As the new electric trains roll out over the coming year or so, a question we don’t know the answer to is what will happen to the old diesel trains Auckland no longer needs. Of course we will need to retain a few to run services between Papakura and Pukekohe until that section can also be electrified (which is hopefully soon) but the rest of the fleet will have no use. For some time the most likely option has been that they would be sold off, probably to a Southern African country like some of the old trains from Wellington were. One of the reasons for this thought is that while many people have had suggestions about using them in other parts of NZ to start services, there was no serious talk from other regions about starting rail services.

That could all change with the Envrionment Canturbury commissioners voting today on whether to investigate a starting a rail service from Rangioria to Christchurch. It’s a response to chronic congestion caused by the so much development occurring north of the city following the earthquakes.

Commuter rail services between Christchurch and North Canterbury are on the cards after pressure from frustrated drivers.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioners have been asked to approve up to $20,000 for an investigation into short-term passenger rail as a way to help alleviate the congestion into the city along the northern corridor.

The report said ”numerous enquiries” had been received from the public on the potential to use the existing rail track from the Waimakariri district.

Commissioners will decide tomorrow.

There is a chance also to buy old rail stock from Auckland Transport, which is upgrading to electric trains.

Traffic along the northern corridor has reached crisis point with  buses recording 22 minutes from the old Waimakariri Bridge to the Chaneys off-ramp 1.2 kilometres away.

The growth has been attributed to the effects of the earthquakes.

Waimakariri District Council data now predicts nine years historical growth in just three.

There’s bound to be decent number of potential users of such a service. According to Stats NZ there are about 50,000 people in the Waimakariri District and more than half of those are in Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Woodend or Pegasus. Further as mentioned the area is growing fast thanks to the earthquakes pushing a lot of development away from the city.

From Rangiora to Christchurch it is approximately 30km which is about the distance that Papakura is from Britomart. Kiwirail’s Coastal Pacific service that travels between Christchurch and Picton (only in Summer) does that journey in around 24 minutes nonstop which is a fair bit faster than the hour and forty minutes mentioned in this article on the proposal. In reality it would be a bit slower than that due to needing to stop in places like Kaiapoi if it went ahead. The tracks also pass through some significant residential areas of Christchurch itself.

Christchurch Rail

The biggest problem would be what to do with a train once it got to Christchurch. Like Auckland used to have, the nearest tracks are some way from the CBD and from the northern suburbs would require a Newmarket style end change. There are plenty of other issues too but I’m sure they’re ones that can be solved if there was a desire to do so.

There’s a missing leg to the junction.

If ECAN do decide to go through with a plan to trial some rail services it could end up following a very similar pattern to what happened in Auckland. The city has had some grand plans for light rail but can’t get any political support, at the same time there is rail infrastructure sitting in place but being largely overlooked by those in charge. Using some hand me down rolling stock to get services running patronage can be built up till future more substantial and upgrades can be justified.

If the online poll on The Press’ site is anything to go by, it’s certainly a popular idea with over 90% of all votes in favour of it. I would bet that Gerry Brownlee is unlikely to be one of those happy with the idea though.

Update, they voted to investigate it

Environment Canterbury commissioners have agreed to investigate commuter trains to and from the Waimakariri to help alleviate traffic congestion.

It is one of the options being investigated by a group led by New Zealand Transport Agency southern director Jim Harland.

The draft report is to be completed by June 13 and the final report earmarked to the council chief executive group by June 30.

ECan staff said it was a short-term solution for the six years it would take to complete motorway upgrades.

Share this


  1. Why is it any of Brownlee’s business? Presumably ECAN can subsidise it the same way the Auckland Regional Council and successors did/do. The Perth stock is even older (worth less) than when Auckland acquired it so I can’t imagine the capital cost is an issue.

    Really, they should give it a go and if it doesn’t work, the cars can go to a scrapyard or museum or whatever.

    Give CHCH a valid opportunity to try it out, not just the actual service but also the overall vision. I think when Auckland turned around, it gave people the opportunity to think what it would be like if it was “just a bit better” eg what if we had DMUs? what if they went into the centre of the city? what if they were electric? what if we had an underground rail link? and on it goes.

    1. Govt have banned rail capex from being funded by NZTA so has to have govt funding directly. Also suspect ECAN would likely struggle to get OPEX finding. Lastly Kiwirail bound to be a roadblock as they want the tracks for freight only.

      1. So they probably need to get started preparing for the trial ahead of a Labour-led government being elected 🙂

  2. What’s in that triangle? There’s a lot of car-parking that could be displaced to build a station platform, with an overbridge to the existing facility.

  3. Key is easy interchange with buses. May be best to avoid Addington altogether to begin with as Kiwirail Scenic trains will block platform for several hours in morning.
    Good potential for bus interchange with Orbiter and others at Papanui station, which still exists. But best addition would be a Riccarton station 1km north of Addington. This would be where Riccarton Road crosses the railway line, and there is very high bus frequency along here.
    My pick would be avoid CBD for now and run the train Rangiora – Kaiapoi – Belfast – Papanui – Riccarton – Hornby.
    Rangiora, Belfast, Papanui and Hornby already have platforms, so only new one would be Riccarton. If get enough people then can spend a bit more money, open a few more stations. Next step would be to extend service to Rolleston, so can run through service from Rangiora to Rolleston.
    Main advantage of rail on the northern corridor is there is no motorway to compete against, so rail has good chance of quick journey, even if many passengers must change to bus. Current bus takes 1hr 15 mins from Rangiora to city, so a train in 40 could be a goer.
    Of course at the same time we look at what service and infrastructure we could get if focussed on much improved bus services with Park and Ride stations, and more bus lanes to the city.

  4. Totally worth further investigation. Also passenger services from Rolleston, which is expanding rapidly too. To the east of the junction the track skirts pretty close to what will hopefully be the CBD again. Also runs pretty close to AMI stadium as well, so assuming it gets rebuilt there’s the sportsball angle as well.

  5. Possible operating plans:
    1. Rolleston to Rangiora; and
    2. Prebbleston to Lyttleton.

    Results in just two pendulum lines of *more or less* the same length (either side of city centre), providing cross town connectivity and removing the need for terminating services.

