Auckland’s $1.4b Eastern Busway put back two years after big cut to Auckland Transport budget

One of Auckland’s biggest transport projects, the $1.4 billion Eastern Busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany, has been put back two years following a surprise cut to Auckland’s Transport budget.

Auckland councillors yesterday learned the $940 million capital budget they signed off for Auckland last month in their long-term budget no longer exists. The new budget is $820m.

Botany councillor Paul Young was ropeable when AT officers sprung the news “so late” about delays to the Eastern Busway at a planning committee meeting yesterday.

He called the delays “totally unacceptable” and a “huge blow”.

“I cannot understand how this huge change can be made so late. We should be speeding it up to provide 100 per cent confidence for residents in East Auckland,” he said.

The Eastern Busway is a dedicated busway, similar to the Northern Busway, for the car-dependent eastern suburbs, which includes new bus interchanges at Pakuranga and Botany and the Reeves Rd flyover.

Once built – the completion date has been pushed out from 2025 to 2027 – it is expected to carry 30,000 people a day between the rapidly growing south-eastern suburbs and the rail network at Panmure.

The new capital budget also pushes out bus improvements between Botany and Auckland Airport by one year and $66m of small-scale suburban projects get pushed back by five years.

The changes are part of the new 10-year regional land transport plan (RLTP), which is not to be confused with the council’s new 10-year budget (LTP). The two plans are meant to align, but in this case they don’t.

AT officers said they plan to shift around $450m of spending in the first five years to the second five years of the 10-year plan, which gets approved by the AT board.

AT investment, planning and policy general manager Hamish Bunn, said the “rephasing” of its capital programme reflects the ability of AT to increase its capital programme from $720m this year to $940m in the new financial year starting next month.

He said AT faced big challenges with completion of supporting projects on the wider rail network for the City Rail Link and $1.4b Eastern Busway, while keeping other large programmes like safety, walking and cycling, and renewals on track.

These factors were putting a lot of pressure on AT’s capital programme and required funding to be moved from the first five years of the plan to the second five years, he said.

Mayor Phil Goff said he is concerned that following the completion of stage one of the Eastern Busway this year, there will be a delay of up to two years of the final stages of the project.

“However, I am assured that, if there is a change in the funding situation, efforts will be made to again bring forward the completion date of the $1.4 billion project,” he said.

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