Dealing with traffic congestion on the Northern Motorway

Environment Canterbury Performance Audit and Risk Committee last week recommended Commissioners approve funding for a study to investigate the feasibility of a short-term passenger rail service on the existing railway line from Rangiora to Christchurch.

The study would be part of a wider investigation by Urban Development Strategy (UDS) partners to look at options to reduce congestion and improve travel time reliability on the Northern Access into Christchurch.

UDS partners are Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Waimakariri and Selwyn district councils, New Zealand Transport Agency and Ngai Tahu. They are supported by KiwiRail, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch and Christchurch International Airport.

Environment Canterbury Commissioner Rex Williams says “In response to public concerns about travel time reliability, we will coordinate an immediate study to scope whether the rail service is achievable, how long it could take to put in place and how much it could cost. It will also consider the impacts on the wider public transport network.’’

Previous studies commissioned by Environment Canterbury and other UDS partners have looked at future public transport options, including a rail link to Waimakariri, he says.

“However these were all conducted before the earthquakes so we need an updated study to consider post-quake travel demand. The population in the Waimakariri district has increased around 17% since 2006 and the number of building consents has more than doubled since 2011, so we need to reflect these changes.

The draft report should be completed by the end of June 2014.

Mr Williams says “The results will be fed back into the wider package of Northern Access options to help decide the best ways to reduce congestion to make sure it is cost-effective and supports future public transport developments.”