Building A Brighter Future – Can I Say That?

November 26th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As I have a habit of trying to stitch an incredibly tenuous link between motoring and the news of the day together, you may have thought that the General Election would be an absolute God-send; I know I did. Simply make some sweeping, stereotypical generalisations about each party, throw in one or two snappy lines comparing those who don’t tickle my own particular political fancy to an Austin Allegro or similar and the job would be done. I could then get on to my usual Friday night routine of Mac’s Gold and advanced lethargy.

Unfortunately a spanner has been thrown in the works. Because most of my evening has been occupied by a wedding in the incredibly beautiful Waitakere ranges, there is every chance that once I’ve actually got a suitable work of literary genius cobbled together and uploaded onto the interweb, Friday night will have become Saturday morning. And because we are still governed by laws designed to stop people threatening one another with swords on their way to the polling booths, anything I say which could be construed as an attempt to influence the way people tick their boxes on Election Day itself could, in theory, land me in hot water with the boys in blue.

Why settle for just this....

Given that the P. M has already confirmed that our police force has more spare time than it knows what to do with, this is a chance that I don’t want to take. While voting is a key matter of national importance I’m certainly not prepared to do hard labour just for writing about it. I’m sure some of you would say being so risk averse is a little conservative and I will admit, it is against my usual manner to act in this way, but I’m not so green as to ignore the potential consequences. So politics in any shape and form is a no-go this week.

Instead I will talk about roads; or to be more specific, a road. On my little jaunt to the nuptials tonight, I took my first drive on the new Hobsonville extension of State Highway 18 and there is only one word that can sum it up. Brilliant. Utterly, utterly, brilliant.

It has never been much of a secret that the good folk of New Zealand are pretty handy when it comes to building stuff. There’s something about the ‘can do’ attitude ingrained in the national genotype that gets people rolling up their sleeves and making things work. Famously this is done by men in sheds, utilising number 8 wire to achieve an end result and there is nothing wrong with that – anyone worth their salt knows that men in sheds are the very cornerstone of a progressive society – but there is not enough credit handed out for the ability to produce on a grander and more professional scale.

I very rarely get excited about a motorway – German Autobahns excluded – as they are generally drab expanses of tarmac which expedite your journey from A to B by cutting out all forms of driving pleasure. And while our newest addition to the nation’s high speed road network can hardly claim to be a riveting test of man and machine, it does get the details just right.

To start with the road surface is excellent, providing a smooth ride and minimal noise. Then there are the surrounds which look neat and precise, giving the impression that the road was not so much laid as drawn on the countryside. Even the curvatures of the bends when it feeds into and from State Highway 16 are very pleasing indeed – possibly too pleasing for our speed limit – all of which means that the good Kiwis who worked on it, from the person who first penned the idea right down to the chap who painted the white lines, can pat themselves on the back for a job very well done.

In fact, we would do well to keep this talented team together, because if they can do this good a job on a mere motorway, they could seriously rock our world with some proper driving roads. While there is currently a lot of focus on ‘roads of national significance’, it may not be such a bad idea to consider pencilling in some ‘roads of national enjoyment’ too.

....when we could do THIS?

Ask anyone who has tackled the Alpine passes of Europe and they will tell you that there is not much more fun to be had on four wheels. The thrilling roads, epic scenery and constant whiff of danger make for an intoxicating driving experience. Well we have our very own Southern Alps and we’ve certainly proved a talent for road construction, so there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t get started and build ourselves some fun that is the envy of the motoring world.

Actually I tell a lie – there is a reason we can’t start and that’s money. Roads do not come cheaply and to pull that kind of money together you’d need to do something pretty drastic; like selling off a state owned Energy Company or two for example.

But, let’s be honest, it would almost certainly be worth it, so get out and vote for…… hang on; there are blue lights outside the window.

UK to raise motorway speed limit – will NZ follow?

October 4th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

“The faster you go, the bigger the mess” and “Speed Kills” are some of the hard-hitting messages we receive through public service television advertising but is going a little bit faster really that dangerous. Over in the UK the powers in charge don’t think so and a new plan has been revealed to increase the open road/motorway speed limit.

The announcement was made by UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond who revealed the plan raise the national speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 mph (112 to 128 km/h) beginning as early as 2013.

