This is a guest post by Greater Auckland reader Jack Gibbons.

Beginning tomorrow, July 13th, the Waikato Expressway from Hampton Downs to Cambridge will have the speed limit of 110km/hr.

Today, July 12th, there is going to be an opening ceremony for the Hamilton section of the expressway. When this section opens it will fill in the gap and the expressway will run continuously from the Bombays to Cambridge.

At the time of writing, the section from Cambridge to Tamahere is open and is set at 110km/hr, and the sections from Hampton Downs to Ngāruawāhia are open and set at 100km/hr. North of Hampton Downs the quality of the infra declines significantly, with a number of dangerous at-grade intersections. There are no plans to upgrade that section yet.

As a preface: I don’t want to give the impression that the expressway or this speed limit raising is purely (or even mostly) negative. I like the option to drive faster, I appreciate the engineering effort that has gone into the expressway, and will enjoy just how easy this drive has been made.

Final Waikato Expressway alignment and speed limits.

This post is specifically talking about the speed limit on the highway, not the highway itself. For some reason there are a lot of parties conflating the two together (here’s an example). The limit raising has to stand on its own merits independently of the new highway.

Time savings

The obvious benefit of the higher speed limit is the time savings. The hypothetical time difference between a 100km/hr limit and 110km/hr, assuming a vehicle could stay at the limit for the whole stretch of road (78km), is 4 minutes 15 seconds.

It is important to consider that this saving won’t be realised for a good subset of trips. For example, congestion can still occur. More importantly, heavy vehicles, buses, and light vehicles towing trailers are (appropriately) all still limited to 90km/hr. This means that any travel time savings are only available for private cars, utes and vans.

Fuel/carbon efficiency

The raising of the limit will increase fuel consumption on this corridor (per km travelled), and decrease vehicle fuel efficiency.

Waka Kotahi have been quoted saying that the extra 10km/hr will add 4.34% of per km CO2 emissions directly (citation) on the corridor at a date picked in 2031.

They have not (that I have been able to find) released the full environmental impact study, and this one data point obscures a lot. For example:

  • That 4.34% number is taken in 2031 and will assume growth in EV makeup in the fleet before then. The difference between the two limits is likely higher in the years before 2031.
  • This number also ignores induced demand, and land use changes from the shorter trip times, which will play a part in time.
  • This figure measures total corridor emissions but all heavy traffic is limited to 90km/hr in both scenarios. As such the increase in emissions is solely coming from the light vehicle fleet, the percentage increase for the light fleet must be higher.

According to Waka Kotahi’s modelling and fleet statistics, the most CO2 efficient speed (per km travelled) for the NZ light vehicle fleet is around 70-75km/hr, with the efficiency getting worse at higher speeds. There are of course variations with different vehicles, road and weather conditions etc, but generally there isn’t a circumstance where it is more efficient to drive 10km/hr faster at 110.

Graph of CO2 vs speed on the project page for the limit raising (link)

Now, this carbon is priced in the ETS, so a portion of the fuel price goes into paying for CO2 emissions. However I don’t think this is quite good enough. Fuel prices are heavily politicised and fuel is subject to market interventions if prices rise enough (as we’ve seen). It’s likely that carbon prices will have to rise a lot if we are to meet international agreements. Given that, raising fuel consumption, and therefore raising the public’s exposure to carbon prices is undesirable. Under the ETS intent today there should be no net increase in emissions from this limit change, but that might not always be the case.

I also argue that the price / speed tradeoff is a very opaque one that the general public is unlikely to make rationally because:

  1. There is still significant social pressure to do the speed limit on the expressway, and animosity to drivers that are doing well under the limit, even in the left lane. (this should be fixed)
  2. It is extremely difficult to determine the price difference between a trip done at two different speeds. People can’t be expected to make the mental calculation about whether the cost tradeoff is worth the time, without knowing the price.

As it stands today I speculate that most people will do the limit, not realise the alternative, not take account the price signals, and this will then increase the (ETS breaking) political strife when the chickens come home to roost.


CO2 is not the only output that will increase. Last week a study was published that squarely points the finger at NO2 produced by motor vehicles as a huge health concern for the country. Higher speeds will cause an increase in NO2 production from light diesels. How much is up for debate, the NZTA have not published all of the modelling for the higher limit yet (at least from what I can find).

Parts of the alignment pass close to population centres, in particular Hamilton and Cambridge, with rapidly expanding suburbs, and a school with over 2000 students already built right next to the expressway where there will be a negative impact.

New suburb springing up, school in the centre background.

Safety for vehicles.

To meet the standards required for 110km/hr operations, there have had to be some barrier, shoulder, and surfacing upgrades to the earlier parts of the expressway, and the most recent sections have been built suitable for 110km/hr from opening.

The increase in speed will have negative safety implications for people in vehicles, adding more energy to any incident has to have some influence. However this section of road is very safe for those in vehicles. It has full grade separation, controlled access, perfect superelevation, long sightlines, full barrier protection on both sides from the safest barrier type deployed in NZ. Under normal operation there is no chance of side impacts or head on collisions. It is consistent with vision zero in general, for roads like this to operate at speeds over 100km/hr. There isn’t anything wrong with driving fast on good infrastructure in good conditions.

There is unfortunately a giant red flag exception in the Waikato Expressway’s case.

