Free ferries to take pedestrians across the basin

Free ferries will take pedestrians across the Auckland Viaduct basin while its bridge remains inoperable.

The 100-meter-long Wynyard Crossing pedestrian bridge, which opens and closes to allow boats and pedestrians to pass, has been stuck in the elevated position and closed to the public since March.

It is unclear when it will reopen.

Eke Panuku, the Auckland Council agency responsible for repairing the bridge, has said it could be out of service for months.

The region’s deputy mayor, Desley Simpson, has said it is a reputational problem to have such visible failing infrastructure, and businesses have reported such a drop in turnover that they do not have the funds to pay staff.

Under normal conditions, it takes approximately nine minutes to walk from North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter to the Viaduct, or 12 minutes to travel to the city’s Ferry Building.

The trip extends to 14 minutes to the Viaduct and 17 to the Ferry Building if the bridge is opened to allow boats to pass.

While the bridge is out of service, the trip takes about 18 minutes walking from North Wharf to the Viaduct or 23 minutes to the Ferry Building.

Bus service is available while the bridge is out and both take over 15 minutes to reach either location.

A report published by Eke Panuku on Thursday details a number of alternatives to allow pedestrians to and from Wynyard Quarter while the bridge remains out of service.

The option chosen to advance was to use the Red Boats, small ferries with capacity for 60 people.

Auckland Transport will offer free Red Boat ferries for pedestrians while the Wynyard Crossing Bridge is inoperable.

They will take passengers between Te Wero Island and Karanga Plaza, on the outer side of the marina, free of charge.

The trial will begin on May 11.

The report said a single ship could depart every 30 minutes, and an additional ship could make departures at half that time.

However, it was estimated that this option would only transport about 1,200 passengers per day with a single ship.

“Capacity could be doubled with a second ferry, however it should be noted that this is only a fraction of normal users of the Wynyard Crossing Bridge,” the report says.

Statistics collected in 2022 showed that an average of 6,574 pedestrians used the bridge on a typical weekday, while 9,094 used it on the weekend.

The bridge was raised about 25 times a day, taking about five minutes each time.

Other options considered included an additional stop on one of Auckland Transport’s ferry services or a small temporary ferry service within the viaduct.

A meeting was held with Auckland Transport to determine how viable it would be to use the existing ferry network to solve the problem, creating an additional stop at the outer port of the Viaduct.

It was concluded that expanding the network in this way was not a viable option as it required additional infrastructure and time to implement and would create major disruption for Aucklanders.

Eke Panuku also presented two temporary bridge designs as part of the report, although they were considered unviable due to safety concerns and the time it would take to implement them, around six or seven months.

One configuration for the temporary concrete pontoon bridge suggested a pivoting bridge that would open horizontally, allowing ships to pass, while the other was a sliding bridge that would be pushed back to let ships pass.

The report said only conceptual grade designs had been completed for the temporary bridges, and their installation would require detailed risk assessments and resource consents.

Eke Panuku asset and delivery managing director Marian Webb said the trial allowed the agency to test whether or not a small temporary ferry service was a useful addition to get people in and out of Wynyard Quarter.

“During (the trial) we will look at ease of use, public acceptance, the logistics of moving people through Viaduct Harbor in this way and the associated costs,” he said.

“Because this service has a limited number of people it can transport at a time, we will continue to promote other alternatives such as the excellent City Link Bus service, as well as of course walking, cycling, scooting and, if traveling by car , there are useful parking options in the Jellicoe Street car park.”

Webb said Eke Panuku was open to other viable transport solutions and would continue to support businesses in Wynyard Quarter through social media, regular updates and working with affected businesses to promote the district.

Existing pedestrian routes around the Viaduct basin remained open.