Over the next 30 years, another million people will call Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, home. The city’s southern and eastern suburbs will be some of the fastest growing areas.
The Southwest Gateway programme is a series of transport projects that will provide choice and reliability for how people, and freight, travel around the south and east of Auckland, including to and from the airport. The programme aims to provide better public transport, walking/cycling facilities and safer, more efficient freight movements.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and Auckland Airport engaged Aurecon in 2016 to develop a programme business case to look at options to reduce congestion, and improve travel options and journey-time reliability for customers travelling to Auckland Airport.
This initial business case formed the basis for the Southwest Gateway Programme and led to Aurecon developing specific business cases for a range of other short- and long-term projects that will make up the Southwest Gateway Programme:
Aurecon recognised early that aligning the three main project stakeholders (Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and Auckland Airport) would be vital to delivering a successful outcome for the Southwest Gateway Programme.
Our team drew on our experience from other business cases with similarly complex stakeholder environments, such as Wellington Port Access to facilitate workshops and conversations between the stakeholders and work towards solutions that delivered the best outcomes for everyone.
Aurecon took an unconventional approach to developing the initial programme business case for the Southwest Gateway Programme; submitting a series of infographics to tell the story rather than the traditional text-heavy document. This received great feedback from decision makers within the three main stakeholders, who valued the concise but creative way of explaining the problems and outlining the need for investment.
Thoroughly understanding our customers was vital to developing the right solutions for the Southwest Gateway Programme. For this reason, Aurecon opted to use mobile data for the initial programme business case, in place of traffic modelling to inform our decision making.
At a much lower cost, mobile data provided us with rich insights into driver behaviour, such as: where people were coming from; where they were travelling to; the frequency of their trip; whether they were a part- or full-time worker; whether they were travelling to the airport for a flight; and whether they worked within the airport itself or, within the airport precinct.
This showed us that the commuter peak to and from the airport was different to that of the wider network, as airport workers tend to start and finish earlier. We also learnt that the peak congestion when airport workers were leaving the airport tended to coincide with large numbers of people travelling to the airport to catch flights – causing a great deal of traffic.
The data also showed us that although airport workers actually had a preference for public transport, there were no options available early enough in the morning to enable them to make their morning shift. We recommended re-timing a common bus route into and out of the airport precinct to start earlier – greatly increasing bus patronage and helping to reduce morning and afternoon congestion.
Aurecon offered innovation by engaging specialist consultants to identify possible opportunities for private land use investment along the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit route and state highways 20, 20A and 20B to provide additional funding or land value uplift.
Similarly, on the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit, we looked beyond the short- and long-term improvements we were tasked with, to explore medium-term investments that could provide many of the long-term benefits at much less cost. These options have been well received by Auckland Transport, who is leading that package of work.
Unusually for a programme of this scale, the Southwest Gateway has gone from a programme business case to beginning construction on two projects (the Puhinui Station Interchange and SH20B Improvements, circa NZD 150 M) in a little over two years – quite a remarkable achievement. This speed has been possible due to our strong relationships with the three main stakeholders, and Aurecon’s deep understanding of the issues.
Our team delved deep into the problems, looked at the potential benefits of investing and then formed a really strong evidence base to support that. This provided stakeholders with a clear rationale for investing and helped accelerate the process.
The Southwest Gateway is a fast-tracked project, with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and Auckland Airport procuring different stages of the project as Aurecon develops the design. Our team has had to respond quickly to get the project to a point where it is ready for the start of construction. The project has been a true collaboration from across Aurecon, with expertise from the transport, advisory, building, planning, and infrastructure teams.