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Northern Gateway Toll Road operating report available

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Detailed information on the first half year of operations of the Northern Gateway Toll Road is now available in a report published earlier today on the NZ Transport Agency website.

Detailed information on the first half year of operations of the Northern Gateway Toll Road is now available in a report published earlier today on the NZ Transport Agency website.

The report provides performance results for the toll road through to 30 June 2009, representing just over five months of operations. 

NZTA Regional Director for Auckland and Northland Wayne McDonald said while there had been many challenges to overcome, overall the road’s performance had exceeded expectations.

“Demand for the road has been strong and compliance levels are high. Customers have recognised the road’s benefits and are willing to pay for safer and more reliable journeys between Auckland and Northland,” Mr McDonald said.

Key findings of the report for the period ending 30 June 2009 include:

  • Overall use of the road was eight percent higher than forecast, with more than 1.9 million trips recorded.
  • Seventy-three percent of motorists chose to use the toll road over the free alternative route on SH17 – higher than the target of 70%.
  • The overall compliance level for toll payments was over 94%, in line with projections.
  • As at 30 June over 33,000 customers had opened pre-paid accounts – three times as many as anticipated. By 30 June half of all trips on the toll road were being taken by pre-paid account holders, twice the proportion expected.
  • The toll system achieved a successful automatic number plate recognition rate of over 99%.
  • All of the NZTA’s debt repayment obligations are being met. 

Mr McDonald said the high usage of the road in the first five months of operation was especially notable given that early use of new  toll roads overseas has often been lower than forecast.

“The strong demand for the road and the high level of compliance are a testament to the benefits it offers to motorists. Having achieved our initial goal of getting motorists to use the toll road, we’re now concentrating on refining and improving the toll collection system. We’ve learned from the challenges we faced early on and we’re responding to customer needs.”

Mr McDonald said improvements would include upgrading the road’s self-service kiosks to make them easier and faster to use, improvements to the toll road website to make online payments easier, and continued promotion of the benefits of pre-paid accounts.

Download a copy of the Northern Gateway Toll Road Operating Report for the period to 30 June 2009.(external link)

For more information please contact:

Ewart Barnsley
Auckland Media Manager
New Zealand Transport Agency
T (09) 368 2142
M 027 213 7616
ewart.barnsley@nzta.govt.nz


Q&As for the report

What is this report about?

This report provides performance results for operations on the Northern Gateway Toll Road for the period through to 30 June 2009, representing just over five months of operations.

What are the key findings from the first five months of the toll road’s operation?

Findings from the first five months of operations on the Northern Gateway Toll Road have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated that customers are willing to pay to use the new road. The strong demand for the road and high levels of compliance show that electronic toll collection can play an important role in getting important roads built earlier.

Key findings:

  • Over 2.7 million vehicles journeys have benefited from the road’s early construction, including 700,000 that have used the now less congested SH17 Hibiscus Coast route. Uptake has been immediate and consistent for both cars and commercial vehicles.
  • Compliance levels are over 94%, even before the introduction of our full suite of debt recovery and enforcement processes for unpaid tolls.
  • All of our debt repayment obligations have been met to date. We are well positioned to achieve our targets and repay the construction debt within the anticipated 35-year period.
  • Three times as many pre-paid accounts as anticipated have been opened. Almost half of all trips on the toll road are now taken by pre-paid account holders, twice the proportion expected.
  • The number of web-based toll payments is exceeding initial predictions.
  • The toll system is achieving over 99% automatic number plate recognition of at least one plate per vehicle.

What are the current toll tariffs?

The toll tariffs were set at $2.00 for light vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes), $4.00 for heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes) and $0 for motorcycles. There is no additional cost for towing a trailer or caravan. The zero toll for motorcycles is subject to review, which we are aiming to complete by the end of 2009.

What was the toll revenue in the first five months of the toll road’s operation?

The toll revenue is the portion of all the tolls paid that is designated for repayment of the construction debt, which allowed the road to be built early. The total toll revenue paid for the period to 30 June 2009 was $2.3 million. This was 15% ahead of our year to date budget.

What have you done to improve the tolling service for the customers since the opening?

In early stage of the toll road’s operations we placed ambassadors at the self-service kiosks to help with payments and to inform customers of other payment options. We also initially waived the administration charge for payments received after the three-day grace period and had a phased introduction of infringement fines and debt recovery processes for unpaid tolls.

In addition, we have reduced the minimum balance required to set up an account to encourage more motorists to use the online and free phone payment options. Customers now only have to make an initial payment of $20 to open an account (previously $44). Also the threshold when accounts will be automatically topped up has dropped to $10 (previously a minimum of $24); and the minimum amount by which accounts can be topped up is now $10.

What are your plans for further improving customer services?

Our first priority is to upgrade the self-service kiosks so that they are easier and faster to use. We will also continue to encourage customers to open pre-paid accounts or take advantage of our online and free phone payment facilities. Moving customers to these channels will maximise the overall benefits offered to all customers, while enabling us to deliver a high level of service while keeping costs down. As part of this we will be improving our website to make online payments easier for our customers.

What’s the average transaction cost for toll payments?

In the first five months of the toll road’s operation, the average transaction cost per toll payment was $1.06 which is in line with expectations set out in the business case submitted to the Minister of Transport in 2007.

How are you planning to reduce the average transaction costs further?

To ensure we continue to meet our debt repayment obligations, we need to reduce the transaction cost to $0.65 by the end of the toll road’s fifth year of operations (January 2014). Given that the contact centre is our most expensive customer service channel we will give priority to reducing costs in this area. This initiative will be managed carefully to ensure customers maintain the ability to pay tolls on time.

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