High quality, safe infrastructure…. for those in vehicles.

Active modes safety

With the loose “expressway” designation, people are allowed to walk and bike on the shoulder of the highway. Waka Kotahi even painted these at-grade bike crossings on some of the off-ramps.

Taupiri interchange, southbound off ramp with an at grade bike crossing on the 110km/hr rated Waikato expressway. Opened in 2020.

In the first place, how was this multi-billion dollar corridor, connecting the largest city in the country and its neighbour, almost 2 million people combined, built without a simple offline walking / biking path?

The corridor having enough demand to justify a full expressway, around 20,000 vehicles per day, is clearly an indication of its importance.

In my opinion, there is a moral obligation to provide some guaranteed minimal level of mobility, especially on such an important corridor. If you don’t have much money, if you don’t have a full or restricted car licence (which 30% of the country doesn’t), if you do have a licence but are unable to drive, if you don’t have access to a car, or means to buy one… There still needs to be some guaranteed way (no matter how inconvenient) of safely getting yourself from A to B. The best way to meet this need would be with an offline shared path that partially follows the expressway alignment.

While people outside of a vehicle are extremely likely to be killed by being hit at both 100km/hr and 110km/hr, the added 10km/hr will decrease reaction times, and will increase stopping distances. It is not consistent with vision zero to raise the limit, just as it wasn’t to build brand-new expressway sections while providing inherently unsafe active modes infrastructure.

Fixing active modes safety

One of the requirements for expressways should be no non-motorised traffic allowed.  It is not a safe system to allow bikes or pedestrians inside the crash barriers on the shoulder of an expressway.

But we can’t just kick active modes off the existing expressway with no replacement. Even Waka Kotahi recognises that, saying: “Generally the 110km/h expressways will be safer for cyclists than negotiating the adjoining local road network” (quite the indictment of the rest of the road network). The expressway being the safest route – despite the extreme danger it presents to cyclists – is exactly why there’ll be very few cyclists at all, and why the likely very low use of the expressway by bikes shouldn’t be a reason for not providing safety. There is again a moral obligation to not make walking and biking even more dangerous.

We should retrofit this corridor with a separated offline path. A lot of the alignment already has spare room beside it within the existing right-of-way. There are also a number of service roads that have been built to connect properties previously served directly by SH1. These could have speed limits lowered and form sections of the path. Sensible deviations away from the noise of the highway would also enhance the quality of a walking and cycling path.

Waka Kotahi are already actually doing a little bit of active modes building with a pedestrian path on a 6km stretch of the expressway near Meremere, to provide a route for walkers of the Te Araroa trail and get them off the expressway shoulder.

New gravel walkway beside the expressway, outside the barriers. Waka Kotahi seem to recognise that walking on the shoulder is dangerous, sometimes.

The Consultation

The speed limit raising was consulted on last year. To me it’s a fairly poor example of consultation, and is not really used appropriately in the media. Consultations are not a form of direct democracy and are not intended to be. Lines in articles like: “…with only 10 opposing on climate change grounds…” are very leading and imply that the results are a vote amongst a group to determine the outcome of a proposal. This is not the purpose of consultation.

The project page(s) on the 110km/hr limits (linked here and here) are very sparse on the research and documentation about environmental impacts. The public were given very little information to make a meaningful contribution. How many more people would have shown concerns about Waka Kotahi choosing to raise emissions on this corridor if the agency were more upfront with the fact that they are?

Some people did raise climate concerns, most of which were thoughtful, informed responses. There is a Consultation Summary with a section where concerns brought up by the public are addressed. Waka Kotahi makes no mention of climate, emissions, or active mode safety here.

A better option for limit raising?

I also can’t help but think there was a missed opportunity to at least promote EVs or low(er) emissions vehicles here. Instead of giving every light vehicle the 110km/hr limit, vehicles that emit under a certain amount of CO2 or NOx per km could have been given the go-ahead. While a 4 minute time saving on what is likely an occasional regional trip doesn’t seem like much incentive, I think this would have an outsized effect on EV and low emissions vehicle uptake. It gives people more reasons to buy efficient / cleaner vehicles, and solves the opaque vehicle efficiency problem like it’s traditionally been solved, at time of vehicle purchase.


Raising the speed limit on the Waikato Expressway as it stands is a retrograde step. Accommodating cycling so poorly into the design is not safe, nor remotely consistent with Vision Zero. The increased speed limit has also created extra emissions and health downsides that were unnecessary. There were ways they could have mitigated these downsides. I can’t help but see the missed opportunities here, and hope future transport projects will not have the same flaws.

If Waka Kotahi takes the Road to Zero strategy seriously, this corridor will need to be urgently retrofitted with a safe, separated and protected active modes path.

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  1. How much years this has been wasted to build this? If in China, for similar length of road, it use less than six months to build, but in NZ, it 100 times more time to build. Can someone explain why!

    1. So many differences between NZ and China its hard to know where to begin. How about:
      – Typography
      – Land costs
      – Safety requirements
      – Labour supply
      – Quantity of projects and hence productivity and automation
      – Governance and human rights
      – Seismic activity
      – Pollution

    2. Part of the impression that things take ages in NZ is there is a lot of public discussion, articles, thinking and opinion forming on behalf of the general population. Combined with regulatory reviews. It could be a decade of discussion, “they were talking about that years and years ago” etc. This isn’t construction time, and has no real cost.

