More Motorways in the pipeline?

Posted on April 30, 2011 by


The Ministry of Transport has recently released its “Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding 2012/13 – 2021/22” and, surprise, it’s the usual roads-fest that we have come to expect with the bulk of the money being put into State Highway projects. There is clearly a lack of balance in transport spending in this country, with the bulk of money going into State Highways while the public transport bucket looks conspicuously dry, and there is no better example of that than Christchurch. One of the key Roads of National Significance (RoNS) projects is “Christchurch Motorways”, which is essentially several projects rolled into one and a $600 million project. It will result in a rather substantial network of motorway/expressway standard roads in and around Christchurch. There are three main projects:

  • Christchurch Southern Motorway (from Barrington Street to Halswell Junction Road (Stage 1), the extension to rejoin SH1 south of Waterholes Road (Stage 2), and widening the existing highway as far south as Rolleston (Stage 3)).
  • Christchurch Western Corridor (from the Northern Motorway in Belfast to Main South Road in Hornby). Projects include:
    • SH1 Western Belfast Bypass
    • SH1 Johns Road – Groynes to Sawyers Arms Road
    • SH1 Russley Road – Sawyers Arms Road to Wairakei Road
    • SH1 Russley Road – Wairakei Road to Yaldhurst Road four laning – including the SH1/Memorial Interchange
    • SH1 Masham/Carmen Roads – Yaldhurst Road to Waterloo Road.
  • Christchurch Northern Arterial (from the existing Christchurch Northern Motorway, south of the Waimakariri River bridges, and passing to the east of Belfast and Redwood connecting with QEII Drive near Winters Road.  QEII Drive four-laned, between Main North Road and Innes Road)

Now this is a significant investment in road infrastructure in Christchurch. On the face of it, it is not something I have strong feelings about as Christchurch has generally been starved of such investment compared to Auckland and Wellington. All indications are that, post-earthquakes, these projects will continue and are now back on track after some delays (including some understandable delays in consultation). Some may be brought forward while others might be delayed depending on how new priorities stack up and around decisions on new residential commercial areas (I expect the Northern and Southern motorways to be given a timing boost). At this stage, no decision seems to have been made.

The one thing that has always struck me however, is whether this will be matched in any way, shape or form with a significant  investment in public transport projects, or will this only lead to further investment in roads in order to ‘finish the network’. Perhaps, I have thought, Mayor Bob Parkers almost mythical ‘Light-Rail’ network will be the perfect complement, and avoid the  ‘roads only’ transport solution being applied in Christchurch, as has happened in Auckland since the 1950’s.

However, the signs are that Christchurch will continue to receive money towards roads and only roads in the foreseeable future, if the 2012 GPS is anything to go by. It has this to say on RoNS in general: “As RoNS projects are completed new ones can be added. Although the Minister of Transport does not propose announcing new RoNS in GPS 2012, potential new routes can be identified through the State highway classification system, as required.”

Hmm. Looks like the Government is keen to continue going down the pro-road track, but what of Christchurch? It had this to say: “The draft State highway classification paper has identified four more high value highways, parts or all of which could be possible future RoNS. These are:

  • Hamilton to Tauranga
  • Cambridge to Taupo
  • Hawke’s Bay Expressway
  • further development State Highway 1 north and south of the current Christchurch motorway projects.

These routes are of national strategic importance based on their high volumes of traffic, their importance for freight movements, including port access, and the need to improve road safety on these routes.

Have we not got enough roads to build already for the next 10-20 years? Surely there are more important projects we could spend money on within the Christchurch/Canterbury region? A world-class public transport system for a city rebuilding would be one! Obviously, there are no details yet but it does give a very strong indication of where the Government sees best value in spending on transport projects for the region. The State Highway network, and nothing but. My chief concern is that this signals that we are going to get unbalanced transport investment much like Auckland has received since the 1950’s. This is a road (sorry) that I really do not want to see this city go down, particularly as we are now at such an important crossroad (even without the earthquake, we are in a similar position to what Auckland was in in the 1950’s as it began to transition into a bigger city). Once each project is complete, there is always a new one to take its place to ‘finish the network’ and become congestion free. In the mean time we must forgo investment in other transport options to ‘get the job done’. I hope that will not be the case, bu the 2012 GPS is a worrying  sign.

Another interesting announcement included in the 2012 GPS is that the Ministry of Transport see it is likely the location and form of the proposed new central city bus interchange will need to be re-considered. Read ‘might not be underground’ into this. This is very interesting but will probably depend on what the Council decide to do rather than what the Ministry decides, which will probably be a decision not made until after the CBD recovery/rebuild plan is finalised toward the end of the year. Ultimately, they could be saying this on the back of information received from the Council, or could be making an assumption based upon ill-informed rumour (this seems to be happening a lot in Christchurch these days). It could just well be that with all the changes they might go for different plan once they know what is happening.