Package solution for transport projects

Encouraging people to use public transport will free up roads for freight and commercial traffic says Auckland Transport's David Warburton.
Encouraging people to use public transport will free up roads for freight and commercial traffic says Auckland Transport's David Warburton.

Improved opportunities for housing, jobs, and better freight and public transport services are just some of the benefits that will flow from three major projects in the "triangle" between Onehunga, East Tamaki-Pakuranga and the Airport.

They are:

* The proposed East-West road Link between Onehunga, East Tamaki, Mangere and Otahuhu

* The Auckland- Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (Ameti) centred on the Panmure-Botany area

* The Auckland Airport rapid transit project.

Auckland Transport is taking an integrated approach to managing all three projects as a "package"

"We (Auckland Transport) and NZTA are working in partnership on a single solution, by looking at the total area to come up with an overall network solution for all modes, and not just having a collection of projects that are planned and programmed separately," says Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton.

The unique features of each project area are being taken into account. For example, the East West Link area is a major manufacturing hub containing almost 40 per cent of Auckland's manufacturing employment.

The size, location and land use of this belt gives it a natural strategic advantage for economic growth, says Warburton. "So it is critical that reliable transport connections are in place to support future growth and productivity."

Some of New Zealand's largest freight and distribution companies are located in the area, and more than 6000 heavy trucks a day travel along the Neilson-Church St corridor - more than most of New Zealand's state highways, he says.

Though an East-West Link will ease freight congestion and bottlenecks in the industrial area, the major focus of the Ameti projects is on public transport improvements. This will include an urban busway with high frequency services between Botany, Pakuranga and Panmure.

The Ameti projects are in an area of severe congestion preventing easy access to Auckland's eastern suburbs and holding back the potential for economic growth. The two bridges across the Tamaki River carry more than 120,000 vehicles a day, more than State Highway 1 through Victoria Park in central Auckland. They also have more freight traffic than any other corridor in the country.

There are a number of sites ripe for redevelopment if key transport links are improved, with potential to unlock 40,000 new jobs in the area, Warburton says.

Meanwhile, to improve access to Auckland Airport and its fast-growing business precinct, rapid transit, most likely to be rail, has been identified as the best long term option.

Passenger numbers through Auckland Airport are forecast to triple to 40 million by 2041. There are already around 900 businesses in the airport business precinct, and the adjacent area is an emerging major employment centre with transport, commercial, retail and recreational as well as residential use.

Improvements are needed to serve the needs of these local communities as well as for travellers to and from the airport.

The "One Network" or integrated approach Auckland Transport and NZTA are now applying to solving major transport problems is reinforced by the impact the Central Rail Link (CRL) in the inner city will have on the efficiency of public transport services to the eastern suburbs served by the Ameti projects.

CRL will mean Britomart becomes a through station, opening the way for 10-minute train services in peak times to Panmure, which in turn will be able to connect with more frequent feeder bus services to suburbs further to the east such as Pakuranga, Howick, Ti Rakau and Botany.

With these investments, Auckland will be in sight of providing people in the eastern suburbs with real transport choices; an attractive, reliable public transport service which halts the extension of the commuter traffic peak spreading throughout the working day as is starting to happen.

"The end point is not just to invest in transport improvements that benefit commuters, but to make Auckland a more attractive place to live and work. Encouraging more people to take the option to use public transport will free up roads for freight and commercial traffic that doesn't have options other than road," says Warburton.

An investment of around $4 billion will be required for the three projects. The various options and other details of each project and its stage of development can be viewed at the Auckland Transport website aucklandtransport.govt.nz.

Meanwhile the pace on all three projects is likely to quicken in 2014. Through Prime Minister John Key's "Backing Auckland" speech, central government has made it clear it wishes to see an acceleration of delivery of the Ameti and East-West Link projects. Auckland Transport and NZTA have been asked to indicate to the Government which elements of the Ameti and East-West Link can be moved forward with additional funding, and how that funding can be targeted.

A recommendation on the preferred transport improvements and their routes are likely to be indicated early next year.

"What should be clear from all this is that it is not just Auckland's city centre that is getting a transport make-over," says Warburton.

"In the three years Auckland Transport has existed, we have worked hard to bring fundamental change to the total Auckland transport system. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the southern area where we are delivering three major transformational transport projects in a new way."

- NZ Herald

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