Yesterday the Government released a package of investments to improve Wellington’s transport system over the next 20 years – known as the “Let’s Get Welly Moving” project.
Phil Twyford said our Government is tackling the long-term issues and this 20 year plan is a step change for transport in Wellington.
“We’ll reduce congestion by integrating modern rapid transit, walking and cycling upgrades, and better public transport with the city’s motorways and roads.
“Better public transport infrastructure and more services will encourage people out of their cars – freeing up the roads for those that have to drive.
“By unlocking the Basin Reserve and making streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, we’ll have a more liveable city that’s safer to get around.
“LGWM will help boost growth and encourage more housing, especially along the rapid transit corridor.
“The capital’s waterfront CBD is a national treasure. It is a job rich high-productivity economic powerhouse for the region. LGWM will unleash its potential and make it a magnet for investment after years of underinvestment.
“We can’t do everything at once and my expectation is that congestion-busting projects like rapid transit will be prioritised over motorway projects.
“We know that only by taking a joined-up regional approach will we unlock Wellington’s potential. That’s why we have allowed an estimated $4 billion for other regional transport projects.
“The next step is for the Wellington City Council and regional councils to endorse and commit to funding their share of the $6.4 billion plan. The total cost of the LGWM indicative package is split 60:40 between central government and local government to reflect the wider local benefits of the package,” Phil Twyford said.
This work has been underway for a number of years now, basically ever since the horrible Basin Reserve flyover had its consent declined in 2014 (and again in 2015). Back in late 2017 a draft programme was developed and it was pretty unimpressive, focusing enormously on building a whole pile of motorways before improving public transport. It seems like the updated version is better, although there are some inconsistencies between the Recommended Programme and the Government’s announcement. Overall it seems like the Recommended Programme was unaffordable and therefore needed both a bit of trimming as well as being delivered over a longer time period.
Anyway, let’s start by looking at the strategic approach the LGWM project took, which actually looks pretty good with a very strong focus on findings ways to move more people in fewer vehicles:
This approach translates into five key moves. The first four seem to make good sense, although the state highway improvements seems to continue with the problematic previous approach of suggesting a pile of motorways are needed before we can build public transport. More on that soon.
The recommended programme then runs through how it might be implemented over time, what different areas might look like once the programme has been completed, and what some of its impacts might be. For example there’s a good slide showing some of the ways the programme will reduce car dependency over time:
What’s perhaps less clear is how the Let’s Get Welly Moving recommended programme compares with what was announced yesterday. The various numbers seem quite different:
- The recommended programme on the LGWM website apparently costs $4 billion
- Media reports mention a cost of around $6.4 billion
- The Ministry of Transport’s website suggests the indicative package (which may or may not be the same as the recommended programme) costs around $3.7 billion.
There are similar inconsistencies between what’s in an out of the different packages and programmes. The Government’s announcements make no reference to projects like duplication of the Terrace Tunnel or widening the motorway to the north of Wellington, so theoretically they should be cheaper rather than more costly than the LGWM programme. Some of the figures appear to make some allowances for other projects in Wellington outside the LGWM project area, and it’s unclear which figures relate to government spend versus total investment needed.
There’s also very little information about how the 20 year programme might be sequenced over time, with just one slide of a very lean “Way Forward” document giving some indication about what early priorities might be:
If the Terrace Tunnel really has been dropped, then probably the main questionable project left is duplicating the Mt Victoria Tunnel and widening Ruahine Street, which is costed at around $700 million. As the sequencing of the programme is developed further it would be good to see the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication pushed towards the back end of the 20 years and only done if really necessary once rapid transit is in place.
So overall, yesterday’s announcements suggest that Let’s Get Welly Moving has definitely improved from earlier proposals. However there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions around how the programme will be sequenced, how it will be funded and ultimately when some of its key components will be delivered.