The Government will push major roading projects In Auckland including a wider southern motorway, upgraded roading to the airport, and a freight corridor in Manukau before it begins work on the City Rail Link and a second Waitemata Harbour Crossing, Prime Minister John Key has revealed this afternoon.
Mr Key confirmed that Government would back Auckland’s three top transport priorities – the City Rail Link, another Waitemata Harbour crossing, and the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), which includes the East-West Link.
“These three projects are all identified as the highest transport priorities in the Council’s Auckland Plan,” he said. “They have a price tag of around $10 billion and they are projects that need to be planned for over a long period of time.”
The harbour crossing will be twin tunnels under the Waitemata – the option of another bridge has been ruled out – and construction was expected to start between 2025 and 2030. Auckland Council would begin protecting land for the development in December once the alignment of the crossing had been finalised.
Mr Key said construction of the City Rail Link would not begin until 2020 unless employment levels in the central city climbed by 25 per cent and annual rail trips hit 20 million a year.
“We will consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.
“I realise 2020 is not what the Council leadership is wanting, but while we may differ on timeframes, there is clear recognition by the Government that the project will be needed to address access to the Auckland CBD and improve the efficiency of rail.”
Total rail trips are around 11 million a year.
Mr Key confirmed that the Government’s “next major focus” for Auckland would be the AMETI project, which is already underway but was not scheduled to be completed for 20 years.
“Given the importance of the area, delivering these projects over 20 years is simply not acceptable.”
Government has asked the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) which parts of AMETI could be accelerated with additional funding.
“As you know, the area between Onehunga, Mt Wellington and East Tamaki is home to a number of industrial and logistics businesses that make a critical contribution to the Auckland and national economy.
“About as many people are employed here as in the CBD and there is considerable potential for more growth.
“However, the transport links in and out of this area aren’t up to the job.
“Truck drivers have told us they can get stuck in congestion at any time during the working day and a seven-minute trip between Metroport and the Onehunga wharf can take as long as 40 minutes.”
The $2.6 billion project included a $1.1 billion East-West Link, a road between Mt Wellington and Onehunga.
Government also planned to fast-track three NZTA projects:
– A motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive
– Widening of the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura
– Upgrade of the State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard
These developments were designed to reduce congestion, capitalise on the benefits of the Western Ring Route, and improve access to the airport.
Mr Key said: “Under current funding assumptions, construction of these projects may be up to 10 years away from starting.
“But the Government is not prepared to wait that long.”
Government will consult with NZTA on how to bring these projects forward, and will provide additional funding to make this happen.
The transport package did not mention rail to the airport, which was no longer one of the highest priorities for the Auckland Council.
It has not yet been made clear how Government will source its funding for its share of these projects, but the Prime Minister has confirmed that some of the $2.86 billion rail link could be paid for with proceeds from asset sales.