Here’s the weekly roundup for this week.
The big news this week has been the train disruption caused by an unprecedented fire at a Kiwirail signal box in Newmarket. The surprising thing is the scale of the disruption and that it took till Thursday Morning to fix.
The fire in switching equipment near Auckland’s Newmarket Station is thought to have been caused by a fault in the power supply.
What would normally have been a simple fix has been disruptive because of its location on a critical part of the Auckland rail network.
KiwiRail said there were hundreds of similar switching boxes across Auckland and this was only the second such incident in more than a decade.
I know not everyone will agree with me but while certainly far from perfect, I do feel AT/Kiwirail/Transdev have handled the impact of this better than they have in the past. That they managed to get some services running, even if at a reduced timetable or via the Eastern Line, feels like more than we would have had in the past. In saying this I recognise my view on this is biased from only experienced relatively minor delays.
One area they certainly could have done better with was that it took till about Wednesday to finally find out what happened and the scale of the fire.
City Rail Link Ground-breaking
Yesterday officials celebrated the official ground-breaking ceremony, because there are no sods to turn in an urban environment like this, to kick off the works at Mt Eden to build the City Rail Link.
Demolition work is still continuing on the massive site but has progressed enough that they can start building the portal to launch the TBM from.
Spades in the ground at the sod-turning ceremony clears the way for work to start on driving 66 concrete piles between 38 metres and eight metres long into the ground to support the curved-shaped retaining wall 127 metres long and 25 metres high.
The portal will take 10 months to build. When completed, it will be the launching pad for the TBM and the two separate journeys it will make under Auckland from Mt Eden to the Aotea station in the central city.
A German company, Herrenknecht, will build the $13.5 million TBM. The machine will be built at the company’s factory in China and shipped to New Zealand in sections next spring where it will be reassembled in front of the portal. The TBM will start tunnelling in February 2021.
With much of the site now cleared you now get a better sense of the scale of the works in this area and also how much opportunity there is for redevelopment once the project is completed.
As commonly happens with projects like this, a naming competition will be held
Tunnelling tradition dictates that a TBM cannot start work until it has a woman’s name to honour St Barbara, the patron saint of underground workers, as a sign of good luck for the project ahead.
The City Rail Link TBM will be named after a ground-breaking New Zealand woman identified by New Zealanders.
Huntly Bypass opens today
While CRL is just kicking off, the second to last section of the Waikato expressway is officially being opened today. As the name implies, it will see Huntly (and Taupiri) bypassed and will link in with the Ngaruawahia section that was completed in 2013. Overall the project is $15km long and has cost $409 million and involved about 3 million cubic metres of earthworks, including a 60m cut through the back of Taupiri Mountain.
There’s a public open day tomorrow.
Here is the most recent video from the NZTA about construction progress.
The last remaining section to complete is the Hamilton section and that is underway with it expected to be completed next year.
It seems the expressway is already having an impact though with reports of new sprawl suburbs popping up
A building boom at the southern end of the Waikato Expressway is expected to shift into high gear when the final sections of highway slot into place, building industry leaders believe.
Satellite towns such as Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Cambridge and others further south are set to be the big winners, Certified Builders Waikato Regional Spokesperson Mike Hayward said.
Hayward said it reflected a regional trend where the Waikato was “in a really good bubble” at the moment.
“That’s due to the Waikato Expressway going in and once it’s completed all the way through to Auckland, it’ll really open up Cambridge and a whole lot of other towns further down the road.
A great episode of 99% invisible last week on making buses better.
If you heard that there was a piece of technology that could do away with traffic jams, make cities more equitable, and help us solve climate change, you might think about driverless cars, or hyperloops or any of the other new transportation technologies that get lots of hype these days. But there is a much older, much less sexy piece of machinery that could be the key to making our cities more sustainable, more liveable, and more fair: the humble bus. Steven Higashide is a transit expert, bus champion, and author of a new book called Better Buses Better Cities. And the central thesis of the book is that buses have the power to remake our cities for the better. But he says that if we want the bus to reach its potential, we’re going to have to make the experience riding one, a lot more pleasant.
The episode is just under 36 minutes long but well worth a listen – and if you work in Auckland Transport it should be mandatory.
Nelson St Phase 3
Things move slowly in Auckland Transport and there’s no better proof than ‘Phase 3’ of the Nelson St cycleway. All the way back in 2017 Auckland Transport twice consulted on how to get the cycleway from the bottom of Nelson St to Quay St but the project went silent. Now in 2020 they’re back and consulting again on a cycleway on Market Pl. The proposal will see a cycleway added to Market Pl which will also be changed to a one-way street.
It’s about time but also leaves a lot to be desired as the project now is only for the 150m length of Market Pl and leaves the connection to Quay St for some unknown future date. It also creates the weird situation where the cycleway is a two-way cycleway on the western side of Nelson St for most of its length. It then splits in two with each direction on different sides of the road between Victoria St and Market Pl but then combines back together at Market Pl.
Consultation is open till 8 March
Henderson Road Safety
In recent years AT have started wider area scale safety improvements. Examples include at Te Atatu South and Papakura and now’s it’s the turn for Henderson North in the areas surrounding Rathgar Rd and covers six schools. Over the last few years a number of speed tables have already been added to Rathgar Rd and as a route I ride down as part of my commute I know they’ve made a difference in slowing cars down.
Consultation is open till 8 March.
Our most dangerous industry
On the topic of safety, unsurprisingly it’s been revealed that being on the roads is the most dangerous profession in the country.
New data has revealed New Zealand’s most dangerous industry to work in is Transport, Postal and Warehousing.
Worksafe is now asking for new research to figure out how to reduce workers dying on the road.
ACC research has shown many people are chronically overworked to the point it’s unsafe.
As we and many others have long said, if we took the same approach to road safety as we did with every other profession, we’d be seeing very different outcomes.
Old habits die hard
Last week the High St footpath trial was damaged by a truck but as Cam’s follow up tweet highlights, many engineers still don’t get it.
High St copped a battering overnight.
We’re sorting maintenance now, and pulling the CCTV footage to see who (with what) did this.
We’re seeing a bit of vandalism on the street but this is the first time in 5 months that someone drove on it. So MOST people get it. pic.twitter.com/yNHfB3rsTq
— Cam Perkins (@H20FrntDsgn) February 6, 2020
Had a response from a roading engineer suggesting that we widen that corner and remove footpath to allow for bigger trucks.
Given that we’re A) designing for human scale, and B) had one incident in 5 months, I’d like to investigate driver training and truck sizes.
— Cam Perkins (@H20FrntDsgn) February 7, 2020
Google Maps Hack
The impact of tools like Google Maps has increasingly become noticeable with drivers increasingly using them to try and bypass traffic. But it seems it can be hacked relatively easily. There are quite a few places I can imagine this idea being useful and would be even more so if we ever see true autonomous vehicles.
99 smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps. Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route! #googlemapshacks https://t.co/3gixMxopE6 pic.twitter.com/6KcMm1XgAF
— Simon Weckert (@simon_deliver) February 1, 2020
Finally, something I think many of us who ride bikes will understand
“Get a car, loser!” (presumably so you can be stuck in the same traffic gridlock I’m adding to) Sketch from 2019 Icelandic Lampoon show HT @ruvsjonvarp. As @bjornteits points out, the only thing unrealistic “is the fact that there are 2 people in the car.” pic.twitter.com/HcJqntz5FF
— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) February 12, 2020
Have a great weekend.