Welcome to 2020. Following my wrap up of 2019 last week I thought it would be good to look at some of the things we can expect to see in 2020. I think 2020 is very much going to be year where there’s lots of things going on but not necessarily a lot completed as projects race against the approaching timelines of 2021 when Auckland hosts the America’s Cup and APEC. With that in mind, here we go, in no particular order.
City Rail Link
With the main part of the project having kicked off, 2020 will be a year where that becomes more visible. From next week as road closures start to happen and in the middle of the year the Mt Eden Station will close till 2024 when the project is completed. For Western Line users my concern is we’ll see more unreliability creep in to services as it drops down to a single track through the Mt Eden worksite.
As for the early works programme we’ve lived with for the last for years, we should start increasingly see parts completed. I believe the works on Albert St, including the new footpaths and trees etc should be completed by the end of this year and we should at least see large parts of the lower Queen St area outside Britomart near completion – but the entire Britomart section isn’t due for completion till mid-2021.
Along with the CRL the downtown programme has been creating a lot of disruption. We’re already seeing a lot of progress on the programme and most of it is expected to be completed by the end of this year in advance of those big events.
City Centre Masterplan and Access for Everyone
The CCMP refresh should hopefully be approved this year and with that I hope we’ll start to see cars kicked out of Queen St. The previous council already unanimously supported the move and wanted it to happen within a year. That obviously didn’t happen so hopefully the new council will push themselves and AT to get this delivered.
We should also see more progress on reclaiming space in streets like High St with quick, lower cost solutions – but that needs to speed up too.
Northern Busway Extension / Northern Corridor
There’s already been a lot of progress on the Northern Corridor project and many of the busway features are already taking shape, such as the bridge to access Albany Station. The overall project isn’t due to be completed till 2022 but during 2020 I expect we’ll see it take a lot more shape, especially the busway.
During the year we should also see the Rosedale Busway station started as well as the upgrade to the Constellation station that will see a new northbound platform built.
We won’t see the Eastern busway completed till 2021 but like above, I expect that during 2020 we’ll see a lot of progress on the project including the new busway bridge over the Tamaki River.
I also suspect we’ll hear more about the next stages of the project to extend it to Botany. Although this is likely to include the Reeves Rd flyover, which AT are still trying to pretend will be an interesting urban space.
Puhinui Station Upgrade
The upgraded Puhinui Station is due to open early in 2021 so I expect that by the end of this year it will mostly have taken shape with primarily fit-out work going on.
Tied to the Puhinui upgrade, just before Christmas the NZTA awarded a contract to Fulton Hogan to upgrade SH20B
The $70 million SH20B Early Improvements project will provide additional bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes and new walking and cycling facilities between Pukaki Creek Bridge and SH20.
The new lanes will support a new bus service every ten minutes between the airport, Puhinui Station and Manukau. Work to upgrade the Puhinui rail and bus interchange is already underway in a separate project led by Auckland Transport.
This is also expected to be completed in 2021.
The first few of the 15 new electric trains we’re getting arrived late last year. The rest should arrive this year and at some point we’ll start to see them go into service. Once all in operation we should see all services, with the exception of those on the Onehunga Line, operating as 6-car trains.
Light Rail will continue to be a big talking point this year and a big moment will come in February when the government decide on the outcome of their bizarre process between the NZTA and the NZ Superfund (and Canadian partners) – although I suspect it could be some time till we hear the outcome of that.
However, the government messaging of late is that this is just choosing a delivery partner not an actual project and if this is true it’s likely we still won’t see a lot of progress on it in 2020.
There are a number of cycling projects now underway. These include:
- Karangahape Rd streetscape upgrade – is due to be completed by the end of the year.
- New Lynn to Avondale Shared Path – it’s not entirely clear when this is due to be completed by.
- Victoria St Cycleway – Due mid-2020
- Northcote Bridges – two new bridges either side of the Northcote interchange, due by the end of 2020.
On top of these, the extension of the Quay St cycleway along Tamaki Dr us due to start soon and hopefully completed by the end of year.
Building consents surged to all time record levels in 2019 and I expect we’ll see that continue as Auckland continues to grow. We’re sitting at just under 15k annually so one question is, how high could the number go in 2019?
Climate change has been increasingly in the spotlight and throughout 2020 I hope we’ll start to see action to respond to it to become a much larger aspect of decision making.
Last year the Council declared a climate emergency and if they’re to live up to that we’ll need to see them starting to really tackle transport emissions and the sprawl that amplifies the problem.
The Mayor has also already announced a review of the council structure, which is probably appropriate as notches up 10 years this year and has added a new council committee to provide oversight of the CCOs. Will that have any impact in 2020?
In a few months time the first trains on the new trial Hamilton to Auckland service will start rolling. I am concerned about just how successful the trial will be due to the infrequent and slow services and suspect we’ll see those that oppose improving rail services, such as politicians and the likes of the trucking lobby, quickly use it as an argument against the further investment that will be needed to make a more viable service.
There has already been discussion of at least extending the service to Puhinui for connections to Manukau and the airport. My suspicion is the situation described above will quickly see that option become a reality once the Puhinui station upgrade has been completed.
Infrastructure spend up
The government have already announced a massive spend up on infrastructure including $6.8 billion on new transport projects, which they’ve described being both roads and rail. Those projects will be announced this year, possibly even later this month. As I wrote recently this should be focused on investing in projects that will help transition away from fossil fuels but my guesses as to just what projects we’ll see in Auckland include:
- Funding for a bunch of infrastructure to support sprawl
- The third and maybe even fourth main
- Electrification to Pukekohe
- Mill Rd
- SH1 Papakura to Drury widening – the Drury interchange needs to be upgraded to allow electrification to Pukekohe
A huge factor throughout the year will be the election likely to take place near the end of it. I suspect transport going to be an area with a lot of focus on it by both parties with the announcement above part of Labour’s first salvo. We’ll also almost certainly see National step up their campaign for building a bunch more unfunded, uneconomic motorways but will they also promise anything for public transport?
There’s plenty more happening and of course more will happen during the year.