As rumoured last week, the government has indeed been exploring options to cut back Auckland’s electrification project – so that it can keep within the very tight budget set for the project. Full details of the proposed changes are included in a report here.

The report begins by saying the following:

Since the development of the Auckland Rail Development Plan, and subsequent investment decisions taken by the Crown and the region, a number of factors have contributed to the situation where available funding is insufficient to complete the project to a level expected by key stakeholders.

Factors include higher than forecast patronage forecasts, new service patterns, revised budgets, and more information about the adequacy of current network improvements.

The Working Group explored a number of options to deliver the electrification of Auckland‟s rail network within a fiscal envelope of $1.6 billion. This assumes existing funding of $1.1 billion to support network improvements remains extant and funding of $500 million for the purchase of electric rolling stock is available.

The Working Group has identified a plausible option if (i) stakeholders are willing to accept a higher degree of operational risk pre-2018, and (ii) a second tranche of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) is procured post 2018 to replace aging diesel rolling stock, and ideally, to provide operational flexibility and address seating/standing ratios. The Working Group believes, subject to confirmation by operational modelling, this can be delivered within the $500 million funding envelope, and will provide sufficient capacity to meet the Auckland Regional Transport Authority‟s (ARTA‟s) revised future patronage growth forecasts at 10-minute peak frequencies to at least 2018 if not beyond. The cost of the option is $493 million including acceptable contingencies.

So what are the details of these “cutbacks”? Well apparently a number of options have been looked at, but only one could fit within the $500 million strict budget, and at the same time deliver on the key requirements (10 minute frequencies at peak time, and electrification of the core network plus the Manukau Branch). This option is detailed below:

The procurement of a minimum of 75 twenty-four metre EMUs in the first tranche

The operation of 14 electric locomotives (plus required spares) to haul existing SA/SD carriage sets, most likely by upgrading KiwiRail‟s existing fleet of 19 EF locomotives.

Upgrading the Onehunga line and operate a diesel shuttle from Onehunga to either Newmarket Station, or to the junction on the main trunk line near Penrose (as opposed to an electric through service to Britomart Station).

Refurbishment of the existing Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) beyond their current “end-of-life” (2013/14) to enable them to run shuttle services from the non-electrified sections into the electrified sections of the Southern, Western and Onehunga lines until 2018.

A second tranche will be required to be in service after 2018 to replace expired DMUs on the shuttle services.

This compares with the original ARTA EOI requirement for 140 twenty-metre EMUs. The Working Group was able to consider a smaller number of EMUs by increasing the length of the carriages to 24-metres2, accepting a higher number of passengers will stand, and operating the existing DMUs for longer than planned. ARTA‟s original proposal would have provided sufficient rolling stock to meet demand and cover shuttle services until at least 2023.

Hmmmmm…… is it quite a cutback isn’t it? And in the same week we see the government stumping up $100 million to investigate a road that will never stack up.

A comparison of ARTA’s original plan, and what seems likely now, is detailed in the table below:comparison

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  1. If that is the plan for Onehunga as soon as they announce it we need to go crazy to get Ontrack and ARTA to mothball the Onehunga branch plans till 2018 (or the next Labour/Greens governemnt)…

    A diesel shuttle to Penrose or diesel service through to Newmarket..? What a disaster…

  2. I don’t see why you couldn’t thread a diesel service to Britomart through things. I mean why would an EMU be able to go all the way to Britomart, but not an ADL?

  3. A shuttle to Newmarket wouldn’t be so bad, certainly better than mothballing the line. What is astonishingly short-sighted is that they have the money but are so opposed to PT and rail in general that they refuse to spend anything more than the absolute bare minimum to avoid breaking what was actually a pretty major election commitment i.e. not to cancel Labour’s electrification plan. Seems like the decision is made, lets just be happy we’re getting electrification at all, it’s the last major project we’ll be seeing for a decade or two.

    On a side, all of this could have been avoided if the tiny 5c a litre fuel tax had remained in place, Joyce’s actions have really snowballed into major long-term setbacks for PT infrastructure.

