With 2019 now underway, and following my wrap up of 2018 last week, I thought it would be good to look at some of the things we can expect from the year ahead. In no particular order.
City Rail Link
At the end of April the builder of the tunnels and stations is expected to be announced. The two shortlisted tenderers are:
- The Link Joint Venture with Downer, Vinci Grands Projets, Soletanche Bachy, AECOM, Tonkin and Taylor and WSP Opus
- A joint venture between CPB Contractors, UGL, Beca, McMillan Jacob and Jacobs.
We should also see the completion of the tunnel works in Albert St and outside Britomart but the full restatement of the streets and public space isn’t due to be completed till 2020
Sitting right above the CRL, Commercial Bay is due for completion in 2019. I for one and looking forward to the new east-west laneway which should make easier to get between the NX1 buses and Britomart.
Construction of the Eastern Busway will finally begin this year and there’s an announcement of the contractor who will build it later this month. We should also hear more about the plans to extend the busway from Pakuranga to Botany.
Airport to Botany and Puhinui
Works will need to begin this year on the massive upgrade planned for Puhinui Sation and on some of the bus priority measures that are being planned if they’re to be completed by 2021 like currently planned.
After being silent for much of 2018, we will need to hear more about the NZTAs plans for building light rail this year. This will need to be both their plans for the City Centre to Mangere line and to the Northwest. I doubt we’ll see any physical work happening, other than maybe some investigations work.
I suspect it could end up as one of our most talked about topics (again).
Likely to be a bit piece of work this year we will be following is Auckland Transports corridor programme. which is looking at improving bus priority, road safety and active mode improvements across a number of key corridors. Many of these corridors are already served by our busiest bus routes and improving priority for buses will make them even more useful.
Public transport use continues to rise, both in total numbers and trips per capita. In the 12 months to the end of November we had just under 96 million trips, up from 91 million a year earlier. Unless something goes wrong, we’ll hit 100 million trips this year. My guess is we’ll reach that milestone in September but let me know your guesses in the comments.
After a poor effort in delivering cycleways we hope to see a much better outcome in 2019. One of the more high-profile projects, the Karangahape Rd improvements will kick off soon but hopefully many more will. We should also see the completion of some projects, such as Franklin Rd and the extension of the NW cycleway from Lincoln Rd to Westgate (the section from Royal Rd to Westgate has been completed but unopened for months).
I would be surprised if in the budget this year there wasn’t funding for the much needed third main from Westfield to Puhinui and also electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe.
AT have also mentioned in the past that they were looking at new timetable for February that would further speed up journey times and extend weekend frequencies later into the evening but that hasn’t been mentioned in more recent reports. Hopefully this is something we’ll see this year.
A couple of major motorway projects are due for completion late this year.
- The SH1 widening from Manukau to Papakura, this has been underway since late 2015
- The SH16 widening from Lincoln Rd to Westgate, which started in mid-2016 but is the culmination of works on SH16 that started all the way back in 2010 when the Lincoln Rd interchange upgrade was started.
A couple of wildcards we might hear about are:
- An additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing. We didn’t hear much about it in 2018 but I suspect we’re likely to hear more about it this year. I believe part of this could be a debate about whether to build a PT only crossing first
- After the new government pulled the plug on the crazy East-West scheme, the NZTA have been sent back to the drawing board. I expect we’ll hear their updated plans this year.
Last year the government announced a major investment in road safety to bring down what has been a worsening number of deaths on our roads with 2018 having the most deaths in a decade. We expect to see significant progress on implementing safety upgrades over the coming year.
Along with physical changes, there is also likely to be a number of changes around speed limits. I think we can expect both physical infrastructure changes and speed limits to be subject to plenty of negative news stories. Associated with that I think we’ll continue to hear complaints from the National Party (and others) who still want to see motorways built all across the countryside.
City Centre improvements
Late last year the council approved for consultation a bold new plan for managing how people get around the city centre. It will see it made much easier to get around on foot, by bike or by PT and reduce the impact of cars on the city. What’s more, the council have asked for trials of the concept to begin as soon as possible and we’re looking forward to both hearing more about the plan and seeing what happens in this space.
Along the waterfront we’re going to see a lot of activity as works begins on upgrading the area in advance of the 2021 America’s Cup and APEC.
Over in another centre, Takapauna, an upgrade of Hurstmere Rd is due to start early this year.
Last year’s census has turned into a bit of a shambles and nine months on we’re still waiting for the first results. I’m particularly hoping we’ll get the transport related results back. I think we’ll likely see a similar result to last time with public transport and active modes both growing at a faster rate than driving, although still coming off a low base. This census also asked about how people travelled to education for the first time. It will be interesting to see how that compares with journeys to work.
Local Body Elections
Local body elections are in October and as always it will be fascinating to see how that changes the council. We don’t yet know if Phil Goff will stand again and there’s been talk of John Tamihere standing. Two time former candidate John Palino is standing again, and again he’s showing no understanding of how cities actually work, claiming that to solve Auckland’s problems, we should build another city somewhere between Papakura and Pukekohe.
It will also be interesting to see what other changes occur around the council table as well as local boards. For example we know former Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who has been one of the best councillors, is standing down and Sir John Walker is almost certainly not standing again.
There will of course be all of the usual arguments, transport plans, housing, rates and this year I’d expect the regional fuel tax to feature strongly
The government have talked a big game about building more homes and if they’re to meet the goals they’ve set, they’re going to need to announce a lot of projects this year. Comments from Housing Minister Phil Twyford late last year suggests this is exactly what will happen.
We’ll also hear more about the Urban Development Authority which will have significant powers and responsibilities for delivering more homes.
The NZTA had a bad end to the year with CEO Fergus Gammie resigning and a review being large review of its regulatory performance kicking off. Already the Chairman has stated he thinks more will follow Gammie out the door. This could ultimately lead to a significant shake up how transport is managed in NZ. Whoever the new CEO is will have a big impact on the shape of transport and is something we’ll keep a close eye on.
It’s certainly going to be a big year and there’ll be plenty of ups and downs along the way. What else do you think we’ll see (or not see) in 2019?