8b for Light Rail is considered seed funding to help the project get moving and they’ll be looking at how to fund the full programme which is estimated at up to $6 billion. Penlink will be a PPP.