  4. Looks like for the sake of shaving less than 10% of the cost they will load the network up with problems and complications for decades to come. Such short-sighted thinking, its unbelievable.
    Also will certainly result in the end of electric trains between P Nth and Hamilton, another terribly short sighted decision. Hope the wires arent removed too, so services can be reinstated as soon as possible.

  5. Oh dear no NO NO NO NO. In the words of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Holy jesus. What is that. What THE FUCK IS THAT.

    Jarbury it is very important you also blog on the fact this shuts down the 400km eletrification from Palmerston North to Hamilton. THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN. That effectively kills off any chance of ever having a 100% electrified NIMT. Your blog probably has more impact than you think it might.

  6. Onehunga is understandable, but a diesel shuttle to Newmarket can work.
    Shutting down the NIMT electrification is unfortunate, but if the new locomotives are cheaper to operate than the EF/diesel mix of operations then so be it. In short, there needs to be an investigation into the long term viability of the NIMT electrification. If it was extended to Auckland would it be worth retaining? (big problems extending to Paraparaumu due to voltage differences).

    NIMT electrification was a huge mistake, as the then Coopers & Lybrand demonstrated in the late 1980s with its report on it. The whole project was written off as a deadweight loss. Perhaps an OIA request on the business case justification for NIMT electrification options, which must surely be between status quo, expansion or abandonment.

  7. I don’t think a diesel shuttle to Newmarket will work. The Onehunga line will be a failure unless it goes to Britomart. People hate changing trains.

    Yeah I will do a future post on the effects of this option on the NIMT. While electrification didn’t provide the benefits it was expected to, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should abandon it. Who knows what diesel prices might be in a few years time.

  8. With an anti rail National government in power much will depend on the new super mayor. Len Brown has thrown his hat into the ring and a recent poll has put him neck in neck with anti public transport Banks. What we don’t need is to have the vote split by Mike Lee or anyone else, though I hope Mike Lee will occupy an important post in any new council or whatever the ACT/National tossers are calling the new setup.

  9. Haha, anti-public-transport Banks? Thats a new one, he’s been very pro public transport from my recolition of him, however he does understand the need of a balanced transport system meeting both the requirements for personal and public transport. I have to say the fault is not with the local government but rather with the national government (both the labour and now national party in power.)

    1. Wasn’t it Banksie who, during his first stint as mayor, relentlessly championed the eastern motorway? And didn’t he harp on continually about the need for Auckland to have a world class motorway system? (whatever that is). Can’t recall this fella talking much about rail transport back then though he has pushed for a PPP operation more recently. John’s not overly stupid. His eastern motorway plans cost him the mayoralty two elections ago and he knows not to make the same mistake twice.
      Labour to blame? Wasn’t it Labour that got this whole thing rolling? Sure I wish it had been started much earlier but the fact is that it is National that appears to be getting ready to throw a spanner in the works.

  10. Wow. Half the passengers will be standing, there will be less trains (so more chance that the next one coming is packed to the rafters), and even then they’ll be at peak capacity in about 8-9 years.

    This is madness! (This is madness? This is AUCKLAND!)

  11. Half the number of electric units, half the number of seats, more of the elderly and already creaky SA/SD carriages… I despair.

  12. To libertyscott; the operating costs of electric locomotives are lower than diesel. I think it would be foolish to shut down an existing electrification in most cases. I think that only if freight levels kept dropping would it be appropriate to use diesel but I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume that there will be low levels of freight on the NIMT in future. If we lose the electrification now then it’s pretty much gone. I doubt that we will see any expansion of electrification in NZ for a long time (unless oil is suddenly $300).

    Different voltages isn’t as much of a problem as you think. Japan has extensive networks of both 25kvac and 1500vdc and uses dual voltage locomotives. Dual voltage, even quad voltage (1500vdc 3000vdc, 15kvac and 25kvac) is used in places around the world without a problem.

  13. It seems like the extra cost is due to further “infrastructure works” being required than were previously anticipated. Now if we had to choose between more rolling stock and more infrastructure works, I think I would go with more infrastructure – as you can always buy more trains later.