      Also we’re a smaller market, you could have been working on the entire 100km at once in China, but here you only have so many crews, they need a pipeline of work, not 3 years and then nothing for decades. And without either allowing the government to run up debt, or stopping even more maintenance on all the rest of the road network, then there is a set amount of money that can be spent on these highways.

      And there is usually better places to invest this money anyway.

    3. There are too many reasons/excuse in NZer’s mind for work not done well. Walk out of your square, perhaps NZ can do it a bit better.

      Reason why China can change to it do quick in the past few decades was they walk out of their square, look at what others doing, learn it, improve it, than China made a rapid change in just 20 years’ time. The key to improve is not to find the excuse, but to admit you are not doing right, you are not doing well……. Than there could a day NZ can improve!!! Wake up! Too many NZer just sit inside their well and look over that small sky!

      1. Only if you think doing things the way China does is an improvement. I think the environment, workers rights and safety are reasonably important.

        1. Those are things that are currently important to NZers, but you’re presuming that externalising the costs of those things are where the pace and affordability of the projects are arising in China.

          There should be things to learn from observing them in action.

        2. This is kind of mindset prevent betterment. Too many NZer just believe they are the best, always say, we are NZ in the world…… Forgot this kind of mindset than there could be a way of improvement.

  2. A new slick advertisement on prime TV last night.” everyone needs a Ford Ranger, mothers, artists, dreamers, those looking after the next generation (with a picture of planting), people who bike and kayak, individualists, in fact everyone needs one.” So likely to see even more of them on our roads if that campaign is successful.

    1. Last data I saw showed Utes sales well down and EVs massively up because of the incentives. If they are pushing advertising hard its probably because sales are down rather meaning everyone is going to buy one, especially with fuel prices as well.

      I don’t really understand why a small component of our road network has decided to have its own speed limit.

      1. We’ve had different speed limits on different components of our road network for years. The only reason this road has a relatively unique speed limit is that it is relatively unique, being only the 2nd real inter-urban motorway/expressway in the country.

      2. Only because the new Ford Ranger comes to market this month, so the past 4 months the Mitsubishi PHEV’s have been market leader. Just watch over the next 3 months as Rangers – the vehicle of choice for tradies, farmers, contractors storms the market.

        The problem is boys, the latte sipping Ponsonby / Grey Lynn set think you should tax diesel utes, when in fact, there is no alternatives available for the rest of New Zealand. You cannot haul a load of 3.5 tons with an electric ute. You cannot tow trailers for hours around a farm or in a forest.

        The final point about Labours silly “ute tax” is that the only electric utes, which are not fit for purpose, cost up to $40,000 more than well known brand ute.

        1. A market intervention tax like the feebate scheme isn’t based on the fact that there is some replacement for every use-case. Any scheme there is going to be some caught out, sorry, that’s how lawmaking works.

          But there are a ton of edge cases where there are viable alternatives. I grew up on a farm and still have some (light) involvement. Every farm needs a ute sure. But:
          Most of the utes on (our) farm are personal vehicles owned by employees. Used for recreation and errands to town.
          Most of the farm ute use is replaceable with smaller lighter vehicles that can be / are electrified.

          The actual “Needs a ute” use case is a much smaller portion of the market than the actual whole market is currently. The whole industry is hiding behind this critical use like some kind of moral shield. To claim the whole feebate scheme is silly when some small subset of critical use is caught out is dumb. The most popular ranger model has been the 2WD model with similar towing capacity to a family wagon, those vehicles can mostly be replaced not with more of the same, but with lower emissions vehicles.

          Then there’s the whole thing where there are cleaner models available, people are choosing not to buy them. Euro 6 light diesels have actually been dropping in market share giving way to Euro 5 lately.

        2. That would be fine except the majority of utes are not working vehicles but ironically driven by the Ponsonby / Grey Lynn set and their ilk.

        3. There are plenty of things with no or few alternatives that we tax. There’s no alternative to eating but we still tax food. Most utes are lifestyle choices, I don’t see many towing trailers let alone towing 3.5 tonne trailers.

          In saying that I’m not a fan of taxing specific vehicle classes, it would make more sense to increase the ETS tax on fuel and if people want to drive a gas guzzler that’s their problem.

          We should instead be focussing on the safety of utes for those outside them. Removing bull bars, improving pedestrian safety, restricting their access to certain parts of urban areas etc.

      3. Last year after changes to emissions feebate being announced, there was a boom in high emissions vehicles like utes.

        If your business (or your ‘lifestyle’) was planning on getting a ute in 2022, you would have tried to buy it before the fees were introduced and save a few thousand. Hence boom in utes last year and predicted dip this year.

        I noticed that Jeep are advertising as no emissions tax; I presume as the dealer is absorbing the cost.

        At least LDV have an EV ute available now, but first major vendor to introduce a low emission ute should clean up in sales. Though seeing the comments on the EV ute story, a lot of people buying utes seem to think low emissions are a negative

  3. Personally I am happy for this road to have a 110 speed limit, I am not sure why people are so concerned compared to all the other significantly less safe roads that have a 100km/hr speed limit.
    From an environmental and safety perspective, the following would achieve much more than just picking on this one road:
    Expressway: max 110
    Highway with barriers: max 100
    Highway without barriers: max 90

      1. I mean this is a core climate idea, we shouldn’t just be saying, “Oh we can do this rise in emissions if we do that offset”, the land transport system is really carbon intensive in NZ, there were (IMO) pretty easy adjustments that could have been made to the scheme to both let people drive fast, and further minimise corridor emissions. And even accelerate the EV market share.

