Today marks a milestone in the history of New Zealand transport.
After twenty years of planning, and $300 million in the making, the North Shore Busway system is now up and running.
This morning thousands of Aucklanders attended the opening of the country's first two-way bus road by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Transit New Zealand acting chairman Bryan Jackson.
"This is a magnificent project, public transport on the North Shore is about to be transformed," said Mr Jackson.
Miss Clark and Mr Jackson joined members of the public on a walk from Smales Farm station to Akoranga, which was followed by speeches and live entertainment from the North Shore Concert Band and White Birds and Lemons.
The route, which runs parallel to State Highway One from Constellation Drive to the Harbour Bridge, will mean faster travel for commuters and less congestion.
There are five new stations along the 6.24 km road, and for the first time passengers will be able to buy one ticket which they can use to transfer buses as needed.
The modern busway includes lifts, electronic signs providing minute by minute updates, audio assistance posts and 24-hour video monitoring.
Architects, landscapers and engineers worked together to create the linking footpaths, bridges and gardens.
At the peak of construction there were over 300 workers on site.
The plan was first conceived in the 1980s and an agreement signed in 2001.
Endorsed by former North Shore mayor George Wood during his leadership, it was designed, built and managed by Transit New Zealand.
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee paid tribute to Mr Wood at the opening, saying he was a "passionate champion of this project".
The busway's completion is due to the collaboration of North Shore City Council, Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Auckland Regional and Auckland City Councils.
Mr Lee said that the word 'partnership' is somewhat of a cliche, "but the agencies involved are genuine partners, so they can all take a bow".
North Shore mayor Andrew Williams said the co-operation between parties has been nothing less than extraordinary.
"We are pioneering a new whole new generation of buses and have begun a new era in transport."
Mr Williams said to be able to go from Albany to the City in 15 minutes and carry huge volumes of commuters is a breakthrough.
'It's a shot in the arm for public transport."
New Zealand follows in the footsteps of Brisbane, Adelaide, Toronto and Chicago, which all have effective busways.
With Auckland's burgeoning population, central Government has recognised the need for improvements to Auckland's public transport system and funded $210 million towards the busway.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said MPs are working to make public transport the preferred choice.
"Solving Auckland's traffic issues is solely dependent on people using public transport."
1999 The ARC recognises the need for a busway on the North Shore.
2000 The design is conceived
2003 Construction begins
2004 Work starts on stations in Constellation Drive and Albany
December 2004 ARTA become a partner
December 2007 - Construction finished and trial run begins
- © Fairfax NZ News
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