    Just an idea.

    1. Yes thought something similar but tracks have been lifted to Prebbleton and think some of the designation has been built on. Designation looks like it was originally intended to go to Lincoln too which would be useful if still there as that’s growing fast post quake. Was looking very sprawlly when I was there last year.

      1. Motorway about to permanently remove ability to get rail to Lincoln. And only 3,500 people live there so not priority for rail.
        CBD south station should be at Colombo St if add the Lyttleton Line, a few 100m west of the old station. Again intersects with high frequency bus route to get people into city. Saying the the that the CBD is a real doughnut at the moment. Rebuilding occurring outside CERA controlled areas in lower city (near proposed station site) and along Victoria St corridor to the north.

  6. Don’t see any point in a train service to/from Lyttleton, they canned that some 40+ years ago when they scrapped the electrification from Moorhouse Ave station to Lyttleton station due to low numbers then and with the Brougham St “expressway” down that way that now links across to the new Southern Motorway link, train is not going to compete there with bus and cars anytime soon..

    As for Train to Lincoln, yeah all lost now, used to run trains out to Southbridge (south of Lincoln), on a single line, but that closed 50 years ago and no demand (until the quakes) for any alternatives to cars in that part of town. Shame, but thats successive local and national governments car first policies for you.

    As for “Riccarton Road” station – yes there is scope and room for one (even with a passing loop too just north of Riccarton Road (between Riccarton Rd and Kilmarnock street).
    Has half decent layover areas e.g. for buses to use as interchanges so that buses can swing by to meet the trains.

    Doesn’t need to be too fancy a platform as its only to really try it and see if Christchurch people will use the trains again.
    Some comment was made on the size of the ADK/ADLs – there are some low bridges near Belfast which may be too low for the ADK/L to fit under.
    SA sets might be a goer though.

    They could try it and see if it takes off then work out how to do it properly. I’d much rather these old trains got a final use kick starting another regions trains services than sold of for bugger all to some overseas country.

    1. Onehunga line was closed years ago too… Don’t see that as an argument for anything. Needs a fresh look. Strongly recommend investigating a quick v. low capex jerry built service and take it from there, while considering what a better service with more investment could look like too.

      1. I agree that you can reopen services on lines (except for the Lincoln one – thats a lost cause now that the designation was built on at Prebbleton) – you’d have to redesignate the land and route around the built on bits with all the objections those neighbours would have trains being run near them.

        However, in this case, the most pressing, number one, without a doubt issue is getting the folks who live north of the river an alternative way to travel to/from Christchurch without needing to allow 90 minutes plus for the journey. Thats the issue and thats the lever.

        That to me is the number 1 goal right now, and also the trojan horse to drive everything else – if those Rangiora and Kaiapoi folks have a train service (SA hauled is best for speed and capacity), then they can vote with their feet and use it. I’m sure giving them something which is a bit jerry built to start with, but delivered much sooner than something more ideal that takes years will be accepted on a trial basis.
        [but only on a trial basis].

        And if it doesn’t fly (it might not, after all, you know, actually work or be used), then no real money wasted. If it does, then that provides a powerful lever to get the council and Government to do it properly longer term, with dual tracks and the like.

        Remembering all the while that right now, the rail bridge over that river – which is the same river that causes all the car angst right now – is only 1 track wide itself, so double (or triple) tracking to Rangiora is probably a medium term objective, but the actual river crossing will remain the bottleneck for all modes for some time to come.

        I think that the demand for a new road crossing will be met sooner than a new or wider train crossing will, So the best outcome there is to lobby for a combined road and rail crossing when the new river crossing is being planned so that it is truly future proofed (not like the paper “future proof” example with the second Mangere bridge up here).

        1. The northern motoroway crossing over the waimakiriri river was piled to allow an extra lane in each direction. Completing the southbound at least woudl solve a bunch of the traffic issues ( they result from a combination of tailbacks at the first set of lights in Belfast, Marshland Road tailbacks, and on-ramp merging) . There is also a new SH1 diversion which will avoid Belfast and lead direct to the airport. I’m not sure whether there is any designation for rail, but an alternative route might run thus:
          Rangiora Nth, Rangiora Sth, Kaiapoi, ( all park and rides) ; Belfast.
          Then line A – papanui, merivale, riccarton, hornby, … rolleston
          Line b – Belfast, airport, Memorial drive , Univeristy, Merivale, Hagley, CBD , moorhouse ave, ferry road, lyttleton.

          Its all a bit pie in the sky – gerry directed the Blueprint team to ignore transport ( and trains) entirely. And to this day, he still hasn’t approved the proposed transpoirt plan ….

        2. Adding even 1 lane on existing piles will take some time.

          And unless you make that extra lane Bus and or T3+ lane it won’t solve anything for long as growth will use that lane in quick order.

          Rail won’t get a look in on any alternative crossing without lobbying as NZTA can’t by law fund anything to do with Rail.

          Without a proper Transport plan integrated to the land use plan, Christchurch is going nowhere.

    2. The SA sets were railed up from Dunedin after they were built so certainly fit though Christchurch. Not sure where the DMU’s were refurbished though. While the SA sets are nicer one issue with them is they require the hireage of a locomotive (which I understand Kiwirail charge a lot for) and they use a lot more fuel compared to the DMUs

  7. Columbo St Station would be a great starter station to get a test network up and running. Eventually that last 1km to Cathedral square would need to be filled in with a new bit of track….. Perhaps the land should be reserved today??

    1. Its a bit heart breaking looking at that site at the moment and seeing so much vacant land from Moorhouse, up along side Columbo st to the Cathedral. It would be so incredibly easy to put in a railway line there now as there is so much empty space.

  8. Perth will probably be due to upgrade their trains soon. Chch would be better off getting some of theirs as they are a generation newer.

      1. Yes, would be less realistic as that raises the potential investment many times.

        Adelaide is slowly finishing up with diesel trains (2000 class) however these are giants compared with the NZ vehicles, are quite old and run down, and apparently have very poor fuel economy. If getting cheap railcars is an issue I would be looking elsewhere overseas, see what Japan might have going spare. Taiwan has recently retired some diesel railcars.

