New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie outlines the agency's big agenda.

Significant investment in Auckland's transport system over the next decade will transform the city and help underpin its continuing growth as a vibrant and diverse place to live and work.

At the heart of that transformation is a rapid transit network that will be developed across the city to give people more travel choices and ensure the city is fit for the growth that lies ahead.

Light rail is the centrepiece of Auckland's rapid transit future. While it's new for us, light rail has been proven globally to provide the kind of permanent infrastructure a successful and growing city needs — better connected communities, attracting investment for new developments and access to affordable housing.


Improving the rail network will contribute greatly to the urban development along the corridors where light rail will run, creating new communities around stops, through housing development and providing more transport choices. Communities on the corridor will have the option to move from being car-dependent to embracing public transport with all the benefits that brings.

It will provide sustainable connections to the city for new communities, enabling the growth and further development of Auckland, particularly in the west and northwest.

More houses can be built close to public transport giving critical access to jobs, health, education and recreation.

Two routes have already been identified — City Centre to Māngere, and City Centre to Northwest. Together these two corridors will connect communities, help reduce bus congestion in the city centre, unlock significant growth potential, and provide better access to growing employment areas including the CBD and Auckland International Airport.

Light rail is a game-changer for Auckland and the Transport Agency is determined to deliver the very best. We're looking for new and innovative ways to procure, deliver and finance this project and we're looking for the best ideas from around the world.

A critical key for success will be the active engagement and participation of the construction and infrastructure and finance industry, here and overseas. It is never too early to tap into the industry's proven track record for innovation and ideas. We are keen to seek its input to ensure a great result for Auckland — we're committed to developing services that meet people's needs.

Earlier this month the "house full" sign went up in Auckland when more than 450 people representing some 200 national and international companies attended the Transport Agency's briefing on the procurement process for the project.

The project is being developed at pace and we will meet interested companies over the coming weeks ahead of the first stage of the procurement process for professional services kicking off next year.

Ultimately this is a project for Auckland and Aucklanders. Keeping that front of mind is important to ensure we can achieve the best possible outcomes for our key stakeholders, residents and businesses.

What's on the horizon?

Changes to New Zealand's land transport system are not confined to Auckland and its light rail network. It is far more profound, and impacts on the way the Transport Agency works and its relationship with contractors and suppliers, local government and other stakeholders. We are finalising our new National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), which sets out its investment programme for 2018-2021 and will reflect the priorities of the new Government Policy Statement (GPS) for land transport.

The Government Policy Statement has greater focus on encouraging people to use public transport or active options for travel — walking and cycling — more effective use of land and better connections between the places where people live, work and play.

Importantly, the value of transport investment for the next three-year cycle will remain around $4b annually — although there will be a different mix of outcomes.

There will continue to be a sizeable programme, with the nature of the next investment programme resulting in a greater proportion of small-to-medium-sized works with a wider geographical spread.

It is important that the industry thinks more broadly about the investment programme across the entire transport sector, not just the state highway network.

The Transport Agency's focus will be on projects with strong outcomes relating to safety, better access to all forms of transport, and resilience to keep communities, people and businesses connected.

There are knock-on effects for the industry as well which underline the need for it to adapt and keep on the front foot.

Though some proposed roading projects are being re-assessed, we want to repeat assurances from the Transport Agency that it will continue to complete projects that have already been contracted for construction.

We recognise that in the immediate term, the infrastructure/contracting industries need to have advance visibility of the pipeline of work ahead.

The Transport Agency has a strong and transparent relationship with the transport sector.

We'll continue to work closely with stakeholders to keep them informed of the pipeline of work coming to market.

Once NLTP is confirmed, the Transport Agency will start a series of industry roadshows throughout September and October to share with the industry its programmes of work for the next three years.

New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie.
New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie.

There are still a number of major projects that are or will be getting under way. Along with Light Rail, this includes accelerating the construction of the new Manawatū Gorge route, and Auckland's State Highway 20B, which will upgrade the eastern access to the airport.

There is also likely to be a large programme of safety projects that will be packaged up.

Broader range of opportunities

There will be significant NLTP investment in active travel options — walking and cycling programmes. There will also be a whole suite of cycling and walking projects that the Transport Agency and local government are developing together.

The Transport Agency is working with Local Government New Zealand to bring forward a range of other projects: safety on local roads; improving the effectiveness of public transport; improving network resilience; regional improvements.

We will continue to explore other opportunities of joining its programmes with those being developed by local government.

Safety is a strong focus of the next NLTP and we are looking at ways we can have smarter procurement processes by packing these works together.

Getting ready for the future

Technology is redefining entire industries, including just about every nook and cranny of the transport sector, too.

Vehicles are loaded with more information-carrying sensors and the levels of assistance to help safer travel; New Zealand is seeing a shift to electric-powered vehicles; the transport system already in place is better managed; smart phones and tablets are transport tools providing easier access to travel to help people find the best way to plan their journey.

We are committed to working across the transport sector and beyond to harness and develop new technologies that will benefit all New Zealanders.

Earlier this year, we established the Land Transport Future Digital Technology Group, which includes key influencers and decision makers from both the private and public sector.

Membership is about as broad as the technological revolution itself and includes among others companies that deliver infrastructure, a supermarket chain; local government; those representing telecommunications; transport organisations, and ITS New Zealand.

The group represents an opportunity to work together to shape a future transport system through a well thought out plan of technology-related investment that will focus on what people and business want; is affordable; includes all transport and travel options; is safe, responsive, and sustainable; and supports innovation.

The key will be linking infrastructure with the way people live, their communities, and with the services we provide in an integrated way.

It is not something that has been done well in the past, but it is something that New Zealand must be better at in the future.

The challenge for the Transport Agency and the wider sector is to modify the traditional way of working to make the most of the opportunities the future holds. This must be done without losing sight of the commitment to put the people of New Zealand at the heart of everything we do to deliver a connected transport system that is world class.