Levy is on the move

MINDSET SHIFT: Dr Lester Levy takes up his new appointment as chairman of Auckland Transport on November 1.
MINDSET SHIFT: Dr Lester Levy takes up his new appointment as chairman of Auckland Transport on November 1.

Anyone involved in Auckland's transport circles take note: expectations are about to rise.

New Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy takes up his post on Thursday and he expects everyone involved to lift their game.

That includes any company that holds a contract providing services to Auckland Transport along with the organisation's own employees.

"My message to everybody is expectations have just gone up. We need to deliver more to ratepayers and customers."

Dr Levy, who's also chairman of the Auckland and Waitemata District Health Boards, says providing better public transport options should encourage commuters to use the services.

"It's not just a matter of having to change mindsets. We need to have services that make changing mindsets attractive.

"Services have to be reliable, accurate and frequent. If services are frequent enough, people want to use them."

But he acknowledges decisions made by previous authorities have held back progress on important projects.

And it could be 2017 or 2018 before real progress is seen by the public, he says.

"Some of these things have a gestation period longer than an elephant - it's like pregnancy.

"We need to be clear about how to translate that to the public."

Innovation is likely to be a key driver to speed up the process, he says.

Moving with urgency on the upgrade of Dominion Rd in Mt Eden is one example of how Auckland Transport is already doing this, he says.

"We've got to change our ideas about how these things are done."

He points to a project completed in Malaysia, which was divided up among seven different contractors so it could be completed more quickly, as another example of innovative thinking.

And improvements at North Shore Hospital, including reducing waiting times of more than six hours by almost half in just three years, shows his track record of pushing change through.

Ideally Dr Levy would like to see many of the services Auckland Transport funds run in-house rather than contracted out.

"If I had my way, the best situation is to run these things yourself so you're in control of the culture and service."

But he knows that's not the case and will work to make customer service levels as consistent as possible across the group.

Some criticism has been levelled at his appointment, given his roles at the two health boards, as chief executive of Auckland University's leadership institute and private directorships.

But he's freed up his schedule, giving up the university chief executive role.

New executive appointments at the Auckland health board also means he has more time to commit to Auckland Transport.

Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee says Dr Levy's appointment is a step in the right direction.

"Most importantly he is focussed on performance and on service to the customer. So this is good news for long-suffering public transport users."

Manukau Courier