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New transportation app for Queenstown

Queenstown will serve as a pilot location for a new transportation app that seeks solutions for the resort town’s chronic congestion problems.

The Mobility as a Service Marketplace app, known as a MaaS is called Choice, and aims to connect users with transportation services through an online market place. Queenstown has a permanent population of 28,224 people, and is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing centres, with nearly 23 per cent population growth over the last ten years. Queenstown also receives nearly 2 million tourists every year, putting pressure on the resort town’s transportation infrastructure.

Promotional poster for the Choice app.

The app will collate available data feeds for transport providers (such as route plans, GPS locations, timetables and fleet numbers) into one place. Businesses currently signed onto the pilot include public transport provider Ritchies, three taxi companies and a ride sharing service, four ski fields and other tourism operators.

The pilot is a collaboration between the NZTA, Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Auckland Transport, supported by Destination Queenstown and Queenstown’s local transport providers. Auckland Transport’s interest lies in the potential next phase of the app’s development. Should the Queenstown pilot prove successful, Choice will be rolled out in Auckland.

Minister for Transport Simon Bridges says that the app will be available in three languages, a feature that will help reduce barriers to foreign visitor’s access to transport systems.

“With nearly 2 million tourists visiting Queenstown annually, the Choice app will provide visitors with all the information they need to know about exploring, relaxing and enjoying Queenstown and the surrounding area.”

“Enabling the utilisation of improved transport information alongside technology like the MaaS Marketplace is a real game changer,” Mr Bridges says.

The app is available on Android from today, and will be rolled out to the Apple app store next week.

 

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PM announces $10.5 bn extra RoNS funding

Prime Minister Bill English has announced $10.5 billion of new funding for the Roads of National Significance program (RoNS), to be invested if National is re-elected for a fourth term.

That $10.5 billion would be committed over and above the $12 billion already allocated to seven other RoNS projects throughout the country. The roads will be funded from the National Land Transport Fund and the use of Public-Private partnerships.

Inforgraphic released by National following the announcement, detailing the new RoNS projects.

The new roading projects would focus on the regions, and the Prime Minister says they will make it easier to get products to our main export markets. “Today is the day when New Zealand gets ahead of the curve on roading and infrastructure,” he said in Hawkes Bay at the announcement.

The new projects announced are as follows; Wellsford to Whangarei; the East West Link in Auckland; Cambridge to Tirau; Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai Range; Tauranga to Katikati; Napier to Hastings; Manawatu Gorge; Levin to Sanson; Christchurch Northern Motorway; and Christchurch to Ashburton.

“Strong transport connections are critical for our growing regions and support New Zealand’s economic prosperity, and the Roads of National Significance are an important part of that,” said Minister for Transport Simon Bridges in a press release yesterday.

Minister Bridges also said that the investment will make sure that strain on infrastructure does not become a barrier to progress. Strain on roading infrastructure is currently costing Auckland nearly $2 billion per year, according to a report from the NZIER.

The announcement for regional focused infrastructure funding follows National’s announcement earlier this month of over $2 billion for road and rail projects in Auckland.

Labour leader Jacinda Adern has countered the announcement with a regional transport investment policy. The first stage would create a “golden triangle” of passenger rail links between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga and conditional upon its success, the rail links would be extended as far as Rotorua.

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ATAP report plans future investment

A joint report has been released by the government and Auckland Council.

The report updates work undertaken as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) to understand the required level of transport investment needed in Auckland over the next decade.

Bridges says ATAP is an important milestone for the government when it comes to agreeing on an approach to the long-term development of Auckland’s transport system. “However, we know that Auckland’s recent and projected population growth is higher than originally forecast,” he says.

“ATAP agencies were asked to provide an update of how much additional funding may be required in the first decade to meet the challenges of growth. The update identifies an additional $1.9 billion of transport investment will be needed over the ten year period.

This is $1.1 billion less than the amount previously identified by Auckland Council and the total funding required for the decade is estimated to be $25.9 billion, of which $20 billion has already been committed to by central Government ($13 billion) and Auckland Council ($7 billion).

“That leaves about $5.9 billion to be sourced from the Government, Council and the private sector over the next ten year period,” Bridges says.

“The report identifies faster growth is now expected to occur in North and South Auckland requiring some transport investment to be brought forward to support the housing development in these areas. We will also need to bring forward transport investment to accommodate additional public transport demand.”

