Progress of transport projects

By Mathew Dearnaley

Big strides are expected this year on five key projects to improve travel to, from and around Auckland. Transport reporter Mathew Dearnaley looks at progress

First electric rail passenger services will start end-April between Onehunga and Britomart. Photo / NZ Herald
First electric rail passenger services will start end-April between Onehunga and Britomart. Photo / NZ Herald

1. Western Ring Route

Cost to complete: $2.5 billion
Developer: New Zealand Transport Agency
Completion: 2017-2019
What it is: A 47km string of motorways from Manukau to Albany, forming a seamless alternative to State Highway 1and the harbour bridge.


What has been done

• Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20) constructed, Manukau to New Windsor, 19.5km.

• Upper Harbour Motorway (SH18) constructed, Westgate to Albany Highway, 11.5km

What remains to be done

• Waterview Connection extending Southwestern Motorway to new three-tiered interchange at Waterview with Northwestern Motorway (SH16), 4.5km, $1.4 billion.

Completion: 2017

• Upgrading Northwestern Motorway widening motorway from St Lukes to Te Atatu, including raising marine causeway west of Waterview, and upgrading Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd interchanges, 8km, $500m to $600m. Completion: 2017.

• Extending Upper Harbour Motorway to Northern Motorway and creating a "grade-separated" connection between the two, 3.5km, at least $500m. Completion: Date to be determined, but may be about 2019.

What's happening this year

(i) Waterview Connection
• Giant tunnel-boring machine due to hole through at Waterview in October, completing the first of a pair of three-lane motorway tunnels, after digging 2.4km underground from Mt Albert. Machine began tunnelling in November and by last week had travelled about 150m, installing concrete lining as it went, after what the Transport Agency called "a cautious start".

• Superstructure of first traffic ramp at Waterview interchange to be completed between Northwestern Motorway and southbound tunnel.

• Work starting this week on a trench between the northern tunnel portals and an emissions venting stack to be built on the other side of Great North Rd from motorway.

(ii) Northwestern Motorway upgrade Marine causeway Waterview to Te Atatu, $220m

• New eastbound traffic lanes to be laid on the seaward side of what will be a raised causeway, after ground is compacted during most of this year by 26,000 truckloads of quarry stone already laid to squeeze water from marine mud out of more than 10,000 vertical "wick" drains. Traffic then to be moved to the new structure, to allow existing lanes to be raised for westbound vehicles.

• Lincoln Rd interchange upgrade, includes new six-lane road bridge over the motorway, and a new motorway bridge across Henderson Creek, $135m. Work two-thirds done, moving towards completion in June 2015.

• Te Atatu Rd interchange upgrade, includes widening Northwestern Motorway back to the Whau River as well as widening the interchange bridge and its ramps, $50m. Work to start in February, towards completion in 2016.

• St Lukes interchange upgrade, includes widening the motorway west to Waterview and duplicating the road bridge over the motorway from Western Springs to provide three traffic lanes each way and new shared cycle-walkway, $50m. Work to start after contract negotiations are completed in the next few days, to be completed by 2017.

(iii) Northern tie-in, State Highway 18 to State Highway 1

• Work starting this week on adding a third northbound lane to the Northern Motorway from Upper Harbour Highway-Constellation Drive to Greville Rd, where an off-ramp roundabout is to be replaced by traffic signals. $19.5m project to be completed by April 2015.


2. AMETI Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative

Cost: $1.5 billion (Possibly +$600m to $1b for western extension to Onehunga)
Developer: Auckland Transport (with Transport Agency subsidies)
Completion: 2030, although the Government says that is unacceptable and wants faster progress.
What it is: A package of transport projects from Glen Innes to Botany including new roads, bus ways, cycleways and an upgraded bus-rail interchange at Panmure, to foster economic development around the Tamaki River.


Without rail east of Tamaki River, a key aim is to feed passengers to Panmure station from a busway running initially from Pakuranga and, ultimately, from Botany.

A new road north from Mt Wellington Highway, initially to Morrin Rd, Stonefields, but later to be extended to Merton Rd, Glen Innes, will divert some traffic from Panmure before that suburb's large and difficult roundabout can be demolished and replaced by a signalised intersection.

A flyover of Ti Rakau Drive, from Reeves Rd in Pakuranga to the Southeastern Highway, should encourage more commuter and commercial traffic to use the Waipuna Bridge over the Tamaki River. The aim is to take pressure off Panmure Bridge, which will be widened for the busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany, leaving existing lanes for local traffic.

An extension of AMETI, an east-west road freight corridor between Mt Wellington and Onehunga, is being teed up for an accelerated start after the Government last year pledged support. Opponents such as the Greens say money should be spent instead on a new freight railway line into Auckland's industrial heartland.


What has been done

• About $226 million has been spent, including on property purchases, building a new busway bridge over the railway, parallel with the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway, and upgrading Panmure Station into a covered road-rail interchange.

• Work is also 50 per cent complete on the new south-north road, which will share the covered station trench.

What's happening this year

• South-north road to be completed from Van Dammes Lagoon beside Mt Wellington Highway to Morrin Rd, to reduce an average daily count of 60,000 vehicles using the Panmure roundabout by about 40 per cent.

• Investigation and design of flyover from Reeves Rd, ready to lodge planning applications.

• Land purchase negotiations continuing in hope of bringing the Panmure roundabout replacement project ahead from 2016.

