Transmission Gully may be tolled to discourage use

Another change of mind by Labour – they are now considering tolling the Transmission Gully motorwaywhen it opens – to discourage use.

Stuff: Transmission Gully motorway looks likely to be user-pays after Labour shifts gears on tolling

A briefing document from the New Zealand Transport Agency to Transport Minister Phil Twyford, released to Stuff under the Official Information Act, recommended he green-light investigation of a Transmission Gully toll to “shape demand” for the new four-lane expressway, which will connect northern Wellington to the Kāpiti Coast when it opens in 2020.

Twyford has since confirmed he gave the recommendation his blessing. This signals a significant lane-change for the Labour Party, which did not publicly support the idea of a toll when it was in Opposition.

The Transport Agency briefing document says tolling the 27-kilometre gully motorway would help make the main commuter route between Wellington and Kāpiti more “mode neutral”, meaning everyone does not simply drive.

When open, the motorway was expected to reduce the cost of road travel, which would encourage more people to get into their cars at the expense of public transport, primarily rail, the document said.

Tolls could counter the perceived cost reductions of travelling by road.”

Twyford told Stuff he was not opposed to tolling roads if it was the right option for a particular project.

But Twyford’s position appears somewhat at odds with what Labour was saying during negotiations to form the current Government back in October, when he said the party did not support tolling the motorway.

“My understanding is that past modelling has shown that a toll on Transmission Gully risks making the road so poorly used that it defeats the purpose of building it in the first place,” he said at the time.

Now he supports tolling the road so it is poorly used?

Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said he wanted to see the “maximum amount” of traffic using the new, safer motorway, and the idea of discouraging drivers from using it would be like “a safety own-goal”.

“It’s pretty dumb when you’ve put the infrastructure in.”