        This was the easy place to make cuts, the low hanging fruit. Now we say, ahhh, some other low hanging fruit next time? Story of the last 30 years in NZ. If we are to meet various emissions agreements then the cliff that yearly emissions have to fall off grows ever taller.

        “Someone else can sort it”

        1. There are literally 100s of MW of all kinds of generation being built as we speak, including base load geothermal. Carbon prices continue to rise. If there is a medium – long term shortage of electricity (and associated higher prices) then the market builds generation, we’ve seen this a heap over the last couple years. It works.

          NZ’s EVs are overwhelmingly charged off-peak because electricity then is cheaper, at times when there is no concern of electricity shortages.

          We also don’t need to replace all the energy that fossil fuel powered cars use, battery storage and electric motors are much more efficient.

          “How will New Zealand cope with more EVs?

          If all light vehicles in New Zealand were electric, our current total electricity demand would increase by around 20%, EECA estimates. This could be accommodated within New Zealand’s current electricity grid, even allowing for the uncertainties of renewable generation, provided the majority of EVs are charged during off-peak periods.

          Smart charging can smooth peak demand and reduce the risk of EVs overloading the electricity system. It presents an opportunity to reduce costs to consumers and increase the use of clean, renewable energy.”

        2. “Overloading the electricity system” for short durations at peak times-only, is not where the main energy-constraint lies with large-scale conversion to EVs. It is, where is that energy going to come from, in a market that is already stressed by increased expectations of electrically-powered gadgetry of all sorts, that already faces lean times when hydro-levels are low, and a predicted continuation of population-rise. Already NZ burns imported coal to make up shortfalls, and wind+solar barely scratch the surface. And it must be borne in mind that New Zealand is far better-placed than much of the rest of the world to go all-electric. Globally, wholesale conversion of a billion or more road vehicles to any form of low-carbon energy is a problem without an obvious solution.

        3. “Where it’s going to come from?”
          Mostly wind and solar.

          Solar alone can do the job – except it’s not always sunny.
          Wind alone can do the job – except it’s not always windy.
          Combine solar and wind and you get coverage most of the time it’s needed (especially if you save hydro for peak/those other times with less baseload use).
          Wind in particular has a lot of potential with an offshore farm near Taranaki being among the best prospects in the whole world and able to double our entire generation capacity.

          Even better is that the Onslow pumped hydro scheme is passing the planning process so far. If it proceeds it will solve primarily the dry year problem with ~ 1000MW constant supply for 6 months (or a whole year for the bigger option).
          Not only does this mean that other hydro can be saved for peak rather than just baseload, it also allows for a huge increase in both wind and solar capacity.

        4. Sorry dave, missed your comment yesterday.

          The peak generation problem is where the real constraints for NZ lie, not wholesale energy. This is where all of our grid emergencies have happened over the last few years.

          We have vast (vast) untapped wind and solar resources. If the energy can be consumed at any point over the course of a few days, like with EVs under most scenarios, then these sources make even more financial sense to build out.

          We’ve also got 160MW of geothermal coming online next year, that is going to produce over 1/4 of the yearly output of Manapouri, a truely massive amount of energy in a single plant.

        5. I dont pretend to know half of what is being discussed about it, but the Lake Onslow proposal sounds utterly amazing.

        6. @KLK, pumped hydro is the new darling of the energy world with plants being planned all around the world.
          Effectively works as a gigantic battery (hence why Onslow is being called the NZ Battery Project).

          It will literally transform the entire NZ electricity system allowing not only 100% renewable electricity but 200/300/400+ % if we go down the route of producing green hydrogen etc.

    1. The reason to pick on this road in particular, is that building it has sucked funding out of every other road in the country. It’s taken away some of the opportunity to have ubiquitous median rope barriers on busy state highways.

      It is Waka Kotahi’s jewel in the crown and has received much attention and money, it should be held to a higher standard.

      Part of the problem with centralising funding in this corridor (and the wellington northern corridor) is that it’s made some communities much more transport rich, while the majority of the country has got little upgrades, and has even (as advertised by the previous government) had maintenance “leaned up” to spend more on these 2 or 3 corridors.

      But yes, I agree long term we should head for more appropriate limits. I had a paragraph about this but had to cut it. I agree, keeping 100 on the retrofitted median rope highways (where possible) would be the ticket. And give local road controlling authorities the tools to make limit changes, and some responsibility of road outcomes.

      1. This expressway is a bargain for the price (especially compared to the likes of Transmission Gully). Fully half of the countries population is within a hour of this road so it certainly makes sense from population/usage point of view and it will absolutely produce a massive reduction in serious/fatal accidents.

        1. Sorry, missed this comment.

          The BCR isn’t clear, and likely fairly low. It’s not super easy to find info and I don’t really want to spend my afternoon doing it. But matt L thought the Hamilton section might have been around 0.2 a while ago:

          And per KM its still very expensive roading compared to what it should ideally be.