    1. Auckland’s fleet is recently rebuilt and are all in the country soon to be in the country. All that Canterbury would need to do is buy a few of the carriages and lease the locos like AT have been doing. I’m quite sure in a few years they’ll be wishing they had purchase more. Electrification is a non starter, if Auckland is only just getting it there’s no way that would be paid for down there. An Auckland-style diesel pulled system is ideal to get their rail system back up and running and at a point, again like Auckland, whereby gradual improvements can be made to build it up.

  9. Discussions about a Christchurch suburban rail network has been on going since the 1920’s when Christchurch to Lyttleton was electrified. In 1929 when the Christchurch to Lyttleton line was electrified,an electrical substation at Woolston was built as part of the first stage of a larger plan for Christchurch passenger services. This Christchurch to Lyttleton passenger services was cancelled in 1972.

    There was a Christchurch to Rangiora passenger service that finished in 1976.

    The car park in the triangle in the photo, use to have track from the Lyttleton line to the main northern line to Picton.

    When the ‘new’ Addington railway station was built, the line became redundant and the track lifted.

    In August 2005, a small-scale study involving three focus groups was conducted to gauge public interest in commuter rail for Christchurch. The study concluded that there was interest in the idea if service expectations could be met. An Environment Canterbury commissioned discussion paper (Sinclair Knight Merz: The Future of Public Transport in Christchurch Discussion Paper, June 2004) concluded that priority should be given to bus-based public transport, but that future planning should include provision for other public transport options. A report commissioned in 2005 by Environment Canterbury from consultants GHD Limited (Network Level Investigative Report – Proposed Introduction of Commuter Rail Services to Christchurch City and Environs, June 2005) suggested that commuter rail would involve substantial costs and further investigation would be needed to determine what the requirements are.

    The report covered 5 rail options –

    Option 1: Utilising the Existing Network

    This option envisaged the introduction of frequent services between Lyttelton and Islington, with more limited services south to Rolleston/Darfield and north to Rangiora.

    Little or no new track would be laid, though upgrades to existing track were expected. Also required would be the purchase of passenger rolling stock and the construction of new stations.

    Option 2: Double tracking and resignalling to Belfast

    As with option 1, this would involve the introduction of frequent services between Lyttelton and Islington, as well as frequent services between Belfast and Islington.

    In addition to the double tracking of the Main North Line to Belfast, there would also be a need to upgrade Addington Junction, with a possible requirement to also upgrade existing track.

    Option 3: Double tracking and resignalling to Rangiora

    As with option 2, this would involve the introduction of frequent services between Lyttelton and Islington, in addition to frequent services between Rangiora and Islington. Limited services would be provided south of Islington, and an upgrade of the Rangiora station would be included to cater for commuters from Woodend.

    Track works would include double tracking the Main North Line from Addington Junction to Rangiora and an upgrade of Addington Junction.

    Option 4: Double tracking and resignalling to Rangiora and Rolleston

    This would involve the introduction of frequent services between Lyttelton and Rolleston/Darfield, as well as frequent services between Rangiora and Rolleston/Darfield. Also suggested was the possibility of reopening closed branch lines to encourage the growth of, or a reduction in traffic to/from, areas such as Prebbleton (formerly on the Southbridge Branch) and Oxford (formerly on the Oxford Branch), etc.

    Track works would include new layouts at Addington and Rolleston, as well as the double tracking of the Main South Line out to Rolleston and the double tracking of the Main North Line out to Rangiora.

    Option 5: Double tracking and resignalling to Rangiora and Rolleston, plus the Construction of a Central City Underground Loop

    As with option 4, but services would also be provided to a central city station via a tunnel.

    2007 consultation report “Christchurch Rolleston Transportation Study” found that 9% of the people who provided feedback wanted rail to have a greater role in the transport network and were concerned about the possibility of losing future options for developing rail links. One of the conclusions of the study was that rail is not a viable option for public transport within the scope of the study (until 2021). In December 2007, the Selwyn District Council approved the Christchurch, Rolleston and Environs Transportation Study, of which a key component is the protection of the railway corridor between Rolleston and central Christchurch for future commuter use.

    With rebuild of Christchurch and the move to more stable land for housing north, south and west of the city, this is a excellent opportunity to explore the whole issue of a suburban rail network for the greater Christchurch region.

    The article in today’s Press outlines the proposed costs.

    With warnings of global warming going to have a major impact on New Zealand’s climate in the next 50 to 100 years, we are rebuilding a city that is becoming car dependent and spending large amounts of money to upgrading roads for the rebuild and not looking at the future.

    Haven’t we learnt from the past with the problems of Auckland and major cities in the USA, that urban expansion without proper PT plannings has major problems in the future.

    The Christchurch rebuild should be future proofed with integrated local passenger rail service corridor with feeder bus services from key railway stations within that rail corridor similar to Wellington and what is being planned for Auckland.

    Christchurch is the largest gateway city in the South Island and the third largest city in New Zealand, so it needs it needs to have a planned integrated rail/bus public transport system.

    I agree with Riccardo’s comments and most of the comments that have been posted on the article and giving a go, using a refurbished rail stock from Auckland, as it is basic two line system with one line from Rolleston to Rangiora an v.vand Rolleston to Lyttleton v.v.

    The ‘Depot’ could be shared with the carriage depot at Addington that stores the AK passenger carriages.

    The temporary rail services can be Rolleston/Ranigora/Addinton/Rolleston/Lyttleton/Addington/Rolleston.

    There is a bus service from Tower Junction (bus stop 6 mins walk from Addington railway station) to central bus station (city centre) on Route 40 Church Corner to New Brighton service. In fact the bus could go Addington railway station and then onto Tower Junction or Tower Junction to Addington railway station and onto central bus station.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

    Unfortunately, we have a government including Mr Brownlee that are road focus, so this simple plan will be shelved as to expensive, as roads are cheaper (sic).

    1. All of that was predicated only on petrol prices driving demand.

      As we all know, the quakes and the mass escapes north of the river to the Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts have changed these rules substantially – the Census data from 2013 confirms that.
      So these studies are useless to guide anyone anytime soon.

