No winners in Transmission Gully deal says AA

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 31, 2020

There is certainty but little to celebrate in the latest announcement on Transmission Gully, says the AA.

AA general manager motoring affairs Mike Noon says while it is welcome to have a new end date and price tag for the much-needed highway, the project has been dogged by delays and cost increases before the recent challenges created by the pandemic.

Only early this year the NZTA agreed to pay the road builders nearly $200m extra for the project, despite one of the key points of the original Public Private Partnership deal being that it would ensure construction for a set price equivalent to $850m. The opening date was also extended to the end of 2020.

The recent announcement adds about $210m more cost due to the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and pandemic, and pushes out the opening date for the road by another eight months to September 2021.

There have also been widely circulating rumours of potential issues during construction – including sections of the road needing to be redone – that will leave much of the public nervous whether this will be the absolute end of any problems.

“It is welcome news that the latest increases in costs for Transmission Gully due to Covid-19 will come from the government‘s funds for responding to the virus,” says Noon.

“This is a sensible move that means the extra costs won‘t put more strain on a transport budget already stretched too thin to be able to deliver all the road maintenance, roading upgrades, public transport projects and walking and cycling projects that are wanted.

“The thing the public will be really wanting now is certainty that there will not be any more cost blowouts or delays – confidence in the project has taken a real battering through its recent troubles.”

As the government plans major infrastructure work to help stimulate the economy in the wake of Covid-19, the Transmission Gully fiasco cannot just be glossed over, especially with the huge scale of projects being considered for the near future.

“It is good news that the work is not going to stall with the finish line in sight because the Wellington region needs this road and has been waiting for it for decades,” says Noon.

“But that doesn‘t mean that the problems that have plagued the project should be swept under the carpet.

“Motorists have the right to clear answers over why the budget and deadline blew out when the contract was specifically supposed to prevent that.

“If drivers are travelling on Transmission Gully in 2021 they will be glad to finally have it open, but no one should be happy about what it took to get there.

“Fuel tax and road user charges is what will pay most of the costs of Transmission Gully. Many people don‘t realise that 70 cents of every litre of petrol sold is dedicated road tax – used to fund roads, public transport, and rail.

“This is a big expense for households and they expect and deserve this revenue to be managed wisely and transparently.”