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Northern Corridor project works to minimise COVID-19 impacts

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Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says that, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northern Corridor Improvements (NCI) project is on schedule to be completed in 2022, with just a four-month delay thanks to the great commitment of the NCI alliance team.

The expected completion date is now September 2022, says Waka Kotahi Senior Manager Project Delivery, Andrew Thackwray. 

“Waka Kotahi thanks its NCI alliance of Fulton Hogan, HEB, WSP and Jacobs. We have a good professional relationship and have worked together to reduce any delays to the project and we are still looking at how we can consolidate our work programme even further.” 

The NCI project is improving motorway connections between SH1 and SH18 to open up the Western Ring Route, extending the Northern Busway to Albany and building walking and cycling paths to improve community connections and transport options. 

The project was shut down for five weeks during COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and at the time the earthmoving season was in full swing. Not being able to finish this work has caused delays by pushing the work into the less productive winter period and some into the following summer construction period. In addition, the resumption of work under Alert Level 3 conditions with strict health and safety protocols also affected the work programme. 

“Waka Kotahi was very impressed that the alliance work force was ready to go again as soon as we got clearance to move to Alert Level 3. Within a week, there were more than 350 workers back on site, working in bubbles ranging from two to eight people, so with careful planning and commitment little time and productivity was lost.” 

“We have now agreed a new work programme to make up for lost time and get the project finished as quickly as possible. This is a typical part of the alliance model where flexibility and innovation drive better outcomes in delivering big projects,” says Andrew Thackwray. 

A great example of this was the decision to plan for and accelerate work under Alert Level 3 to complete the new McClymonts Road bridge over State Highway 1. This work had originally been scheduled for the Easter and school holiday break, but the Alert Level 4 lockdown intervened.   

“Under Alert Level 3, a fast resumption of work meant we were able to take advantage of the relative quiet on the streets and press ahead with the bridge work with little disruption to traffic and the nearby Albany bus station. Access to the bridge was closed off as a new road surface was laid and the finishing touches added to the roundabouts at each end.” 

The new, wider and longer bridge opened to traffic in late May and demolition of the bridge it replaced is now underway. 

Andrew Thackwray says completion of this critical work helped make up for time lost during lockdown and also means the project avoided further delays of up to a year if the work had to be rescheduled. 

“It was a very good outcome. It shows the professionalism of our alliance and the commitment to completing the project to the highest standard.” 

For more on the Northern Corridor Improvements project, go to https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/the-western-ring-route/auckland-northern-corridor/(external link)

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