The Draft Government Policy Statement released in early April signaled a major shift in government transport priorities. One part of this was the funding for Rapid Transit, which has enabled a quick start to Light Rail procurement. Another major policy shift was that Safety was lifted to become one of the top 2 priorities.

Until now, the impacts of this shift have not been clear. The government was only able to talk in broad terms about what this might mean for new transport projects.

For example, Julie Anne-Genter was quoted as saying:

“For half the cost of the East-West link motorway project, only a few kilometres long, we could afford median barriers down every kilometre of state highway in the country.”

There has not yet been any official announcement from the government of where the new funding would be directed.

However in the last few weeks, NZTA quietly put their “Draft Transport Agency Investment Proposal (TAIP)” onto their website. The TAIP replaces the former “State Highways Investment Proposal’ and sets out the NZTA projects that need to be included in ‘Regional Land Transport Plans”.

The most interesting part of the TAIP, is that for the first time it clearly sets out how NZTA will convert the government new safety focus into projects.

The draft GPS 2018 reflects a significant lift in ambition for improving the safety of the land transport system. The TAIP responds to this by proposing a programme of initiatives across state highway maintenance, operations and improvements, that:

  • Is targeted to the most significant risks: Investment will focus on reducing the risk of head-on crashes, targeting high-risk intersections, making roads and roadsides more forgiving in the event of human error or mechanical fault, and protecting vulnerable users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Can be delivered swiftly: We are focused on highest-value interventions that can be delivered within the next three years and immediately deliver significant safety benefits. For safety interventions that may take more time to design and deliver, we are investigating procurement approaches to expedite delivery as much as possible.

The results expected from the programme are very impressive:

The investments proposed by the TAIP will significantly reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our state highways. The full impact of the programme will be realised by June 2028, when the reduction in deaths or serious injuries will reach around 200 per year. By prioritising the most significant risks, the TAIP will achieve nearly half of this annual reduction by 2021.

So to summarise, they expect a reduction of 100 deaths or serious injuries per year within 3 years.

To achieve this ambitious target the TAIP outlines a new ‘roads and roadside corridor safety programme, covering:

  • High-risk intersections,
  • Median barriers,
  • Motorcycle routes,
  • Speed management on high risk routes
  • Interventions to support active modes of transport such as walking and cycling.

The TAIP outlines the 4 types of interventions, and their indicative costings.

The programmes above contain a balance of the best-performing projects across the following:

  • Safe system enhancement works: includes quick-win median barrier projects, works to facilitate speed management, major intersection improvements, and corridor enhancements costing $2 million per kilometre.
  • Safer corridor improvements: includes motorcycle routes, active mode corridor improvements, and corridor projects costing greater than $200,000 per kilometre.
  • Safe intersection improvements: includes high risk intersection projects, and active mode intersection improvements.
  • Safety management works: includes corridor improvements costing less than $200,000 per kilometre, such as developing and implementing speed management opportunities

The TAIP includes a list of all the projects by region, however I have looked at them in detail, and the key facts are summarized below. Note these are all State Highway upgrade projects, the TAIP alludes to a similar programme for local roads, however this will rely on NZTA working closely with local authorities. Also should note that the TAIP doesn’t include costings for each project, so the costs are based on the indicative per kilometre figures from above.

The map below I have put together shows the location of the proposed ‘Safe System Enhancement Works’, where the most expensive improvements will be made. This programme proposes that 280 km of these road upgrades are completed within the next 3 years, and a further 400 km within the next 10 years. At the indicative cost of the $2 million per kilometer, this would be a $1.4 billion investment.

Major upgrades in this class proposed for the next 3 years include:

  • Whangarei to Kawakawa
  • Pokeno to Paeroa, Waihi and Thames
  • Featherston to Upper Hutt
  • Blenheim to Seddon

The ‘Safer Corridor Improvements’ projects propose the upgrade of around 1300 km of road in the next 3 years, and a further 2000 km over the next 10 years. Given expected project costs of between $200,000 and $2,000,000 per kilometer, this is a further investment of around $2 to 3 billion.

Major upgrades in this class proposed for the next 3 years include:

  • Whangarei to Wellsford
  • Hamilton to Raglan, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville
  • Tirau to Rotorua
  • Te Kuiti to New Plymouth
  • Paeroa to Tauranga
  • Hastings to Takapua
  • Wellington to Upper Hutt
  • Blenheim to Nelson
  • Westport to Greymouth

Some of these safety ugrades also include a plan to deliver improved resilience (for example from floods and slips).

