Yesterday the switch was officially flipped on electrification of the Auckland rail network  – well at least the on the section into Britomart. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it so am relying on reports in the media and from others who were there. Firstly the official release from the government

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee welcomes today’s switching-on of overhead lines into the Britomart Transport Centre as a milestone for Auckland’s transport network.

“Electrification is a key element of the government’s focus on supporting a cohesive, efficient transport system for Auckland,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Today is a milestone for three projects which represent a total $1.7 billion government investment – the upgrade of the network to enable 10-minute peak frequencies (Project DART), the Auckland Electrification Project, and the purchase of 57 new electric trains.”

Mr Brownlee says while Aucklanders made 10.7 million trips by rail across the city in the year to January 2014, the upgraded and electrified network, along with new electric trains, will encourage many more people to take the train.

“This will play a big part in tackling congestion, and will also substantially increase the size of the rail fleet, providing spare capacity for future growth,” Mr Brownlee says.

“I want to commend KiwiRail, Auckland Transport and TransDev Auckland for their efforts in deploying safety and protection measures across the network, and safety education.

“It is particularly pleasing to see children learning rail safety in the classroom, which will help them keep safe around our rail network, both now and in the future.

“The government is investing around $1 billion a year on roads and public transport to meet the transport needs of Auckland’s growing population and to improve the transport system’s contribution to economic growth.”

It’s sad to see the government are still bundling together the spending on project DART, funding for which was approved long before they were in office (as was electrification funding). Of course they don’t do the same thing when talking about roads otherwise they would would be constantly talking about $4 billion they are spending on the Western Ring Route alone before you consider all of the other upgrades that have been happening to the motorway network over the last decade or so.

On to more positive things. At these types of PT events we’ve become quite used to hearing government politicians mention the PT project then proceed to talk at length about the efforts to upgrade the cities roading network. John Key’s speech ditched  that and he actually spoke very positively about the importance of it. Here’s some quotes from his speech:

“There’s nothing magical about Aucklanders using public transport,”

“If it’s there and it’s efficient they will use it.”

“So today I think is part of the solution to making sure that we can grow as a city, cope and do well and to do that if we want Auckland, and indeed New Zealand to be efficient and competitive on the world stage we actually have to have good access to public transport”

Here’s some tweets from Patrick who was at the event

Many readers love to blame the government for a lack of investment in PT, particularly around the CRL. I’ve long thought that John Key and the real problem is those who give him advice on transport, namely Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee, something highlighted by the Fran O’Sullivan from the Herald last year after the government agreed to the CRL (but obviously not the timing).

Our friends from Generation Zero were also at the event pushing for the Congestion Free Network.

There was also an interesting bit of timing with this announcement. Professor Peter Newman is in town and he is a man who was instrumental in getting the Perth rail network electrified and extended and has long suggested we do the same.

Lastly the countdown to the first services is now definitely on and with  the first normal services starting to Onehunga on April 28, a mere 26 days away. Now people are seeing the trains out and about, plus with AT now advertising them I think the excitement for these trains will only keep building.

EMU Newmarket from AT

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  1. Julie Anne Genter posted some interesting tweets about the occasion, including: ‘Just spoke to Gerry Brownlee at length. He honestly believes no one takes the train, and VKT is down bc of “more efficient roading” ‘

    The trouble with people like Key and Brownlee is that they will say things in speeches, but their actions don’t back-up their words.

  2. Perhaps if Gerry had spent his time waiting for the boss to arrive, down on the platform level, instead of at the rear entrance, he might have got a better idea of who really uses the trains.

    Was good to hear Key talk of his turning down a “free” carpark at Merryl Lynch in London, and using the tube instead. Perhaps we need a few more cabinet ministers who have lived and worked in cities overseas…

  3. Another advantage: trams (unlike buses) could be equipped with a bike storage area which would really increase their catchment.

  4. Brownlee is unlikely to personally use PT as it invariably involves some amount of walking to and from. I also doubt that his prior careers as a woodwork teacher posed much opportunity for the experiences of Key listed above.

    1. Also I think he enjoys winding up our Julie-Ann, who is, bless her, a passionate advocate for all the right things in this field. You need a thick skin in their game and Gerry certainly has that!

      1. I’ve noticed that many Americans don’t understand “taking the piss” or the verbal trickery that NZers (and Australians and British, for that matter) like to amuse themselves with. Indeed, some American comedy television programs still use pre-recorded laughter to help their audience identify and respond to jokes. I think America’s history as a melting pot has forced them to be more direct and simple in their use of language.

        1. As a speaker of U.S. English, “taking the piss” is an unknown expression here. Oddly enough, though, I was a participant in a conference call this morning during which the very American sounding young woman at the other end used the expression “suss out” which amused me because that is very British if I’m not mistaken.

  5. Patrick – I do notice however that the MPs in the background of the video clips behind Gerry Brownlee, are not as derisive as they were when Julie-Anne first started asking the Minister her pattern of well constructed questions.

  6. It’s great to see such progress on the electrification, although strictly speaking it is not yet “switched on” at Britomart as there are a few minor items to complete. It is, however, livened from time to time for testing purposes as Matt L correctly reminded me on another thread. The network is permanently live from Wiri to Newmarket and the eastern line is close to completion/livening too.

    It’s not quite accurate to say “…project DART funding … was approved long before they [National] were in office (as was electrification funding)”. Yes, the funding for those projects was reluctantly approved under the previous administration, but only in their last term (in 2006 and 2007 respectively, as Matt’s links confirm). As I’ve mentioned previously, it took considerable effort to convince Dr Cullen to fund them. Quite properly, the current government has continued with committed projects, as would any future government, despite electioneering rhetoric on both sides. For those who desire an early change of government (ie this year), may I suggest that you put aside for a moment your political leanings and seriously consider which government is more likely to achieve early funding of the CRL through its management of the economy. But perhaps a more important question to ask is when will Auckland Council have its share of funding in place, considering their failure to meet deadlines to date.

    1. Yes, the party that oversaw nine years of consistent economic growth and budget surpluses without having millions of dollars insurance cheques inserted into the economy is also the party that is far more likely to deliver the CRL on time.

      1. An interesting point of view Louis, thanks. The economy is now looking good again, so from that perspective it might not matter who is in government, although I tend to form my opinion based on how people/businesses/governments perform in the bad times rather than in the good. Do you have a view on Auckland Council’s financial performance? This, I think, is more germane to the funding issue.

    2. Current Govt has not contributed any funding either. Still haven’t seen how the govt are proposing to finance the CRL, given that they’ve said that they won’t use the NLTF to fund public transport projects.

  7. The current Govt (and possibly past Govts) are striking a good balance between Road & Rail Infrastructure. If you look at the traffic in Auckland on a weekday a huge amount of it is unable to use rail..think 10,000’s of movements of goods, freight,tradespeople etc that are generally outside of the peak commuter hours of 7-9AM & 4-6PM. Compounding this is the 10,000’s of totally unnecessary road movements by people that won’t allow their precious kids to walk or bike to school; the 10,000’s of unnecessary movements by those who should be working but are supported by a bloated Welfare State; and the total lack of basic traffic & driving skills necessary to keep traffic flowing by many more 1000’s. As we can see by many comments on this blog it is a political rather than a logistical issue – no doubt many of you still believe that AGW is bringing down catastrophe on us all (yet can be miraculously fixed by a few more taxes).

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