Occasionally it’s quite fun to look 50 years into the future and ask questions around “what will it be like?” Even the longest term planning documents around tend to just look at a 30 year vision, so going to 50 years is certainly another jump into the future beyond that point – but it’s quite fun and potentially quite useful to make sure what we’re doing in the next 10-20 years doesn’t limit our ability to do potentially very long-term projects.

Sub-national population estimates from Statistics NZ only go out as far into the future as 2031 – showing significant population growth for Auckland when compared to the rest of NZ (as we already know). National population estimates extend to our 50 year amount –  to 2061 when the population of the country might be around 6 million. Here are some of the 2061 median projections:

Because of our ageing population, population growth tails off quite significantly mid-century. I suspect that questions around whether NZ’s population will ever be significantly more than 6 million come down to migration scenarios. Stats NZ did looks at what it would take for NZ to have a significantly higher population in the future, compared to the median projection – noting the following:

I have long thought that the real unknown here is what happens in climate change scenarios which are more severe than predicted. New Zealand generally seems to suffer less than many other countries (especially in comparison to Australia and the Pacific Islands) in ‘severe climate change’ scenarios – meaning that we could end up becoming a pretty attractive place to live for vast numbers of our near neighbours. Scenarios such as reaching 10 million due to an average net migration gains of 68,000 people per year (combined with a fairly conservative fertility rate) do seem unlikely, but not implausible.

Now let’s translate that into thinking about what might happen in this part of New Zealand – in particular the area known as the “Upper North Island”.  The table below shows the population of this Upper North Island area up to 2031 – and how it represents an increasing proportion of New Zealand’s population (particularly in the high-growth scenarios):

Under a “high immigration” scenario one would expect the proportion of NZers living in the Upper North Island area by 2061 to have continued to grow significantly. Let’s say in our 2061 scenarios you might have around 65% of New Zealanders living in the Upper North Island area. This would mean 3.9 million people if the population is 6 million, 4.55 million  out of a 7 million population and 6.5 million from a total of 10 million. In reality I think the proportion of the population in the Upper North Island would be higher in the higher growth scenarios (as shown in the 2031 projections) but we’re just using this as a broad guide.

I suppose the point of all this lead in is to highlight that the real bulk of the country’s population growth in the next 50 years is likely to be in the area often referred to as the “Golden Triangle”, between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Significantly improving transport accessibility between these three areas, effectively joining them together into operating as something of a ‘super-region’ may result in significant benefits for New Zealand as a whole, particularly if higher population growth scenarios mean that Auckland in 2061 has a population pushing 3 million and is really struggling to find a way to house all those people.

Although some people currently commuter between Hamilton and Auckland on a daily basis, I feel sorry for them as they must end up spending a huge chunk of their lives in the car going back and forth on State Highway 1 – the 126 km trip which takes 1 hour 40 without congestion and probably more than 2 hours each way at peak times. What they really need, and what we need generally if we decide that it’s advantageous to ease the pressure on Auckland, is a faster way to connect up these cities – including Tauranga as our likely key trade centre over time as Auckland discovers it wants to claim back its waterfront more and more.

I think the obvious solution to this is getting a transport technology to link the cities up that is really fast. And the obvious option there is through vastly improving our inter-city rail network. We current do have a rail link between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – it’s the busiest part of the country’s freight network and shifts a pretty huge amount of “stuff” between these cities. But the line is slow – horrifically slow in terms of its potential suitability for inter-city trains. The failed attempts to introduce rail services between Hamilton and Auckland were most probably doomed because of this very issue – despite not getting stuck in traffic the train service just couldn’t be time competitive when compared to driving or even catching the bus.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. And I’m not saying we need to completely rebuild the rail connections from scratch to 300 kph high-speed rail standards either. If we could get the tracks up to a standard which allows trains to average 120-160 kph on their trips between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga you could really revolutionise the time it takes to get between these three cities and really bring them into the one “super region” in terms of inter-city accessibility. This is shown in the table below:

I suspect to really achieve something revolutionary in the connections between these three cities you’re probably going to need an average speed of at least 140 kph, which means some sections needing to operate at much higher speeds than that. Just at a glance then we’re likely to need the following works done:

