1) Diesel trains
2) Three lines
3) No inter-city services (beyond Pukekohe and apart form the Overlander)
4) Patronage of around 8 million passengers a year
5) Public subsidies of around $7 per rail trip
1) Electric trains (except for Wairarapa, Capital Connection & Overlander)
2) Three main lines, plus the small Melling Line
3) Regular inter-city services to Masterton
4) Patronage of around 11 million passengers a year
5) Public subsidies of around $2 per rail trip
Another significant difference is the way in which the two systems are run. Here in Auckland we have a complicated system with Veolia Transport having the main rail contract, but on top of that having locomotives leased from KiwiRail, some drivers also from KiwiRail, ARTA seeming to co-ordinate things, Ontrack looking after the tracks, Auckland City Council owning Britomart station and Auckland Regional Council being ARTA’s funder. In Wellington, the system is far more simplified, with (as far as I know) KiwiRail owning the trains, operating the trains, owning the tracks, looking after the tracks, looking after the stations and so forth. The Greater Wellington Regional Council contribute to subsidies for the system, and is probably involved in the system’s planning, but there are – overall – far fewer different parties involved.
One particularly striking figure is how much more cost-effective Wellington’s rail system is than Auckland’s. The above figures suggest that Auckland’s system receives around $56 million of rail subsidies per year, while Wellington’s receives around $22 million – even though it runs many more services each day than are run in Auckland. I’m sure the fact that Wellington generally runs electric trains whereas Auckland runs diesel trains contributes to the difference – as electrics are much cheaper to run. But it seems reasonable to suggest that something else is going on here – that perhaps the complexity of Auckland’s system is leading to pretty huge inefficiencies. Looking at where the money gets spent on Auckland’s rail system provides some interesting further information in this respect: I must say I’m slightly curious what the $35 million Veolia contract does include, if it doesn’t include all the other matters listed above.
The difference between the cost-effectiveness of Auckland’s and Wellington’s systems is particularly interesting given the changes to the structuring of rail operations that Steven Joyce announced last year. Generally, it seemed as though Joyce was wanting some structural separation between the agency that owns trains in Auckland and Wellington (which in the longer term will be KiwiRail) and the agency which operates the rail services. This separation currently exists in Auckland, but doesn’t in Wellington. Which does beg the question why, considering Wellington’s rail system seems so much more cost-effective than Auckland’s, we would even consider wanting to do this? Ideologically I can see that Joyce would want ‘competition’ between possible operators, but surely experience tells us that perhaps what we should be doing is applying the Wellington system to Auckland – rather than vice-versa?
Or aren’t we actually interested in making public transport cost-effective after all?