What changes to land transport can we expect?

In the coming years we should expect investment in land transport projects that improve safety and resilience, support new housing and the distribution of regional production, and facilitate the use of modes of transport other than roads.

The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) is the key lever the Government has to influence how the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) is spent.

On 28 June 2018 the Labour/New Zealand First coalition government released its first GPS. GPS 2018 is available here.

What does that new GPS tell us about what land transport activities are likely to go ahead over the next few years?

Given the strategic priorities in the GPS, as well as the necessary investment in keeping the existing roads open and public transport running, we can expect:

  • Safety focused activities – including projects to improve the safety of walking and cycling;
  • Projects which address the resilience of regional roads and the most critical transport routes.
  • Projects to facilitate access to land suitable for new housing developments
  • Implementation of the amended Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) that was announced earlier this year.
  • Projects which facilitate moving goods by rail or coastal shipping.
  • Projects aimed at linking or improving the link between regional production areas and key distribution points.
  • Increased public transport capacity and initiatives to improve public transport patronage and connectivity between modes of transport

The next clear indicator we will have of what land transport projects are likely to go ahead is when the new National Land Transport Programme is adopted on 31 August this year.

The GPS is the key lever the Government has to influence how the NLTF is spent

The NLTF is a hypothecated (i.e. ring-fenced) fund primarily funded from fuel excise duty on petrol and road user charges.

Deciding which land transport activities to fund and not fund from the NLTF is one of the ‘statutorily independent functions’ of New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), i.e. the Government cannot tell NZTA to fund or not fund a particular project.

However, before approving funding for a land transport activity NZTA must be satisfied that the activity is consistent with the GPS.

The GPS has two key strategic priorities – safety and access – and two supporting strategic priorities – environment and value for money

Given the two key strategic priorities, and the commentary on them in the GPS, we can expect an increase in the types of projects listed in the bullet points above being promoted over the next few years.

However, the GPS states that investments should also “demonstrate benefits for the environment and offer value for money”.

The last National Government GPS, GPS 2015, also had value for money as a strategic focus, along with “road safety” and “economic growth and productivity”.

The new National Land Transport Programme will be adopted on 31 August

The next clear indicator we will have of what land transport projects are likely to go ahead is when the new National Land Transport Programme is adopted and publicly released. Except in emergency situations, to be funded from the NLTF a land transport activity must be included in the national land transport programme.

The new National Land Transport Programme is due to be adopted on 31 August 2018.

The Regional Land Transport Plans currently being signed off by regional councils provide some insight into what the programme is likely to include. To be included in the National Land Transport Programme most kinds of land transport activity must be included in the relevant Regional Land Transport Plan.

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