The release of the new draft Government Policy Statement a month ago marked a major shift in government transport policy. Significantly it marks the end of the previous government’s ‘Roads of National Significance’ Policy. It is is therefore a good time to look back exactly what was promised in 2009, and to see how things were at 9 years later.

The original 7 Roads of National Significance were:

  • Puhoi to Wellsford – SH1
  • Completion of the Auckland Western Ring Route – SH20/16/18
  • Auckland Victoria Park bottleneck – SH1
  • Waikato Expressway – SH1
  • Tauranga Eastern Corridor – SH2
  • Wellington Northern Corridor (Levin to Wellington) – SH1
  • Christchurch motorway projects

Over two posts I will go through each of the 7 projects to give a overview of what progress has been made. Some of these roads are also broken up into multiple smaller projects.

This first post will focus on the 3 Auckland projects and the Waikato Expressway, while Part 2 will cover Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

1. Puhoi to Wellsford

Puhoi to Wellsford was split into 2 distinct projects, Puhoi to Warkworth and Warkworth to Wellsford. Puhoi to Warkworth was has progressed rather slowly given the complex route. The preferred route was chosen in 2012, with construction only starting in December 2016. The opening date is expected to be 2021. The video below gives an idea to the huge scale of the project.

The cost of this section is expected to be $709.5 million for 18.5km of new road however it is being built as a Public Private Partnership. Last month contractors found a submerged 10m long waka.

The Warkworth to Wellsford section slipped off the radar for a quite some time, given the even more significant challenges proposed by the terrain and the much lower traffic volumes compared to the Puhoi to Warkworth section. A preferred route was announced in February 2017 and includes a potential tunnel. Further dates are unknown, however given the Warkworth section will take 9 years between the final route decision and opening, the Wellsford section would have been unlikely to open before 2025. This section of the road has been faced with rapidly rising costs. The section was originally costed at $494 million in 2009, and this has now gone up to between $1.4 and $1.9 billion. The future of the project is now uncertain and I’d be surprised if it went ahead as per the previous plans. Thankfully the latest RLTP has $30 million set aside for “Installation of median barriers, wide centre lines and side barriers along SH1 in the Dome Valley to improve safety“. This should provide an urgent solution to the safety issues that were left unfixed while the focus was on investigations for a parallel motorway.

Total Expected Cost if completed: $2.1 to $2.6 billion
Road Length completed: 0km
Road Length under construction: 18km
Road Length not yet started construction: 27km
Verdict: decent progress has been made on the first section though opening is still 4 years away. Almost nothing has happened to the northern section despite big promises.

2. Completion of Western Ring Route

The key project of the Western Ring Route was the Waterview Connection, however the project also has included major works on the North Western motorway, covering:

  • St Lukes Interchange and widening
  • SH16 Causeway Widening
  • Te Atatu Road interchange
  • Lincoln Road interchange
  • Lincoln Road to Westgate widening

With the exception of Lincoln Rd to Westgate, the rest of the projects completed construction in 2016 and 2017, with the Waterview Tunnels opening in July 2017. The Lincoln to Westgate widening only started construction in late 2016 and construction completion is due in 2019.

These projects cost a total of $2.4 billion, and deliver 16 kilometres of new and upgraded motorway.

However, that is not all. The project seems to have continually grown in scope as NZTA realise that one set of motorway widening creates more bottlenecks. The Northern Corridor project (Upper Harbour Highway and motorway interchange upgrade) is now also included. The Northern Corridor project has just started construction and is due to be completed at the end of 2022. The RLTP lists the project as costing $576 million with another $309 million budgeted to extend the Northern Busway.

Of course, one glaring piece that was missed from the Western Ring Route was a dedicated Rapid Transit line. Now that the new government have announced light rail will be built along SH16, we could be about to dig some of it all back up again, or at least create more disruption in the area.

Cost: $2.4 billion but up to $3.2b if you include the Northern Corridor Improvements Project
Road Length completed: 15km
Road Length under construction: 8km
Road Length not yet started construction: 0km
Verdict: most of the original proposed projects have been completed, however full completion of the Western Ring Route motorway looks to be another 4 or 5 years away.