• Preparing a notice of requirement to protect the busway route from Panmure to Pakuranga from competing developments.

• Confirmation of a preferred route for the east-west freight link, towards a possible start in 2016.


3. Waikato Expressway

The Mangaharakeke Drive section of Waikato Expressway, north of Te Rapa opened in Dec 2012. Photo / Stephen Barker
The Mangaharakeke Drive section of Waikato Expressway, north of Te Rapa opened in Dec 2012. Photo / Stephen Barker

Cost: $2 billion
Developer: New Zealand Transport Agency
Completion: 2019
What it is: 102km four-lane, dual carriageway from Bombay Hills to about 4km south of Cambridge (bypassed). Runs east of Hamilton, Ngaruawahia and Huntly. 6km shorter than existing route and will reduce travel between Hamilton and Tirau by 35 minutes. A boost to the "golden triangle" economic powerhouse of Auckland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.


What's been done

• Work on improving what was derided as a dangerous "goat-track" in places between Auckland and Hamilton began in 1992 with an upgrade of the section from the Bombay Hills to Mercer to four lanes. An extension past Meremere to Longswamp began in 2001 but was interrupted for geotechnical, funding and cultural reasons before being completed five-and-a-half years later. Work on the expressway resumed in earnest in 2010 under an accelerated government funding programme, beginning with construction of an 8km deviation from the main route, the Te Rapa bypass around the northwest of Hamilton, which opened in late 2012. That was followed last month by the opening of an adjoining bypass of Ngaruawahia, including a new 142m bridge over the Waikato River. The Transport Agency says each of those two sections is cutting at least four minutes off journey times.

What's happening this year

• Rangiriri bypass - earthworks and bridge works (including for Te Kauwhata and Rangiriri interchanges) to be substantially completed. Traffic at the Rangiriri end of the project to be moved next month to a temporary road.

• Cambridge bypass - earthworks to be substantially completed and about 30 per cent of bridge work, including construction ofa200m viaduct across the ecologically sensitive Karapiro Gully. The viaduct should be finished by mid-2015.

• Hamilton bypass - planning commissioners for three councils to hear applications in February-March for alterations to designation and resource consents for the expressway to accommodate an inland freight port proposed by Waikato-Tainui between it, Hamilton's new ring road, and the east coast main trunk railway line to Tauranga.


4. Rail electrification

First electric rail passenger services will start end-April between Onehunga and Britomart. Photo / NZ Herald
First electric rail passenger services will start end-April between Onehunga and Britomart. Photo / NZ Herald

Cost: $1.14 billion
Developer: KiwiRail and Auckland Transport
Completion: July 2015
What it is: Electrification and re-signalling of 85km of Auckland's rail network between Britomart and Papakura in the south, and Swanson in the west - $500m (KiwiRail). Purchase of 57 new three-car electric trains and construction of a $100m depot for a 12-year maintenance contract to Spanish train-builder Cas - $641m (Auckland Transport).


What has been done

• A new computerised signalling system has been completed, with automatic train protection to override drivers if they are travelling too fast towards red lights or exceeding aspeed limit of 110km/h.

• 460km of wiring (82 per cent of a required 561km) has been strung above the tracks to supply trains with 25,000 volts of electricity through two substations.

• 3,060 masts (of a required 3,173) have been erected across the network, and cantilevered conductor rails laid inside Britomart (over Christmas).

• The electric trains' maintenance depot has opened and is operating in Wiri.

• Seven trains (including three last week) have arrived from Spain and several have been tested between Wiri, Newmarket and Onehunga, in one case to a top speed of 122.6km/h.

What's happening this year

• First electric rail passenger services to start at the end of April between Onehunga and Britomart. Six trains to be ready for duty by then.

• Next round of passenger services to start in August or September, between Manukau and Britomart via the eastern railway line through Panmure and Glen Innes.

• More trains to be tested and overhead wires to be registered for electric trains to start running between Papakura and Britomart early next year, and on the western line in autumn 2015.

• Auckland Transport board to consider a $113m extension of the electrification project to Pukekohe, instead of facing extra operating costs from running diesel shuttle services from that growing centre to Papakura.


5. AT Hop Card - Integrated public transport ticketing

Cost: $100m
Developers: Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency
Completion: March 31
What it is: A rechargeable "tag on, tag off" electronic ticket for seamless travel on trains, ferries and most of the region's public buses, supported by a back-office clearing house which the Transport Agency hopes will ultimately be used by schemes in other cities.


What has been done

• Auckland Transport persuaded NZ Bus to switch to AT Hop machines.

• AT Hop is now working on trains, inner harbour ferries, and buses in fleets run by NZBus, Birkenhead Transport and Urban Express.

• Electronic gates installed at the Britomart and Newmarket railway stations and the Downtown ferry terminal, to reduce fare evasion.

• About 180,000 AT Hopcards are in circulation, providing about two-thirds of public transport users with an alternative to buying cash fares.

What's happening this year

• Rollout to be complete by March 31 on 215 buses of remaining fleets, including Northern Express operator Ritchies Transport, Howick and Eastern, and the Airport bus.

• Ritchies buses are due to switch over this Sunday.

• Electronic gates to be installed at Manukau by mid-year, and possibly later at some other stations such as Grafton, New Lynn and Henderson.

• Plans underway for a new pricing structure to take the Hop project a big step further next year to provide integrated fares of the same amount for set distances travelled.

- NZ Herald

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