      So time for a complete rethink, the quakes and the surplus DMUs/SA trains from Auckland are a “once in a cities lifetime” opportunity to being again and do it right.
      And the only way it will happen as it should is if National get booted this election, so that we will perhaps have more useful/and less modally “one eyed” Transport and Economic Development ministers in power, unlike the current double clown act of Brownlee and Joyce.

  10. This thread over on the CBT “South Island Transport forum” has some good analysis of the options and costs from a study done a year or so ago.

    Earlier pages in this thread also canvas a lot of the areas being discussed here, so are relevant to/should frame this discussion

    Basically a proper rail service with dual (or mostly dual) track to/from Rangiora to Christchurch would cost about $100m even if it used refurb DMUs.
    With new rolling stock double that.

    Still thats not out of the ballpark, just not needed to be done right now.

    1. The PDF that those screenshots on that thread came out of at this link:

      Looks to be a fairly comprehensive assessment of whats doable and what it might cost.
      Probably the released Census data from 2013 census could well further increase the commuter pools from Kaiapoi and Rangiora areas (and of course the current compelling event of further ongoing growth and zero chance of any traffic congestion relief for 5 years will also push up the latent demand for any rail service).

      1. Useful study, no interest in bus integration though. Station placement looks like it could certainly improve too. The current Addington Station is in an almost completely useless position for an intra-city system. Highly severed from catchment or transfer to bus.

        1. This was the same document they used in the ECan meeting today – TV One news showed the same pages from this report being reviewed by the ECan commissioners in their meeting.
          Probably the most up to date info they had.

          News also said that the Census 2013 showed 7000 more people moved in the catchment area for the train service ,so assume at least 25% of those could commute at least some of the way on train, each day and you have quite a sizeable base of possible train users to draw from (and also once allowing for the existing 4250 or so “commuting” residents already there who could also commute using train).

          All that probably means if you could get 500 people each 2 hour AM and PM peak using the trains,that you get your commuter service from 0 to 1/4 of a million in a year.
          [assuming you do just 2 car ADK/ADL DMUs per trip, which hold 120 or so each sitting with 4 “half hourly” trains during each AM/PM peak thats 500 people each Peak, times 2 per day times 20 working days a month times 12 months a year and thats ~240K journeys a year.
          And of course, if you ran 4 car SA sets instead of DMUs (much better for speed etc), you could carry double or triple that number.

          And you still would not exhaust the possible pool of train users.

        2. Really? Didn’t appear that way to me yesterday when I rode both types of trains (went to Papakura and back from GI), DMU down, SA back up – both seemed pretty sluggish and I recorded both trips using Google Tracks which tracked the acceleration profile – both were pretty “slow” to get to top speed from each stop. DMUs seemed to have a lower top speed as well.

          Maybe my SA was faster pulling away as it was mid afternoon and so not chock full of people?

          In any case, for the Rangiora service, I don’t see too many stops being needed – Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Belfast, Papanui, Riccarton as these all have stations able to be used now (more or less),
          and maybe 1 more somewhere between Belfast and Papanui (several to chose from there e.g. Redwood).

          Meaning about 6-10km between stops – way less start/stoppy than on the Western or Southern lines. And most of that will be do-able at 80km/hr, so meaning a possible end to end trip time of about half an hour if we allow for 1 minute dwell times at each station in between and allowing for 2 minutes to reach top speed again after leaving the station.
          Key thing is to provide a service which gets people over the river, rather than giving them the ability to go 1 station up/down the line. for now at least.
          So that long haul aspect is what I think is needed. So less stations may not be a problem it appears.

    2. Why do we need dual track to start with? Western Line wasn’t double tracked until about 2008, but still carried reasonable amounts of people. Double track not required with an service focussed on commuters in the central suburbs, and only running once an hour at best. This is meant to be cheap trial, reckon will cost $10 million. Hellensville and Waikato line costs probably a good indication, and they were about that.

      1. Why do we need dual track to start with? Western Line wasn’t double tracked until about 2008, but still carried reasonable amounts of people
        Exactly. Do what we need now, we’ll get to the rest later.

      2. Well you either partiallly double track or put loops in you have no choice
        – that line is used by KR for freight operations, and many of those run in the AM peaks to meet the Picton Ferry timetables, Which KR will not of course reschedule around.

        So, unlike Western line where there is some give and take with KR regarding freights and passengers, this will be all fit into KR’s schedule or don’t bother.

        And I think track control north of Belfast (north edge of Christchurch) is “Track Warrant” based (sounds pretty primitive), not Central Train Controlled, so you can’t rely on “advanced” signalling like the Western Line has/had.

        Its pretty primitive in Christchurch as KR has had their own way for decades and hasn’t learned to share.

        Agree you don’t need full double track, but imagine if Papakura to Auckland was a single track without loops in it, you’d run into trouble even with 1 or 2 trains an hour conflicting with freights.
        So you have to do something.

        1. just checked the KR timetable are there no freights that would conflict at all. Main issue is the TranzCoastal departing at 7am, and arriving at 6.20pm. So that means can’t depart Rangiora until 7.30am, and need to arrive before 5.50pm.
          Plus there are 2 existing loops at Belfast and Rangiora. The volume of trains on the main north line much lower than the southern.
          If Kiwirail see this as a money making opportunity then I’m sure they will be keen to ensure this is a goer, and will mean money goes to Kiwirail for maintenance and operations.

  11. Its still cheaper than roads and the pollution being created due to our aging national car fleet.

    When is the right time? When New Brighton is under 1 metre of sea?

  12. I mean the ‘temporary’ or improvised solution is only what Pukekohe got – two trains a day on weekdays, which has grown and grown and now is proposed for full electrification. The town itself has grown in the mean time, but not as fast as the rail service did.

    I think the experiment is worthwhile. Helensville was also worth doing, didn’t work out but that’s why you do a trial.

    I would also suggest Tauranga and Dunedin could make the same case, test using the railcars for a little while, see whether the locals show interest in them more than just an initial ‘look-see’.

    1. I still firmly believe that Helensville was the wrong destination and was ultimately the reason for the failure of the trial. A park’n’ride at Kumeu / Huapai would have worked in my opinion.