3. Victoria Park tunnel

The Victoria Park tunnel was easily the fastest of the RONS to be completed as it was already consented and planned before it was declared a RONS project. The RONS designation did appear to speed the project up a little though. Construction started in October 2009, with the tunnel opening in November 2011, and remaining smaller pieces finished later in 2012. The tunnel cost a total of $340 million, though is less than half a kilometre long.

Cost: $340 million
Road Length completed: 0.5km
Road Length under construction: 0km
Road Length not yet started construction: 0km
Verdict: quickly completed, however benefited from the work underway before it was declared a RONS.

4. Waikato Expressway

Like the Western Ring Route, the Waikato Expressway consists of a number of different projects and all are now under construction with all due for completion by 2020.

This includes:

  • Longswamp – $96m – construction started 2016, opening 2019
  • Rangiriri – $131m – construction started 2013, opened Easter 2017
  • Huntly – $458m – construction started 2016, opening 2020
  • Ngaruawahia – $160m – opened December 2013
  • Te Rapa – $172m – opened December 2012
  • Hamilton – $973m – construction started March 2016, opening 2020
  • Cambridge – $218m – opened December 2015

The Huntly section is one of the bigger ones as contractors need to move about 3.5 million m³ of earthworks, including cutting a huge chunk out of the Taupiri range.

And here is a recent fly-through of the Hamilton section

When completed the Waikato Expressway will deliver 84 kilometres of upgraded expressway for $2.2 billion.

Cost: $2.2 billion
Road Length completed: 41km
Road Length under construction: 43km
Road Length not yet started construction: 0km
Verdict: many sections are now open, however final major parts won’t be completed until 2020.

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  1. The Dome Valley. Is this not one of the most deadliest stretches of our State Highway network?

    Why was something not done to mitigate the crash potential whilst all the navel gazing and wondering where the money was going to come from for Nationals civil engineering fantasy dream? The seal is poor in many parts, high risk curves in places and not one millimetre of median barrier. And nothing to show for the delay but carnage!

    SH16. So many lost opportunities. A fortune spent on the St Lukes Rd and Lincoln Rd over bridges, but it appears because all NZTA’s focus was on motorways, not local roads, neither bridge improved the outcome for the suburbs that feed them, rather they worsened it, Lincoln Rd especially, by incorporating too many intersections on the said bridge.

    And yes, the belligerent Gerry Brownlee’s refusal to put in rapid transit lanes. A buffoon of the highest order, but without the amusing side, more of an idiot, and unfortunately for taxpayers, he’s still lingering on collecting his cheques.

  2. Just watched the first video – Puhoi to Warkworth – sad to see such a wide swathe of productive farmland being swallowed up by this road. And still such a long way to go.

  3. I’m stunned by the degree of destruction on forest, pasture and residential land in those videos. The costs of these projects go far beyond dollars. It’s hard to see how these mega roads could be justified while getting funding for other modes remains like pulling teeth.

    1. You can also see so clearly how much work the contractors get out of the projects, and why the road construction lobby is so determined to keep that work, as long as possible. The more roads built before the plug gets pulled, the more roads to maintain into eternity.

    2. The destruction of landscapes and farmlands is just staggering. Regional Councils and NZTA even plaster photos of this “progress” across official publications.
      In my submission to the Waikato Regional Council I noted:
      “Rather than divorcing transport planning from other regional council responsibilities, transport planning should aim for the protection of natural features and landscapes wherever possible, should apply an ethic of stewardship, take into account energy efficiency, aim for the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values, the maintenance and enhancement of the environment, and seek to lessen the effects of climate change (Resource Management Act 1991 ss6, 7). ”

      In other words, the whole approach of RONS goes against the principles of the RMA.

  4. Will be interested to know what the assessed cost-benefit ratio’s of each route are.

    I believe Puhoi-Warkworth was only 0.5.

    1. Very low. In fact one could say miserably low.

      At some point all of us here are going to have to confront the fact that — compared to housing, health, and education — investment in transport often yields relatively low returns. That includes PT projects too BTW.

      I know many on this blog are a fan of light rail, for example, but really if the BCR for those projects comes out at less than 1-1.5ish then NZ would likely be better off investing in other public services.

      I believe the home insulation scheme started by the last government, for example, had a BCR around 3-ish from memory? Really shouldn’t be wasting money on low value transport projects when there are other high value public investment opportunities out there.

      Just my 2 billion cents.

