John Key's intention to fast-track the $1.25 billion East-West Connection and make it a project of national significance has been welcomed by transport and infrastructure groups.

However, a public transport advocate says the chosen option is not the best value for money, especially given its price tag is the same - if not more - as the Government's contribution to the $2.5 billion City Rail Link.

Before yesterday's announcement, the link between the Southern Motorway and Southwestern Highway did not have a set start date. But the Government has now committed to streamline the $1.25 to $1.85 billion project through the Land Transport Fund with a projected start date in 2018/19. The New Zealand Transport Agency said a staged connection on the north side of the Mangere Inlet between State Highway 1 and SH20 would provide the "best long-term solution to current transport issues".

The Mangere inlet highway was one of six being considered. TransportBlog's Patrick Reynolds said it would be cheaper to upgrade existing roads, with a ramp from Church St to SH1 at the Southeastern Highway.


But Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said it was good news for the freight industry as it freed up movement around Auckland.

The AA welcomed the announcement and the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development said the connection would relieve a "long-standing transport bottleneck".