Comment: Transmission Gully problems

By: RTF CEO Nick Leggett


Transmission Gully problems do not bode well for infrastructure recovery

It has been extremely disturbing to see just how badly the Transmission Gully project north of Wellington has unravelled since we came out of Level 4 lockdown. With the project seemingly on the home straight towards its November 2020 deadline, a five-week delay in work due to COVID-19 has suddenly turned into a potential delay of wwmore than a year.

In the middle of Level 3, only 183 staff out of a pre-lockdown workforce of 700 were back working on the project and a whole heap of technical staff are no longer in New Zealand.

I’m told there’s the possibility of a complete shutdown over winter and even a situation where the project has to go back out to tender as the current joint venture partners, CPB and HEB, look to pull out altogether.

It has also come out that sections of the motorway will need to be re-laid after compaction and moisture tests revealed failures in the construction. This is eerily similar to problems with the construction of the Kapiti Expressway.

This is the worst possible news at the worst possible time and calls into question the government’s ability to manage all future large-scale infrastructure projects as part of the COVID-19 recovery.

In much more encouraging news, environment minister David Parker has announced that the government is to introduce legislation into Parliament that will significantly streamline the Resource Management Act to aid the post-COVID recovery.

The intention is to gain quicker consenting for major infrastructure projects. The legislation will remove the normal consenting process that typically sees projects stalled for months, or even years, and instead hands consenting power to expert panels chaired by an Environment Court judge or senior lawyer.

This will be a temporary legislation in place for two years and will see decisions made within 25 to 50 working days, depending on the scale of the project. This is a positive move and something akin to what the previous government did following the earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura.

We can now only cross our fingers that this will be used on some much-needed roading projects around the country. Now, a bit of a grizzle concerning some feedback we’ve received from CVST and NZTA recently. The first is regarding the use of substandard tyres.

In a number of instances, CVST reported finding tyres worn down to the carcass steel reinforcing. This is unacceptable and suggests some operators are not taking the extension on CoFs seriously and are trying to cut corners.

It’s imperative that operators maintain the safety and roadworthiness of their vehicles by making sure that maintenance and servicing is attended to as often as possible. Drivers should also be reporting any faults they find at the daily walkaround of the vehicle. 

NZTA has also recently passed on a large number of complaints made by the public regarding trucks making unnecessary noise and travelling too fast through suburban areas and rural towns.

Some of this will be dwwown to the lack of other traffic on the roads, amplifying the noise made by trucks travelling on chip seals or with unladen trailers bouncing up and down. However, there have been quite a number of complaints regarding the misuse of engine brakes as well as excessive speed.

The industry has done a fantastic job during the lockdown to keep this country moving and there’s a great deal of public goodwill for the effort transport operators have put in. So let’s make sure we remain mindful of the rules, take a safety-first approach to everything we do, and be sensitive to the communities we travel through. 

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