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One RoNS down

Written By: - Date published: 11:54 am, July 14th, 2012 - 32 comments
Categories: peak oil, transport - Tags:

The Government has binned part of the Northern Wellington Corridor ‘Road of National Significance’ – the four-lane expressway between Otaki and Levin that would have cost $400m. The government’s not getting enough road tax revenue and they had already cut all other transport funding to the bone – so something had to give. But it’s just the start.

Let me tell you what a poor quality investment the Otaki to Levin expressway would have been. The route carries about 14,000 vehicles a day and that number is decreasing – down from 15,000 5 years ago. That’s a pretty hefty rate of decrease. That’s $400m to basically knock a few minutes off the daily commute for around 7,000 people when the congestion points are already easing due to falling traffic volumes.

Are there things about this stretch of road that could be fixed to make it safer or get rid of chokepoints? Of course. So, invest in fixing those things. Don’t build a four-land expressway where one isn’t needed.

And that’s what is now happening, they’re going to spend $100m on upgrades instead of $400m on the expressway – not because it’s the sensible thing to do but because there’s no money and this was the least politically embarrassing thing they could cut (funny to see Nathan Guy, the electorate MP praising this as a smart move, given his previous die-in-a-ditch support for the expressway).

Making this section of State Highway 1 (along with all the other stretches back to Wellington at the same time as Hamilton to Auckland is becoming four-lane all the way) is really just about fulfilling Maurice Williamson’s arbitrary fantasy a four-lane road all the way from Wellington to Auckland (and on up to Wellsford). There’s no economic logic to it, it’s just a thing they think they ought to do because they think it wold be cool.

But economic reality is bringing that boyish stupidity crashing to earth. Road tax revenues have fallen short of budget forecasts by about $100m a year in the past two budgets. The Briefing to the Incoming Minister warned that there was a $5 billion shortfall between planned spending and (optimistically) forecast revenue in the coming decades.

This can only be the start. The whole RoNS programme makes no sense – especially the big ones, Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Wellsford. They need to be binned too. Wasting billions on these projects doesn’t make sense, especially when the money is desperately needed to build a low-carbon, low-oil transport system.

32 comments on “One RoNS down ”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Report card for John Key’s government: another failure recorded.

  2. Ad 2

    If anyone is in town for 15 August, make sure you get to Auckland Transport Blog’s movie fundraiser. Proceeds to update their server. They are getting great ratings, and really holding the current to account over this whole area.

    It’s a site that keeps everyone at Auckland Transport and good sections of the Auckland Council well schooled and alert.

  3. prism 3

    I notice while on car journeys in the South Island how few passing lanes there are. If they were more regular there would be less pressure on the driver to pass at the first opportunity. Getting stuck behind moving garage sheds (the wide and high 4WD etc) and the long trucks is not pleasant for the driver or easy because there is no forward view of the road condition or traffic or signs. So more passing lanes, permission to raise speed to pass without traffic fund traps, giving better driving conditions but at less cost. We are not in Europe where they have quite amazing road architecture, but then they are richer than us. Even after the financial crisis I think.

    I was thinking about the four deaths after indoor soccer in mid North Island. They passed a truck
    and they probably were getting along at a fast clip. The long haul vehicles travel quite fast and at night their rear lights give a good indication of the curves and dips in the road. I say stay behind until they pull aside and let you pass. And they know the road, and the passing lanes, and will usually let you get past. It’s loopy testosterone-filled small vehicle drivers who want to dominate the road.

    Also most of the country’s roads should have a guideline of 80 kmh. Having 100 km as general is a con. Certain areas could have a 120 km top speed safely achieved, and the rest if there was a 10km flexispeed the driver would be travelling to the road conditions. The fast areas would be speed signposted as the tight curves and winding roads are.

    • weka 3.1

      I think driver expectations have changed alot in the past decade or so. Maybe us all having our own cars has upped our sense of entitlement, that now includes being able to drive as fast as we want wherever we go.
      What I notice is the number of roading improvements around straightening corners and such. I suspect this is driven by tourism and the number of people driving here who can’t drive on anything that’s not a super highway. But ultimately it dumbs down NZ drivers and makes them surprised when they hit a bump in the road or a curvy stretch of road that means they need to slow down for a few miles.

    • TimD 3.2

      80 kmh?
      You mean that we would have to forsake ten minutes on our trip times to
      – Have overall safer roads
      – Lower fuel consumption
      – Reduce GHG emissions
      – Make roads more pleasant to be near
      – Increase the capacity of the road (following distance is dictated by speed and smaller following distance means more cars on a stretch)
      – Have slightly cheaper capital costs

      Mate, you’re dreaming!

  4. mouse 4

    You can’t help but laugh at Stephen Selwood’s (Chief Executive at NZ Council for Infrastructure Development) climb down on this…

    “Commuters from satellites such as Otaki, Waikanae and Paraparaumu can expect time savings of 20-40 minutes on trips to and from the city along a much safer section of road. That’s of huge benefit if your job involves regional travel or you’re trying to get exports on a ship or a plane.”


    The only time anyone would get a 20-40 minute benefit, would be for an hour or so, at the beginning or end of a long weekend negotiating the congestion through Otaki… and that congestion is the product of NZTA providing free parallel parking to retailers who have sited their business on SH1.

    We could save another 250+ million if NZTA grew some brain cells and removed the free parallel when it causes congestion. ie. cancel the The Peka Peka to Otaki stretch as well.

    • TimD 4.1

      That roundabout is the problem, an I guess you’re right – the hordes trying to park or cross the roads slow the traffic a bit too.
      I used to drive that section a lot at about peak time, and also have to agree with you – the impression the Wellington holidaymakers get is that the road is always congested when they travel on long weekends – little do they realise that they are the cause.
      The road is actually ok, and recent improvements have been good ones – curve easements and such, so why not continue with that (as it seems they are) and make the holidaymakers deal with what is an adequate road for most of the time?