  • A full express track bypass of the Auckland suburban rail network
  • Full electrification (presumably)
  • Significant track geometry improvements, especially just south of Pukekohe and also whether the Hamilton to Tauranga section really needs to divert up to Morrinsville
  • Doubling tracking of at least most of the Hamilton-Tauranga section of track

Obviously we’re talking a multi-billion dollar project here. But then again we are thinking 50 years into the future. Perhaps the best way to think about this is to compare its potential value with that of some of the less sensible RoNS projects (Puhoi-Wellsford and much of the Wellington Northern Corridor), or against the possible next generation of RoNS projects (Cambridge-Tirau, Hawkes Bay, Hamilton-Tauranga motorway). Against the zany motorway plans the government has for the very long term, this rail proposal start to look really sensible (though I’m not sure whether whether it’s better than a RoNS is really the best way to measure a project’s worth.)

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  1. The rail route through Pukekohe I believe slows the trip between Auckland and Hamilton, what about bypassing Pukekohe and the rail follow SH1 from Drury to Pokeno, a tunnel may be needed through Bombay but it could really speed up the trip between Auckland and Hamilton and beyond.

    1. It’s not the route through Pukekohe that’s the problem, it’s more having to content with the rest of the system between Puke and CBD. It currently takes an hour for that trip, even if you bypass Puke and connected in at Papakura you are still looking at 45 through to town. The whole of the existing Puke-Auckland line would have to be bypassed to make it workable from Hamilton-Auckland.

    1. Full electrification may not be required. BUT given that electrification is already in place from Te Rapa to Palmerston North and will be in place from Britomart to Papakura shortly, it would make sense to fill in the gaps.

      1. Louis electrification is needed now. It’s the only stuff we make ourselves, doesn’t fry the planet, and is a proven, efficient, future-proof, and cost effective technology. Only problem in the way is political. And that will change.

  2. That triangle on the map encloses the engine-room of New Zealand’s dairy exports. If lost to agriculture because of peri-urban development (hobby farms), what export industry will take its place ? Or where else could the dairy industry move and achieve anything like the same production ? Southland and the Canturbury Plains wouldn’t achieve anything like the production per hectare of the Waikato. There needs to be protection of agricultural production in the area from well-moneyed lifestylers. These would try their rural dream for a while, until the long periods on the road and high cost of petrol would get to them, and they decide to pass the “rural dream” onto the next unsuspecting sucker.

    There are already some good examples of high-speed intercity train commuting in Australia. Direct-line distances are
    Hamilton-Auckland 115 km
    Melbourne-Bendigo 132 km
    Melbourne-Castlemaine 110 km

    Commuting from Castlemaine to central Melbourne is popular now, and takes about an hour. The Bendigo commute is done by about 300 each day, and takes an hour and 24 minutes. It’s just a little too long to be attractive unless one is already living in Bendigo. The track was upgraded to 160 km/hr within its existing alignment, and is run by diesel trains, with the fast services starting in 2006. Curves are super-elevated, with the outer rail up to 15 cm higher than the inner rail. This saves the need for tilting trains. However it is less suitable for freight, and increases wear on the inner rail.

    The Bendigo regional line had 3.36 million passengers during the 2010-11 financial year, up 6.7 per cent on the previous year. These are similar numbers to Auckland’s Western line.

    1. The other way of looking at that of course is that, if we can control Auckland’s population growth by making it easy to live in existing nearby cities, then the need to carve up big chunks of valuable farm land is reduced. I foresee more stringent controls over the carving up of such land as ‘lifestyle’ blocks. Of course, in the other direction you have Northland.

    2. In Victoria the V-Line from places along the Bendigo Line (like Mt Macedon and Gisborne) or on the Seymour Line (from Wallan and Broadford) and on some of the other V-line services are quicker to the CBD than the trains to some of the outer suburbs like Lilydale and Pakenham. The trains are also more comfortable and less crowded. Needless to say Melbourne is metastasising onto small towns along the V-line routes.

