It was already shaping up as a hectic week for news even before we had the COVID results on Tuesday night. Here’s our wrap up of some of the things that caught my attention.
The Great Rail Network Slowdown
I’ll be writing about this more in the coming days but in case you haven’t seen, it turns out Auckland’s rail network is in much worse case than thought and around 100km of tracks needs new rails or other maintenance work done on them. Things are so bad that the entire network is being slowed down to a maximum of 40km/h for the next six months compared to being between 80 and 110 km/h at the moment.
As such, from Monday there are new timetables for all lines and in addition to the trains taking longer, Auckland Transport are reducing frequencies to only every 20 minutes.. I haven’t checked all of them but as an example of the impact this will have:
- The Western Line from Swanson to Britomart will be 10 minutes longer, taking 1 hour and 6 minutes.
- The Southern Line from Papakura to Britomart will go from either 50 or 52 minutes to 1 hour and 7 minutes.
- The Eastern Line from Manukau to Britomart will go from 37 or 39 minutes to 51 minutes.
Eastern Busway milestone
The team building the new Eastern Busway have reached an important milestone and are now moving the new bridge that will span the Tamaki River into place.
In a first for New Zealand, a new bridge is being slowly pushed across the Tamaki River as part of the $1.4b Eastern Busway.
There are four spans and each one is connected to the section behind it. Each launch of the bridge is around 50 metres and takes up to 10 days to inch across the river.
Mayor Phil Goff says this construction method is a first for New Zealand and speeds up the assembly.
“The first of the steel bridge spans were delivered to the construction site earlier in the year and are the largest single steel spans ever to be fabricated in New Zealand.
“The new busway bridge is more than 200 metres in length and contains 1,000 tonnes of steel and 2,000 tonnes of concrete,” says Mayor Phil Goff.
“It’s a feat of engineering and will be an integral part of the completed busway, supporting high frequency bus travel between Panmure and Pakuranga and eventually Botany once the project is completed in 2025.
The busway between Panmure and Pakuranga is due for completion next year. The video below is drone footage from near the end of July
Redoubt Rd Dynamic Lanes
A safer and less congested Redoubt Road is on the way before the end of the year.
To improve traffic flow, Auckland Transport (AT) will install dynamic lanes on Redoubt Road in Manukau, between the Southern Motorway offramp and Hollyford Drive.
AT will also make safety improvements at three road crossings along the route.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he is pleased to see work on the dynamic lanes get underway.
“Dynamic lanes are an effective solution to reduce congestion and delays for motorists that do not require the costly and time-consuming process of building new physical lanes,” he says.
“They have proved their effectiveness in Whangaparāoa and on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and hopefully will be just as effective on Redoubt Road, which I use frequently.”
The section being made dynamic (below) is already three lanes, with two westbound towards Manukau so this isn’t a massive change, however, it remains a classic case of Auckland Transport prioritising traffic flow. AT shouldn’t be even considering changes like this when there are still modes that are missing from the street. For example, there is nowhere safe for anyone to ride a bike? Alternatively, if they are going to make it dynamic, why not make it a dynamic bus lane given this section is used by the 35 frequent route as well as the 325, 355 and 366 services.
What the pole
Auckland Transports silos were on clear display earlier this week when some street sign poles appeared in the middle of what is meant to a new shared path as part of the Karangahape Rd upgrade.
Two new poles on the Karangahape Rd footpath/shared path pinch point. How were these not consolidated onto one pole, or even better, placed on the existing streetlamp behind me.
The upper queen st bridge one was annoying but these are straight up stupid. pic.twitter.com/jDahDGzUAT
— Unprecedented Timmy (@gallicist) August 9, 2020
It appears these may have been put in by the team doing the city centre speed limit changes and who took no thought to what else was happening in the area much like how they put a sign in the middle of
Thankfully after raising this, AT removed the poles but that this happened in the first place is a classic example of one AT department charging ahead without any knowledge or understanding of what other areas are doing.
— Unprecedented Timmy (@gallicist) August 10, 2020
Transmission Gully outcome close?
It seems we may be close to an outcome on Transmission Gully, though it’s one that sounds like will not be great for taxpayers.
NZTA and the private consortium building Transmission Gully are close to a new agreement that could remove or alter warranty obligations on the road.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford told reporters at Parliament on Thursday a project announcement to “reset the clock” on Transmission Gully was not far away.
“[A reset would] restart the project well and truly and have a clear run through to completion … [the road is] 83 percent completed and obviously people who live in this region, they want to see the road open as soon as possible.
Weakening warranty conditions doesn’t sound like a great outcome and more likely something that will come back to bit us in the future.
Manawatu Gorge Replacement moving ahead
A contract has finally been signed to built a new road to replace the old Manawatu Gorge road, which was closed due slips in 2017.
Site work is soon to begin on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, the project to replace the former SH3 route through the Manawatū Gorge, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today.
Phil Twyford was today in Woodville at the signing of a formal agreement by members of the Alliance delivering the design and construction of the $620 million project – Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction, Aurecon and WSP.
Phil Twyford said today’s signing is a major step forward for the much-needed replacement to the Manawatū Gorge route that’s been closed since 2017.
“Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway will reconnect Manawatū, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa, as well as restore a vital link for locals, travellers and businesses across the North Island.
“It will also help with the region’s economic recovery. The project will create hundreds of jobs and has a target to employ more than 60 per cent local workers. This will have huge benefits for the region with their people being upskilled and getting money in their pockets when they need it most.
“The team is also working closely with iwi, stakeholders and local government to protect the environment as much as possible. The project will plant 46ha of native forest, rehabilitate 32km of streams, protect 48ha of existing forest and manage the pest control of 300ha of forest reserve.
It’s not the parking ….
Retailers love to overestimate the value of parking and continually blame the lack of it, especially the lack of free parking, as to why people don’t visit their shops. A good example from Christchurch has once again shown that it’s not the parking that makes a difference.
One-hour free parking this winter has so far cost Christchurch ratepayers $195,000 and only attracted 395 more cars than last year– that’s close to $500 per car.
The Christchurch City Council introduced the initiative as a way to encourage people to come into the city and support businesses following the Covid-19 crisis.
But the lack of uptake has surprised the Central City Business Association (CCBA), which pushed for the free parking.
The council has been providing the first hour free at its Lichfield St and Art Gallery parking buildings during June, July and August. The initiative is set to end on August 31, but the council will decide the final on Thursday.
CCBA chairwoman Annabel Turley said there was a perception free parking brought in a lot of people, so she was surprised at the council’s figures.
She agreed it was hard to justify a continuation given the cost and lack of uptake.
“We really value the fact that they did put on that free parking. It showed great support for the retailers and the hospitality operators in the city. Parking always seems to be a barrier for people, whether it’s a true barrier or a perceived one.”
Like their counterparts in Auckland’s Heat of the City, perhaps this Christchurch business association should focus on making the city centre more people focused rather than encouraging people to drive to it.
Have a good weekend.