          In order to lock in these DSI reductions we need to calm the old infra that was bypassed. Otherwise the natural conclusion is that those roads will fill up again. Bypassing a 100km/hr undivided road, and then leaving it at 100km/hr does nothing to fix the old system.

    2. I’m happy with this too.

      I am so used to driving 70 miles an hour in the USA and UK and 120km in Europe that when I come home to the Waikato, everything feels so so slow.

      While it’s not been touched on as far as I can see, travelling at a steady/constant 110km/h will produce less emissions then constantly accelerating and decelerating. That wastes fuel, causes more wear and tear and creates more emissions. With most of Hamilton, all of Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Pokémon and other towns now bypassed the health and safety of all of these places is now greatly improved.

      Bring on more 110kph speed limits (especially on Auckland’s motorways).

      1. Almost all of Auckland’s motorways have a much higher interchange density than what would allow faster operations, it is a key component of allowing higher speeds.

        With congestion as unpredictable as it is, we’d just end up with more rear ends, and incentivise a shift towards larger, more powerful engines to get up to speed. Not really a desirable outcome for what are mostly intra-urban trips.

        You could perhaps argue for north of the future Redvale interchange.

        If you compare the M25 to SH20 (Auckland’s ring route equivalent), eg through the bottom of the Isthmus, you’ll see two completely different types of infrastructure. The M25 is a longer distance, mostly rural, high speed route with usually triple the distance between interchanges, sometimes vastly more. Compared to something to get between suburbs. A fancy arterial road system with interchanges every 1.5-2km

      2. Urban motorways in Europe or North America generally have speeds limits of 100kmh or close to it. Faster motorways are generally intercity or on the outskirts of cities. These sorts of motorways are relatively new to NZ, which is why we haven’t had 110kmh speed limits previously.

  4. We can offset the carbon emissions by changing no limits anywhere to not have community lashback. All we have to do is simply enforce existing speed limits.

    Yes people bring up the counter argument “But then it will be hard to keep to the limit at 50kmhr, I’ll have to look at the dial the whole time.”. Somehow these people have no issue driving at 59kmhr on the dot now.

    So yep, my 2 cents, lets enfored the existing speed limits, we’ll not only drop emissions, but we’ll save lives and prevent accidents.

    1. A car my parents had in the mid 2000s had a little display where you could set a speed, and then a little beeper would go off (for a few seconds) if you went over that limit.

      I always thought this was such a great feature and solves a problem that apparently lots of people have. It would be really easy to add in the aftermarket too. GPS receivers are cheap and ubiquitous, plug some little thing into the cigarette lighter. Or you could even just use an app.

      We mandate breathalyzer interlocks for drink drivers. Mandate a $40 in parts device beeper for repeat speeders?

      1. Australia has a 4kmhr tolerance, most cars have cruise controls now and limiters.

        Australia also enforced temporary speed limits, I remember a time landing at 1am in melbourne, and I was hoping for free flow motorway, well I did get it. But I had 10kms of 30km/hr.

        But as I said people tend to comfrotably drive exactly 9km/hr over the given speed limit. People will learn and adjust.

        1. I’m pretty sure we have the same 4kmh speed tolerance as ‘straya.

          Had the exact discussion with girl at work about 9kmh, she said it was 4km so of course I looked it up and she was correct.

          So unless it’s changed in the last few years it’s 4kmh here as well.

          Seems to be much more heavily policed over the holidays.

        2. British police don’t give a s**t as long as your no more the 10mph over the limit (so you can do 80mph in a 70 zone with no hassles as long as you don’t mind the fuel bill or getting caught by a very clearly marked permanent speed camera).

      2. They’re standard in cars from Japan, except they are not adjustable. Importers remove them from pretty much every Japanese import nowdays.

        1. Yes I forgot about that whole thing. This one was NZ new and easily adjustable, not sure how the Japanese ones work exactly. I was under the impression is just a country wide mandatory limit.

          Notably WK is building a database of all NZ’s speed limits, this should provide opportunities to have these kinds of devices know exactly the limit for the road without resorting to AI reading limit signs.

  5. What is the speed limits for the Intercity buses however maybe it will be irrelevant as they will need to detour to places where people actually live like Pokeno, Te Kauwhata etc. And all the more reason to have Te Huia stop at these places seeing as our railway goes straight through them. And ditto to providing cycleways it would be more appropriate they pass through population centres and connect to railway stations rather than along an expressway. I have noticed that travel along the old state highway between Huntly and Hamilton is almost sane now through traffic travels via the expressway. The Huntly Hamilton buses are direct and fairly well used although the trip from the base to the transport centre can be painful.

    1. Yes, I was leaning a bit on the “Sensible deviations away from the noise of the highway would also enhance the quality of a walking and cycling path”, and referring to “corridor”.

      Should absolutely go though and connect the little townships where possible, and Huntly. Just so long as it’s not too circuitous. But for a good portion, the expressway should mostly be followed as it goes alongside the Waikato river. Say Huntly to Pokeno.

      The speed limit for normal buses will remain at 90km/hr and if there are any school buses they will stay at 80km/hr. All the same as today for all heavy traffic.

    2. I meant to add an express bus from Manukau Bus Station, Cambridge and onto Taupo and Napier would provide a bit of competition to taking the car.