“I want to make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago”, said Hammond. “While we must ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world, we must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times.” Continue reading “UK to raise motorway speed limit – will NZ follow?” »

Auckland, City of Cars – part 3

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
This is the 3rd episode in a five part documentary confronting common myths about transport in Auckland. The myth that sustainable transport is “uneconomic” is debunked. The economic cost of Auckland’s car dependence is revealed; the flaws in Government analyses of transport projects are analysed; and the lengths to which the roading lobby will go, in order to manipulate decision makers, is exposed

This is the 3rd episode in a five part documentary confronting common myths about transport in Auckland. The myth that sustainable transport is “uneconomic” is debunked. The economic cost of Auckland’s car dependence is revealed; the flaws in Government analyses of transport projects are analysed; and the lengths to which the roading lobby will go, in order to manipulate decision makers, is exposed

Auckland, City of Cars – part 2

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Episode 2 looks at the claim that Auckland is “too spread out” for sustainable transportation to work. The myth that Auckland is more dispersed than comparable cities is debunked; world-renowned transport and sustainable city guru, Professor Peter Newman, explains how Perth – a less dense city than Auckland – has built a successful and popular rail system; and the extent to which Finance Minister Michael Cullen has been captured by roading lobbyists is revealed.

Episode 2 looks at the claim that Auckland is “too spread out” for sustainable transportation to work. The myth that Auckland is more dispersed than comparable cities is debunked; world-renowned transport and sustainable city guru, Professor Peter Newman, explains how Perth – a less dense city than Auckland – has built a successful and popular rail system; and the extent to which Finance Minister Michael Cullen has been captured by roading lobbyists is revealed.

Auckland, City of Cars – part 1

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Auckland’s transport problems: this episode features interviews with Professor Peter Newman, Dr. Paul Mees and Jan Gehl. It reveals that Auckland is one of the most car dependent cities in the world – the result of 50 years of prioritising motorway construction over sustainable alternatives

Auckland’s transport problems: this episode features interviews with Professor Peter Newman, Dr. Paul Mees and Jan Gehl. It reveals that Auckland is one of the most car dependent cities in the world – the result of 50 years of prioritising motorway construction over sustainable alternatives

Auckland’s motorway network gets upgraded in the 1960s

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
In the 1950s & 60s, traffic in Auckland city New Zealand became busy enough to warrant the building of a motorway. Interesting that they planned a ring motorway which never eventuated.

In the 1950s & 60s, traffic in Auckland city New Zealand became busy enough to warrant the building of a motorway. Interesting that they planned a ring motorway which never eventuated.

UK motorists allowed to drive on the motorway hard shoulder

October 16th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Motorists will benefit from faster journeys when hard shoulder running is in operation on the M42 near Birmingham with the speed limit being raised to 60mph (96.5kph) following a successful test.

The increased speed limit, which will take full effect from tomorrow (16 October), will apply to the whole Active Traffic Management stretch between junctions 3A and 7 of the M42 to the south east of Birmingham, with electronic overhead signs clearly displaying the speed limit. Drivers may see sign changes as the new limits are introduced today.

The Highways Agency undertook a test earlier in the year which found that increasing the speed from 50mph to 60mph improved journey times by up to 8% with no discernible impact on safety.

Roads Minister Andrew Adonis said:

“Hard shoulder running has proven to be a great success in cutting congestion and we have already announced our plans to look at similar schemes on other motorways across England.

“We don’t want to slow drivers down unnecessarily so, after closely monitoring the test to make sure safety was not compromised, we are from tomorrow increasing the speed limit while the hard shoulder is in use to 60mph. This will maximise the benefits of this innovative scheme and further improve journey times for motorists.”

Highways Agency Director of Traffic Operations, Derek Turner said:

The Active Traffic Management scheme, which allows road users to drive on the hard shoulder during busy periods, has shown significant benefits for motorists, the environment and the economy. Use of the hard shoulder in peak periods saw average journeys fall by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway and drivers’ ability to predict their weekday journey times improved by 27%.

Alongside these results, fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%. Importantly, road safety was not compromised, with the personal injury accident rate falling from an average 5.1 per month to 1.8 per month on this section of the M42.

Work has recently started to extend Active Traffic Management on to other motorways around Birmingham. Two new stretches of hard shoulder running will be added on the M6, with variable speed limits to be used on parts of the M42 and M40.

Sounds like common sense to us, but do you think it will come to New Zealand in the near future? No, we don’t either.