Transport authorities and Auckland Airport have set up a taskforce to tackle traffic chaos that has led to some passengers missing flights.
The NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and the airport company have established a group to find immediate ways to improve travel times and congestion on the roads and state highways to, from and around Auckland Airport.
The Weekend Herald revealed passengers and airline crew were caught in gridlock last week, some missing flights and causing delays of close to an hour for some services. Growing numbers of passengers through the airport, aviation sector staff and workers at associated businesses and cross-town commuters have clogged roads in the area.
The taskforce would review the timing of other projects already planned to improve the performance of the transport network.
The agencies and company said a combination of higher than expected traffic volumes, wet weather, incidents and road improvement projects have created recent delays in the area, including last Thursday when Auckland's transport network experienced significant performance issues.
Auckland Airport's chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the company and agencies were ''all very concerned'' about the travel times being experienced by passengers, businesses and airport workers during certain peak-periods.
"We understand the frustration it can cause and we are all determined to do what we can to improve journeys to the airport until longer-term public transport options are in place."
The taskforce had agreed to accelerate a number of planned initiatives, including:
• changes to lane configurations at the State Highway 20B (Puhinui Rd) / State Highway 20 interchange before Christmas to increase traffic flows through the intersection;
• the Auckland Transport Operations Centre will optimise traffic signals to increase traffic flows at peak times on the state highways and airport roads, and publish additional airport-specific travel time information;
• changes to lane configurations on George Bolt Memorial Drive / Tom Pearce Drive to improve traffic flows to both airport terminals;
• changes to lane configurations on George Bolt Memorial Drive / Laurence Stevens Drive roundabout to improve traffic flows to the domestic terminal; and
• deploying special temporary traffic management plans on Auckland Airport's roads to increase the network's resilience.
The immediate solutions are in addition to the major improvements already underway to deliver additional network capacity and improve travel times, including:
• the $140 million upgrade of State Highway 20A and improvements to the State Highway 20A / Kirkbride Road interchange which will create significant extra capacity;
• the upgrade of the George Bolt Memorial Drive / The Landing Drive / Verissimo Drive intersection; and
• new bus lanes heading towards the airport on State Highway 20A.
Littlewood said the taskforce will meet again next week and then as required in the New Year to track progress of the initiatives and network performance.
Asked whether the response was too late he said that a range of transport initiatives were delivered recently to improve travel times ahead of the peak summer travel season.
"A number of other transport initiatives were scheduled for delivery after the summer peak, however these have now been brought forward."
Fergus Gammie, the NZ Transport Agency's chief executive said the roads were all part of one transport network and the response to the traffic growth in the area needed to consider the entire network.
"Finding a network-based solution that improves travel times is essential given Auckland Airport's important role connecting Auckland with the rest of New Zealand and the world, and South Auckland's increasing importance as a key business district."
Auckland Transport's chief executive, David Warburton said AT would continue to focus on how it can increase public transport services to and from the airport .
Passengers, drivers and people who work at the airport are advised to check the NZTA website for the latest state highway travel time information, before travelling to the airport.
Drivers are also encouraged to not use the airport as a bypass to connect to their destinations.
One airport user is unimpressed by the steps announced today and said the main problem was that there was only one lane from the last roundabout to the domestic terminal.
"And there is no space to make any more lanes. That last 100m makes a total mockery of any changes made further up the traffic stream. until this final approach is radically improved the delays must continue. The rest is just window dressing," he said.
A former airport company worker has told the Herald that the company needs to sacrifice some car parking to build bigger roads.