    However, you could have both for the mere cost of around $140 million extra. Or, put another way, for about 7% of the cost of Steven Joyce’s dream highway from Puhoi to Wellsford.

  14. The new plan isn’t the end of the world, and contains some improvements over the original plan, like 17 instead of 11 electric locomotives. While we will only get 75 EMUs instead of 140, and Onehunga will remain non-electric, it is unlikely that it will stay this way forever, and we only have to wait until the Supercity stumps up with more money or a Labour government does to see the whole network electric. In other words I see this as stage one of electrification, with more to come in future.

    Given the spectacular growth of PT user numbers over the last few years, and the prospect of more increases once the world economy recovers pushing petrol prices up (it was rapid economic growth, not “peak oil” that caused teh first massive price increase) it is very unlikely to stay this way forever. The Onehunga line not going to Britomart is however a real disapointment, as it could cause the lines failure and thus closure.

    Regarding extra funding, I consider it fair that Aucklanders pay some money towards their own electrification out of rates and fare increases. Yes, Wellingtons electrification 50 years ago was funded by the government (as is Aucklands) but our new electric trains coming in 2010, and the extension of electrification to Waikanae wqas funded largely through rates and fare increases. Its only fair that Aucklanders do likewise if you want your Onehunga electrification, and more electric trains.

    I haven’t heared the NIMT electrification closure, but I haven’t read the report yet. I really don’t see why Auckland getting electric trains has to see the de-electrification of the NIMT.

  15. Nicholas, my understanding is that the new Matangi trains are being fully funded by the government. What you say about this being electrification – part one is quite true. I am hopeful that somehow we can scratch together the necessary funds to do it properly first time though.

  16. Nicholas the reason why it would close the NIMT electrification is that this new proposal takes 17 EF electric locmotives. There are only 17 that work. How on earth can the NIMT function without having locomotives? Even if they fixed all of them there would only be 21 total.

  17. “Nicholas, my understanding is that the new Matangi trains are being fully funded by the government”
    I did some research into this, and you are right. 90% of the cost comes from central government, with 10% coming from the regional council. Also the Waikanae electrification extension and extra double tracking near paraparaumu is funded entirely by central government. However, the 90% includes only the orinal order of 70 train cars. The Wellington regional council decided to add an extra 26 train cars to the order, but I’m not sure at who’s cost (I do definately remeber they hiked the train fares partly to pay for the new trains). We also got some new trains for the Wairarapa line some years ago (2007?) and I’m not sure who paid what for these.

    I can’t find any reference in the report to the de-electrification of the NIMT, or any article in NZ Herald, or Green Party press release on this issue, so thats good news for hope. Page 2 of annex A states “the working group has assumed that following electricfication of the network … in use on freight services in the South Island”, not “replace electric trains between hamilton and Palmerston North”. I could find no reference to the de-electrification in the report. Abouth the 17 electric locomotives and only 17 on the NMIT, I asume these are 17 NEW locomotives, and the number is just a coincidence. I certainly hope this is the case. Even if you are right, maybe diesal locomotives can pull electric cars?

    Interestingly page 7 of the report mentions a new Drury Station and a new Strand Station (in additional to the Parnell one) so we may get an unexpected 2 extra stations. Better theres a chance the electrification might go the Drury station instead of just Papakura. Also the report on page 8 talks about changes to Puhinui station, alloing the whole Mankau branch to be effectively double tracked. On the other hand the proposed Te Parapa station on the Onehunga line goes unmentioned, raising questions about it.

    Page 13 states “electrification on the Onehunga line is deffered until 2019” so it might get electrified after all. We just have to hope it can get its trains into Britomart. This page also refers to Pukekohe-Puhinui and Huapai-Henderson shuttle services, indicating either an improvement, or that the trains will only go from Huapai and not Henderson, and from these places only to Puhinui and Henderson and not Britomart.