  6. There are many people who do care about climate change and global warming. The world is running out of resources Including oil.
    The loss of habitat. Extinction of species, erosion, sedimentation and sea level rise.
    The high tide water level at Mangere inlet is not far below road level and it won’t take much rise for the sea to wash over to the Tamaki river and cover large areas of Auckland.
    There are too many deniers who make multiple overseas trips, buy large cars and yachts, never use PT and don’t care about the huge fires such as at Yosemite that is burning the precious threatened sequoias

  7. So the roads by-passed by this new expressway can have some space allocated for regional bike trips?


    1. Quite so. Huntly now has a tiny fraction of the pre-bypass traffic that it once did and you’d think this would be the best time to reallocate carriageway space to favour local journeys and improve the quality of the environment.

      1. Especially given the old highway through Huntly was already a bypass anyway so it can’t have much traffic on it anymore.

      2. I saw some comments for what to do with SH1 through the various towns in on the Wellington Northern Corridor post bypass. A good number of popular comments were along the lines of “it was good and safe enough for SH1 with this design and limit, why change it!”.

        Which is hilarious, given the primary reason for the bypasses is safety upgrades.

        Waka Kotahi should be required to revert these local roads back to a fit for its new use local road. It’s like companies just abandoning their cleanup requirements for the local government to cover instead.

        1. See also: Hobsonville Road. Bypassed by the Upper Harbour Motorway years ago, but not a millimetre of space reallocated to non-motorised modes.

    2. Yes. The chair of the Engineering NZ Transportation Group has pointed out that building a new road like Transmission Gully cannot be said to improve safety if it still leaves the old road unsafe. As she wrote on LinkedIn:

      “Contrary to popular, unconscious belief, adding salad to your meal does not reduce its calorie count.

      “There’s a thing called anchoring bias in cognitive psychology. It means that people place an irrational weight on pre-existing information when making a judgment.

      “Studies have shown, for example, that people believe that adding a salad to a meal *reduces* the overall calorie count: “People intuitively believe that eating healthy foods in addition to unhealthy ones can decrease a meal’s calorie count,” said Chernev, in connection with his paper, titled “The Dieter’s Paradox,” published in April 2011 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

      “I see the same thing going on in road safety. If we *add* road lanes for traffic, we will increase traffic. Some of that traffic will be diverted from less safe roads. But those less-safe roads still exist, and capacity on them will increase because of induced demand.

      “So we have the old road, and crashes happen on it, eventually at the same rate as before we bypassed it.

      “We have a new road, and crashes happen on that too.

      “So perhaps it’s time to properly account for induced demand and exposure in road building – because justifying new motorways on the grounds of road safety is not as simple as we sometimes make it out to be. And meanwhile, we have a climate crisis going on…

      ” “The Transmission Gully motorway will significantly reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes; increase capacity and passing opportunities…”

      I would add:

      The Waikato Expressway is even more clearcut, because it’s egregiously unsafe for people on bikes, and whatever safety improvements it’s provided for people in vehicles, they claw back by raising the speed limit.

  8. I think it’s great that NZ is joining the rest of the world in having speed limits faster than 110km/h.
    My only concern echos part of the OP in that it is crazy to have cyclists/pedestrians on an expressway!
    Surely it would be not only safer, but much cheaper to have laid down a concrete shared path adjacent to the route but offline.

    1. Not concerned about the emissions side of things? I just can’t see past the obvious way to migitage this fully by only allowing vehicles that get a rebate or no fee on registration to have the 110 limit. We even already have the database now.

      The offline path could have even been gravel like the other regional routes around the country. And on such a critical corridor that is rapidly growing in importance? Crazy they didn’t do it.

    2. “Share the road” is pretty dubious on anything other than the most minor routes and on a 110 km/h expressway it is absolutely bananas. It would not have taken any more effort to provide a separate, two-way 4m wide cycleway in parallel, linking up with adjacent routes. But with asphalt surfacing, please. It’s nicer to ride on than concrete.

  9. “Expressway” and not “motorway” seems just an excuse to avoid providing safe facilities for the users who would be excluded from a motorway, and are clearly not going to be safe on a road designed to motorway standards and operated at motorway speeds.
    4 minutes time saved versus added fuel consumption, emissions, consequences of the crashes that do happen – and added stress from concentrating on longer observation distances. Does that actually reduce or add to the tiredness that produces crashes on the highest risk parts of long journeys?
    Also, the change – as discussed – increases the speed differential between trucks and cars from 10 km/h up to 20 km/h. Will trucks stick to 90 km/h? Will cars travelling at 100 km/h pull out in front of those at 110 km/h plus, to pass a truck? And woe betide anyone coming off a motorbike at the higher speed.

    1. This has got to be the reasoning for expressways right? The government created the “Motorway” designation with minimum standards (eg no non motorised traffic)…. and so instead the NZTA creates “expressways” that have an even higher speed than a motorway, but with the critical flaws that the motorway legislation bans.

      Having a significant speed delta (say up to 50km/hr) is still pretty safe. For example Autobahns in germany have a maximum truck speed of 80km/hr (vs our 90km/hr) and often maximum limits for cars of 130, (sometimes unlimited too).

      There is quite a lot of evidence around that the trucks are not sticking to the limit. In europe in some countries there is a govt mandated speed limiter to guarantee enforcement. I really don’t see why we shouldn’t have the same here.