  3. Interesting post, here’s some of my disconnected brain spasms:
    1. Do you envisage this regional stopping between Auckland and Hamilton? If so where? Could influence whether you want to take up Patrick’s suggestion of a bypass.
    2. The Auckland to Hamilton leg could be developed first. Would be crucial getting the passenger trains back into Hamilton City Centre, under the bus station I believe.
    3. Auckland-Tauranga could then run as an extension to every second AKL-Hamilton run, or something similar. Possibly with the odd service to my fav Rotorua 🙂
    4. Malcom M provides some useful Melbourne examples that seem to average 110km/hr. Would be good to research what their stopping patterns are like …
    5. In the interim is there any chance that Kiwirail’s track rail freight upgrades would help take some of the financial load?

    1. You could even send every second train via Auckland Airport (shouldn’t be too much further) and have direct trains connecting to international flights. Would save the need to construct expand other airports.

      1. Indeed connecting the airport would definitely be sensible. Also in terms of a ‘second airport’ for Auckland if the Auckland-Hamilton line was fast enough you could possibly use Hamilton as the second airport. Although I guess Auckland airport won’t be at capacity anytime soon.
        The thing is what is the cost of upgrading current to 140-160k operations, versus a higher speed (non cape gauge track) track? I believe cape has a max of about 160kph. If you could get 200kph out of cape that would probably be fine. I don’t know if 140-160k average would be quite fast enough to be a game changer. Also the faster the trains run, the less trains you would need to run the same frequency so that is also something to consider in terms of ongoing costs.
        If you required a new tunnel to get the line into Auckland the cost for either would be high anyway, so it would make sense to go for the higher speed option or at least provide some future proofing.

        Interesting to consider the options anyhow.

  4. A few comments.

    If a new line was built that went via Auckland Airport, this could be used for express services between Britomart and the Aiport at 15 minute intervals. Business people and tourists would pay a lot for a quick (20 minute?) trip to and from the CBD.

    If the bypass route was built on a new alignment altogether, it should be quadruple tracked to allow for a metro line to be run alongside it with stations.

    Given a huge amount of the cost would be on Auckland and Hamilton land purchases, it could be cost effective to contruct the new line with a wider gauge- you could run trains faster, leave room for slow moving freight and start the possiblity of high speed long distance train services in NZ

  5. Express line for Hamilton-AIA-Britomart: like the extended Onehunga Line which would link up with the airport?

    It could have express services running every 30mins, outside of the regular commuting trains running every 10mins, perhaps also stopping off at Newmarket to increase the catchment (from other lines).

    As well as shuttling people between the CBDs of both cities quicker, people working at the airport and the increasing industrial businesses there could choose a different (cheaper?) house/lifestyle choice in Hamilton. Then there are the four extra stations in SE Auckland now with direct access to the two biggest employment hubs in the region.

    Eventually the airport would be linked up to the Southern Line via Manakau.

  6. The Kaimai Express to Tauranga only ran for a few years before Labour refused to subsidise it in 2001 and it failed due to being hopelessly uneconomic. I don’t know how many people traveled from Tauranga, but I believe Rotorua attracted an average of 8 passengers a day. Rather than dream up multi-billion dollar rail improvement solutions for a single digit number of passengers and assuming you’re absolutely hell bent on subsidising this travel, then it might be cheaper to subsidise a helicopter to shuttle between the cities? It’d be much faster, cheaper to operate in terms of capital, and wouldn’t require property purchases.

    If you were really ambitious then you’d run the service with a couple of V-22 tilt-rotors. They can carry 24 seated passengers and travel at 500km/hr, or about three times the speed of any feasible improved rail service. A Tauranga service could stop in Hamilton and at the airport before landing at a city center helipad where passengers could transfer to underground rail or buses.

    1. You did understand the timeframe that the post is about, don’t you? What’s wrong with a bit of theoretical forward planning?

      1. Tilt-rotor travel will be commonplace in 50 years time. People will be flying all over the country and landing at city center locations. But you’re right… Most people will probably still want to travel using vehicles that look like cars, even if they have batteries or fuel cells or something and probably drive themselves. So we should start to plan a motorway from Auckland to Tauranga. It probably isn’t worth building yet but we can do the design, secure the route, and maybe start buying properties that are in the way.