  18. Page 16 of the document says this:

    The options recommended rely on the use of electric locomotives to pull SA carriages, given the purchase of fewer EMUs than originally planned. This will require a commitment by KiwiRail to make the number required available (up to 17 of the existing 20-locomotives). It is not yet known if this will impact adversely on the fleet availability on the North Island Main Trunk line (NIMT) for KiwiRail freight operations. “Dieselisation” of the NIMT would allow KiwiRail to improve the utilisation of its fleets. Preliminary planning suggests that only seven additional diesel locomotives would be required. As 26 diesel locomotives will be used in ARTA service at the peak this would create a net surplus of 19 diesel locomotives for growth elsewhere on the network.

    Regarding Onehunga, I’d rather that it wasn’t electrified but went all the way to Britomart. Electrification can come later on that line – and terminating it at Newmarket would be a disaster.

  19. OK, I missed that bit. Its a little hard to interpret. Its saying (my understanding) that they are relying on Kiwirail to provide the 17 locomotives and that there are currently 20 on the NMIT, so this may have to be reduced to 3, and this puts the viability of the NMIT electrification in question. Is this right?

  20. Yeah that seems right Nicholas. I’m rather confused by that aspect of it too. I assume that the NIMT is the only other part of the rail system (other than Wellington’s commuter system) that’s electrified.

  21. Also the problem with getting auckland to raise rates are that they are already to high, the highest in the country. And with regarding train fares, one of the attractiveness of the train is the lower fares. Even with it been lower its still cheaper to drive (assuming u already own a car and need no further investment just fuel). We need to attract new users not drive them away! Can’t wait for the onehunga line to open so I can train to work as buses cost over double the price to drive not to mention i arrive half an hour late because of the timetable so it’s not viable until this happens. However if they don’t get the timetable right the same could go.

  22. Nicholas as I said in my previous post, only 17 of them actually work. The other 4 lack various important pieces. They are used as a source of spare parts for the others. In the original ARTA plan only 11 would be used, leaving at least 6 and if all were fixed there would be 10 for the NIMT. If this half ass plan goes ahead at MOST there would be 4 electric locomotives left on the NIMT. I’m not sure if thats enough to keep it going, as it says in the document.

  23. Jarbury: The Coopers & Lybrand study said that even if NIMT electrification offered free electricity to the locomotives, it was still a net loss of $100 million. Of course that capital has been written off, so it is no longer the case. You’re right, who knows how diesel prices will be, but the NIMT locomotives are at a halflife now.
    George: Half the passengers will be standing? Outrageous, that never happens in public transport systems at peak times …. oh yes, it does. What do you expect? It is the norm for buses, but nobody gets too enthused about eliminating that issue. Moreover it is very much the norm in all major cities with rail systems.
    5689: The thing is freight volumes on the NIMT haven’t dropped much, but new generation diesels are far higher powered than diesels in the 1970s. Multi-voltage is fine of course, except such locomotives are not cheap at all. I doubt it is worthwhile given NZ volumes of traffic.
    Joshua: You can’t wait for trains that other people pay for, to make your commute cheaper because you object to paying bus fares that pay for the cost of your commute. Why are you special compared to other Aucklanders? Why is your commute by rail a social good rather than almost exclusively a private good?

    Congestion charging would seriously improve the viability of Auckland rail and address congestion – a win win, but thinking sadly remains stuck in the 1970s.

  24. The EF’s are the most powerful locomotive in NZ, even more powerful than the new DL diesels. The EF’s are 3000kw, the new diesels are 2700kw. There are electric locmotives that use our gauge that are around 5000kw. If you want more power then electric is the way to go. As for the dual voltage locomotives I’m not suggesting its something that we need to do any time soon. I’m just making the point that if in future for whatever reason we wanted a complete NIMT electrification it’s possible and it’s not a problem having different voltages. I would say that keeping the existing NIMT electrification would be a good thing. You don’t gain much by getting rid of it, the money spent on it certainly won’t be coming back.

  25. Another thing – if everyone is made aware of the fact that the power has been turned off the NIMT what is going to stop people cutting down the wires for scrap metal?

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