      1. Yes true and Christchurch folks have been talking about the township of Amberly further north of Rangiora and in that case a Park and Ride for either Rangiora or Kaiapoi would solve that issue.
        After all the issue is not to completely replace cars, its to remove the issue of lack of sufficient crossings (rail and road) over the river that severs Kaiapoi and related areas from Christchurch that needs to be solved right now.
        And using spare trains to resurrect a rail service can help do that.

  13. and it gets you thinking when you realise how finite funds are. There was some passion on CBT about whether Waitakere should keep its railcar. But when you compare that with say an improvised solution for Christchurch, or extending the Pukekohe service a few towns south, or putting Palmerston North’s train on a proper footing, you can always see, even as a rail or public transport enthusiast, you can see better uses of the funds.

  14. If the freight services are infrequent and regularly timed, surely there is no need for immediate double tracking of the entire length. Sufficient passing lanes to allow service would be enough.

    We ran the Auckland Western Line services on a single track until very recently, and that included a full passenger rail service and a large volume of freight.

  15. Yes, not convinced of the need for double tracking. I would have thought a peak direction service, supplemented by buses, would test the water adequately. I refer back to the Pukekohe service originally. The trial is more to test how much rail mode loyalty there is, rather than to test demand for public transport, they should know how much of that there is already from buses.

  16. What’s depressing about that article are the quotes from people saying the “permanent fix” of the congestion is a motorway in a few years time but until then trains could help. ChCh will go down as a complete basket case of a city with the way growth is being funnelled around motorways. It’s basically Brownlee, Key and Joyce building their dream sprawl city, devoid of a heart and full of motorways and car dependent.

      1. Agreed times have changed, pity ECan hasn’t got the memo yet regarding that (from the Stuff :newstory below about the idea being approved and report due in 6 weeks)

        “ECan staff said it was a short-term solution for the six years it would take to complete motorway upgrades.”

        Shows some leopards can’t change their spots, no matter how close the hunters with guns are…


          1. With traffic tripling over forecasts in the last 3 years, traffic will double again within that timeframe, making the congestion even worse than it is today so if they think they will be able to build there way out this mess they may need a rethink. And also when they start widening motorways or whatever they plan it will cut capacity on the roads right done as well, making the problem even worse. So it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

          2. Any train service could become a major victim of its own success – if everyone decides to use the trains then that may be worse in the short term for passenger experience so could act to turn people back off it.

          3. Any services put in place have to be approached as a “priming” operation for longer term plans put in place. But this short term thinking I see from ECan needs to be slapped down quickly. Or theyll decide not to make the next step of putting in proper tracks or proper electric lines or proper integration with buses on the basis that “the new road will fix this issue so trains won’t be needed”.

          4. I’d love to be proved wrong.

  17. The key to it working is a well placed Riccarton Station. In my view it probably should be between Kilmarnock and Riccarton Rds, both bus rich east-west routes, between the Uni and the City plus the Riccarton Mall, and both the Boys and Girls schools a walk or a short bus hop away. So still on Mona Vale Rd but a bit south of the historic station. IMV it must be on Riccarton Rd as that bus goes straight through the park and to the city, well, as close to the city as buses are allowed. New station indicted in red below:

      1. Ok to make Addington work I see two options. In red and blue below. Current station not well placed for intra-city services.

        Either add platforms 2, 3, + 4 across the two lines with pedestrian connections, Blue. Probably fine if running a two service North/South and East/West.

        Or Ignore the current station for the new services and make a new Island station on the line that both services use, Red. Incidentally very very handy for events at AMI stadium and Addington Raceway. Would need to add short sections of track for freight trains to bypass. This set up would enable a ‘Newmarket’ style operation for trains from the north to then head east if that is considered an advantage.

        Whiteleigh Ave has a fair few bus Routes to connect to too. Plenty of room around new buildings on Snow Place for access etc.

        1. Yes with SA/SD sets or DMUs they could easily change direction from North/South to East/West using your red island station idea. the current station is a disaster.

          I’m not so certain about the demand for an east west service.
          Main plan there looks to be to not go through to Lyttleton at all due to tunnel/signalling restrictions imposed by KR so Woolston is the closest you’d go, and Rolleston in the West the most Western route.

          With proper integrated services so that the north/south and west/east trains meet at the island station at the same time (waiting for the other to arrive to ensure smooth transfers) you could deliver quite an effective service with only 8 or so trains sets I think.

        2. Is the tunnel that busy? I’m prepared to guess that slots can be found for services to Lyttleton, including a station on the city side as there was in the past, called Bridle Path or Port Hills [on Station Rd!], so any hold-ups at least can be spent there and not just in suspension. In which case I suggest:

          Rangiora to Addington Station [either Red or Blue above, but ideally Red] pulsed with Rolleston-Lyttleton, via Columbo St [buses, city], Polytech/Ensors Rd [buses, residential, commercial], Garlands Rd, [buses, residential, commercial], yes these two are only 800m apart but their catchments are divided by the Heathcote River to the east. And lslington/Hornby to the west. The Angel.

          Or, perhaps to start:

          One Route: Rangiora to either just Columbo St or Lyttleton involving a Newmarket style switchback. So:

          Belfast [Station Rd]
          Northcote [Vagues Rd]
          Papanui [Restel St]
          Strowan [Strowan Rd]
          Riccarton [Mona Vale between Riccarton + Kilmarnock]
          Addington Raceway [with switchback]
          City [Colombo St]
          Waltham or Chch Poly [Ensors Rd]
          Opawa or Woolston [Garlands Rd]
          Bridle Path or Port Hills [Station Rd]

          But could even just start with:


          And progressively add the others, and Islington/Rolleston/Darefield

          Each station could be built as a siding to allow for freight bypass.

        3. Lyttelton tunnel is busy, with coal trains and container shuttles from Woolston (and potentially from Rolleston). It could well be quite a bottleneck. And with the crackdown on tunnel operation, as seen at Otira, there could well be Health & Safety issues to overcome before a regular passenger service could be introduced.

          I’d focus on the Main North Line, at least to start with.