      1. Honestly I can’t see the point in more road upgrades, beyond making them safer. They already go everywhere… All they are doing currently is duplicating them or making them wider for extensive amounts of money and none of the upgrades really do much for congestion, especially not for long enough time to make a difference before the next set of upgrades causing even more disruption again…

        Where as we look at other modes and they go barely anywhere, lack frequency and mostly have to share with congested roads.

        We need more investment in other modes, to free up the roads and give people alternatives.

        Unfortunately most BCR’s do not seem to cover all the angles required. I have read a few which have laughable user estimates that seem to just be pulled out of a hat, not to mention other issues. Unfortunately the people/groups that write these seem to be able to swing them whichever way they prefer…

        1. How do you define “need”? Yes investment in other modes will make them better than what we currently have but if the value to society is less than other possible investments would not you do the latter first? If we rightly criticise road projects for being low value then we need to be consistent in our criticisms of similarly low-value PT projects, if/when they manifest.

        2. The situation we are in right now involves sending our children out into the transport network, and not knowing whether they will make it home alright. Most parents ‘depend’ on their cars because they don’t trust sending their children out by bike, and the bus is too infrequent/unreliable/time-consuming/limited in timeframe. I think the word ‘need’ is appropriate; we ‘need’ more investment in other modes because that is the only way to achieve a level of access for our children that is safe.

          Even if the cost of providing safe infrastructure was 100 times more than what it is, we still have this ‘need’.

        3. Unless the way NZTA calculate BCR’s is such that they overestimate the benefits of road projects and underestimate the benefits of walking, cycling and PT projects. If that were the case you wouldn’t necessarily want to be consistent in your criticism…

        4. Hi Chris, glad you’re reading. I’m confident to say that they do this, yes.

          For road projects, which are what I have analysed, the bias is always towards the project rather than the do minimum. There are a number of reasons for this, but as I explained to you before, one major one is that they do not include “newly created trips” in their ‘project’ scenario. So the same number of person trips is included in both the project and the do minimum. Voila, travel times go down in the project because it has more capacity, and up in the do minimum because they’ve assigned unrealistic traffic volumes more akin to the project scenario. Were the ‘newly created trips’ included, this wouldn’t be the case. So it is a systematic bias towards projects that add road capacity.

          PT and active mode infrastructure projects are not something I’ve analysed. But I’ve been reading here long enough to know that they consistently underestimate the ridership growth that new PT projects will generate. Also, from what I’ve seen, they do not include the full benefits of projects, including a quantification of the better urban form and related social and environmental benefits, better public and social health outcomes, better safety outcomes, and true cost of reduced carbon emissions, air and water pollution. So that’s a systematic bias against PT and active mode infrastructure projects by ignoring important benefits.

          You’re welcome to wow me by showing me otherwise.

        5. Heidi – I agree with you, as a generalisation (i.e true generally but not necessarily true for every single project). Also just a note that cycling is different to Stu’s original comment about low-BCR transport projects – I know cycling projects often have massive BCR’s. e.g. Christchurch Major Cycleways had a BCR of 7.

        6. Chris – Good to hear. Yes, I think the AT Cycling Business Case showed very good BCR’s but I haven’t been back to look at it to see what they included.

      2. Congestion is costing $1 to $2 billion a year in Auckland. 65% want more PT, and bike-ways (TVNZ survey). Bike-ways can be built cheaply and will make a huge difference. Many want to ride ebikes and save the planet.
        Two light rail lines in Auckland will become very popular and will be a delight to ride
        Sea level rise will have a big effect on Auckland. Many of us don’t want this to happen.

      3. If we start compiling a big list of everything government could fund and already funds and rank them by Benefit Cost Ratio then we’d have to confront some uncomfortable truths. A lot of funding for social welfare, conservation, the military, tertiary education, healthcare for the elderly etc probably have very poor BCRs (these examples are a guess on my part, I have no figures to back them up).
        BCR is not a perfect measure by any means and is prone to being manipulated. It is a useful tool for comparing alternative solutions to a problem (eg East West Link vs upgrading Neilson St) or comparing which transport initiative should have higher priority. It shouldn’t be used as the only measure of a project’s value.

        1. BCR’s are based on what you value. There is no neutral way. It is political from A to Z.

          For transport projects, you put money figures on things like “travel time savings” (lets ignore whether they are persistent) on things like safety gains (by putting $$$ values on deaths and injuries and deducting them) – you may or may not put dollar values on things like access, or emissions, or noise etc. That gets you your BCR.