        1. “http://www.pathetic.org.uk/”

          Cool! It’s a web site of unfinished half-arsed badly-constructed motorways. It poses the question “Why does the M42 end in the middle of nowhere?” The answer includes: “The cut-price nature of the road is blindingly obvious from a trip along it. It’s just… rubbish. There’s even a story that the Ministry demanded that all of the bridges were built too narrow to allow for any upgrade to motorway to take place easily. It’s a classic example of everything that’s bad about British transport planning. Even the Government’s study into the route has come to the conclusion that it’s just rubbish, and concluded that it should be upgraded to motorway as soon as possible. That was in 2003, and as of 2009, three quarters of nothing has happened.”

          You could ask the same question about Auckland’s Northern Motorway, in which case the answer in ten years time might be “Project Lifesaver”.

    2. Obi was wondering when you were going to pop up! This thread was made for you …

      I personally suspect that airships might be the future sustainable transport mode of choice for medium to long distance travel in New Zealand: They provide point-to-point services @ 120km/hr and require no landplaces (actually they can dock at ferry terminals). And the kicker? They operate on biodiesel, rather than jet fuel … plus you get a nice view along the way.

      And before anyone says “Hindenburg” let me just say that a) it was filled with hydrogen rather than helium because of pre-WWI sanctions on Germand and b) jet fuel is more flammable.

      1. My tilt-rotor solution wasn’t really serious, even tho it’d provide 20 minute journey times from Tauranga central to Auckland central. But air travel has been one of the enormous transport success stories of the last 100 years. It has gone from being something that almost no-one did (flying boat from Hobsonville to London?), to something the rich did every so often (DC8 from Whenuapai to LA?), to something that everyone does pretty much all the time (A330 from Auckland International to Sydney for the weekend). It’s cheap. It’s fast. It’s frequent. And it’s pretty much unsubsidised.

        The reason that long distance rail won’t succeed in NZ no matter how many billions you pour in to it is because air travel is better and cheaper. The only place where it even stands a chance to compete are those trips that are a little too short to warrant the flight overhead (getting too and from the airport, checking in, and going through security), which is the sort of thing a helicopter or tilt-rotor would address.

        I think the trend will continue.

        Airships? A bit too steampunk for me. Have you seen the film Sucker Punch?

        1. I shouldn’t feed Obi, his pleasure in getting a reaction is too visible, but this Pinot is very good so my powers of self control are weak…. just two words: Nothing ever changes? OK so that was three words….. and a question mark….

        2. The tilt-rotor isn’t going to fly from the airport, Peter. If we plan this right then there would be a tilt-rotor pad on top of the new Aotea Railway Station which will be at the junction of two underground lines. The walk from your office to the tilt-rotor pad will be 3 minutes, you’ll swipe in using your Snapper Card 😉 , and the 500km/hr flight to Hamilton will take about 15 minutes.

          You’d also have the choice of flying on a Donovan Bio-fueled Airship which would depart from an airship dock halfway up the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower people will charge you $28 to use the elevator. It’ll be slower. It’ll be attacked by biplanes. Then it’ll explode.

          I should write to Len Brown so he can make sure to allow for the possibility of tilt-rotor pads at the new tunnel stations. It’d be short sighted not to plan for the future.

        3. Ahaaaaa sppltuth (that’s the sound of Stuart laughing until chai tea comes out his nose). Bi-planes, now there’s a thought …

        4. With 5-7 million in the Upper North Island area, we might end up with some pretty significant tilt-rotor congestion I suspect.

  7. Another consideration is the fact that the real population is somewhere closer to 5.2million now, based on the huge number of New Zealanders who live overseas as economic refugees. If the economy here improved think over time some could return in addition to high immigration rate, so population predictions might be a bit light.

      1. National: 44%
        Greens and Labour: 46%

        Government Confidence Rating: Steady downward trends over 2-3 years. Now at lower levels than when Labour lost 2008 election. SOE sell-downs will drag out over next 1-2 years becoming increasingly unpopular. National are gone and not even Paula Bennet releasing Patrick Reynold’ss personal details is going to change that.