        4. The catchment for Lyttleton is not really huge, and they will have bus services through the road tunnel to get them near to Woolston Station if they need to take a train.
          But depending on frequency of bus v. trains staying on the bus may be quicker if you need to get to town of points along that way.
          And they’re doing that already I think. Its only if they need to travel across town by train will they need to go near the stations.

          When the inter islander ferries used to run that line was busy mornings and evenings with wharfies and boat passengers, but not now both have long gone.

        5. Yes, I concede Lyttleton looks tricky, and anyway is just a feel-good add on to the core route. Start it real tight and build stops from there on a case by case process. The line is available.

        6. The red one will be the best bet. Through some rubbish urban planning that Show Place there developed into one if the cities major office parks just before the earthquakes, and has sped up since then. So lots of walk up employees.

        7. The rail corridor appears pretty narrow in the area proposed for a new Addington station (Red site). Possibly marginal for an island platform plus access footbridge, assuming Auckland station dimensions. Key would probably be negotiating access through one of the private building car parks on the south side.

    1. There looks to be sufficient space to build a modest station beside Mona Vale Rd between Kilmarnock St and Riccarton Rd, but the circuitry for the level crossing alarms and barriers on both roads would probably need modification to avoid the barriers dropping while a train was stopped at the station.

  18. Wellington ought to put its hand out for a few SDs, too, so that Wairarapa trains can be push-pull, reducing terminal congestion and enabling shuttles to terminate en route (eg Upper Hutt, doubling weekend frequency with little increase in train miles) and adding bicycle capacity.

    There are issues with Wairarapa level crossings, but in that respect SDs are very similar in driving position to the railcars that served the Wairarapa for many years.

    1. I think Christchurch should get first dibs – these guys need a good headache relieving solution now, and it provides another way to evangelise non-Road based PT to a new audience who don’t have a lot of choice (so will try it as long as its there and reliable), and who will then be able to make a real difference to traffic congestion if they do.

      In any case no SA/SD sets come free for some time – not least until either the Western line or Southern Line is fully EMUed, which is not until this time next year at the earliest on current (and forever moving out) AT timetables.

      The 2 Car DMUs will come free first (from Onehunga), then from Manukau later this year, but I doubht they help Wellingtons cause.

      1. I don’t disagree that Chch should come first, but there are 24 SDs and Wellington has only 4 Wairarapa sets that would need them, so there are enough to go around – and next year is not that far away!

        There might be some interest in DMUs for Otaki/Levin shuttles – who knows?

        1. Just as long as there are “no backsies” on the DMUs – if they blow up/break down during or after delivery – its buyer beware 🙂

  19. As a Cantabrian local. Thanks for the input transportblog.

    I think the Riccarton station hub would work. It is a big retail area in its own right, Given the lack of development of the CBD we don’t need a CBD hub. Also Riccarton would be a fast direct bus route to the hospital -the biggest employer in the CBD, while also being close to the university another big location for commuters.

    I think the proposed train services should focus on combating congestion resulting from the choke point of crossing the Waimakariri river as that is the immediate crisis and then take it from there. I see trains and roads/motorways could work together.

    I have in the past suggested a road/bridge solution with an affordable housing satellite village as a good option.
    Goosoid on this website has suggested if this was done it should be something like Houten in the Netherlands.

    I think when assessing transport options if it supports affordable housing should be a big consideration.

  20. What about the Waikato use of the unused Diesels as proposed a little while ago by the Waikato/Hamilton proposal. This seemed to me to be a logical step and with a pretty good/big opportunity all round to extend the PT further south.

  21. The Empire strikes back – see todays Press already has NZTA who lead the investigation downplaying the Rail aspect of the investigations:

    Seems NZTA would like a bus lane and/or T2/T3 lane.

    I like the (subtle) plea from the NZTA Guy (Harland) leading the investigation:

    “Harland said 6am to 8am was peak hour and, if people changed their start time by 15 minutes, it could make a significant difference.

    “The short-term effects will be manageable if we can change user behaviour to move 10 per cent of the vehicles off the motorway and access roads during peak hours.”

    i.e. we (NZTA) won’t need to consider anything but a roads based approach if we can just get 10% less cars on the road at peak so if everyone left 15 minutes earlier (ignoring the fact that many schools, Christchurch business and the like have fixed opening hours so leaving 15 minutes ahead is not much of an option if you’re already doing a school run) we’d be done and dusted.

    Yes Carpooling might help, but 10% reduction is pretty steep outside of school holidays and thats only todays problems, what about next months or next years traffic – currently 10% less traffic wouldn’t buy you even 6 months of breathing room. I don’t think Christchurch folks need a tens of thousands of dollars “report” to tell them that – they all ready know that.

    Time to look outside the asphalt box guys, the answer you seek is before you already.

    Now where is Yoda when you need him.

    1. He’s leading the investigation? And with such an open mind….!

      And of course to a degree he’s right; if only people just wouldn’t drive!

      Or an additional mode could be provided, at not much cost, but then what if people used it?, oh shit it’ll be like bloody Auckland, next they’ll be arguing for more and better services and lines and fewer motorways….. nip it in the bud.

    2. Me and my wife regularly drive this route. I do shift work. I leave Amberley sometimes at 6am with no problems but if I leave 10 minutes later, traffic slows and it adds 5 minutes to my trip. Later than that is a nightmare. My wife needs to travel only once a week luckily. But she can only get a reasonable trip into town if she leaves after 8pm. My wife would be very keen to take a train as she could work on it and a station at Riccarton would be a short bus trip to the hospital where she has meetings. She wouldn’t have to pay for parking. I don’t think a train from Amberley makes that much sense right now, as it is not much bigger than Pokeno, but if Rangiora to Christchurch was successful then it would be a logical extension because Amberley’s population is growing and is a natural gateway to the Waipara wine region.

      Currently Amberley has no public transport connections to either Rangiora or Christchurch such is the poverty of our public transport in Canterbury. I doubt our government appointed commissioners in ECan or NZTA will do much to change the situation. The government’s attitude to Christchurch is about decreasing expectations. Brownlee blames, criticises and labels anyone who wants more as a whinger. You only have to read the Press today to see this in action -Brownlee blaming private investors for the mess of the CBD.

