Welcome to 2024. After wrapping up 2023, here’s a look at some of the things we can expect to see and will be watching for this year.
The last few years have been extremely disruptive for public transport ridership, initially from COVID but then we were hit with massive disruption across all modes with staffing shortages on buses and ferries, and the need for Kiwirail to rebuild large parts of the rail network resulting in closures.
With the bus driver shortage resolved last year, the Eastern Line back in operation next week and less rail disruption expected in 2024, and new services like the Western Express, we should continue to see PT use recover throughout 2024. The big question is really just how strong that recovery will be. We ended the year with PT use starting to sit regularly above 80% of pre-COVID levels. How close to 100% could we get?
City Rail Link
It will be another huge year for the City Rail Link in 2024. The project is really starting to look like an underground railway now with tracks laid and other fitout tasks well underway. There will of course be a lot more of that and by the end of the year most of the station fitouts should be complete.
Then comes the big job of testing everything and that will take well in to 2025 to complete, though a big milestone this year should see the first testing trains through the tunnel – currently expected sometime in the middle of the year.
Papakura to Pukekohe electification
Perhaps the one big project currently due for completion this year is electrifying the rail line from Papakura to Pukekohe. When passenger services were suspended in mid-2022 to electrify and upgrade the line AT announced this would take around two years, with services resuming in the “second half of 2024” – though I wouldn’t be surprised if this slips to 2025.
The upgrade also includes a complete rebuild of the Pukekohe train station.
This is other big public transport project currently under construction and will continue throughout the year.
This year should see the first region (Canterbury) roll out the new National Ticketing system. Auckland isn’t due for this till 2026 however some of the features, like being able to pay with credit cards and phone wallets – should be coming to HOP this year.
Te Hā Noa
Throughout 2024 we should start to see the first completed, or near completed sections of Te Hā Noa – the Victoria St Linear Park. This is going to be a fantastic addition to the city though the full delivery of this first stage – from Kitchener St to Federal St – isn’t expected to be finished till spring 2025.
Great North Rd and Pt Chev upgrades
These two big projects are currently underway and include significant active mode improvements and two of brightest spots on the horizon for active modes given the rhetoric from the new government and council/AT over the last year.
There are other smaller improvements underway though, for example, the widening of the Ngapipi bridge on Tamaki Dr is due for completion soon and will the cycleway and footpath separated out, like has already happened on Tamaki Dr west of the bridge.
The biggest road under construction in Auckland is Penlink and progress will continue on it throughout 2024 as the project isn’t due to open till 2026. However, during the year I also wouldn’t be surprised if we were to see the new government look to change a few aspects. This could be either:
- Re-litigating the tolling decision – tolling has been a part of the Penlink proposal for decades and had strong support from locals but as expected, as soon as the project was confirmed, locals demanded it be toll free. The government could look to change this by either by cancelling the plan for tolls entirely or alternatively giving it to a private company, like Australia’s Transurban – to manage instead of having Waka Kotahi doing it.
- Looking at options to four-lane the road – though this is likely to be very costly
Making use of dynamic lanes has been pushed strongly by Mayor Wayne Brown and throughout 2024 I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Auckland Transport propose the idea on a number of urban streets – like they’re doing for the section of Gt North Rd between Blockhouse Bay Rd and SH16.
Note: consultation on this proposal closes on Monday.
The big road story this year is likely to be about the new government’s focus on progressing the motorways they promised during the election. Given how much design and consenting work will be required on them, we’re unlikely to see any start this year and I also suspect we’ll the government find most are going to be much harder and more expensive to deliver than they had expected/assumed in opposition and on the campaign trail.
Road Pricing and fuel taxes
Could 2024 be the year the government agree to road pricing. All parties supported the concept during a select committee inquiry but will the government actually do it. And what will be the relation to the regional fuel tax, given the government have pledged to remove it – even though it’s critical for paying for many projects.
The big thing to watch this year will be to see whether the government, and particularly Minister for Transport Simeon Brown, moves away trying to generate a culture war over transport and towards an even slightly more rational and evidence based transport policy.
Wayne Brown proved to be somewhat of an enigma in 2023 and also showed he was not afraid to tell people and the government what he really thinks. His relationship with the government will be critical to watch in 2024.
There are a couple of big things we’ll be watching on housing in 2024
- What changes will the government make to housing plans – they’ve already indicated that councils will be able to opt out of the Medium Density Residential Standards legislation, will Auckland do so?
- Will we see building consent numbers pick up again. They’ve been declining since late 2022 but with house prices starting to rise again, will we see that change?
The year unfolds ahead of us. Tell us: what are you most looking forward to, concerned about, and would add to the watchlist?