A few initial thoughts on National’s transport plans for Wellington, from a fresh new author on The Eye of the Fish – Captain Haddock.

Captain Haddock writes: “This morning National have released their transport policy. With regards to Wellington there are 3 or 4 notable points

Cancelling Bus improvements In this morning’s Post, Chris Bishop is saying “the focus should be [on] better buses for Wellington”. Yet, National is completely unwilling to fund this, instead saying they’ll throw up their hands and leave that to councils. National is saying, if you want better buses, be prepared for higher rates. This is a huge change from current plans. The next tranche of projects to kick off are all around bus priority, majority funded by central government. National is pulling the pin on suburban commuters from Karori to Kilbirnie. It’s also a big change for National – the Key government was of course planning some form of Bus Rapid Transit alongside it’s four lanes to the planes policy. It’s a hard shift from the more pragmatic Key and English years Despite directly saying this is where the focus should be,  National would not spend a single cent on bus improvements for Wellington. With a dedicated cycleway through Mt Vic, National will spend infinitely more for bikes than buses in Wellington. It’ll be left up to ratepayers to fund any bus improvements.

Caption title for two white men in blue suits

Fantasy financials The cost estimates for National’s plan are in fiscal fantasy land. Apparently a second Mt Vic tunnel and Petone to Grenada will cost 4 billion. At the same time, four lane motorways from Whangarei to Tauranga will only cost 6 billion, ie. 50% more than an 800 metre tunnel and a suburban link road. To make any of these numbers work, they’ve turned the clock back, using old numbers. I get it, conservative parties like the past. But this is ludicrous. These numbers come from a dart board. 

Speculative timeframes In the same Post article, National is saying they’d begin constructing a second Mt Vic tunnel next year. This is not the tunnel Waka Kotahi is currently planning but an altogether new one. It will be designed, consented, and build partners found in the 14 months that National may have between the Election and the end of next year. It will go through the Town Belt, an area protected by it’s own specific legislation. For National to do this, they will have to work about 3 or 4  times the pace of the Key/English government, with a bunch of inexperienced Ministers and a rowdy coalition partner. Not plausible.

Rapid Transit Dead. This plan kills rapid transit in favour of suburban roads. This is not a particularly surprising move from National. But with no bus improvements this is much more ideological than the Key/English government who planned Bus Rapid Transit.

What National gets right Let’s Get Wellington Moving hasn’t delivered. Calling this out is worthwhile. State Highway improvements should be fully funded by the government. That too is correct.

Conclusion Whether or not you support the high level pieces of this policy, the detail is deeply concerning. The costs and timeframes are dishonest, as is the pretense to care about buses. It’s all scramble, no lolly

a Chris