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Next steps for Southern Link

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The NZ Transport Agency says 2016 will usher in an opportunity for the public to get involved in a major transport study to keep Nelson moving.

Transport Agency regional director Raewyn Bleakley says work will continue next year on the programme business case for the Southern Link investigation. This will present the public with the chance to have their say on how to improve Nelson’s transport network.

The investigation was launched earlier this year after being brought forward by the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Package.

“It’s early days, but we’ve made encouraging progress in identifying problems that Nelson’s transport network faces. The next step is to talk to the community and move towards more tangible options and ideas to solve these issues.

“While a new route for the state highway, broadly along the previous Southern Link alignment, will be investigated as a potential option, it will not be the only potential solution we look at. We will be looking at combinations of options, some incorporating the results of the Rocks Rd walking and cycling investigation.  To make sure this is a robust process, we’re keeping an open mind and assessing all viable options for optimising Nelson’s transport network.

The Strategic Business Case was released earlier this month and provided a high-level analysis that identified two key problems for Nelson’s arterial routes – congestion and accessibility. Congestion is a problem in peak hours on Nelson’s two arterial routes and results in travel delays. Accessibility is an issue for walking and cycling in Nelson as the current infrastructure on SH6 Rocks Road is constraining walking and cycling opportunities.

The report identified that the potential benefits of improving Nelson’s transport network include:

  • Reduced journey times
  • Contribute to Nelson and regional economic growth and productivity
  • Improved community safety and wellbeing; and
  • Improved tourism and recreation activities.

Ms Bleakley says the Transport Agency has undertaken additional workshops to help identify the problems, and in the coming months, the public will be able to have its say.

“Local insights will inform the development of any eventual solution or solutions identified in the recommended programme.  We’re eager to open the floor to the public early next year and hear what they have to say.  This will be a robust exercise that will look at any feasible options and ideas to include in our recommended programme to address the problems. Consultation will not simply be about whether or not people support the Southern Link - it will be an opportunity to discuss a broad range of ideas that will help determine the recommended programme that could be progressed to the next business case stage if approved.”

Ms Bleakley is encouraging people to familiarise themselves with the Strategic Business Case to help inform their feedback next year.

The Programme Business Case is expected to be finished later next year following public engagement on various programme options.  It will provide a clear picture of the option or options available to address the problems and improve the transport network. Before any options identified in the recommended programme can be progressed to construction there are further important phases of the business case approach to complete; the Indicative Business Case, which is designed to sharpen and narrow down the  option or options, and the Detailed Business Case, which will identify a preferred option and develop it in more detail.

Each phase of the investigation is subject to funding approvals, which determine if it will proceed to the next stage.  It also provides a reasonable level of certainty that it will meet any relevant consenting requirements. 

Ms Bleakley says the public will be involved throughout the process, and the Transport Agency is hopeful that it will lead to an outcome that will be feasible and attract broad support from the Nelson community.

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