        Source of my misinformation: http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2012/4810/

  8. We do not need to wait for descent PT between Hamilton and Auckland, with a small bit of planning and lets have integrated ticketing we could have it now. There are 4 bus companies operation in the Waikato area between Hamilton and Auckland, Intercity, Naked, Naki and Go Bus, There is enough buses for a pretty good.
    Hamilton to Huntly – 82 buses per day, enough for a 4 buses per hour (LOS-C) 10 hours per day (LOS-E)
    Huntly to Bombay – 36 buses per day, enough for a 4 buses per hour (LOS-C) 4 hours per day (LOS-E)
    Bombay to Manukau – 48 buses per day, enough for 4 buses per hour (LOS-C) 6 hours per day (LOS-E)
    Manukau to Auckland – Rail and bus service is should no less than LOS B
    Statistically only the Huntly to Bombay service fails by 12 buses per day. With a little thought and money (may be as little as $225,000) we could have a bus ever 15 minutes for most of the working day.
    And existing fastest travel times is not too bad
    Fastest bus service Hamilton to Auckland 1:45
    Slowest bus service Hamilton to Auckland 2:55
    Nominal bus service Hamilton to Auckland 2:00
    Bus – Rail service Hamilton to Pukekohe to Auckland 2:52
    Rail time between Pukekohe to Auckland 1:10
    Rail time between Manukau to Auckland 0:55
    It would be nice to build new improved rail over the nexts 50 years, but all that is needed is a sprint lane between Drury and Auckland central and we would have a reliable 1:45 minute PT service between Hamilton and Auckland.

      1. I think ‘LOS’ refers to ‘Level of Service’. Peter seems to have some kind of grading system going on, with A having the most buses/trains per hour and so on.

  9. 120kph? 140 kph? 160 kph? So so the sort of speeds that bog-standard commuter trains manage in the UK. You are not talking high speed high precision rail way here – so there is no hugh technological leap. Even the conventional main lines in the UK all manage 200kph. Imagine a 20 minute journey every 20 minutes between Auckalnd and Hamilton – it would be easier to get to Hamilton from the CBD than to get to Henderson.

    Provide a decent speed, decent frequency train service between Auckland airpot and Hamilton and Tauranga and there would be no need to operate an air service – think of all the aviation fuel that would be saved. The electric trains could run off geothermal or hydro power.

    It would be interesting to see the fuel per passenger of the tilt-rotor transport vs a reasonably well filled electric train. I suspect that the tilt rotor option might fail the credibility test there.

    1. Richard, I have deliberately chosen lower speeds because I envisage us generally utilising the existing rail corridor (though with express tracks) to save on costs. If you’re talking true High Speed Rail I suspect the cost starts at $20b, which is too much to really even consider.

      1. MrV – you are right, 160 km/h is achievable on the Cape Gauge, and indeed it is being achieved now. The Hakutaka (“White Hawk”) expresses on the Hokuetsu Line in Japan have scheduled services at 160 km/hr on Cape Gauge trains – in the snow country no less. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokuetsu_Express_Hokuhoku_Line
        Richard, the whole point is that it is not amazing new (and expensive) technology, in other words it is very much feasible. The trick is to make that speed achievable and sustainable (i.e. not just for a short stretch, for the majority of the route).
        Two key lessons for NZ from overseas experience here. Firstly, the Hokuetsu Line is pretty straight (lots of tunnels through mountains) although it has a large overall climb from the coast to the mountains. This parallels with the lessons learned in the early TGV projects (especially) – for high speed, grade (within reason) is less important than the line being straight. Most of the track between Auckland and Tauranga either is pretty straight or can be made so, so the potential is there. You would also probably not need a tunnel through the Bombays as long as the grade isn’t too unreasonable, the key is to make it in a straight line.
        Secondly, if you want to go over 160 km/hr then costs will balloon. This is because you’d need a broader gauge (be it standard, Victorian, etc.) and because once you get over about 180-190 km/hr then regular railway points, signalling etc. for various reasons become inadequate. You have to spend a LOT to get the permanent way up to true high-speed standard (as Peter alluded to).
        I therefore believe that (in the medium term) there is a sweet spot for ‘higher speed rail’ in the Golden Triangle for passenger services at 160 km/hr and fast freight at (say) 120 km/hr. Co-existence at these speeds shouldn’t be an issue as long as most of the route is double-tracked. When you start to include the potential of services to Auckland Airport as well (especially if the airlines did a rail code share a la SNCF in France) it all starts to make an awful lot of sense.

