7 Months, 7 Roads, and 7 Days…

Steven Joyce likes saying he’s tired of the “road versus rail debate” – implying that his government recognizes both roads and public transport are needed and important. But what does this government’s record on transport in Auckland, especially when it comes to 7s, really suggest?

It’s more than 7 months since Steven Joyce announced he was cancelling the regional fuel tax which would have paid for the new electric rail cars Auckland’s aging rail system desperately needs.

Despite Keith Locke’s written and oral questions to the Minister about electrification there is still no clarity about when and how the government will provide the $500 million needed to finish off the electrification project. First, electrification was going to be finished in 2013 – now Joyce has admitted it might take until 2014.

What we do know for sure is that Auckland will be getting an awful lot of new motorways very soon as part of the 7 Roads of National Significance. $5 billion plus of motorways including Waterview ($1.4 billion), Puhoi to Wellsford ($2.3 billion), Victoria Park ($320 million) and the 8 laning of SH16 (just under $900 million).

By a curious coincidence, 7 days is exactly how long the recent bus lock out in Auckland lasted, causing massive inconvenience to the estimated 80,000 people/day who use NZ Bus in Auckland.

To put that into perspective – according to the graph on page 5 of this report by ARTA 80,000 is about the same number of people* that travel down Great North Road past Herdman Street through Waterview every day. It is easily twice as many people as travel down SH1 south of Warkworth (i.e., between Puhoi and Wellsford every day). Yes, that’s the same two roads that the government is pushing NZTA to spend $3.7 billion on in the very near future. Why? To relieve congestion and improve driver convenience.

Despite this, Steven Joyce wasn’t willing to intervene in the industrial dispute between Infratil NZ Bus and the workers to improve bus user’s convenience…

So why so many 7s? Well, perhaps National isn’t quite as over the “roads versus public transport” debate as they like to suggest…

* According to the Ministry of Transport on average there are 1.56 passengers in each car in Auckland and the graph shows that 50,000 vehicles go down the Gt North Road each day – so that’s almost exactly 80,000 people.

8 Comments Posted

  1. Jarbury: The fundamental problem is that once you get over 10,000 vehicles a day the risk of head on collisions starts to rise more and more, as people seek to overtake foolishly and take someone out with them. The higher volumes simply mean that when people drift out of lane the risk of them taking another out become very high indeed. The Puhoi-Wellsford investigation should consider a range of options to address issues along the highway, I would hope that most would support taking that step to see what options are cost effective and produce the most net benefits. We are unlikely to disagree on that.

  2. Surely safety could be improved through far cheaper means? Like easing a few bends, lengthening some passing lanes and adding in a few other measures like rumble strips and wire median barriers.

    In terms of heavy vehicle flows, even if Puhoi-Wellsford had a much higher percentage of heavy vehicles than Waterview would it really affect the BCA significantly? Remember my analysis, flawed as it is, would need to be out by a factor of five for the project to merely break even.

  3. Frog: Yes the regional fuel tax was abolished, but fuel tax and RUC was just increased for the whole country. I would have thought you’d have approved of that, since the Green Party generally approves of increasing the price paid to use the roads.

    You can legitimately ask about the $500m for electrification, but given it is taxpayers’ money to be spent on a taxpayer owned network (and will be a sunk cost, in that it wont raise the asset value by that much), it is fair to be extremely prudent about how to spend it. The money is coming from general taxation after all.

    On the other projects it is a bit of a mix. $91.6m has been committed to Waterview for further investigation and property purchases, while another $22.7m will probably be committed in this current year to design. Construction is yet to be committed to by NZTA, although it is probable. Bear in mind Labour would have spent more on this project.

    Puhoi to Wellsford has $106.4m in the NLTP over the next 3 years for investigation and property purchases, but actual construction funding is far less certain. Construction on this cannot start within the next 3 years, so it outside this Parliamentary term.

    Victoria Park was always going to happen, was ready to go under the last government and supported by it. Difficult to argue against fixing this last bottleneck in the CMJ tangle.

    8 laning of SH16 would have had to go ahead with the last government anyway, simply because of the effect of Waterview, although again this hasn’t been approved yet.

    Puhoi-Wellsford has an issue beyond congestion, it is safety. Jarbury’s “analysis” excludes this and isn’t remotely NZTA compliant. The question is how to manage that highway, the link between Northland and the rest of the country, into the future. It is clearly substandard as it is, so work needs to be done to determine how it should be upgraded.

    Kevyn. Yes I find it curious the Greens embracing motorcyclists, given one of the reasons road safety has improved over the years is the shift from motorcycles to cars. Motorcycles are demonstrably very high risk vehicles for those using them, consequently having a similar impact on the ACC motor vehicle account.

  4. The main deficiency of your analysis is that you assume savings are the same for all vehicles.
    Trucks are a huge percentage of users of this road and the savings to a commercial truck are much greater per mile or per minute than for a passenger vehicle. And they pay road user charges.
    I do not recall the figures but I have seen projections which show the potential for a massive clash between foreign tourists in their cars and heavy trucks on this road in the near future. Killing tourists is not a good look. These are the two areas where high growth is projected. Also we have a rapidly growing port in Whangarei and we should be working to link our ports in the Northern North Island economic triangle.
    The biggest waste of tax payer money I can imagine is the Auckland Airport rail link. I have done a back of the envelope analysis of that boondoggle based on figures available from the Sydney Airport link, and show that such a link would lose more money faster than the Sydney debacle. Again the only people who have serious problems getting to the Airport are commercial vehicles and staff. Tourists use shuttle buses and taxis and how many tourists want to go to the few hotels in the CBD? Tourists don’t like lugging their luggage from mode to mode.
    Ask yourselves, if you want to get to the airport would you go to catch a train and if so where would you catch it and would you be prepared to wait 45 minutes if you missed one? The shuttles need no subsidies. The passenger train to the airport cannot even cover the cost of capital let alone operating costs.

  5. toad, That will come as great relief to the Minister of Health. The last thing he needs is to go back to the bad old days before JUCs when motorcyclists and pillions occupied 24,000 hospital beds days each year, almost the same as the number occupied by all “motor accident” victims last year.

  6. “According to the Ministry of Transport there are 1.56 passengers in each car in Auckland”

    there’s a bit of variation, though – some cars have more than 1.56 people in them, and some have less.

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