Key initiatives from the first decade package that would be brought forward into the next three years with this extra funding include:

Advancing development of the “next generation” of State highway projects, including the SH16/SH18 interchange, Southern Motorway widening between Papakura and Drury, improved Eastern Airport Access (SH20B) and the Northwestern Busway.

Accelerating Auckland Transport’s programme, targeting high priority and well developed investments including the Mill Road, AMETI Eastern Busway and associated Reeves Road flyover, the earlier purchase of new electric trains, along with earlier completion of key city centre bus lanes and interchanges.

Completing approximately $250 million of rail network infrastructure upgrades to cater for ongoing rapid growth in rail use and increasing freight volumes, including an additional track from Westfield to Wiri and a variety of key network resilience and performance upgrades.

“Current and committed investments include $3.4 billion for the City Rail Link, $1.85 billion for the East-West Link, and up to $1 billion in upgrades to the Northern and Southern motorway corridors,” Bridges says.

“This is a very useful update of the agreed ATAP programme. I look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor of Auckland on addressing the remaining funding required for the first decade.”

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Appointment for OPAC

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has appointed Captain James (Jim) Veere Dilley to the Oil Pollution Advisory Committee (OPAC) for an open-ended term, commencing on 11 August 2017.

OPAC gives advice to Maritime New Zealand on matters related to marine oil spills, and the fixing and levying of oil pollution levies.

“Captain Dilley has wide-ranging experience in the marine sector, including 12 years of experience with marine oil spill responses, having worked as a Regional and National On-Scene Commander,” Bridges says.

Captain Dilley has also previously served as Harbourmaster for Canterbury and as Deputy Harbourmaster for Auckland. In each role, he implemented the region’s Port and Harbour Safety Code.

“Captain Dilley’s appointment will bring a new perspective to OPAC, as well as complement the current committee team,” Bridges says.

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EV owners to benefit from rule change

Electric Vehicle (EV) owners should benefit from a rule change where they will be exempt from road user charges and can possibly use bus and high occupancy vehicles lanes, when driving their EV.

According to transport minister Simon Bridges, as of 1 September, 2017 heavy EVS will be exempt from road user charges until they make up two per cent of New Zealand’s heavy vehicle fleet.

“Light EVs are already exempt from paying road user charges until 31 December 2021. On top of all of the other benefits that EVs generate, extending this exemption to heavy EVs will offer a significant cost reduction to the operators of these vehicles,” Bridges says.

Changes have also been made to Land Transport rules, which from 1 September, will enable road controlling authorities, such as the NZ Transport Agency and local and regional councils, to make bylaws to allow EVs access to special vehicle lanes, such as those dedicated to buses and high occupancy vehicles.

“The positive acceptance of EVs in New Zealand is having real benefits. We are now offering more choice in new EVs than ever before. We are also seeing an increase in the number of used EVs importers are bringing into the country,” Bridges says.

In May 2016, the Government announced its Electric Vehicle Programme, a wide ranging package of measures to encourage the uptake of EVs in New Zealand. The target is to double the fleet each year, reaching 64,000 EV registrations by the end of 2021.

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Land Transport Act taken into 21st century

The bill has passed its third and final reading in the House

The Land Transport Act Amendment Bill passed in Parliament last night, with only NZ First voting against the new legislation.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has said the amendment will introduce “more flexibility in small passenger services, mandatory alcohol interlock sentences, and tougher penalties for fleeing drivers” in a statement released yesterday.

The bill makes small changes to numerous existing clauses in the Land Transport Act. These include some deregulation of passenger services, such as taxis and Ubers; mandatory alcohol interlocks for first-time high-alcohol and repeat drink-drivers; stronger legislation to prosecute evasion of public transport fares; increased penalties for drivers fleeing from police, and changes to the regulation of heavy vehicles.

A supplementary paper was also added to the bill, which bans window-washers from all New Zealand roads.

The legislation around passenger vehicles drew the most attention from both MPs and industry bodies, as the new bill looks to shake up the taxi sector by formally recognising ridesharing as part of the country’s transport system.

Ride-sharing app service Uber welcomed the new bill. “This is the final stage in officially recognising your right to a safe, affordable and reliable ride across the city,” said general manager Richard Menzies.

ACT MP David Seymour was a prominent supporter of the bill

ACT MP David Seymour, a vocal advocate for ride-sharing technology, said yesterday that “red tape prevents consumers from enjoying the benefits of new technology, and suppresses further innovation.”