  10. Waka Kotahi are in a tough position here. The expressway has been built now and it isn’t credible to leave it at 100kmh despite the serious issues around emissions and active road user safety. Increasing the speed limjt is the right choice *now* but building the expressway to enable 110kmh was probably a mistake.

    1. Building the expressway to handle 110kmh was the right choice, not building a separate pathway for bikes, pedestrians and horses was the wrong choice but it can be fixed.

      Emissions will be irrelevant for the majority of the expressway’s lifespan.

      1. how long do you think it’s going to take for the NZ passenger fleet to convert to BEV or HEV’s, it will be decades.

  11. If we are serious about lowering vehicle emissions, then stop using speed humps everywhere! The amount of extra fuel used from slowing down and then accelerating away is never mentioned. Especially when the humps are on a hill.

    1. If somewhere in an urban area is getting / needs speed bumps then it should be 30km/hr limit and that should be the design speed of the bumps.

      The cited graph of emissions vs speed above in the post is irrelevant in cities where induced / suppressed demand and the availability for switching between modes dominates.

    2. If we were serious about lowering emissions we would make it much easier to get around our urban areas without driving. People driving to the dairy, to drop the kids at school, into the CBD for an office job etc has a much bigger impact on emissions than speed bumps.

    3. I kind of agree with Tony here.
      Speed humps on residential streets can be installed at the same time they are made 30kmh. Therefore, reducing speed to say 20-25kmh for each speed hump is not really ‘increasing emmissions’.

      But, putting speed humps on 50kmh roads (even though many ‘shouldn’t be’ 50kmh) doesn’t seem to stack up emissions wise.

      BUT – raised pedestrian crossings on 50kmh roads? These also get called speed humps, but they are there for a valid reason. Regardless of emissions

      1. I’m not a fan of speed bumps on 50kmh roads either, but they’re a red herring in terms of emissions and definitely not the most important thing to tackle if we’re serious about emissions.

        1. yes they are a red herring. I have seen the tests which claim speed bumps use more fuel and emissions. With speed bumps you are not supposed brake hard before them and then accelerate hard after them. the idea is to slow down the speed between them.

        2. wayne: why not just lower the speed limit? Sure if that doesn’t work, then consider installing speed humps, however I think a speed camera would be a cheaper option.

      2. The only reason we have speed bumps is that idiot drivers can’t/won’t keep their speed down without them. Were it not for idiot drivers, we wouldn’t need speed bumps.

    4. Ah yes the story of people gunning it and then braking between those speed bumps.

      You see the same at traffic lights, if you slow down for a red light you will have someone shooting past you to then sharply brake for the red light almost every time.

      That is evidence that fuel is still waaay too cheap.

      1. This is some of the core reasoning for why I think that people heavily disassociate driving behaviour and speed, from fuel costs. It’s not a microtransaction like it is for PT, the price difference between the choices in driving style on a given trip is not clear. A driver might have been told that there is a difference, but it’s extremely hard to measure the difference, even with a good amount of effort. Environmental / changes in trip types introduce a lot of noise.

        Making fuel more expensive won’t help that much on this front IMO. Rather it pushes people to make more fuel efficient car purchases, and move to places / jobs with less driving needed.

        1. Yeah that was a bit tongue in cheek.

          If you drive from Takapuna to the city and back you do about 20 kilometres. A lot of people will complain if you have to pay even a few dollars for parking. But if you point out that the fuel also costs you a few dollars, many people will be surprised by that. (if you use, say, 7 litres per 100km it costs you about $4.5 at the moment).

        2. The old BMW’s (and new?) had the philosophy of feedback to the driver & super efficient motors rather than super aerodynamic shapes was more important for fuel saving. Little analogue dial showing how much fuel consumption is at a given time.
          Yes people don’t make perfectly rational choices.

        3. My car has a active mpg guage and engry use display on it. Very useful. I know how I’m driving and how much energy I’m using, both diesel and electric so I can correct my driving to be more energy efficient.

          My car uses a lot of electric energy so I’m glad that it’s still an ICE as otherwise I’d have range fear like many electric drivers do.

      2. I think it is just evidence that a lot of people just aren’t that smart. They probably rant and rave about the government and the cost of petrol every time they fill up.

        1. Not that smart is quite an understatement. I will never forget that day where everyone on the radio went like “we are angry at the fuel stations — so angry in fact, that we are going to boycott the fuel stations, and wait until tomorrow to fill up our cars”. It could have come straight out of South Park.

  12. I think the biggest point (apart from the lack of a safe cycling route) is that the time saving is around 4 minutes on a good day – just 4 minutes! What is the point for all those extra GHG emissions?

  13. So cyclists can’t use the old SH1 now?
    If you want to cycle/walk on a Freeway built for vehicles, largely out of populated areas there is something wrong with you.

    1. If you’re not familiar, a large chunk of the expressway has been rebuilt over the old SH1 alignment. There is no old SH1 any more in places.

      Where that hasn’t happened and an old SH1 alignment remains, no changes have been made to the infra. The reduction in traffic helps, but the shoulder is still sparse an inadequate, the speed limits remain as they were, and drivers still dont expect to see people walking or biking there. There are even places with heaps of road width, with passing lanes still, with no real need any more with an expressway nearby for fast trips.