      1. It is for this reason I would want more of Canterbury’s taxes to stay in Canterbury and a reformed local government sector to pay for its own infrastructure.

      2. Start with this really skinny system; I reckon it’ll cut the cars on the commute and free up traffic as well as provide a comfortable and attractive alternative for users. Services need to be well timed but it looks like there is little other traffic to work around so that should be ok:

        City [under Colombo St flyover, say]

        Outer three stations need Park ‘n’ Ride and Kiss ‘n’ Ride services.
        Inner three focussed on bus integration. Bike share at stations would be good too.

        Addington the least useful as it is currently configured, but could be affordably moved or augmented, all stations need work, but no new lines or track outside of stations, and use existing trains from elsewhere in country. Consider any bus changes that could be made too.

        Cheap as chips responsible use of existing assets and life enhancing increase in choice and options for Cantabrians and congestion relief for road users. What’s not to like?

        1. Patrick would you go for DMU (2 car/4 car?) or loco hauled SA/SD sets?.
          And would you suggest more frequent (say 2 car DMUs every 15 minutes peak) over 4 car SA/SD sets every half hour at peak?
          And off peak? Every hour

          Not sure if DMUs will operate Ok in Christhurch though (low hanging bridges e.g. Belfast and the like might get in the way).

          Obvious attraction of DMUs is that 2 (or 3?) could be in Christchurch this time next week ready to rock now that Onehunga is about to stop using them.
          Then feed the DMUs from Manukau service down the line when they become free too later in the year.

          I reckon ECan should try it on a suck and see ASAP even before NZTA do there “roads as usual” rport – and even if they have to second drivers ex AKL to help train others up to drive them in the short term. Heck there are plenty of FIFO workers down there already so a few more who actually help people move around better and not just put up cones everywhere might be welcomed with open arms down there.

  22. There seems to be a lot of concern about how people would get into the CBD from the existing railway line. This ignores the reality that, right now, the centre of gravity for activity in Chch is probably Riccarton and Addington (Lincoln Rd and surrounds is a hive of activity). So developing a new station at Riccarton Rd and improving the one at Addington (e.g. a pedestrian link over to Clarence St South) would target a lot of the current demand. And both stations would have good connections to major bus services nearby (incl. Orbiter, 3, 5).

    As others have said, keep it simple for starters – Rangiora/Kaiapoi-Addington with the addition of a Riccarton Station would be low-hanging fruit. Then build from there, e.g. more stations, extend to Hornby/Rolleston, etc. And if successful, then ultimately you address the question of how to bring a line closer into town.

    1. True. But do you think the active abandonment of the centre is a good thing as some clearly do? As we always argue here service should not only reflect demand but also facilitate it’s growth.

      1. I take your point. But we’re not going to get any traction on rail access closer to the central city until we can demonstrate a demand for it in any form. And the easiest way to do that quickly right now is to put some services on the tracks that already exist. Yeah, perhaps you could add a stop at South City (old railway stn site) that would also help serve some of the CBD and Sydenham. But it’s an extra station and an extra switchback manoeuvre at present – keep it for version 2.

        The best future-proofing option for the CBD would be to at least ensure that at least a designation exists to help lead into town – arguably Hagley Park and the new South Frame could provide that.

        1. Not advocating any new track. Question is between these Options for now:

          A. Rangiora to Addington only. Any CBD travellers to transfer to bus at Riccarton [And Uni the other way]
          B. The same but continuing on to Rolleston after Addington
          C. Doing a ‘Newmarket’ reverse just south of current Addington Station and continuing to a stop around where the old station was [but I prefer under Colombo St to connect with buses] and perhaps on to Woolston too.

          All three are minimal. Perhaps just start with the first one [especially as it seems there is more freight on the east/west line], but also to lower initial cost and speed implementation. Option C would benefit from new Addington platform on the east/west line as indicated in a comment above.

          All options only require rolling stock [very few] and new platforms at level vacant sites. And Park’n’Ride at Rangiora, Kaiapoi, and Belfast. Some bus integration work too at all stations.

          Agree with you about the future: It’s my view Christchurch should be planning for a return of Light Rail, and this is the way to link the existing rail stations to major destinations, like the city centre and uni. But buses for now as we all know that the political climate is not right for that now. But certainly the Council should be taking advantage of the blank slate that the city sadly now is to protect future roadspace for other eventualities.

        2. Been studying this, and the track is 30kms from Rangiora to existing Addington Stn (more or less).
          Addington to Rolleston is 20kms (more or less).

          If we take option B then thats a 50 km each way trip, you’d need at least two trains – 1 starts at Rolleston, the other at Rangiora, assuming they “cross” at Addington, you’d need Rolleston to start 10 minutes after Rangiora left, then each one keeps going to the other end of the line (Rolleston for the Rangiora train, and Rangiora for the Rolleston Train).
          Turn around and come back, with staggered/delayed leave time for the Rolleston train.

          With that you could manage 1 train from Rangiora and Rolleston about every 40-45 minutes.

          So if you ran this pattern from Rangiora: 6:00am, 6:45am, 7:30am, 8:15am and a second train from Rolleston at: 6:10am, 6:55, 7:40, 8:25
          so thats 4 trains over the 3 hour AM peak, with the last trains arriving about 8:45. Giving those who start at 9am a 15 minute window to make it from the train station.

          If you ran option A then you could have a variant which also ran a shuttle to from Rolleston to Addington and back every 40 minutes, and the same from Rangiora to Addington and back would take 60 minutes per round trip.

          Option B works minimally with 2 trains total, could work with 4 trains if you had intermediate crossing points along the way.
          Option A would need two trains each leaving from Rangiora at 30 minute intervals as 1 train per hour at peak won’t work (would work off peak though), – you’d need a place for the trains to cross halfway between Addington and Rangiora – Belfast has passing loops so that would be the logical waiting/passing point for the up train to wait till the down train goes through or v.v. but its not quite halfway, so there may be some additional time scheduled waiting here.

          Rolleston can be managed with a single shuttle that just goes back and forth under Option A if that service pattern is desired which gives 1 train from Rolleston every 45 minutes.

