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Construction of Auckland’s Light Rail network won’t start before 2024 according to the government’s just-released three-year National Land Transport Programme.
The programme bundles up $7.3 billion of spending in Auckland over the next three years, but the biggest new project, light rail to Mt Roskill and Māngere, will stay in “planning and design” mode.
“Work will begin in 2021–24 on planning for rapid transit for Auckland Light Rail,” said the NLTP report.
The $24.3 billion nationwide programme was made possible only by the government agreeing a one-off top-up of $2 billion, a decision applauded by Auckland mayor Phil Goff.
“The earlier deficit foreshadowed by Waka Kotahi would have left Auckland Council hundreds of millions of dollars short of what was required to implement the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) agreed by the council and the government,” said Goff.“The implications for Auckland Transport in not being able to progress infrastructure needed to tackle congestion and carbon emissions would have been severe,” he said.
There are no new projects or directions signalled in the Auckland share of NLTP, which focussed on delivering existing projects, mostly in the agreed Auckland Transport Alignment Plan (ATAP).
Auckland already has billions of dollars’ worth of major projects underway, such as the $4.4 billion City Rail Link, associated rail network upgrades, and building the eastern busway, as well as more electric trains due.
Decisions on a specific timeline for light rail could be made by the end of 2021, after the Government considers a business case and route recommendation from its Auckland Light Rail (ALR) unit.
Artist impression of Auckland Light Rail trains en route to the Airport.
While Auckland’s funding is significant, the language in the NLTP is about “continuing” what is already in train, or has already been achieved.
“Continuing to roll out bus priority improvements, particularly in the city centre and along busy arterial routes to make travel by bus quicker and more reliable,” is one of four focus areas up to 2024.
Others include “delivering key walking and cycling projects, and investing in a state highway optimisation programme to deliver a range of targeted small-scale projects to keep people moving by increasing productivity.”
The national programme largely encompasses Auckland’s own subsidiary Regional Land Transport Plan, which climate action coalition All Aboard plans to challenge legally for its failure to deliver reduced carbon emissions over ten years.
Auckland will need significant future transport investment to reduce the use of private cars.
Switching trips from cars to other forms of transport will be critical to reaching the target of cutting Auckland’s transport emissions by 64 per cent by 2031.
However the NLTP said the 2021-24 programme would “maintain public transport services at current levels to support forecast growth,” nationwide.
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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