          If you did a BCR for things like education, or military, you’d have to put money values on those things. So even if you’d have some semi-rational process to get to those figures, they would still be political decisions. How much do I value quality healthcare outcomes for my granddad? What $ value is it worth that a woman gets proper childcare?

          All political, or, in other words, money in these calculations is just proxies for our values. Mine can be quite different than yours, so my BCRs might turn out different to yours.

          The idea that BCRs are somehow a neutral or impassionate way to make decisions is not sensible. At best, BCRs are comparison tools – is Road A the better choice, or Road B. Even deciding between Road A and Rail Line B they are nearly worthless. Deciding between Road A and Hospital B is farcial…

        2. Sorry, I should not have said “a woman gets proper childcare” but “a parent gets proper childcare”. In my defense I was going to write something about maternity wards and then made it a bit more generic.

        3. 🙂 Maybe the way around that one would be to put “a child gets proper childcare”. 🙂

        4. On the “BCRs are political” point, here’s another way to look at it.

          Politicians constantly say things like “this project will be good for the economy” or “that project will be good for people’s health”. Those are assertions about what will happen as a result, but political speech isn’t marked for truthfulness or factual accuracy.

          When evaluating the costs and benefits of a project, analysts typically consider what the intended impacts are and attempt to put a number to them. (If they’re good analysts, they’ll also try to value the unintended consequences as well.) So in that narrow sense, the resulting BCRs are political – they have been calculated keeping in mind the objectives of the project’s supporters.

          However, what a BCR gives you is an *audit trail* on the values that were considered when making decisions. To use an example from elsewhere in the thread, let’s consider the costs and benefits of the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.

          P2W required more than 300 kauri trees to be cut down – a decision that has undoubted environmental and cultural costs. In a properly done CBA, you’d attempt to account for that cost. Which raises the question: What’s a kauri tree worth to us, relative to other things we’d like to have? I think they’re pretty awesome, so maybe I’d argue for a value somewhere in the range of $100,000 to $1m per mature tree, resulting in a total ‘cost’ of $30 to $300 million. Other people may disagree – some may say that’s way too high, and others that it’s too low.

          However, regardless of the exact number, once it’s written down and weighed up against other things, we can have a useful discussion on that question. So in that sense, a BCR can act as a conversation-starter for talking about what we should value more.

        5. Never understood why they didn’t build P2W further to the west. I saw proposals to site close the Northland rail route. The route through the dome valley is more expensive, more distance and more ecologically questionable. Who chose the route and how did they away with it?

          When this road was first proposed I thought, nobody could justify this cost and environmentally destruction for the sake of a few minutes travel time saving for a few trucks. Even if they managed to hide the EES to the environment court any politician would be voted out on the basis of their stupidity for advocating such a destructive road. But here we are and it is getting built. Yikes!!!

          Here in Victoria there are strong land clearing laws and you need to justify the loss of every precious tree before getting planning permission. A lot of roads are held up whilst arguing about these things so it’s incumbent for governments to get it right at the start.

        1. Yes, all reasonable points about things that people value. And no, I’m not suggesting that BCRs are a perfect measure. But BCRs are useful if you’re trying to weigh-up different effects, where the value attached to them differs between people.

          The key point here though is that if we’re going criticise RONs on the grounds of their BCRs (as this post does) then we need to be open to the same criticisms may be levelled at our favourite PT projects.

          All I’m asking for is a healthy dose of balance!

        2. Stu, the BCR’s are worthless. The benefits are mostly based on travel time savings, which should not be given that precedence. First, as we’ve discussed before, these are worked out incorrectly, in a systematically biased way towards roads. Secondly, being able to swim in harbours without road runoff slick, being able to breathe clean air, being able to use socially healthy forms of transport, living in a city with a good urban form – these are important. A few seconds or minutes of travel? Just irrelevant, in comparison.

          A healthy dose of balance is what I want too. And I think we’ll achieve that with a multi-criteria assessment, not with these stupid bcr’s.

        3. Let me offer a qualified defense of the ways of economists…

          First off, there are travel time savings and there are travel time savings. If you widen a road to make cars go faster, then induced traffic will tend to eat those gains. So did they really happen? However, if you speed up a bus or train, and more people get on it, it will keep moving at the same speed. So those travel time savings can be persistent – they represent a real gain for users.

