Ports of Auckland did a press release back in September that didn’t really get picked up on:

Working with KiwiRail, Ports of Auckland has doubled the rail services between its Waitematā seaport and Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub.

The increased service starts this week and will bring the port to the doorstep of importers and exporters in South Auckland, potentially reducing the number of trucks coming into the seaport and opening up more space to handle growing volumes.

Ports of Auckland General Manager Commercial Relationships Craig Sain said, “This is just the beginning. With our developments in Palmerston North and Wiri, we’re on our way to make more effective and increased use of rail to improve our service offering.”

“Containers moved by rail was up by 64% in 2013/14, but it is still a small percentage of the total containers coming through the port. We’d like to see this number grow over the coming years,” he said.

In 2010, with the opening of the Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub, KiwiRail ran four services of 23 wagons a week in each direction. Over time, this number increased to eight services and starting today there will be sixteen services a week.

“There is ample capacity on the line to the Port to increase services further and we will continue to work with KiwiRail to get the most out of the line,” Mr Sain said.

KiwiRail General Manager Sales – Freight Alan Piper said, “Ports of Auckland’s drive to increasingly move freight by rail to its Wiri inland port has seen a rapid increase in growth of daily services this year. This is a great example of KiwiRail working closely with its customers and provide flexible growth capacity to enable more use of rail to transport goods around the country.”

Now sixteen services a week may still not sound significant, but each train can haul about 70 twenty foot equivalent containers. Each train is at least 35 trucks off the road.   Take a look at this video – it’s been sped up 4x, since the train is so long:

With freight volumes increasing though, the need for a third track on the Eastern Line (in particular between Wiri and Southdown, with an estimated capital cost of between $50m – $70m) becomes more apparent as passenger services are increasing too. Kiwirail might argue that Auckland Transport should contribute to the cost, but I’ve heard that Kiwirail charge Auckland Transport a track access fee in excess of $18m annually .

As the owner and landlord of the Auckland rail network, it would be fit the current charging model for Kiwirail to invest more in the network, and recover the costs through an increased charge in exchange for higher passenger rail frequencies.  This needs to happen before the opening of the CRL if Kiwirail wants to continue to grow its freight operations.  Would it be too much to ask that the Goverrnment’s contribution to the CRL be in the form of a capital injection to Kiwirail, so that not only the CRL track could be built, but the third main as well?

On the other hand, $50m – $70m is at the bottom end of NZTA’s project expenditure, so perhaps it could be included as a line item in the freight focussed East-West connection project.

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  1. The 16 freights a week are in addition to the 80 odd a week hat already run to the port, so it’s about 96 per way (192 trains) per week, mostly along the Eastern Line, although increasingly via Newmarket as well.

    1. Hi Geoff, it’s definitely just 16pw, with a few others run by Tappers (not sure the exact number), definitely not the 80 extra you mention. Maybe you’re thinking of the trains that go to Metroport? But it is a decent increase, up til quite recently we were running just 4pw. Matt

      1. I’m talking about the total number of trains KiwiRail run to Auckland Port each week, regardless of which customer’s freight they are carrying. It’s currently about 80 a week, and will go to about 96 a week with the additional services.

        1. If they think 16 a week Cameron, then obviously they don’t. That only accounts for the Wiri services. L61 and L71 make up to ten runs a day from Westfield as well, plus there’s 1-2 crosstown shunts from Southdown.

        2. It would help if people read the article before commenting. The PoAL press release specifically said “between its Waitematā seaport and Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub”. So, yes, PoAL can count and do know what they’re talking about. 🙂

        3. Yep Bryan, but if we are talking about the benefits of moving freight to the port by rail, then I think all the trains going to the port are relevant. The 16 Wiri shuttles per week are only a portion of the total number of freights running to the port.

          One of my concerns is the Orakei development which is only leaving space for three tracks. I think 20 years from now they’ll be wanting four.

        4. KiwiRail runs 4-5 shunts per day in and out of Auckland Port, 7 days per week. That’s about 30 per week. What makes you think that it is 80?

  2. So at 192 pw that means 6720 container trucks off the streets every week, using Cameron’s conservative formula above. Impressive.

    But it does work against the city’s efforts to increase housing density along the rail corridor. It would be good to see Kiwirail invest in a handful of electric locomotives to handle the port traffic.

    1. Don’t KiwiRail already have electric locomotives? Hamilton and South of Hamilton is all electrified – question is whether the systems are compatible. If they are, then it’s just a matter of bringing (pushing?) them to Auckland. Or am I completely wrong?

      If wikipedia is to be trusted, then the system will be compatible “QUOTE: 25 kV 50Hz AC overhead Palmerston North–Te Rapa, Papakura–Britomart”

      1. Same voltage and frequency, but different current. Auckland’s network is jacked up for plenty of power. IIRC that means existing NIMT electric locos would burn out in Auckland, but any new locos built to Auckland specs can run on the NIMT.

        1. Er. . . no. Provided the voltage and frequency are correct, the current drawn by a locomotive is controlled entirely by the locomotive. I.e. the loco will draw only what it needs, even if the power supply is capable of delivering far more.

          When you plug a 40W table lamp into the 230v mains it will draw about 1/6th of an amp. But if you plug a 2KW heater into the same supply and it will draw 8½ amps. It is the load that determines the current.

          Class 30’s will run OK under Auckland’s wires. However at the moment they are very much needed where they are – on the NIMT. Would be great if Hamilton-Papakura could be electrified and more electrioc locos purchased, but that would mean the Government investing in a Railway of National Significance! Something they are notably averse to doing..

