Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Crone promises early start to second Auckland harbour crossing

Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone is promising to fast-track a second harbour crossing with provision for rapid transit.

Work on a second Waitemata Harbour crossing would begin about 2020 if Crone can persuade the Government. She is also promising to bring forward six other major transport projects costing $1.1 billion.

The centre-right mayoral candidate launched her mayoral campaign last night with the backing of National Cabinet ministers, National MPs, former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley and Crone's former boss, Xero chief executive Rod Drury.

Media personality Bill Ralston, who is contesting the Waitemata and Gulf ward seat on council, chastised the Labour mayoral candidate Phil Goff as yesterday's man "looking for a retirement job".

"Vic is a person who can run this council and run it the way it should be," said Ralston to loud applause.

Crone, who accused Goff of making unfunded promises and "injecting a bloody bomb" under council, focused policy-wise on transport.

As well as a second harbour crossing, she would bring forward six key projects:

• Northwestern busway
• Penlink highway linking Whangaparoa to State Highway 1
• Lake Rd on the North Shore
• Ameti in the east
• Mill Rd in South Auckland
• Electrification of rail to Pukekohe

She said Auckland's population north of the bridge was forecast to grow by 130,000 by 2033 and a second harbour crossing was an "absolute key priority for me as mayor".

If elected mayor, she said she would throw in some carrots, starting with $150 million as an initial contribution.

She said if the Government agreed to the timeframe, the council would invest a further $600 million through to 2027/2028 to integrate a public rapid transport corridor into the crossing.

"Whether the public transport component is rapid bus transit, rail and/or newer technologies, the decision will ultimately be subject to a strong business case," Crone said.

Council funding of $750 million for the harbour crossing and $1.1 billion for the other six projects would come from $500 million of savings she has promised, the Government's $1 billion infrastructure fund and public private partnerships.

Crone is "100 per cent" behind the $2.5 billion city rail link, which, she said, would come before the second harbour crossing.

The Auckland Plan currently identifies the additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing will be required around 2030 and take five to seven years to build. The current concept - still in the investigation stage - is for a road and rapid transit tunnel between Northcote Pt and Wynyard Quarter.

Today, outgoing North Shore councillor George Wood was "heartened by Crone's unequivocal declaration of the need for urgency" in bringing forward work on a second crossing and Lake Rd, which have long been a source of annoyance to North Shore residents.

Wood, who is standing for the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, said if it was not for the intervention of Mayor Len Brown to divert $54 million allocated in 2012 for the widening of Lake Rd, the problem would be well on its way to being solved.

Crone spoke of a "smart, integrated transport system" for Auckland by using existing systems, new technology and private investment.

Her plan for public transport includes expanding ferry services, more feeder services, boosting the number of park and ride facilities and better lighting and CCTV surveillance at stations.

"There is a strong appetite from the private sector to build park and rides and trial smart feeder services. This is exactly the approach we need - if someone can do it faster, better and cheaper, and we can retain oversight, why not?"

Crone also wants to be smarter with traffic data. For example, variable lane directions on Lake Rd and other arterial routes and assessing the efficiency of bus and cycle lanes, "ensuring we are not turning our roads into unproductive assets".

Looking ahead, Crone said technology would radically transform public transport, saying rigid scheduled timetables would move to demand services, just like Netflix transformed how people watched television.

"Council owes it to Aucklanders to be ahead of the trends and ready for disruptive technology ... we need to think seriously about whether our investments today will become obsolete in the medium term," Crone said.

- NZ Herald

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