          As a result, it seems like counting up travel time savings is a useful way to compare between alternative PT projects. If we have the choice between saving 10 minutes for 100 people, and saving 10 minutes for 1000 people, at a similar cost, we should obviously prefer the latter.

          Second, there’s a more fundamental critique of travel time savings analysis – Marchetti’s constant. Although the average speed of transport has increased over the last two centuries, average commuting times have stayed about the same. Does this mean we’re wasting our time evaluating travel speed?

          I don’t think so. To give a concrete example, my current commute to work is 20-25 minutes via the Mount Eden Rd bus. If, by some miracle, all the bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd were sped up, that might drop to 15-20 minutes. At that point, I’d have two choices:
          1. Stay in place and bank the time savings, meaning that I’d have 10 minutes to do other things.
          2. Move further down the road, effectively cashing in the travel time savings in exchange for something else. For instance, I might be able to rent a nicer place closer to Balmoral or Three Kings without spending more money.

          It stands to reason that I would only do (2) if I thought that it was at least as good as having an extra 10 minutes a day to read or clean the kitchen or sleep in. Anyway, even if I made that choice, it would *only* be enabled by the fact that the bus was faster.

        4. He he. So there are travel time savings that are nonsense due to induced demand. And there are travel time savings that are nonsense in the long run due to Marchetti’s Constant. This was your defense of the ways of the economists? 🙂

          Actually, I think there are real advantages to travel time savings in PT. And that’s in the establishment of a fantastic urban lifestyle. Take the example close to my heart; young people involved in as many musical theatres shows each year as they can be. Any one performer or musician will end up going to several different theatres at different times, to get parts in a show they like, or where they’re needed. In a city with good compact form, that is achievable with PT, at all times of the evening, with low travel times.

          In Auckland, due to sprawl and car dependency, this means travelling to Orewa, Howick, Manukau, Glen Eden, Takapuna, Western Springs, Belmont, Birkenhead, Titirangi… by PT, HUGE travel times. By car, still pretty long.

          Reducing travel times by PT will bring opportunities to these kids, even if that’s because of Marchetti’s constant. Rather than move further out of town, they’re more likely to be able to choose from a bigger range of theatres, or more shows each year due to less time travelling, or maybe they just won’t get as run down from the late nights because they get home earlier…

        5. It’s a problem though that NZTA BCR’s don’t consider the externalities associated with the second of your choices (shifting house). If a transport project results in mass relocations from inner suburbs to outer suburbs, that has far-reaching effects with a whole stack of externalities that should be accounted for (but currently aren’t) in the economic analysis.

        6. The draft IAF was attempting to improve land-use changes, but didn’t really get to the heart of the matter, I suspect. Projects get medium or high ratings, in general, if they address “agreed integrated land use and multi-modal plans in urban areas”.

          Also, “The draft GPS identifies that integrated land use planning is a key component of transport system planning, especially in relation to enabling housing development, multi-modal connections and placemaking.”

          But there’s no mention of LUTI models, so Peter’s shifting house example is probably still not being modelled properly. I certainly submitted it should be.

        7. Heidi, my point is that even if the gains or losses ultimately materialise in non-transport markets, those effects are *second order* impacts that *follow* the primary impacts on transport outcomes.

          As a result, any serious attempt to measure the impacts of transport projects will at some point have to model impacts on travel times. It may not end there – eg we may want to model impacts on location choices as well – but it will almost inevitably have to start there.

          When I started to work in transport economics I was quite skeptical of the whole “travel time savings” methodology for valuing transport improvements. I still don’t think that it’s quite right, but I also don’t think it’s as stupid as you make it out to be.

          In practice, the most serious critique that people levy against the concept – “travel time savings ignore induced demand for roads!” – is more properly stated as a critique of *transport modelling methodology* rather than *economic evaluation principles*. That’s a subtle but important distinction if you’re seeking to reform the way we evaluate projects. Improving modelling to capture land use effects and induced demand is considerably more important than replacing the evaluation manual.

        8. I seek to reform both. What you’re doing in clarifying what’s being valued and trying to include more externalities is absolutely essential. But it’s like using “good” economic evaluation as an antidote to “bad” economic evaluation.

