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Published: 2005-09-09 00:00:00

Strategic planning for the Waikato region’s land transport needs took an important step forward today, with the presentation of five key options.

The Regional Land Transport Committee, which is charged with long-term planning for the region’s transportation needs, discussed a report on transport options, and voted unanimously to send it out for stakeholder consultation.

The five options include:

  • continuing with the current approach to land transport within the region
  • focusing effort on improving roading across the region
  • focusing effort on enhancing strategic corridors throughout the region (both road and rail)
  • examining travel planning and management, and alternatives to roading
  • putting more emphasis on the environment, energy efficiency and safety.

Committee chairman, Angus Macdonald, says that these options are certainly not mutually exclusive, and the likely outcome will involve a combination of the various components.

“What this Strategic Options Report is designed to do is to give the Committee partners - Environment Waikato, the district councils, other key government agencies such as Transit, Land Transport New Zealand, and the Police, as well as stakeholder representatives such as health, cycling and disability group representatives – the chance to make informed decisions about the best long-term options for the region.”

Mr Macdonald says that, apart from the option of maintain the current approach, the four other options under consideration will all require re-prioritisation of funding, and in many cases securing extra funding. Among the issues under consideration include:

High roading option: Focusing effort on improving roads, but not increasing emphasis on rail, passenger transport, cycling or alternatives to roading. Potential developments under this plan (in no particular priority order) include the Expressway, Mangatawhiri improvements, the Raglan-Hamilton road, the Thames–Coromandel scenic highway, Cambridge bypass, Taupo bypass, Taupo-Turangi, State Highway 3 from Piopio-Awakino, State Highway 29 over the Kaimais from the Waikato to Tauranga, and a raft of roading improvements around Hamilton City.

Strategic corridors option: Increasing the focus on inter-regional routes, as well as extra emphasis on passenger transport (such as express services), additional rail development (such as improving bulk freight links), additional emphasis on travel demand for access controls for strategic routes, but keeping the current approach to walking and cycling.

Travel demand management and alternatives to roading option: Increased focus on passenger transport (such as improved bus frequency in Hamilton City, and expansion of rural services), on enhancing walking and cycling options, rail development (specifically to enhance bulk freight transport), additional focus on travel demand management(such as park-and-ride, giving buses priority, and examining the pricing of bus travel). This Alternatives option would also involve the reallocation of roading space for alternative modes of transport (such as bus and cycle lanes).

Environmental/energy/health and safety option: This option would look at additional emphasis on systems that enhanced environmental benefits and reduced energy use (such as improved bus services) and enhanced health benefits (such as improving walking facilities for recreation, and enhancing specialist services for the disabled).

These five options will now be evaluated on a range of considerations such as cost/benefit, affordability, environmental sustainability, economic development, and safety.

There will now be a three-week consultation period on the Strategic Options Report, which will involve meetings with key stakeholder groups.

“Decisions on the mix of preferred options will be made at the Committee’s meeting on 21st November,” says Mr Macdonald.

“In line with the Minister’s commitment, we seem to be on track to meet the Joint Officials Group process which will align us in the same category as Bay of Plenty and Wellington – who have recently received significant extra funding.”