“Regular New Zealanders who use Uber understand that outdated licensing and safety laws aren’t as effective as GPS tracking, two-way rating systems, and automatic driver-passenger identification.”

However, Seymour argued the amendments took too long to pass into law, and “haven’t gone far enough.”

The bill’s mandatory alcohol interlocks have also drawn praise, with the Automobile Association (AA) calling it “one of the most signfiicant blows against drink driving in New Zealand’s history.”

“Alcohol interlocks are the best weapon we have to keep drink drivers off the road but, until now, they’ve been sitting in the holster,” said AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon.

“One third of the deaths on our roads right now involve alcohol, and we have to do more to stop them.”

Labour MP Sue Moroney expressed disappointment that the legislation would remove the requirement for passenger services to install security cameras and Braille signage inside the vehicle for blind and vision-impaired passengers, saying the party supported the bill “with major reservations” during the third reading in the House.

The bill has met opposition from the taxi industry. Blue Bubble chief executive Bob Wilkinson was “disappointed and frankly shocked” at the amendment.

“We welcome competition and innovation, but are very concerned with this legislation,” he said in a statement.

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NZ govt won’t ban petrol, diesel

The government won’t follow the UK’s lead in banning petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, said Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

The UK, in a bid to tackle air pollution, announced that new diesel and petrol cars would be banned from sale from 2040 as part of a $5.2 billion clean air strategy. By 2050, all cars on British roads will need to have zero emissions. The strategy does not include a scrappage scheme, saying previous attempts were “poor value” for money.

This follows similar bans around the world, including France (sales must end by 2040), India (2030) and Norway (2025).

Bridges said yesterday that the current National government had no plans to ban the sale of combustion-powered vehicles, and instead would focus on incentivising drivers to switch to EVs and plug-in hybrids.

“The Government has an ambitious electric vehicle programme with the aim to double the size of the electric vehicle fleet in New Zealand every year to reach 64,000 electric vehicles by 2021,” he said in a statement.

Bridges said a move from petrol and diesel vehicles to EVs was a “natural evolution”, and “it’s our aim to encourage that switch sooner, rather than later.”

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EV fleet hits 4,000

Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport.

Bridges said a rise in used EV imports helped increase uptake

The government’s 2017 EV target has been reached five months early, with 4,000 electric vehicles now registered in New Zealand, said Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins.

“This is great news and a reflection of the work undertaken by the Government and private sector in normalising the purchase and integration of EVs into the New Zealand vehicle fleet,” said Bridges.

A total of 4,027 EVs are now registered in New Zealand, which Bridges said puts the country well on track to meet its target of 64,000 EVs by the end of 2021.

“The positive acceptance of EVs in New Zealand is having real benefits,” Bridges added.

“The rising uptake has led to increased manufacturer confidence. They are now offering more choice in new EVs than ever before. We are also seeing an increase in the number of used EVs importers are bringing into the country.”

Collins added that attitudes towards EVs are changing. “The recent announcement by Volvo, that from 2019 all new models it produces will be fully electric or plug-in hybrid, shows there is a changing global perception of how EVs are perceived,” she said.

“These latest figures show that New Zealand is on the right track.”

The Electric Vehicle Programme was first announced in May 2016, and is designed to encourage the uptake of EVs in New Zealand to a goal of 64,000 by 2021.

 

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Government supports EV uptake

Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins have announced new measures to support the uptake of electric vehicles and improve energy efficiency in New Zealand.

The Energy Innovation (Electric Vehicles and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which passed its third reading today, implements parts of the Government’s Electric Vehicles Programme, makes changes to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) levy funding, and clarifies how electricity industry legislation applies to secondary networks.

“With 99 per cent of transport energy coming from non-renewable sources, this Bill will help reduce transport sector emissions by encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). We are already seeing an increase in EV uptake, with the highest number of EVs registered in a month in May 2017,” Bridges says.

“The law change means heavy electric vehicles can be exempted from road user charges and road controlling authorities (such as councils and the NZ Transport Agency) will be able to make bylaws to allow EVs to use special vehicle lanes.”

Collins says the Bill makes a few small changes to a number of laws, but the changes will have substantial benefits.

“We are also adjusting the way EECA recovers its levy funding, so it applies across three existing levies rather than one. By adding a transport fuels levy and a natural gas levy to the existing electricity levy, EECA will now be able to spread levy funding across more activities to find the greatest gain.

