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AT chief executive welcomes 10 years of transformation

By Shane Ellison, Chief Executive of Auckland Transport

Published: 9 November 2020

The region that we choose live, work and play in came about following the largest reorganisation of any industry or sector in Australasian business history at the time.

It also created a number of Council Controlled Organisations, including Auckland Transport (AT), which work to very clear mandates given to them by the Auckland Council.

I joined AT almost three years ago, so I still consider myself something of a ‘newbie’.

But having returned to Tamaki Makaurau after 15 years overseas the region I saw was unrecognisable to the one I had left.

In the past ten years it has transformed dramatically – and for the better. COVID-19 aside we have to be incredibly thankful to live in the economic hub of Aotearoa with its wonderful diversity of people and stunning mix of water, landscapes, and blue sky.

From a transport perspective, there have also been many great strides made. It’s an exhaustive list of achievements, and to try and cover them all runs the very real risk of leaving something significant out.

But here are just a few highlights:

Skipping back to 2010 (when AT was formed) the Waterview connection (tunnel) was still being designed and the hugely successful AT HOP card for public transport was still but an idea. The HOP card now has over 800,000 registered users every year.

In 2010, the then Mayor challenged AT to double public transport patronage within 10 years. While COVID-19 has meant we haven’t reached that target we’ve given that lofty aspiration a mighty good shake.

The City Rail Link, New Zealand’s biggest ever infrastructure project, was conceived and work started under AT, before it was handed over to the City Rail Link Ltd company to deliver.

Back then less than 5 per cent of people used public transport to get to major events, such as rugby test matches or Christmas in the Park. Now that number is regularly over 50 per cent - it’s become part of what Aucklanders do now.

The Auckland train network is almost completely electrified with new electric trains replacing the second-hand diesel units from Perth and rebuilt locomotive hauled British Rail carriages. It’s a renaissance and with the electrification of the line between Pukekohe and Papakura and more electric trains being brought into service every month more Aucklanders will enjoy these high-quality services.

In the technology space we’ve seen the new AT Mobile app developed inhouse, at minimal cost, with more than 240,000 active users help enable ‘easy journeys’ and contribute to living our value of ‘tiakitanga – safe with us’ as part of our COVID-19 response.

As I said it’s impossible to cover everything, but if you travelled back in time to 2010 you would look around and see a less integrated, customer friendly and safe transport network. All the other things we do such as social procurement and Maori outcomes have now become part of our DNA and are part of the fabric of Tamaki Makaurau.

So now is a time for brief reflection and an opportunity to acknowledge the key roles that Auckland Council, iwi/mana whenua, and key partners such as Waka Kotahi, and business and residents’ groups have played in that success.
Looking forward there is clearly a need for sustained investment in looking after our current assets and continuing to pursue excellence in customer experience and of course more and more infrastructure – and for it to be built as quickly as possible.

Despite COVID-19 and Auckland Council’s need to tackle the economic recovery we’ll be continuing to advocate for funding for projects – large and small. We play an important part in providing jobs through our supply chains and lifting productivity.

Last year Auckland Transport and our road safety partners also committed to Vision Zero - a strategy to dramatically reduce the appalling numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. We’ve made some great first steps, and this will continue to be a major focus going forward.

Climate change is also a critical issue to be tackled – both now and for future generations. In Auckland, more than 40 per cent of all carbon emissions are from the transport network. Collectively we all need to do much more to reduce those impacts on the environment and our health.

In the lead up to this tenth anniversary, I was asked to take part in a brief staff video about some of the highlights of the past 10 years.

Notwithstanding the sorts of things that I’ve mentioned here, and the highlights called out in the video the thing I am proudest of is our people at AT and the achievements we’ve made with partners at our side

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