Here’s our weekly roundup.
Many people were looking to yesterday’s budget announcement to see what projects might get the green light as part of the Government’s call for ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects. However, it seems that announcement is still some weeks away. This is not unusual as we typically haven’t had many surprises in the budget as most actual projects and policies tend to come through the Government Policy Statement and National Land Transport Programme processes.
The only thing we’ve really seen, at least in recent years, has been funding for Kiwirail and that was the case yesterday too. They’re getting $1.2 billion more being invested and this is broken down to four key areas.
Budget 2020 provides over $1.2 billion for rail, including:
- $246 million to support investment in the track and supporting infrastructure.
- $400 million to help replace the Interislander ferries and associated portside infrastructure.
- $421 million for new wagons and locomotives.
Changes proposed through the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill will also provide long-term certainty for rail by allowing network investment to be channelled through the National Land Transport Fund. Budget 2020 provides $148 million to support the fund to make these investments once the Bill has been passed.
There is only really a little bit more information provided in a Kiwirail press release and like previous years, the track and infrastructure proportion will go to a wide range of maintenance projects. For the ferries they say “The two new rail-enabled ferries will be more advanced, have significantly lower emissions and last for the next 30 years“.
Electric ferries starting to become viable but I get the feeling we’re going to end up being a year or two too early for them to be a true consideration for this purchase.
Even prior to the budget there has been reporting that the light rail is on hold with Stuff reporting:
The Government’s flagship infrastructure project has been put “on hold” while it fights the Covid-19 pandemic, but there are some doubts it will ever get going again.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said decisions on Auckland’s light rail project “are on hold while the Government’s full focus is on fighting Covid-19”.
Following the budget this was more widely reported, such as in the herald.
Last night I had an email from the Ministry saying that this is misleading and that the minister is asking for a correction. They also said
The situation is that Ministers have not yet set a timeframe for making a decision on the preferred delivery partner for light rail, given the recent focus on the COVID 19 response. They have not, as the article states, decided to put the project indefinitely on hold.
I get the feeling it could be some time before we actually get a decision, maybe not till after the election. I only hope that by that time, they’ve come to their senses and build something more realistic and affordable than an elevated/underground metro and have us paying billions to cover Canadian pensions.
With the country now back to level 2, AT are starting to revert to normal. Full public transport timetables are back to help provide enough capacity as the buses and trains can only carry limited numbers at a time. Normal fares are back too.
Sadly, AT have also been very quick to start pulling out some of the temporary cycleways.
I get the feeling that a number of staff have been itching to do this since before they even installed them and it hasn’t been helped by local politicians focused more on cars than on people.
The councillors and local board spoke out against AT and put heaps of pressure on to remove it in Level 3. I spoke out in favour. Wish more did too
— Richard Hills (@richardhills777) May 12, 2020
We got labelled "ideological zealots" by a councillor for recognising and acting on the deaths of two Aucklanders on Oteha Valley Road.
— Chris DARBY (@DarbyatCouncil) May 12, 2020
Plane Train Drivers
Radio NZ reported yesterday that some of the pilots recently made redundant have already applied to become train drivers.
Hundreds of Kiwi pilots have been laid off since airlines were grounded during the global pandemic – and now a group are looking to the railways for employment.
So far, 34 pilots have applied to switch wings for the tracks and become train drivers for the city’s rail network.
Transdev operates Auckland’s commuter rail service, and employs 200 train drivers in the city.
Its managing director, Peter Lensink, said he was pleased to be able to offer employment to pilots, whose skills were ideal for driving trains.
“We’ve got a great opportunity because we are growing and gearing up here in Auckland for the City Rail Link. That will double the amount of services here in four to five years time. We’re therefore able to recruit a large number of train drivers for the future.”
We certainly need more drivers so that seems like a solution. Now what else from the airline industry could we implement on our rail services, onboard drinks service, koru lounge like service at each train station, how about the handing out of lollies as you descend into the CRL?
Puhoi to Warkworth Tolling and Speed Consultation
Waka Kotahi have launched a consultation on tolling the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.
The new Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. It will connect to the Northern Gateway section of SH1 south of the Johnstones Hills Tunnels, which is already tolled.
The new motorway will be separated and will vastly improve the safety, connectivity and resilience of the network between Northland and Auckland, helping to boost the economic potential of the Northland region.
Waka Kotahi contracted NX2 in a Public Private Partnership to construct the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway. While the NX2 private-sector consortium is responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the motorway for up to 25 years, the motorway will remain a public asset. Tolling revenue will pay for the construction and maintenance costs.
The proposed toll and method of payment would be consistent with the Northern Gateway toll road, which is currently $2.40 for light vehicles and $4.80 for heavy vehicles. There will be a separate toll for each section of motorway.
If the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway is tolled, people can choose to travel on the existing State Highway 1 instead which will be maintained as a free, safe alternative route.
The motorway is scheduled to open at the end of 2021, but this may be delayed by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asking people what they think about tolling the road is surely going to end up one of the most one-sided responses ever.
Unlike the existing Northern Gateway, where tolls were implemented to pay off debt used to bring construction of the project forward, the toll here will “contribute to the annual amount we need to pay the PPP over the 25 years following the opening of the motorway“. It will make only a very small contribution though. For example, the Northern Gateway Toll Road collected about $11.2 million in revenue from 7.5 million trips during the 2018/19 year. But with every transaction costing Waka Kotahi on average 73c, nearly half of that money just goes towards operating the system. We don’t know the exact figures for the project but if it’s anything like Transmission Gully, the PPP is going to be costing us over $100 million annually.
Personally I don’t have an issue with tolling it but I do wonder
- Why the toll will be the same as the existing one, despite the road being more than twice as long.
- Auckland and Tauranga are paying tolls on new roads, but why are other areas of the country, such as Wellington with Transmission Gully, not.
At the same time they’re also proposing lowering the speed limits on the existing road. This will see the speed lowered mostly to 80km/h but they’re also proposing intersection speed zones where it will drop to 60km/h if someone is turning into or out of side streets.
Finally, a few lighter things.
Here’s a great podcast on urban mobility featuring Kent Lundberg talking about Access for Everyone that the council have approved as part of the refreshed City Centre Masterplan.
This popped up on my youtube feed the other day. It looks very touristy but just imagine trying to get that through our business case process these days
Even more bad news for Transmission Gully.
We featured an interview with Dr Paul Winton. He has a webinar this afternoon.
Have a good weekend