          It was poor professional conduct for professional engineers to resist implementing improvements available in land use and transport modelling and to fail to advise their clients how to appropriately use the output from the transport models. Similarly, it was poor professional conduct for economists to develop business cases using a narrow set of factors that biased the projects towards roads.

          Ultimately, will reforming it all within the “established” framework have better political longevity than ripping it all apart and cutting to the quick with some bold decisions that convince the public more quickly? At the least, there’s always a good check we can perform on the whole process – is it prioritising projects that reduce traffic, increase safety and access, enhance or improve the environment, and shift the balance in our transport networks away from cars and towards other modes? Currently, no. Will a few tweaks change everything? I doubt it. I’d prefer to look at countries that are turning their network around and adopt their methods.

          [As for travel time savings, I think they’re just too complex. The WC traffic analysis didn’t even model what would happen on the routes parallel to the SH16 into the cbd. They’ve already risen, and will rise more. Where travel time *increases* should have been informing the economic evaluation, the opposite was true. Better to just make some assumptions each time along the lines of Duranton and Turner – so much roading capacity added will result in so much extra traffic, with all its inherent issues.]

        9. Five years ago I did a review of policies and practices for transport investment decision-making in 10 OECD countries, including the likes of Germany and Sweden. In the process I read through some of their technical manuals and talked to people on the ground in those countries. Separately, I’ve read through a good deal of transport economics coming out of the Netherlands.

          What I found was that all of those countries had some version of a cost-benefit analysis manual. Those CBA manuals were all based on similar principles to ours – ie they focused on valuing benefits to users (usually in terms of travel time savings), plus valuing environmental, social, and economic externalities. There are some differences in modelling practices, but less than you’d think.

          In other words, the countries that are doing it better haven’t done the thing that you say is essential. The differences in outcomes don’t arise due to evaluation methods – they arise due to politics and institutional practices.

        10. Thanks. Yes, the distinction you were making was between modelling and evaluation principles, whereas I was picking up on the distinction between modelling and evaluation practices, which reflect the politics. True, and thanks for discussion.

      4. It’s difficult to compare BCRs across different types of projects as they’re assessed under different methodologies and criteria. But I agree that we shouldn’t be blindly pouring money into transport without looking at other ways to solve the problem it’s trying to address.

        The example that struck me from ATAP2 was Mill Rd, for half a billion dollars we’re building a pseudo motorway parallel to the southern which almost guarantees further sprawl and additional 100s of millions in a few decades time.

        If we looked at it more holistically we could spend say $50M on Mill Rd and have $450M left to spend upgrading a local town centre. You could spend some of it on local street improvements (particularly walking/cycling), some on improved PT services and you would still have enough money to completely fund hundreds of apartments or terraces in a mixed use development. Then you use the money from the sale of the properties to find the second stage of development. Without doing the sums I’d wager that has a much higher BCR than any road (heck, it might even turn a profit if you want it to).

        1. Yes, Mill Rd must be stopped. Yet another terrible waste of money that will undermine attempts at mode-shift and improved safety everywhere else.

    2. But if Winston gets his way and Ports of Auckland is moved to Northport this is necessary and just the start, the entire route to Whangarei will need to be four laned and the rail line double tracked.

    1. Yep that is all I saw too, bunch of destruction just to duplicate something that is already there and works well 99% of the year.

    2. To be fair the Waikato Expressway has a few environmental benefits. For example the land can no longer be used for intensive dairy once it has a road on it.

      1. ah, but once it’s a road, it’ll never be able to be converted to regenerative agriculture, with carbon-sequestering, soil-building, water-purifying ecology.

  5. Useful summary. RoNS was by far the worst transport policy (in terms of low value for money) enacted by the last National government and it’s good to see the back of them.

    Two big.policy mistakes:
    1) investment was mode specific; and
    2) tagged to particular projects.

    Unfortunately the new government appears to have repeated those mistakes with LRT on north-west.

    Hopefully that’s a one-off rather than a sign of things to come. Note that’s not the same as saying LRT is not the right PT solution for this corridor (it may well be), just that the decision should not be made by central government.

    1. Once any level of government is making decisions based on the full picture, including all externalities, including induced demand, including the true cost of carbon emissions, including access for our vulnerable citizens as priority… then I’ll care about whether the correct procedure was followed for choosing LRT on the NW. In the meantime, nothing is being decided based on a good set of values, so you shouldn’t single out the NWLR.

