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Transport investment keeps climbing for Manawatu and Whanganui

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The Manawatu-Whanganui region’s importance as a crucial transport hub for New Zealand has been recognised in a significant package of investment for the region over the next three years.

NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Central Raewyn Bleakley says today’s announcement of the National Land Transport Programme for 2015-18 includes an unprecedented investment of $272m for the day to day upkeep of the region’s roads over the next three years, of which a record $196m will be targeted towards local roads. This is up from $230m for 2012-15, which included $185m for local roads.

“Manawatu and Whanganui have extensive rural road networks that serve farm, industry and the community. By looking after these roads, we will keep more travellers safe and help people‘s journeys to be more predictable, reliable and enjoyable.”

Ms Bleakley says that the National Land Transport Programme also allows for emergency works funding to help restore roads hit by the floods earlier this month, particularly around Whanganui.

“We are dedicated to supporting councils in reconnecting communities and restoring rural lifelines after the devastating June floods, and funding is available to those communities in need.”

The package also includes regional funds to progress work on a number of key regional projects and activities including:

  • $53.5m on the replacement of the Whirokino Trestle
  • $21m on SH2 safety projects north of Woodville, including the Otamaroho Curves Realignment
  • Investigation and design of the Otaki to Levin Road of National Significance
  • Improved port access on the key freight route between Hawera and Napier
  • Completion of the Saddle Road upgrade
  • Record levels of proposed investment in walking and cycling (totalling $21m, including Urban Cycleway Fund and Council contributions)
  • $19.3m on public transport

Ms Bleakley says improving safety and economic productivity between Palmerston North, Whanganui and Wellington remained high on the agenda. Further investment will enable progress to be made designing major safety improvements on the Otaki to Levin section of the Wellington Northern Corridor road of national significance, while construction of a replacement Whirokino Trestle Bridge is also being progressed after design of the replacement was brought forward by the Government’s Regional Accelerated Roading Package.

“Palmerston North sits squarely at the north-south and east-west axis of the North Island, and it is an increasingly busy distribution hub for freight and business. We want to foster this growth by developing and maintaining a resilient and safe transport network that provides the rail and port connections that we need, and supports getting produce to market.”

Ms Bleakley says safety on SH2 in Tararua remains an ongoing focus. In recent years, the Transport Agency has invested millions in safety projects such as the Papatawa Realignment and the Corby Road Realignment, and this commitment to safety will continue through projects such as the $5.3m Otamaroho Curves Realignment. The programme also provides funding for the completion of the SH2 Whakaruatapu Bridge replacement north of Dannevirke. The combined value of the programme’s safety projects on SH2 in Tararua is $21m.

The Transport Agency, together with councils, will be investing in upgrades of aging rural bridges to support freight and to ensure they can provide critical lifelines to their communities. The Transport Agency and Councils together propose to invest $6.5m on structures such as bridge replacements for Mangateitei Road, Waitewhena Road and Ruapehu Road Rail Overbridge.

A further $2.5m is proposed for investment on High Productivity Motor Vehicle routes to enable more freight to be carried on fewer trucks. This will result in money, fuel and time saved, and safety gains from fewer journeys.

“Freight is about much more than just trucks. Improving the productivity of freight has flow on benefits for the whole region and beyond - it makes local producers more competitive, it supports employment, and it efficiently gets our groceries from the farm to the distribution centre to the supermarket shelf.

Ms Bleakley says the programme will also enable the completion of the vital upgrade to the Saddle Road.

“The events of recent months have shown the value of formally adopting the Saddle Road as the Gorge’s main backup route. During the June floods the Saddle Road proved a resilient backup route, and once the upgrade is complete, it will provide a much improved level of traffic flow and safety, providing a robust link to the east along with greater peace of mind.”