Roads destined for this form of upgrades in the next 3 years includes:

  • Kawakawa to Kaitaia
  • Cromwell to Queenstown

Overall around 4000km of road will be upgrade in next 10 year, for an estimated cost of around $5 billion. This is in stark contrast to the previous Roads of National Significance Programme, that aimed to provide 300km of new motorways for around $10 billion.

The proposed safety programme also is in stark contrast to the RONS programme in terms of delivery speed. Many of the RONS will not be complete until the early 2020’s, nearly 15 years after they were first announced. However these minor improvements can be delivered much quicker, with big progress expected within 3 years.

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73 comments

  1. This is a brilliant and overdue initiative. Our roads are full of third world problems that catch drivers and other users unawares. I hope they have some behavioural psychologists backing them up to avoid potential death traps like the Franklin Road roundabout. Locals will get used to it, others will kill people. Too many stimuli at once, too little warning.

  2. My experience as a cyclist is similar to the “near miss project”, a near catastrophic near miss weekly and a deliberate act of aggression monthly. This is all caused by conflict over the shared space of the road (lack of infrastructure).

    Decent shoulders and dedicated cycling infrastructure cannot come soon enough.

    1. All existing on-road cycle lanes on roads >=50kmh should have narrow barrier medians added as part of the safety proposals.& the parking removed if necessary.

      No new cycle lanes should be allowed without the barrier – i.e. the cycle lanes are effectively off-road

      1. And until barrier medians are added, the speed limit needs to be reduced to ensure no traffic is travelling at higher than 30 km/hr. Probably therefore 25 km/hr or 20 km/hr if they don’t do 5’s.

        1. They don’t do 5s for enforceable limits – they’re just for advisory limits, like on bends. Enforceable ones are always 0s.

        2. Under the 2017 rules, speed limits permitted are 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80 and 100km/h. New 70, 90 and 110km/h limits are permitted on a case-by-case basis.

          1. Since 25 km/hr is not allowed then, and people expect to be able to drive 5 km/hr over the limit (enough here on GA argue for it so I think that’s established as a pretty common mindset), then to achieve traffic speeds of 30 km/hr or less, as is required for safe design for vulnerable road users, then the speed limit on any road intended for cycling that doesn’t have physical separation needs to be 20 km/hr.

  3. Its hard to believe we are in NZ where such a common sense approach to road safety is being proposed. Median barriers, OMG, who would possibly think those could save lives??

    I suppose I find it hard to believe because for the previous 9 years doing nothing has been the approach and that, strangely enough, failed miserably!

    And having said that, I’ll go one better. The lack of emergency lane/s in the Waterview tunnels is a glaring safety omission, akin to no life boats on a ship, and the reason that exists is because the then king of motorways, Stephen Joyce, wanted more lanes for less dollars. It is a disaster waiting to happen,

    1. Not really, most tunnels around the world only have a lane or 2. By having 3 it means it isn’t such an issue if one lane is blocked. They also have overhead lane signs indicating the lane is closed and CCTV monitoring of it.
      Yes Joyce was a prick but I think the right call was made in this case.

      1. I disagree, there is no escape for a prone motor vehicle and before anyone knows it its too late. I have seen collisions repeatedly on narrow parts of our motorways only slightly mitigated by being above ground.

        This was designed as a two lane road with emergency lanes If the lanes are all occupied, things get ugly real fast.

        Signs are a very poor and often far after the fact substitute.

    2. What a load of rubbish. There’s only been one crash in the tunnel since it opened and that was on Monday and involved one vehicle.
      Of course the government could have put in an emergency lane if it wanted.
      I guess they could have cut welfare, health or education funding to do it.

  4. Something else to submit on! I note “Some projects that have previously been supported but are not yet contracted for construction are being reassessed against the draft GPS 2018-21 priorities, to determine
    whether they can be re-evaluated in line with the Government’s new strategic direction.” That’s great. Some of the contracted ones will work so hard against the GPS, and set us up for so much reworking and maintenance that you’d have to wonder whether they should be reassessed to.

  5. The draft IAF and the draft TAIP both have sections on policing, but only refer to the NZ Police. Given that in Auckland, illegal parking is reducing safety for vulnerable road users significantly (and even for vulnerable people not on the road), and this can be policed by both AT and the NZ Police, should the government add in policy about ensuring that road authorities fulfill their duties in this way? And provide funding for it?

    1. I agree illegal Uber stopping (sometimes in the middle of an active lane) is a safety issue, but in Auckland perching for 15 seconds in a loading zone or (wash my mouth out) a bus stop is a safe option in many places. With the increasing prevalence of people leaving their cars at home to venture into the city, some thought needs to continue to be given to drop zones, and not just captive bus stops and taxi stands “Ride sharing” services are here to stay, and they help keep cars out of town, especially at peak times.

