Auckland International Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood says the country's main gateway is doing its bit to help with transport to and from the airport, with congestion an increasing problem as the city continues to grow.
In a conference call to investors and analysts following the airport's annual earnings release today, Littlewood said the airport was trying to add capacity into its own network, and will spend $40 million on the problem in the 2018 financial year, including building "new multi-level capacity."
"We are really working hard on our part of this puzzle, we are fast tracking a number of these to help add important capacity for growth," he said. "We're also working closely with Auckland Transport on public transport, on bus lanes and other initiatives" including bridges, he said. "We need to keep up with that work."
The airport warned passengers to arrive earlier than usual during the busy summer holiday period last year, though slow moving traffic to the area is not a seasonal problem but an increasing one as the population continues to grow in New Zealand's largest city. In the Auckland Transport Alignment Project's recommended strategic approach released last September, improving airport access is described as a priority, with daily trips to and from the area project to increase to around 140,000 over the next 30 years, from the current 63,000.
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Auckland Transport is working on extending the motorway north towards the airport and improving public transport services to address this, but the ATAP report warns that "over time, space constraints within the airport area and capacity challenges on the broader road network make it increasingly difficult to serve the airport area's transport demands through road and bus service improvements alone. This will require investment in mass transit, and route protection to enable this needs to be an early priority."
In March this year, AT and the New Zealand Transport Agency announced they had agreed there will be a "staged, integrated transition from bus to light rail transit from the airport to the city centre" though the timing of that has not yet been announced.
In the government's $2.6 billion election transport policy package released earlier this month, there was no mention of light rail to the airport, though it would spend $267m on commuter rail networks in Auckland and Wellington. Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern has said that the Labour Party would make building light rail to the airport a priority, with light rail to Mt Roskill in four years and to the airport and West Auckland within a decade, followed by a line connecting the North Shore to the CBD.