Government plans to progressively build a dedicated busway to West Auckland will mostly involve new lanes separated from the Northwestern Motorway, says the Transport Minister.
The exception could be the section of SH16 that runs across the estuary between Pt Chevalier and Te Atatū where the busway may have to join the six-lane motorway, he said.
Minister David Parker yesterday outlined more details about Government plans for the busway to the fast-growing northwest area of the city, which is poorly served by rapid transit, leaving commuters over-reliant on the motorway and choked local roads.
The Government is pitching the project as a follow-up to the phenomenally successful Northern Busway, which had grown from 1.3 million boardings in the year after it opened in 2008 to almost eight million before Covid-19.
Parker said the northwestern busway would be built on the seaward side at the city end before slipping to the landward side at Te Atatū. It gets complex at the city end where it lands at Newton Rd and winds down Karangahape Rd to the central city, he said.
“Planning has already started to accelerate work on this corridor, which could include staging early delivery of stations from 2024 to 2027,” Parker said, adding the busway could eventually run through to Brigham Creek and later be converted to light rail.
He put the cost at “billions of dollars”.
In the meantime, he said, there is “decent money” to get started.
Parker said the busway would be nothing like a $100 million “pop-up” busway under way on the Northwestern Motorway using sections of the shoulder for buses and building interchanges at Te Atatū and Lincoln Rd.
The interchanges are “pretty limited”, he said, whereas the new stations would be like those on the Northern Busway.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown welcomed progress on rapid transit to the northwest, saying “it is a growing area where we can affordably deliver much faster, more reliable public transport”.
“I have been saying that this is an obvious priority and needs to take precedence over the mega dream projects proposed,” he said.
“You only need to look at the success of the Northern Busway. If something works well like that, do it more. We don’t need to reinvent things with new pipe dreams.”
Overall, Brown was pleased with local projects in the draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Transport, saying it shows the Government is listening and responding to Auckland’s priorities for transport.
Investment priorities and other changes included in the draft GPS for Auckland include:
- Northwest Rapid Transit
- Additional funding to enable Auckland to maintain and improve the condition of its roads
- Enhancement to the Warkworth to Whangarei State Highway, including Warkworth to Wellsford
- Expansion of the third and fourth Auckland rail mains
- An Avondale to Onehunga rail link
- A level crossing upgrade and removal programme
- Refocusing the safety budget, which provides Auckland with more flexibility on delivering sensible safety improvements as part of the broader improvement and renewal programme
- Commitment to integrated planning, including the Auckland Integrated Transport Plan, making the most of the existing system and managing demand
Brown was also pleased to get more funding for maintenance and renewals, which he said was needed to “fix the state of the city’s road surface, and that we get some flexibility on the safety budget, which has seen a lot of poor-quality spend”.
A big surprise in the GPS was the Government’s focus on SH1 from Warkworth to Whangārei, with the promise of “large-scale safety improvements”.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the highest priority project between Warkworth and Whangārei is the Brynderwyns where the road is most vulnerable and often cut off from the rest of the country by weather, including for significant periods this year.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s preferred option for the Brynderwyns is to build a new road around the hills rather than tunnel under them.
Many of the projects in GPS are also in National’s transport policy, including a new northwestern busway and extending SH1 from Cambridge to Piarere.
Bernard Orsman is an Auckland-based reporter who has been covering local government and transport since 1998. He joined the Herald in 1990 and worked in the parliamentary press gallery for six years.