Fergus Gammie, chief executive of the NZTA, spoke to delegates at the 2019 CCNZ conference about the new direction of the agency and the start of the light rail project in Auckland. By Alan Titchall.
Led by the Government’s own transport agenda, Transport Agency chief Fergus Gammie spoke on the different path the NZTA has set before it and the country’s contractors.
“I think we all understand that, that we are quite clearly on a different path that builds on the past, but actually has a number of key differences.
“And this certainly is acting on the transport agency’s programme very dramatically. The government’s vision, so essential in transport, has moved us from an approach that I would say was focused almost completely around enabling economic productivity through mobility – getting people moving as fast as they can, giving them opportunities to move, to a focus on safety and access. Safety is a very high priority now and what can we do in that regard, and about accessed opportunity to employment, to services. And not just meaning that you’re enabling more people to travel, but actually how we’re providing those access opportunities. “Under this approach we’re talking about public transport playing a much bigger role.
“The government has rebalanced spending allocations under their Government Policy Statement.
“I’m not expecting you all to have read it, but if you’re working in transport, is a very clear directed document.
“And within this, we’ve set our priorities and, as I’ve said, they’re around safety, access and environment as the very key value for money, and it needs to be taken account very strongly.
“We’ve had the creation of a new activity class for rapid transit, which over 10 years is around $4 billion.
“We’ve had increases in expenditure expected around local road improvements, around public transport, around regional improvements, and walking and cycling.
“It’s very much the same amount of money available, but quite a redirection of how that will be spent. And that’s of course what we’re working on now as the national land transport programme.
“What will this mean for you?
“Clearly, it does mean a change in terms of the Transport Agency’s programme – a change in what we’re spending our money on, in terms of firstly state highways.
“We won’t be doing as many large new state highway developments [but] we will be completing all of the works that we’ve started.
“We’ll also be doing new things. And probably a number of you may have been at the start of the marketing engagement we had in Auckland this week [late July]. We had nearly 500 people attend.”
Fergus says the light rail project in Auckland was an opportunity to indicate the type of scale it sees in light rail rapid transit in the Auckland transport light rail programme, which is a long-term programme in the $10 to $15 billion range in total.
The immediate project involves a line from the city to Mangere, and out to the airport, and from the city to the north-west.
“So, both of those are pretty major projects on their own. We’ve started a market engagement for that now, and we had around 400 registrations from 170 companies, and we’re about to go through a process of establishing with the people that are registered, what are the types of procurement choices we have, model choices we have, how can we actually take that forward effectively.”
Between now and the end of the year, the NZTA will be developing the proposed light rail model in terms of build and operation.
“As you will understand, that’s a very new direction for the transport agency. You may or may not be aware that the government has specifically added to our functions, a function around developing, building, operating, maintaining rapid transit, including light rail.
“So, when you’re thinking about where the transport agency is going and where we’re taking, … it’s a broader spectrum of activities than what have been there in the past.
“We’ll still be doing all the things we were doing before, but some of those areas are going to have a lot less funding particularly in the state highways area.”
“…people that think transport can be run like an electricity network have got no idea. Because the transport network actually enables how people live. And people live, work and play inside those streets.”
Major highway work
Fergus told delegates there are still a number of major state highway projects the agency currently has on the boil.
“Particularly, the new crossing to replace the Manawatu Gorge that is a pretty large project and we’re accelerating that – it has been fast-tracked.”
Also fast-tracked is a major upgrade of State Highway 20B between the airport and Manukau, with work beginning as soon as possible, and featuring an Airport-Manukau bus priority, and Puhinui interchange, in response to fast growth in the area and to take advantage of construction efficiency opportunities.
“When we look at something like 20B, I’m sure a lot of people know exactly how that corridor works today, and how congested it gets.
What we’re looking at is how we provide a high capacity transport service through there. How can we move as many people as possible in that corridor? So again, it’s not just about mobility, it’s about access. How can you actually provide the best access for the largest number of people through that corridor?”
“Not only that, but one of the big changes that comes through the government policy statement is a focus on how transport will enable a new way of living, and how does transport link to amenities, urban development, and the way people live, work, play in that corridor?
“I’ve personally been working in transport for my career and what I’ve really seen is a big change over that time in focus.
“Years ago, the whole thing was about how can we move as many people along this corridor as fast as possible. Get rid of everything in the way. How can we make this corridor work as like a pipe for water, or a pipe for electricity.
“This is why people that think transport can be run like an electricity network have got no idea. Because the transport network actually enables how people live. And people live, work and play inside those streets. Particularly, when we’re talking about urban streets. So, the street-scape is really important.
“I have to say, and no disrespect to all the engineers in this room, that’s one of the big revolutions that’s already happened in transport.
“I’m sure you understand, transport is not just about engineering. Transport is about a whole range of thinking, of disciplines that come together that are how people live, work, play and experience the transport system.
“Not just the transport system but actually everything that connects to that system. So that’s certainly how we’re thinking about what we do going forward.”
Fergus says he is very conscious of the need for industry to have a pipeline project.
“Of course we believe we’ve done pretty well on that regard over the last period of time. We certainly focused on having a pipeline.
“You will appreciate that since around September/October last year we’ve been in a stage of needing to actually reassess what that programme is and then we received a new policy statement from the government.
“So, the good news is we will have developed our national land transport programme for the next three years so we will be clear on what we can do within the funding available in that three-year period, and what it looks like at a high level on the 10-year period.
“We’ve already had a lot of discussions that a lot of you would have been a part of. You will all appreciate, I’m sure, as I said before, we’re moving to a reasonable number of large projects, to a few projects in terms of the new ones but a number of programmes and smaller projects, and that’s particularly in the safety space. We’re seeking to incentivise road safety projects, not just on the state highway network but also on the local road network.”
Fergus finished his presentation saying the NZTA greatly appreciates the work contractors does for it.
“We really value your contribution and value the importance of a healthy sustainable industry in both of these areas.”