“We think there are opportunities to improve New Zealand’s energy productivity and reduce emissions by focussing on the transport and industrial sectors in addition to electricity efficiency,” says Collins.

The Bill also addresses secondary networks which are electricity networks indirectly connected to the national grid, such as via a local distribution network. Secondary network providers are often providing services that are the same as those provided on a local distribution network, but may not be subject to the same obligations and requirements due to current uncertainty in the legislation.

Collins says, “Our aim is to clear up any uncertainty for secondary network providers, to have consistent treatment across business who are providing a similar service to consumers. Clearing up this legislation is very important as secondary networks enable innovation in the supply of electricity. We want to be future focussed to allow New Zealanders to innovate with new electricity solutions.”

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Canterbury infrastructure upgrade

Economic Development and Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced an integrated approach to transport planning and infrastructure investment in Canterbury.

During the launch of the refreshed Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy, in Christchurch, Bridges said that the Canterbury region has a world-class international airport, sea ports and inland ports and a series of natural disasters, including earthquarkes, storms and fires, have highlighted vulnerabilities in the region’s transport system.

“That’s why we’ve developed a strategy that focusses on developing a transport network that prioritises network resilience, moving people and freight efficiently around the region, supports visitors, and improves road safety and social connectedness,” he said.

Government funding will be provided to Canterbury for the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and other sector partners to prepare for multi-modal transport strategies across the South Island, alongside Regional Transport Committees.

Meanwhile, Christchurch’s $112 million Russley Road upgrade is on track to open early next year, several months ahead of schedule.

“The early completion of the project would help relieve congestion and support economic growth in the Canterbury region,” Bridges says.

“Good weather, combined with the contractors McConnell Dowell Downer being able to bring on board extra resources and skilled staff has seen about 10 months shaved off the timetable.

“Innovation has also played a part, by designing and building the elliptical roundabout, the contractors have been able to minimise disruptions to the work schedule and keep traffic moving.

“In essence, the traffic has travelled around the site, limiting the need to continually change traffic management and letting the contractors get on with the job,” Mr Bridges says.

Mr Bridges says by the end of next month traffic would be travelling from Christchurch Airport to the city under the overbridge, and by the end of the year traffic on State Highway 1 would travel over the overbridge. This project is now expected to be completed early 2018.

The Russley Road upgrade is one of the six sections of the $300-$350 million Western Corridor upgrade from Belfast to Hornby to a four-lane, median-separated highway. Three of the six sections are completed with the remaining three are underway and will be completed by the end of next year.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, improve traffic times, provide better walking and cycling connections between the airport and city, improve safety and support economic growth by providing better connections to the airport.

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Waterview Tunnel opened

A drone fly-through of the Waterview Tunnel

The $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel formally opened over the weekend, with prime minister Bill English and transport minister Simon Bridges cutting the ribbon at a completion ceremony on Sunday morning.

“The Waterview Tunnel is one of the most important infrastructure developments to take place in New Zealand and will help unlock Auckland’s potential as a world class city and secure its future economic prosperity,” Bridges said at the event.

“It will provide more options to Aucklanders travelling around the city, more efficient links to and from Auckland Airport, Ports of Auckland and inland freight hubs, reducing costs for people and businesses, not only in Auckland, but throughout the country.”

The Waterview Connection includes two 2.4km-long tunnels and a giant motorway interchange at Great North Road to connect the Southwest and Northwestern motorways. It’s set to fully open to traffic in early July.

However, Bridges admitted to Lisa Owen the morning before on Three’s The Nation that the Waterview Tunnel “won’t be the silver bullet” to Auckland’s congestion woes.

With Auckland’s vehicle fleet growing by 800 cars every week, traffic has been worsening on the gridlocked motorway system, particularly in peak times. A recent survey found the average commuter spent an extra 172 hours a year in congested traffic, which has doubled since 2014.

The issue of Auckland’s massive infrastructure bill has caused friction between the Auckland Council and the government, and mayor Phil Goff said recently the council is $7 billion short of funds in its 10-year plan for infrastructure, and the council needed more sources of revenue immediately.

When questioned on other methods of allocating funds by Owen, Bridges he was “talking to the council about the projects and things we can do to look at that so-called funding gap,” but declined to give further details.

Bridges added the council has “a range of options,” and it was “a question of having a sensible balance between ratepayers and taxpayers, between Auckland and the rest of New Zealand with our transport investment.”

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