    • prism 4.2

      Shouldn’t that read that the State Highway has been built to serve the local as well as national needs and that’s why there are parallel parks at the side of the road?

  5. Murray Olsen 5

    I remember the Lange-Prebble Save the Rail travelling circus. The answer is still the one they pretended to have then – get the huge trucks off the roads and build a reasonable rail network.

    • mouse 5.1

      Murray, the irony now is that Labour brought back the Rail and National is using it to subsidize their RONS.

      Consider the Capital Connection, a commuter rail service that runs between Palmerston North and Wellington.

      It operates at a loss, even though ticket prices command a premium vis a vis Transmetro services, but the Capital connection is likely to soon be out of business, because it can’t complete on the unlevel playing field created by NZTA subsidies that are available to their competitor Transmetro, but not themselves for the like service they provide between Waikanae and Wellington.

      Frankly NZTA’s refusal to level the playing field… looks cynically to me, like an attempt to try to reverse the falling traffic volumes between Palmy and Waikanae, in order to sure up the faltering justification that never was, for their Waikanae to Levin section of their RON.

      • Murray Olsen 5.1.1

        Irony always seems to rear its ugly head at the same time as vested interests do. In my opinion, part of a functioning rail network would be removing the subsidies on road freight. Charging trucking firms for the actual damage their vehicles do to the roads would be a great start, seeing as there have been studies suggesting that damage scales with the fourth power of the mass. This means that a 20 ton truck does the same damage as 160,000 one ton cars, for example. A forty ton truck does 16 times that again. It seems the people who bring us “user pays” aren’t quite so keen on it if the users pay via campaign contributions.

        • mouse

          You make a really good point on vehicle mass /cost there Murray.

        • Draco T Bastard

          In my opinion, part of a functioning rail network would be removing the subsidies on road freight. Charging trucking firms for the actual damage their vehicles do to the roads would be a great start…

          Yep. Been thinking about that as well and think that taxes on fuel should be dropped and put onto RUCs which then get charged on each vehicle. The amount of damage to then be reasonably accurate and easy to charge. Done properly, you’ll see trucks used where they should be – on short haul trips between train stations and ports and the end destinations of the cargo.

          …seeing as there have been studies suggesting that damage scales with the fourth power of the mass. This means that a 20 ton truck does the same damage as 160,000 one ton cars, for example.

          I knew it was exponential but didn’t think it was that bad. Got a link?

        • gnomic

          Spare us the tiresome facts, m’kay? What matters is whether the groceries are going to cost more because the truckers are being charged for the costs they inflict rather than getting a large invisible subsidy from their mates in the National Party (not that Labour was any better on this). Don’t you realise that the trucking industry are heroes who only do what they do out of a selfless concern for their fellow citizens? And life as we know would it not be possible without the truckers? And so on and on.

          Meanwhile it seems that the Road Transport Forum are not satisfied with their rich feast of roads of national significance but want more, still more. Now the rest of the roading network has to be maintained as well. It’s too bad even they can’t see where the money is coming from. But wait, what are ‘road taxes’? I’ve heard of toll roads, but road taxes? What fresh hell is this?


          • Draco T Bastard

            Ah, the rich and greedy demanding even more of everyone else’s money.

        • Armchair Critic

          It’s not quite 160,000 times as much damage, Murray, because trucks distribute the weight over a larger area than cars do. Trucks have more axles, and many of those axles have two tyres on each side.
          However a truck still does orders of magnitude more damage than a car does, and that’s assuming drivers never overload their trucks.
          There is ongoing debate on the size of the exponential used, I understand the trucking lobby want it dropped to about 1.5, and are funding research to support this.

  6. How sweet the ‘I told you so’ moments are )
    Remember I said there will be no Transmission Gully or Expressway ether.
    Oh and we will be extinct by 2050.
    And Kiwi Saver is fucked LOL

    • rosy 6.1

      How sweet the ‘I told you so’ moments are
      They are. I’d just like to point out that on 3rd June I asked if there was a link was between increased rail services and canning RoNS. I thought it might be Transmission Gully on the block – but close enough, I reckon.

      The point is – why didn’t the journalists ask why the government did an about turn on public transport back then? It’s should be a matter of course to skeptical when money is going to be spent without the public clamouring for it. Why weren’t they? Also, did opposition politicians ask?

  7. Georgecom 7

    Nice to see one uneconomic RoNS flushed. Next up the 0.6 BCR Holiday Highway. Shelve the highway, save $2 billion, put $350 million odd back into existing road improvements and everyone wins.

  8. captain hook 8

    What the hell is a road of national significance.
    Who dreamed that little load of bullshit up.
    whats more is how much did the ad agency make for that little charmer.
    what about footpaths of national significance?
    what about alien masterchef?
    what about……

  9. Georgecom 9

    1. A financial black hole
    2. Steven Joyce
    3. Whats Joyces ex advertising agency again?
    4. They are RoNs when the price of oil spikes

  10. mike e 10

    Overnight news
    Conservative govt in the UK plans to spend $25 billion on upgrading rail system.
    Mean while Joyce and Nactional are cutting the rail budget here.

  11. ghostwhowalksnz 11

    Did anybody notice the government share offers button on Nathan Guys website.

    An MP giving financial advice ? – on a website.

    Its one thing to say such and such policy is the best thing since sliced bread but to go so far as to hawk the shares itself ?

  12. Fortran 12

    The difference in Europe is that the Romans laid many of the main roads out rather a long time ago.

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