  10. Yes – the air vs rail debate, for regional travelling, is interesting.

    I don’t think increasing air competition has impacted the chunnel and other places in Europe (though I appreciate the population differences). The high speed train between Shanghai and Beijing is (at least as far as my colleagues say) preferred over air, mainly due to:

    – extra travel time of air (travel to and from airports which are located far outside the city centre)
    – lack of “downtime” (having to arrive at the airport 1hr+ ahead of departure time, plus frequent delays)
    – lack of any on-travel required (train station is usually central located, and the CBD tends to be the destination of choice,and
    – ability to multi-task (wifi available on the train, although this may be coming on planes).

    It seems that in NZ we see rail as regressing, when overseas they see it as the future, even with increasing competition in the skies on the same route. More of “oh, but NZ/Auckland is different…”?

    1. The example usually given of rail impacting the rail / air market share is Paris – Lyons, where with the coming of the TGV the equivalent previously fairly frequent air service virtually diappeared. A conventional rail example is London Manchester where the move to a 20 minute frequency ~2hr journey time rail service from the centre of London to the centre of Manchester saw rail’s market share rise from 69% in 2008 to 79% in 2010 http://www.atoc.org/media-centre/latest-press-releases/shift-from-air-to-rail-heralds-turning-point-in-how-people-travel-between-uks-main-cities-100571

  11. Level Of Service
    LOS Headway Veh/h Comments
    A 6 Passenger do not schedules
    B 10-14 5-6 Passengers consult schedules
    C 15-20 3-4 Max. desirable time to wait if bus missed
    D 21-30 2 Service unattractive to choice riders
    E 31-60 1 Service available during the hour
    F >60 <1 Service unattractive to all riders

    LOS Hours of Service Comments
    A 19-24 Night or “owl” service
    B 17-18 Late evening service
    C 14-16 Early evening service provided
    D 12-13 Daytime service provided
    E 4-11 Peak hour service only or limited midday service
    F 0-3 Very limited or no service

  12. All very well talking about a passenger service but that still leaves out the freight, and that will still go at the same speed as now. And have to compete with the motorways. And have the little problem that for short hall, trucks much more competitive compared to trains. Then you have the fact that unless you have a major increase in time savings people are not going to jump on a train to Hamilton on mass scale, especially when they will have to travel to get to the train station, and then have no car in Hamilton. But then a 300 km/h train would do that quite well as you would only spend half an hour on the train.

    1. If the line is improved for a faster rail passenger service, rail freight will in all probability see improved journey times too. But making significant journey time improvements purely for freight services is always much harder to justify than doing so for passenger services.

  13. BAW – Yet people travel from Palmerston North to Wellington by train every day and survive. Are you implying that either Hamiltonians or Aucklanders are complete halfwits?

  14. The Hamilton – Auckland Bus service is not only faster than a car now, when you include parking ( 6 too 15 minutes to park ,pay and walk) It is also a lot cheaper a $12 too $20 each way.

  15. We do not need to wait 50 years for a good PT service in the Waikato are between Hamilton and Auckland.
    We could have it now.
    Step 1
    Extend GoBus Hamilton-Huntly service to Pukekohe with a frequency of no less than 1 bus per hour, for no less than 3 hours each morning and evening. (this equals about 12 hours of extra service $225k)(presently there are 82 buses doing Hamilton-Huntly route and 36 buses per day doing Huntly-Bombay route)
    Step 2
    Move Intercity and Naked connection with SH2 Tauranga to Pokeno so it connects with GoBus service. (Presently there are 48 buses doing the Bombay – Auckland route)
    If these 2 changes where implemented we would have Hamilton, Huntly, Pokeno connected with Auckland with a Frequency of 4 buses per hour (15 minute max wait time) for 3 hours each morning and evening.

