Manawatū-Whanganui transport plan brings greater focus to rail, buses and bikes

Posted 28 June 2021 by Moana Ellis

Horizons Regional Council has signed off a 10-year transport investment plan that prioritises fixing roading problems in and around Palmerston North and speeding up inter-regional road travel.

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The plan wants to prioritise green transport methods like rail, buses and cycling. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell said the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) also encourages a move to emissions-reducing alternatives including rail, buses and cycling.

“There’s quite a shift in the RLTP that is moving away from being just a focus on roads and cars and trucks to a transport system that encourages a mode shift. That means moving into passenger transport and active modes of transport and considering those as being just as important as the private car.”

Keedwell said the new plan, which sets out the future of road, rail and cycling in the Manawatū-Whanganui region to 2031, is one of the council’s most important planning documents.

It ranks the region’s transport priorities and is used by Waka Kotahi / NZ Transport Agency in decisions about what projects it will fund in the region.

The plan is prepared every six years by the Regional Transport Committee, which includes the mayors of Whanganui, Manawatū, Palmerston North, Rangitīkei, Horowhenua, Tararua and Ruapehu, as well as Waka Kotahi, police, KiwiRail, road user associations and active transport groups.

It aligns with the Government Policy Statement on land transport and would be important for the region’s seven territorial authorities seeking to frame up future projects, Keedwell said.

“It sets the overarching framework for transport projects across the region. That will then filter down to what projects get put forward, so if a council wants to put forward a project for funding from the government through the National Land Transport Fund, it must align with the priorities and strategic objectives put forward in the RLTP.”

Other major projects prioritised in the new plan include the Manawatū Gorge alternative (the new Te Ahu a Tūranga Manawatū-Tararua highway), the upgrading of the Ōtaki to north of Levin expressway section of the Wellington Northern Corridor, more modern and frequent passenger rail services between Palmerston North and Wellington, and the plan also includes cycleways.

Horizons will begin working on its regional passenger transport plan soon.

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