      Even Waka Kotahi recognise that the old alignment and other local roads are still more dangerous than the 110km/hr expressway. As quoted above they say: “Generally the 110km/h expressways will be safer for cyclists than negotiating the adjoining local road network”.

      So to answer your question, nobody wants to walk or bike there, but that’s the safest (reasonably quick) option if that is your only way to get around, and that is insane to me.

    2. A decent chunk of the expressway is the old SH1, just straightened out with an extra couple of lanes added.

  14. The cycleways within the barriers of this road are one of the most ludicrous decisions on a new piece of infrastructure I have ever seen. This was true when the limit was 100 as much as at 110. It beggars belief that a road designed and built since 2010 would put people cycling in such danger in the way this one does. It should never have been built this way and now that it is it needs to be fixed/retrofitted ASAP.

    1. yep. Differential speed. 110kph cars whizzing past 3kph walkers. Safe systems? vision zero ?
      “i see dead people”

  15. i havn’t seen of anyone with a gun at there head to make them do 110km, as said it is the top speed you can use if you want, not a target.

  16. Re: NO2, “Hot running NOx emission factors are on average seven times higher than the type-approval limit for diesel SUVs”

    Re: CO2: WK’s emissions vs speed chart looks suspicious to me. This study reports a 16% increase in emissions at 110 km/h vs 100 km/h for Euro V vehicles, vs. about 7% in WK’s model.

    This argument about the ETS and the emissions cap is going to bedevil climate discussions in NZ for years. There was even an article in the paper by National’s economics advisor saying go ahead, buy an ICE, it can’t affect emissions at all because they are capped.

    Someone replied by saying that’s why every time I charge my EV I set fire to 20 litres of petrol just to stop someone else using it.

    1. it’s not a true cap, and it hasn’t yet been tested
    2. buying the ICE then puts the cost of reducing emissions onto someone else
    3. buying the ICE delays the overall transition

    1. Thanks Robert. One of the real concerns I have is the absence of Euro 6 in NZ. I thought that this would have been sorted already, we’ve had the center left govt in for a while now and this is extremely low hanging fruit, implement something a decade after Europe.

      Pre pandemic the new euro 6 light diesels were actually giving away market share to euro 5 models in NZ.

      That discussion about might as well buy an ICE vehicle is funny. I think mostly it is very short termist and raises people’s (/ the country’s) financial exposure to oil shocks. Seems there is also an embedded implication that you can always switch later, so you might as well do as much as you can afford now. “If fuel prices get too bad I can just buy a more efficient (or ev) car later”. Ignoring that later that people are going to bid up the price of said vehicles and in the short term (less than 1 year) travel and economy will take a hit. And that’s if you can even buy these vehicles which as we’ve seen is a big problem.

      Even in the most free of markets, people still should aim to reduce risks…

      I’m not too well educated on the ETS intricacies, so I didn’t want to step outside what I know and make a fool of myself in the post. But it doesn’t take too much of a mind to see that there is enormous political risk to the zero or even retrograde govt action paths here.

      1. Thanks Jack. There is still a chance that the new approach to setting of speed limits will lead to more widespread positive changes. I am also seeing a new willingness by WK to lower speed limits on state highways under the existing process.

  17. I hope that no cycling tourists will be unfortunate enough to assume that this is a real cycleway. Apart from the traffic, it will have a surface layer of all the debris from cars, plus stones and other pieces of junk. New Zealand seems still firmly wedded to the motor car.

    1. England in the 1960s-70s built a whole lot of median-divided (but non-motorway) ‘dual-carriageways’ to by-pass or upgrade existing routes. These were provided with what was meant to be a shared cycling/walking path alongside. But these soon turned into repositories for all manner of detritus including broken-glass from the adjacent highways, and progressively became uneven, weed-grown and unusable due to lack of maintenance. The present inadequate cycle path alongside SH2 Petone-Ngauranga reminds me a bit of these.

    2. New Zealand seems firmly wedded to the motor car indeed.
      Probably because the motor car is a great invention.

      ps this should really be 120km/h. Not that I use these types of road much. The twisty back roads are far more fun.

  18. Thanks Jack – Great work
    NZTA – fix your funding model. Active Transport is part of your future.

    1. Well constructed interstate highways in the US routinely operate at 120km/hr with existing vehicles. Lets take it as a given that electrification is the eventual future of passenger vehicles and most people who are resistant today won’t be so when better and cheaper products come to market in New Zealand. Concerns about humans and reaction times will be addressed by driver assist technologies and self driving vehicles and removing the human from the control loop. For sure efficiency is reduced at higher speed. But the best gains will come from vehicles being able to to travel in a coordinated manner at a consistent speed in a highly automated manner not surging up and down in speed. Having trains of electric vehicles braking for slower vehicles dramatically decreases throughput. That puts even more pressure on getting pedestrians and other slow moving or non autonomous vehicles off the expressway and onto some more suitable infrastructure or restricting them to lanes not used by their automated peers.

      I note with some surprise that the recently approved penlink includes grade level crossings on the cycleways on the actual on-ramps where both human driven and self driving vehicles will be planning to accelerate to freeway speed. No doubt after the first few deaths someone will make a case to remedy that and within a decade of opening somebody will likely have produced a position paper and vision statement on how to correct the problem /s.

      And for those that think an electric vehicle can’t be a hard core off road vehicle you just need to view a few videos of Rivian’s offerings in action.

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