      1. I’m thinking about all the parking on verges, footpaths, and obstructing vehicle crossings. All of which is illegal, doesn’t need a sign to say it is so, and isn’t being enforced.

        1. Yellow lines are often in places where it really matters for visibility, though, like at corners. Consistently parked on as parents pick up their kids from school, among other times, making it unsafe for every kid walking or cycling.

          1. If there is a safety issue associated with potential vehicle parking shouldn’t the response be to neckdown the road at the corner so the road is too narrow to park?

            After all signs/painted lines are just about the weakest safety controls imaginable.

          2. Yes, I’d agree. The trouble is, this is needed all over the city, and I don’t think that’s included in the RLTP. Next best thing is for drivers to know that they will get pinged, sooner rather than later.

          3. Agreed, Heidi. We obviously fix everything all at once, sadly. However, we could at least make cheap interventions in problem areas such as installing flexible road markers (granted their not very attractive) to prevent/discourage parking where it would be dangerous to do so.

          4. I hadn’t thought of that – I was actually thinking around my local area when I commented. Lots of yellow lines preceding and following bus stops.

            Good point.

  6. With all these median barriers I certainly hope they intend on adding more passing lanes otherwise there will be no way to pass someone doing 50-80 on the open highway for possibly 20km or more.

    1. These people could just be driving to the conditions as we’re all required to do. That said, it’s possible that where there are median barriers, cautious drivers will feel more confident and will not resort to very slow speeds.

      1. A logical person would think that, wouldn’t they…

        The reality is that there are a lot of people on our intercity roads who will happily drive along at 80k, only to try their hardest to stop you passing when you get a safe opportunity.

        Now, I’m a big fan of Hanlon’s Razor (never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity) which suggests that perhaps a great many of these people are not driving to conditions, but are instead simply poor drivers who lack sufficient self-awareness to moderate their impact on others.

        Would these drivers really speed up if there were median barriers? They don’t do that on motorways, which have wider lanes…

        1. They’re likely not confident, which is why they speed up when a safe opportunity for passing presents itself (safe passing = safer road = increased confidence = increased speed). It’s perfectly natural even though it’s frustrating to be behind them. I guess you could call them ‘poor drivers’ but really they’re just responding to what the road environment is telling them. They just don’t drive as fast as you do.

          Remember though that even if you’ve been slowed down to 80km/hr for 20km, it really doesn’t make much difference to the overall travel time. It’s only 3 minutes.

          1. They’re definitely poor drivers as they are in breach of the road rules. The road rules require a driver who is travelling below the speed limit with vehicles following to pull over as soon as it is safe to allow following vehicles to pass.

          2. I agree, they should pull over. It might be they’re looking for a ‘safe’ (to them!) spot which may mean they go past a bunch of other spots that might be deemed safe to more experienced/confident drivers.

            i.e. Hanlon’s razor still holds, and road design needs to account for it 🙂

          3. That may be the case, but it is hard to argue that when they get to passing lane and speed up, if they were genuinely looking for somewhere to pull over then they would be looking to give the following cars every chance of overtaking in the passing lane.

            In reality any road with a median barrier will have a large shoulder to allow vehicles through in the event of a breakdown, so you would have to be pretty un-confident to not pull over on a continuous shoulder that is at least as wide as a car.

          4. You’re talking at cross purposes.

            People who don’t pull over when it is safe to do so, or who speed up at passing lanes are a problem.

            People who expect others to go at the top speed that they themselves can manage and tailgate or get aggressive are a problem.

            Both sorts of people exist. The first people need to learn to relax and go more slowly so they can find a place to pull over, but that is probably hard when being tailgated. The second people need to learn to relax and go more slowly if they’re following someone going slowly.

            It’s still speed that kills.

          5. Heidi – I agree, there is no excuse for tailgating. If people travelling at the speed limit sat back and slower drivers reliably pulled over when there was an opportunity then our roads would be a lot safer.

          6. Ak Sam: but (and more logically, since the higher the speed the greater the consequences), the idea of risking serious crashes to save a small amount of time is a bit upsetting to me. They simply put the blame on the other drivers who “drive too slowly”.

    2. Based on the few bits of the state highway network that are already 2 lanes with median barrier, I’d expect passing lanes every 5-10km in each direction (depending on traffic volumes).

      1. With cameras at the end so that only 1-2 vehicles will end up being able to pass the logging truck or campervan.

        1. Exactly Brutus. Completely a safety own goal to discourage people to pass where it is actually safe to do so thus encouraging them to pass elsewhere where it isn’t.