    2. The irony of the Western Ring Route is that if it had been built with a busway from day one – as it should have been! – there wouldn’t be a strong case to add light rail to that route as well.

      My main concern with light rail on that route isn’t necessarily costs versus benefits, although that’s important to keep an eye on. It’s the complexity of the project and the high up-front funding requirements. There is a significant risk that the project isn’t underway by 2020, and if the government changes then, there’s a chance they will scrap the project and return to a busway scheme. Given the pace of growth in Northwest Auckland I don’t think we can afford further delay.

      1. the voters of the northwestern area should factor that into their voting preferences come 2020 then.

        1. Well, guess what? Northwestern voters have been starved of PT for so long they’re totally dependent on cars. So what will they support? More motorways of course. And who would blame them?

      2. Good thing about LRT mode is it seems, from overseas examples, to get more mode shift compared to a bus system even if the bus alternative was all we needed.

        1. Grant, any chance of posting a good article that compares BRT and LRT in this way – would be useful. Ta.

    3. That’s politics. As much as it is easy to say Labour are repeating mistakes by investing in mode-specific projects, the fact is that “we will build light rail” garners a lot more votes than “we will invest in whatever provides the most benefit for the nation”. Sensible people would know the latter is the best way to go, but there aren’t enough sensible people to give any political party the required votes. So specific election promises are required.

  6. The gratuitous destruction and the cost is really quite nauseating, and it was bad enough just seeing the recent works around Christchurch. I’m really not happy about my tax dollars being spent on it. Treating everything done so far as a sunk cost and considering ALL of the externalities, I’d really like to see the BCR of finishing these monsters versus just pulling the plug on all of the works right now, compensating the the contractors enough to keep them quiet and just planting it all in trees…

    1. Yes! Me too; there could be value-for-money in canning some projects. Given how much money we’ll have to spend afterwards to try to undo the safety, access and environmental problems the induced traffic will cause.

  7. 1) For all the flaws BCRs have they provide the most robust mechanism we have, otherwise it comes down to pork barrel politics

    2) In a way BCRs ideally should be undertaken with road user pricing included in the modelling or at least congestion tolls included. The reasons we get seemingly stupid answers is without the pricing, adding road capacity is the only solution.

    3) Furthermore, the future expected real costs of carbon should be included given we know they are expected to increase significantly. Applying only base year real values overvalues roading solutions.

    4) Ideally BCRs should also include land use response, (ideally we’d have an elastic land use market too).

    5) It would also be interesting to run system optimal (minimise system costs)assessments against standard bcr’s which minimize user costs to see the differences and whether we can learn anything from it.

  8. Good discussion. Re BCR’s: It just goes to show my back of the envelope arm chair reckonings are just as likely to be correct as a full on study under the existing system 😉

    1. When undertaking cost benefit analysis, I always start with a quick back-of-envelope exercise before moving on to anything more complicated. If the numbers are wildly different then I know it’s time to ask some questions!

  9. A lot of people have died on these roads so it is good they’re being improved. What is a life worth in terms of BCR?
    Beyond this, straighter roads with easier grades should offer fuel and CO2 savings.

    1. Lives are important, which is why we should be spending money on things that will save maximum lives. RoNS undoubtedly have saved a few, but what else could we spend billions on to save lives? Median barriers on much of the state highway network? Stopping people’s houses being cold and damp? Getting people onto PT, thus reducing air pollution and the incidence of lung cancer? When used properly, BCRs should be the best friend of anyone wanting to save lives.

      1. If you’re going to put median barriers on the state highway network then all sections where they are installed need to be 2+1 or 2+2 lanes, there is nothing worse than sitting behind a large truck or slow driver for km after km on a 1+1 road with a median barrier and no passing lanes.

    2. Problem is a lot of people die on other roads as well. Building these very expensive roads has sucked up a huge amount of money that could have been spent more a wider range of safety improvements across the country.

  10. Another real environmental benefit is the fuel savings by having a very smooth road taking less time to travel at lower fuel usage rates.
    So really these roads save the planet…

    1. Doublethink of the highest order.

      This road encourages more people to drive longer distances at higher speeds, yet it is also good for the environment.

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