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On The Highway To Hell

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Contributor:
Dyani Ellwood
Dyani Ellwood
highway.jpg

The Northern Gateway Toll Road - the extension of the Northern motorway between Albany and Puhoi - is complete, or should I say completely disappointing and if I may go so far as to say, pitiful.

When the 'new tunnel' was opened earlier this year, the congestion in the first few days of its big launch came as no surprise - it's to be expected, its a new novelty, it'll soon calm down. Three months down the track and at least four trips north of Auckland later, and I am still waiting to actually test the new tunnel myself.

Why? It's not congesting traffic thats holding me back, rather the pathetic and useless payment options to actually drive through the damn thing! You can almost gurantee to see the 'Cash Payment Option, Very Busy' signs flashing as you venture closer to the new gateway - and sure enough, without fail, you then witness at least 15 cars lining up to access the 'cash payment' booth on the side of the road 500m before the gateway begins.

With the cash option idea completely blown out the window it's time to think fast! You find yourslef frantically grappling for your phone to ring the bloody 0800 number listed on the road signs, so you can organise a bank payment, so you can pass through the tunnel.

Meanwhile the car isn't slowing down - for obvious reasons you can't drop from 100km to 50km on a main highway, with cars up your rear, just so you can find your cellphone. Eventually found, you dial the number with one hand, whilst steering with the other, and anxiously peering ahead to see how far away the tunnel is.

Oh but the fun doesn't end there! You find yourself having a dead-end conversation with a saturday-morning toll fare operator, who tells you your bank isn't set-up to take direct debits for this particular toll payment. She then offers you a credit card option,'Bugger that!', 'Like I'm going to give some droll sounding young thing my credit card details for one manky payment of $2.00.' (I probably wouldn't be able to find the stupid credit card at this rate either - it was hard enough fingering for the phone in my oversized bag).

That's where the enthusiasm ends for the 'great tunnel' I'm afraid. Between the backed-up cash payment booths, the slow-sounding phone operator, the non-accessible bank payment option, and the ridiculous credit payment idea - not to mention the fact that I had to DRIVE and use my CELLPHONE at the same time (very dangerous of the government to put me in that position), I'm going to say that the entire process of getting onto the actual new extension a huge mission from start to finish (not that I even made it to the starting line).

Not worth it! Infact, if you were to way up how much time you'd actually take off your trip by going via the new tunnel as opposed to driving through the safe and trusty town of Orewa (I think its approximately 10 minutes), I think it'll cost you more in mental stress.

Why not save yourself the hassle, maybe even your life (if you aren't good at juggling cellphones and steering wheels), next time you're planning to take a trip north of Auckland, take the longer way - through Orewa, you may even want to put that $2.00 you'd have forfeited for the 'tunnel' towards a relaxing cup of coffee on one of the beachfront cafes. Chin, chin!

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