Outgoing ARC Transport Chair Christine Rose sent a thank you letter for our presentation on a cost effective alternative to the proposed toll road between Puhoi and Wellsford.
Enclosed with her letter was a the response from Transport Minister Steven Joyce. He makes the startling claim that:
While upgrading an existing road would appear to be the cheaper option, this is not actually the case. The initial investigations… show that upgrading the existing road to a four lane motorway standard would actually be the same or more expensive than constructing a new, purpose-built road.
As Christine points out, no information has been released to substiate the statement. Minister Joyce goes on to emphasise the freight aspect of the toll road:
The Puhoi to Wellsford RoNS has additional benefits as it caters for the movement of both passengers and freight – a key priority for the Government. As you may be aware, the National Freight Demands Study 2008 forecast that freight volumes between Auckland and Northland will double over the next 10 years.
No mention of the state owned railway line that also runs north. No mention of how much the toll will be from Puhoi to Wellsford. He also says that
The NZTA informs me that the cost of constructing a new road for the Puhoi to Wellsford RoNS is comparable with completing the Auckland CBD inner rail loop (without the significant upkeep costs). The number of users is also greater than an estimated 22,000 users per day for the Auckland rail network and 25,000 per day for the Puhoi to Warkworth section.
This is interesting as it indicates that the Minister apparently knows the patronage of the Auckland rail network after the CBD inner rail loop is finished (we’ve yet to see the business case) and the number of vehicles (users?) using the toll road. Presumably to figure this out he needs to know the toll that will be charged as well.
A copy of the letter is here.
Christine says the ARC understands that NZTA are planning consultation on more detailed proposals for the route before the end of the calendar year. Hopefully we get much more detailed information than has been provided so far.