    And of course add Integrated ticketing to all these buses service. The future could be now.

    1. But at peak times peter these buses will just sit in a huge jam on the Southern Motorway like all of the other commuters in their cars. I think for this to be viable for commuters, the third step would have to be bus priority up all of southern motorway. What a waste when the rail line sits there right next to it. And for non-peak commuters there would be little benefit. No parking charges, but no car once they get there, or the ability to take any much luggage. To be attractive the PT has to be faster than driving, not just frequent.

      Not that your suggestion doesn’t make sense, it’s just not in the same league as what Peter is suggesting, and hence the very different time frames.

  16. Has anyone looked at how other countries with similar or smaller populations, such as Norway, Finland or Ireland manage to fund intercity rail services? Think Norway still had an extensive one even before the oil strike!

    1. Yes and Norway has similar geography… The principle difference is that Norway didn’t abandon it’s 19th and 20th century investment in rail, but kept maintaining and using it. Instead we choose to undertake a good 50 years of varying degrees of active and passive neglect of this asset. Accelerating under this government.

      1. Scotland is also similar in geography and mix or opportunity. But, like Norway it stil has an extensive and well patronised rail network (albeit much smaller than it once was). There are high volume commuter networks in the relatively flat central belt, with still fairly fast, but less frequent long distance services into the highlands. Interspersed on key lines there is intermodal container traffic, coal and logs. Recently the governent funded a reinstated additional route between the main centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and contemplates other reopenings.

  17. Victoria (Australia) has a good intercity rail service, and its passenger numbers have grown in synch with Auckland’s. Rail passenger numbers have grown from 6.5m in 2003/04 to 13.5m in 2010/11. During the evening peak, its services take close to 4500 passengers per hour to Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. To provide this capacity for cars would require an extra 2 motorway lanes.

    Services are funded from fares (20%) and subsidies (80%). Diesels mean higher operating costs than if lines had been electrified. Full fares account for 73% of patronage. The commuters are mainly middle class professionals who work in central Melbourne, but who reside in regional cities and thus support the regional economy. Their time on the train is more productive than if driving, because they can read or use computers, and arrive more relaxed and are productive than if they had driven. All 3 of the regional cities are marginal electorates, and are well looked after by both Labour and conservative governments. The previous Labour government when undertaking the last major upgrade of the track used “regional development” as their reason for investment.

    Beyond these 3 cities, services are only 3 times per day, but are well used.

    For more information :


  18. The Bus or T3 Lane ideally would start about Drury to give all day consistent timings for PT using SH1 to Auckland CBD, Could be done now. For Rail to compete it is going to need a good sprint service, Times for PT between Manukau – CBD are 0:44 minutes Post CRL, between 0:20 to 0:30 for Bus off most of the day, 1:05 Bus at peak.
    Rails going to need to be less than 30 minutes for Drury to CBD and 20 minutes Manukau to CBD

  19. What’s the point in having intercity rail when the reach of public transport within these cities (Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga) is limited? In order to get to a train station you will need to take public transport. Once you arrive in Auckland you may need transportion too.

    1. We need to look seriously of some aspects of the swiss model. They started in the 1970’s with a population similar to what NZ has now, and look what their system is like. You can get anywhere in the country seamlessly on public transport and even if you have to do two transfers, all services are scheduled to allow it with maximum convenience.
      From memory they have very similar kms of railway and roads as NZ despite being a smaller country.

    2. Now day’s once you arrive in Auckland you’re actually probably alright with public transport, unless you arrive on a sunday but thats a different story, the problem would come more from Hamilton and Tauranga.

  20. Peter one other thing to think about is that if we get the kinds of population you suggest the upper north island will be avert different place. With the suggestion of a population of 10m it would mean that Auckland alone would have 4-5m. At that kind of population even the CRL, rail to the airport and rail to the shore aren’t going to be enough. We would have needed to have built a much wider rail/metro network just to keep the city moving.

    1. Indeed Matt. I guess the point of my post is to highlight that such a scenario is perhaps less impossible than we might have thought.

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