Auckland, with 1.3 million people, is the biggest and New Zealand’s most populated City and the economic capital.
The City faces major challenges in its overheated housing sector and transport system, which is gridlocked every day.
The Government recently introduced a series of measures to facilitate easy flow of traffic, enabling people to get to their places of work or home without unreasonable delays. The most prominent of these measures is investment of $2.86 billion on underground railway project; the rail loop from Britomart to Mount Eden.
This proposal was on the discussion table for a long time and had its share of advocates and adversaries on both sides of the political divide.
The project would not commence until 2020 but the Government can bring this forward, provided the jobs in the Auckland Central Business District grow by 25% and uptake of rail services shows a continued increase.
Plans were also unveiled for State Highway 20A upgrade, widening the Southern Motorway and the Upper Harbour Highway to the Northern Motorway Link at Constellation Drive.
Since a rail loop is now certain, the challenge is to make it successful.
The cost for this project is to be split evenly between the Government and the Auckland City Council.
How will the Council raise the money is still uncertain. Loans, higher rates, possible toll fees and a regional fuel tax are among the measures currently being considered.
It is therefore imperative to ensure that Aucklanders get involved with the Project, since it would affect them the most.
Benefits of the loop and how it would have a positive impact on the life of non-patrons must be promoted with supporting data for smooth implementation of this infrastructure project. The first target should be to double the number of yearly train passenger trips from the current figure of 10 million passengers to demonstrate the feasibility of this project to all New Zealanders and advance its start date. Introduction of electric trains early next year should help.
Our public transport system should be more reliable, cost effective and efficient to encourage Aucklanders to leave their cars at home and commute by bus, train or ferry. The success of the 6.2 km long Northern Busway, with an exclusive bus lane from Constellation Station to Smales Farm should be treated as the model.
Another issue facing commuters is poor facility of feeder services to major bus and train stations, and paucity of parking space in these places.
Plans are afoot to introduce an integrated ticketing system for trains, buses and ferries, which is a drive in the right direction.
New Zealand’s economic development is interminably linked with Auckland’s growth. The Government, local authorities and its residents must play important roles in ensuring that the momentum of Auckland’s progress is not punctured by a poor transport system.
We are in this together- authorities should provide us with a world-class transport system and we should enthusiastically endorse it.