Editorial: No more excuses at Transmission Gully


EDITORIAL STAFF: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency yesterday published a press release entitled “Hacks To Make Traveling To Your Vacation Destination Safe And Enjoyable”. The agency suggested that people entering and exiting Wellington’s Kāpiti Expressway should not drive at rush hour because “traffic jams and delays are inevitable”.

Those words would have stayed on anyone who has driven north and seen the enticing ascents and descents of the long-awaited Transmission Gully Expressway.

Waka Kotahi – after postponing opening four times in 18 months – finally announced last week that the street would miss its final appointment and not open in time for Christmas. The road is ready, but the paperwork isn’t yet.

It is particularly annoying to learn that employees and subcontractors of CPB and HEB, the joint venture for road construction, were allowed to take a spin on the expressway – albeit slow and supervised – at Christmas party.

CONTINUE READING:
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* The opening of the pre-Christmas Transmission Gully looks dubious despite speculation
* Transmission Gully: Dozens of resource permits still incomplete

One of them told us it was spectacular. But Waka Kotahi has not yet announced when we will be allowed pure motorists.

Transmission Gully has been in the pipeline for a quarter of a century and has been under construction for more than seven years.

The purpose of the expressway wasn’t just to reduce traffic jams. It was also needed to provide two routes along the coast from the seismic capital.

That need became apparent last week when an exit north of Pukerua Bay blocked both the north and south lanes of the state road, sending commuters down Akatarawa Road, turning it into a parking lot.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for Transmission Gully, north of Paekākāriki, in 2012. From left, Peter Dunne, John Key and Gerry Brownlee swing the shovels.

Maarten Holl / stuff

The official groundbreaking ceremony for Transmission Gully, north of Paekākāriki, in 2012. From left, Peter Dunne, John Key and Gerry Brownlee swing the shovels.

Transmission Gully is the first highway in New Zealand to be built under a public-private partnership model that aims to transfer risks to the private sector.

That clearly didn’t happen. The budget has increased from $ 160 million in 1995 to $ 1.25 billion today.

Instead, it has allowed the parties to blame one another.

Waka Kotahi has tried to shift the blame on the Wellington Gateway Partnership, the private group of financiers and contractors who are building the road. It tried to distance itself from the delays as if it wasn’t part of the design. But it’s the first P in a public-private partnership.

The intersection of SH1Transmission Gully and SH59 near Linden.  Transmission Gully will not open until Christmas.

Ross Giblin / stuff

The intersection of SH1Transmission Gully and SH59 near Linden. Transmission Gully will not open until Christmas.

As for the second P, private contractors have scarcely covered themselves with fame.

CPB and HEB were involved in setting each of the five opening deadlines and missed all of them. They were convicted and fined for serious environmental violations, and they repeatedly made mistakes with the physical pavement, resulting in delays and reduced costs. Waka Kotahi threatened with fines running into the millions – and yet the way is not clear.

Instead, after that costly and embarrassing failure, the government has awarded another huge construction contract for critical New Zealand infrastructure to these two companies: the new Dunedin Hospital, the Northern Corridor Highway and the Mt Messenger bypass.

The management of the entire Transmission Gully project was dysfunctional from the start. The current planning and approval issues were clear to the traffic experts a good 18 months ago.

It is time that all parties – public and private – urgently put their heads together to acknowledge the problems and work immediately to fix them.


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