    3. Looking at the red lines on the map above for the top half of the North Island at least, the volume of traffic means safe passing opportunities on these road are rare anyway. Better to get rid of the risk of head-ons and unsafe passing manouvres on these busy roads, even if it is at the expense of the occasional safe opportunity to pass.

      I agree though, these roads would have high enough volume for passing lanes every 5-10kms.

  7. This is great news and is quite amazing, 1000’s of highways improved for far less than the RONs in only 3 years!!

    1. Ever built a road from scratch? Or increase the capacity of live highways while maintaining traffic flow? Takes time and money! I for one am very thankful for the Western Ring Route! It’s not even finished, but the improved travel time to the airport and Shore is greatly appreciated.

      1. Enjoy it while it lasts, Sandra. Meanwhile, Pt Chev and other places are already suffering from traffic induced by it. It would be a good route if we were able to reduce road capacity elsewhere at the same time, but instead the whole city just had a boost in traffic volume, reducing safety and access for people using other modes, like kids on bikes.

  8. I’ve looked in both the draft AIF and the draft TAIP for information about programmes for and how to assess investment in:

    1/ better data collection of vulnerable user safety data, as called for in see https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5591f57ee4b07952c1a4d8bd/t/58b4c7dd725e25bf6113074e/1488242659802/Burdett%2C+Bridget+-+Paper+26+-+Understanding+pedestrian+safety+in+New+Zealand.pdf

    2/ non-motorised user audits as described here https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5591f57ee4b07952c1a4d8bd/t/56c18ac240261d17781b9373/1455524551069/Graham%2C+Claire+-+Paper+25+-+Non-Motorised+User+audit+-+A+practical+guide.pdf

    Any suggestions about where these important steps towards safety might be hiding in the documents? Or is it just something we could suggest in submissions?

    1. Petone to Ngauranga please, I have to walk/run/cycle on the hard shoulder of for all intents and purposes a motorway for 800m. Only rumble strips to protect from distracted drivers and large logging trucks.

      1. Luke – yes of course, but suggestions how please? I totally agree we need a big wide walking / cycling route from Petone to Ngauranga, but there currently is not much room between the cliff, the railway line, the motorway, and the sea. Oh, and the storms and the earthquake fault line. Which bit would you extend and how? How would you stop it collapsing into the sea in a storm? How do you get from the ocean side to the other side? All serious questions – any answers?

          1. Well, yes and no. I think posting something with a budget estimate of “$10 million–$54 million” shows that they actually have not yet got a clue as to how this might realistically be done. That’s just throwing some numbers in the air and seeing if any of them will stick. How seriously would a roading project be taken if they said its cost was somewhere between $1 billion and $5.4 billion?

        1. Well I would like to see some immediate action on the 800m danger section (temporary armadillo barriers) while they figure out the gold plated version probably years or decades away. Closing the gap has been described as urgent since at least 2006. Even a slightly raised hard shoulder as per the Ngauranga gorge would be a massive improvement. Even removing the overgrowth from the northern 100m worth of former shared path thats completely unusable and barrierd off would be helpful imo.

    2. Carries a lot of trucks and also private vehicles going to central HB from Hastings/Napier. Railway line and freezing works is at Takapau, so just think of all the stock trucks.

      Also the road is deceptive in places. Quite often accidents, though not as dangerous as the Napier-Taupo rd.

      FWIW, there was a sculpture which stood over 2 metres tall near Takapau, where six people died in a head-on crash on Christmas Eve 1992. Just one of many crashes along that stretch of road.

  9. Off road parking would improve cycling safety, not allowing cars to park on the shoulders which in the absence of cycle-ways is all we have to walk or cycle on in rural areas with speed limits of 70kph or over through our villages. although 50kph should be the maximum speed were human settlements are.

  10. I hope this new safety awareness finds its way into the light rail design especially in the shared street running sections – all of Queen St and Dominion Road. Those artists impressions of LR on Queen where peds seemingly blissfully unaware of any danger just saunter over the rails could be the future ‘tram toll’ we definitely don’t desire.

  11. This is a great initiative, and a far better investment than spending billions of dollars building four lane motorways that cannot be justified on traffic grounds. As many people probably know Sweden (which has a similar size and population density to NZ) has been doing this for years and saved many lives as a result. Their 2+1 roads are safe, affordable and a great model for NZ to follow. See:
    https://trafikverket.ineko.se/Files/sv-SE/11902/RelatedFiles/2014_129_analysis_of_road_safety_trends_2013.pdf

  12. Like the text on the NZTA website regarding the TAIP:
    “A new approach
    In previous years, the Transport Agency has prepared a State Highway Investment Proposal (SHIP). The draft TAIP, however, takes a whole-of-system view across all modes of transport. This will allow the Transport Agency to respond to the draft GPS, which has proposed new Activity Classes relating to rapid transit and transitional rail, both of which will be 100 percent funded from the National Land Transport Fund.

