‘Transmission Gully must open by end of March’

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 18, 2022

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has instructed the contractors behind the Tranmission Gully development to open the road to traffic before the end of this month.

The agency said completion of a huge amount of work on the Transmission Gully motorway over summer has brought the road to a stage where Waka Kotahi is confident that it is safe for public use.

To support the road opening sooner than would otherwise be possible. Waka Kotahi has agreed to defer a number of quality assurance tests that are required under the contract, allowing them to be finished after the road is open. Waka Kotahi says none of the deferred tests will compromise public safety, as they relate to ensuring the long-term quality of the road.

Waka Kotahi board chair Sir Brian Roche said the decision to formally instruct WGP to open the road to traffic by the end of March reflects the pragmatic and considered approach Waka Kotahi has taken in its negotiations with the contracted parties.

“Waka Kotahi has been committed to finding a pragmatic solution that ensures we are doing everything we can to open a safe motorway, while meeting the public expectations for it to be open for use as soon as possible and to ensure we safeguard good use of public money,” he said.

Waka Kotahi general manager transport services Brett Gliddon said complex negotiations are continuing with the parties we’ve contracted to build, manage and maintain the road.

“However, we are confident the motorway is now in a fit state to open, which is why we have issued this instruction, while we continue with negotiations,” he said.

“We have not been prepared to compromise on the road’s safety, however all of the critical safety assurance tests have now been completed to a standard that gives us confidence the road will be a safe, reliable route for motorists between Wellington and the rest of the North Island.”

Gliddon said the road not being ready in December ahead of the busy holiday seasonwas “extremely disappointing”.

“However, we acknowledge the builder has worked extremely hard over summer, and while there are still a number of quality assurance tests in the original contract that have not been finished and there is paperwork that still needs to be completed, we don’t believe they are critical factors that should prevent traffic from being able to use the road,” he said.

“Now that we have deferred these quality assurance requirements, we believe there is nothing substantial that can’t be finished by the end of March, which would prevent the road from opening. We have told Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP) that we expect the road to be opened as soon as possible and that responsibility now sits with them.”

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett said the announcement will be a sigh of relief for truck drivers.

“Most people will forget the saga around the three year delay and half a billion dollar budget blow out, but it will be important to understand exactly what the cause of this was, over the next few months, so the appropriate lessons can be learnt,” he said.

“Transmission Gully is a win for productivity, safety, resilience and improving the ease of access to and from Wellington. Today’s announcement has been anticipated many times, so it is great that it is finally here and we will see this road open and in use.”

Leggett said more major highways like this should be built across New Zealand to ensure we tap our potential economic growth, but said the job is was not finished in Wellington.

“Congestion will still be felt in the mornings south of TG at Tawa unless there is big investment in public transport and a decision to build the Petone to Grenada link,” he said.

“The road transport industry is delighted that the road will finally open. We will continue to promote the building of new roads to move goods around New Zealand in a safe and timely fashion, and will be watching the operation of Transmission Gully closely to ensure the standard of pavement works don’t degrade and that the road meets the standards the public has been assured of.”