          Evening peaks is the reverse. With probably first peak train out at say 4:00pm, and last one at say 7pm.

          Option B is the least number of trains needed (2) but gives a 45 minute wait between trains.

          But with option B you could if you used a 4 car SA/SD type trains carry 350 passengers each trip, so peak direction you could deliver 1400 people maximum each AM/PM peak.
          Thats quite a lot of people you can move, more than enough to make a difference to the roads/congestion.

          And if you dropped the frequency inter peak to 1 train you could deliver 90 minute departures, which is pretty minimal.

          All up I think Option A is better and if a Rolleston service is desired then use with a separate train to shuttle to from Addington, so needing 3 trains total.

        3. Only problem with that model is that really Riccarton is the key station, not Addington. Riccarton is the main point for east and west connection, particularly the UNi and the City. So there is a higher value on direct service to Riccarton. Don’t see too much value in a southern service that stops at Addington. In fact if they need to be separate would probably rather see that service continue on to a city station [Colombo St] and then Woolston. Need new platforms at Addington on the east/west line. From Rolleston bus interchange at Addington [Whiteleigh Ave] for the Uni, at Colombo, for the city….?

          Therefore two 30Km lines: Rangiora-Addington, Rolleston-Woolston, pulsing past each other at Addington; could be good. Pretty tidy; any problems on one line, no effect on the other.

          Still Option A is probably the best place to start. I like your timetable; two sets would do it for starters.

        4. With Option A you and two trains you’d easily get 2 trains per hour, so those time tables could become every 15 minutes pas and to the hour from Rangiora (e.g. 6:15, 6:45 etc).
          Which would give moving capacity of 6 x 250 = 2100 per peak, with both 7am, 8am and 9am start times catered for.
          Evening peak would be from 4:15 to 7:15 catering for all those early starters who finish at 4pm.

          The Rolleston line, would offer similar frequencies, and probably only need 2 car DMUs for that one to start.
          So for 4 trains all up (2 DMUs, 2 SA/SD sets), you could implement a pretty practical commuter service.

        5. 30 minute frequency is not bad as a starter. Still better than more than a few Auckland bus services off peak.

    2. I think passenger rail would help inner city Christchurch. Maybe not the CBD to start with but the proposed Riccarton station is just on the other side of Hagley park from the CBD.

      It may be that post earthquakes the centre of Christchurch gravitates west so that it is between the hospital and university. Riccarton mall is the biggest in Christchurch and many of the speciality shops of the old CBD have moved there, whether they move back or not is hard to say. Lets wait and see. Dunedin’s CBD has been moving north towards the hospital and university, so it is possible for a CBD to gradually relocate itself.

      I agree with the skinny rail proposal, with good bus connections and then develop it from there. Christchurch has several good corridors for rail transport development. I would hope this is done in conjunction with road/bridge upgrades and rezoning of land for affordable housing.

      It would not take much to transform Christchurch to a modern, successful, desirable and affordable city that New Zealand would be proud to call its second most important city.

  23. Here was one idea.
    The extra airport line would allow for better freight access as well and allow trains to run in a loop, partiularly if the new line was double track and the section of main north was also double tracked.
    Regarding center city access, the easiest option would be a station at riccarton with easy bus transfer and a station slightly west of the old station. The same bus route could easily link these stations via the cbd.

    1. Yup, go for quick and simple, even temporary, and it’ll grow into something great. That’s the lesson from Auckland and elsewhere. Times have a-changed, even easier now. If ChCh can get some sort of service that is half reasonable up and running, they’ll never look back. I’m certain. Softly, softly, confuse a Brownlee.

    1. Why didn’t we think of that,so simple really, no need for expensive multi-billion $ RoNS, multiple additional lanes on motorways, on-ramp signals, new river crossings – nope – just add some bollards, problem solved….

      Yeah right.

        1. Never been a people tram anywhere near that road – most likely is named for a timber/raw logs carrying railway I expect.

        2. Tram Road was surveyed in 1871 as a railway route from Kaiapoi to Oxford, but both railways to Oxford followed different routes.

  24. The Greens today announced they plan to set up urban trains in Christchurch, but bizzarely, instead of linking the existing railway the mere 600 metres to the proposed new transport centre in town, they want to take everyone to Addington, several kilometres away, then bus them from the station to the city. It doesn’t sound very well thought out at all, especially for Lyttelton passengers who will go past the city, then double back on a bus, probably taking 30 minutes to achieve what a 10 minute walk from Moorhouse Ave would. At the very least, put a station there. What’s 600 metres after all? Britomart to half way up Queen Street?

    1. You are in error Geoff. I was at the policy launch this morning so let me clear up your confusion.

      The Christchurch City council asked ECAN to produce a report based on providing a temporary solution to the cities traffic problems. The link is in the post above. The report writes that it is possible, affordable, desirable to provide this link, but ultimately recommends against it because of doubt whether it would be used (which is absolute tripe).

      The report basically looks at running an Rangiora to Addington pattern. It looks at the bare minimum to achieve maximum effect. This does not include putting in a turning loop so trains can go from the North trunk to the Lyttleton trunk without reversing. The solution to shuttle between addington and City is a sensible one for a trial concept. In time, once patronage grows and the service proves its worth and is popular, I’m sure the direct city access would be added in. Further more nothing in the report discusses a Lyttleton service.

      Finally, the Greens have committed to implementing this report, as opposed to putting it into the “nah it might take away people from the roads” box.

      1. The media report I read says they are planning a long term rapid transit (rail) network, with buses connecting with trains at Addington. Perhaps the reporter confused short-term and long-term plans?

        So does the long-term plan include a link into the transport centre?

    1. That article shows the benefit of the super city in decision making. Too many actors for anything positive to happen…

      1. NZTA would have to fund commuter rail like it does in Auckland and Wellington and ECAN would have to agree to it. Both are central government controlled entities in Canterbury. Further the central train station will need to link into the CBD which is also controlled by CERA and CCDU also central government entities. If a few govt ministers wanted it to happen -it would -if they don’t and that is the clear message over many years -it will not happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.