    In addition, the draft GPS signals a rebalancing of national funding allocations, representing a shift away from building new state highway capacity, and toward greater investment in public transport, regional improvements, local road improvements, road safety and traffic management, and supporting active modes of transport. “

  13. Vance, its not angry Newstalk ZB.

    There is no refuge in there if you stop in a lane unexpectedly, no safety margin at all except drivers missing the obstacle. Its crazy shit as far as a design goes. Idiots already stop on live lanes to change flat tyres, try that in there!

    I’m pretty sure history is littered with she’ll be right, theres enough lifeboats for most, its unsinkable, this coal mine is pretty safe, it’s pretty legal type of thing.

  14. Hopefully the median barrier design will take motorcyclists into consideration, unlike those on the newer motorways. The ‘cheese grater’ tensioned wire design with no under-run protection is a death sentence in a crash if you don’t have a crash cage around you. Even a simple concrete slab barrier is preferable. Encouraging longer distance travellers onto 2 wheels also reduces fuel consumption and rcongestion, so road features that frighten people into cars are a bad choice.

    1. Despite the catchy title, it’s been posted on here before that research say sthe wire barriers are no more dangerous to motorcycle riders than concrete barriers (potentially less so due to not being solid).

        1. It’s not so much the wire per se, it’s being bent around an upright or coming to an abrupt halt on one that causes damage. Compared to W flex beam barriers with under-run protection, wire barriers have a lot of exposed uprights. Motorcyclist injuries due to hitting exposed uprights are currently not much of a problem because there aren’t yet rows of exposed upright obstructions lining many roads.

          Check out the After picture here: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/media-releases/new-motorcycle-friendly-safety-rails-a-game-changer/

          And then think whether you’d prefer to slide along that or a tensioned wire barrier. Imagine sliding along at 60km/h with a leg or an arm thrown out as you hit. It’s going to suck badly either way, but the barrier with under-run protection is more likely to see you coming to a stop with a full complement of limbs.

          1. And thanks for that! My learning curve is steep on this issue today. 🙂 I had already noticed in the link I gave, under the leaflet about Pat’s experience: “Pat’s experience holds true in general for both wire rope and steel barriers – it’s not the wire or W-steel that does the real damage, it’s the post” and wondered what could be done about that. Looks like the media release shows the solution.

            Not sure why the NZTA website hasn’t been updated, though.

        1. Median barrier versus head on? No contest. But hopefully it’s giving the opportunity to dodge rather than hit as the oncoming vehicle is constrained more to its side of the road. My point is that motorcyclists are more hurt by impact with barriers with bare uprights and no under-run protection than ones that work for all road users. And it’s cheaper to take that into consideration now, rather than when ACC later flags a problem after the median barrier project has spent a lot of money.

    2. I’d be interested to know the opex of wirebarrers vs concrete ones as I think I’ve only ever seen a concrete one destroyed once but have seen wire ones wrecked almost every time you drive beside one. Also how good are wire ones at stopping trucks/buses compared to concrete ones?
      I’ve seen both sides of a motorway closed due to a car going through a wire barrier (non-fatal).

  15. Thanks for that. I rarely am on the open road, and don’t ride a motorcycle, so I hadn’t thought of it. I will include that in any relevant submissions I make.

  16. I totally agree with the safety thrust in the TAIP, however it is somewhat ironic that this is also occurring at a time when the immigration rate is very high & the population growth a driver of travel time unreliability and additional congestion.

    To provide a consistent holistic approach the government really needs to slow the immigration rate to something sustainable

    1. What and admit that GDP per person hasn’t improved and the whole opening the country to all comers was a failure that has resulted in a housing shortage and suppressed real wages? I don’t think any of the big parties are ever going to be that honest. National did it so their mates could keep labour costs low and increase returns to capital. Labour does it so they can sing kumaya and feel good about increasing diversity.

    2. I don’t have much of an opinion on immigration except that I don’t think it’s up to me and I don’t think the uncertain future posed by climate change and biodiversity loss is going to involve less immigration.

      Far more important to remember, though, is:

      -traffic safety is related much more to traffic volume than to population, and that
      -traffic volume is related much more closely to road capacity than to population.

      The problem is that we have built too many roads and that Auckland is building 40 km of new roads every year.

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