Public transport remains a growing mode of travel in Whanganui and Palmerston North, and a $19.3m investment is expected to help foster a 10% rise in passenger numbers over the next three years. The programme also provides funding towards a record boost for walking and cycling, following last week’s Urban Cycleways Fund announcement.

Ms Bleakley says reducing serious and fatal crashes remains a top priority, with a quarter of all regional investment directly targeting safety.

“The number of people losing life on our region’s roads is a real ongoing tragedy, and a big focus over the next few years is developing a stronger understanding of where the risks are, what the root causes of these crashes are, and targeting these areas to turn this around.”

A key part of this will be through new passing lanes to enable people to overtake safely.

“New passing lanes are already being built south of Sanson, and the next step is to identify more passing opportunities between Foxton and Waiouru to help people to overtake without resorting to risky manoeuvres.”

National and regional NLTP documents, Q&As and other information is available on the NZTA website at www.nzta.govt.nz/NLTP(external link)

2015-18 NLTP - Questions and Answers

What is the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP)?

The NZ Transport Agency develops the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) every three years to give effect to the Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS). The NLTP sets out the activities that address the government’s transport priorities to give effect to the GPS.

Activities and projects which form part of the NLTP are the product of close collaboration, particularly between the Transport Agency and local government.

Investments are funded in a range of activity classes – a total of 10 in 2015-18, which are:

  • State highway improvements
  • State highways maintenance
  • Local road improvements
  • Local roads maintenance
  • Public transport
  • Walking and cycling
  • Road policing
  • Road safety promotion
  • Regional improvements
  • Investment management

What is the primary focus of this NLTP?

This 2015-18 NLTP investments are aimed squarely at increasing economic growth and productivity, improving safety and driving value for money, reflecting the strategic direction set by the 2015 GPS.

The programme has a strong focus on economic growth and productivity with 55% of investment focused towards this outcome. A total of 23% is focused on road safety and 22% on travel choices and the environment.

The investments made through the NLTP aimed to be regionally responsive and nationally consistent. Giving effect to the GPS, investment through this NLTP reflects the Transport Agency’s commitment to delivering value for money from existing and planned activities and driving improved performance from the land transport system.

How has the NLTP been developed?

The programme is a partnership between the Transport Agency and local authorities (who invest revenue primarily from rates). Funds for much of the Transport Agency investments come from the National Land Transport Fund, made up primarily of revenue received from things such as road user charges, fuel excise duty and vehicle registration.

The preparation of the 2015-18 NLTP has been informed by 16 regional transport committees and Auckland Transport. The committees developed regional land transport plans outlining activities to be submitted for NLTP funding.

Public submissions were considered by the regional transport committees on the final projects and activities that were submitted to the Transport Agency for potential inclusion in the NLTP. They were then assessed and prioritised according to a range of investment criteria to establish whether they were eligible for funding and of good value for money.

This process means the Transport Agency can build an overview of land transport requirements. The aim has been to develop an NLTP which is regionally responsive and nationally consistent.

How does the NLTP reflect regional land transport programmes?

Regional land transport plans (RLTPs) are an essential building block for the NLTP. However, these plans generally include more activities than there is funding available both regionally and nationally. This means that some activities in RLTPs may not proceed if sufficient funding is not available.

How much money will be invested in land transport through the NLTP over the next three years?

Total investment in this NLTP is $13.9 billion. This represents a 15% increase in total funding compared with the 2012-15 NLTP. A total of $10.5b will come from the National Land Transport Fund.

Key highlights of NLTP investment over the next three years:

  • Improvements to state highways and local roads of more than $5.5b are planned
  • Close to $2b total investment is planned for public transport, and represents a 21% increase compared to 2012-15
  • Direct investment in cycling will increase by 205% to $251m
  • About 42% of investment ($5.4b) will be outside the three key metropolitan areas outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
  • About one third of the investment ($4.2b) will be in Auckland’s transport system and services
  • Planned co-investment between the Transport Agency and local councils for 2015-18 will be about $6.2b. 
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