        2. Only parroting what I’m told, which is that existing locos would blow out their fault circuits if they ran under Auckland wires. Something about the impedance perhaps, like how I can’t use my car speakers on a home stereo?

        3. NIck R, I believe you are correct. Voltage is the same, but there is much less current flowing through the main trunk overhead wires than Auckland. The discussion to be had is how much it would cost to rebuild some EFs to handle the higher current, and ideally, to also install a small diesel motor so they can shunt on the wharves, off the wires. Perhaps going brand new may be the better bet.

          There are some stylish overseas 1067mm gauge hybrid diesel electric locomotives available now which deal precisely with the issue of shunting off the wires underneath container cranes etc…..

        4. It got bashed to death fairly effectively in this thread,
          Basically the conclusion was that the network and locos have similar specs, so they protect each other,
          Yes in regular operation you could run EFs in Auckland, but from a degree of protection aspect you would never do it

          If an EF develops a Fault on the NIMT that results in it drawing max power from the network, the substation overload breakers will trip before the load reaches a level that can cause major damage to the loco.

          A bit like the circuit breaker on you mains board tripping when an appliance faults

          With the Auckland Network being built to serve much high loads, if an EF is running under those lines and faults, the maximum it can draw from the network is enough to damage it…

        5. Can’t think where all this is coming from.
          If an electric loco develops a fault, it has its own protection system which should isolate it. It should not need to rely on the substation circuit-breakers for this purpose. These are more to protect the substation and wires.

          Sure if a train goes hard-short from pantograph to rail, by-passing its own protection, then it will trip the supply breakers. How much current it will draw in doing this depends on how far it is from the supply-point, since the lines themselves limit the fault current over a long distance. The protection system has to discern between a fault at a distance and a legitimate high-demand close-by.

          For damage to occur to a Class 30 due to Auckland’s more-robust power supply, the loco’s own protection system would somehow have to be inoperative. I would think this rare situation could equally apply to an EMU.

          If anyone has more info on the types of fault that might do this I would be interested to know.

      2. Two sections of railway having the same gauge and compatible power supply? That would break all the rules of rail planning!

    2. One of my rail friends tells me there is at least one electric loco sitting in Wellington unused. He is not sure it can run on the Auckland network as it may draw too much current

    3. They would need to be some kind of hybrid loco, so they could work off the wires. We don’t have any overhead wires at the port and we couldn’t install them for obvious reasons! I believe there are locos that could fit the bill, so it might happen one day. Matt

      1. Couldn’t electric locos run from outside the port, with diesel shunters working on the port?
        Seriously KR need to understand that to gain powerful public support for increases in freight on the urban network replacing the noisey, fumey and carcinogenic diesels with electric locos will be essential. We’ve already put a lot of infrastructure in for you.

        I live for the day that KR gets smart about communicating with and listening to the public. Seems to have no idea how useful that would be in getting investment and buyin from your shareholder: us!

        1. Getting rid of the diesels would also make the areas around the stations desirable for medium density development. At the moment the trains blight the whole corridor for residential.

        2. You just *know* that even if KR agreed to that idea, that they’d insist that the Electric loco pull the (idling) diesel loco with it, to do the yard switching at the other end, that would mean that instead of a quiet electric hauled train running down the Eastern Line you’d have a electric train hauling a (noisy) idling Diesel Loco.

        3. “a quiet electric hauled train”

          Electrically-hauled freight trains at normal track speeds are not quiet by any stretch of the imagination.
          Many of the responses are classic examples of proposing solutions without having defined the problem(s). Loading up Kiwirail with extra expenses in running these services will make the freight trains go away. The traffic will simply go to road…and this isn’t idle hypothesis. I am currently working on a project that will (all going well) put several hundred thousand tonnes of product onto Auckland’s rail network but it’s all looking difficult and expensive compared to road freight without imposing additional costs on the rail operator. The ratepayer would pick up much of the cost of road freight but that’s not an issue affecting the bottom line.

        4. I don’t live by the Eastern Railway, but regardless when the wind is right I can hear the noisy locomotives long before and after the “steel on steel” of the wheels on rails from all the wagons is heard. I’ve also been down at the Orakei rail overbridge as a freight train came rocketing past – the noise of the wheels is indeed high, but its way less than the noise from the locos.

          I don’t suggest electric hauled freight will be no noise – it won’t be but it will be a shit load quieter, and be noisy for a lot less of the time than the current noisy diesel locos are any day or night of the week.

          No-one is suggesting freight trains be banned from the rails yet – but if KR doesn’t become a good corporate citizen it may find itself having to clean its act up, existing use rights or no. As for imposing costs on KR, the lifetime running costs of quality electric locos will be a lot less than they’re paying now over the lifetime of those locos and they won’t all end up with costs lumped in year one.

          If you or KR can’t make rail freight stack up its not because they’re forced to use electric locos – its because of the massive freight subsidy that road freight operators are getting from the Government and from local ratepayers.

          If the playing field was even half levelled I’m sure KR would have no problem competing.

        5. “when the wind is right I can hear the noisy locomotives long before and after the “steel on steel” of the wheels on rails”

          So I assume that diesel locomotive noise is the problem that electric locomotives for the port shunts are the solution to. Diesels can be (and are) designed and built to be much quieter than the current ones in service with Kiwirail.

          “The lifetime running costs of quality electric locos will be a lot less than they’re paying now over the lifetime of those locos”

          I beg to differ. Lake of geographic flexibility, costs of switching crew and trains between diesel and electric at each end of a short run (the yards at each end are not wired and won’t be because of loading/unloading considerations), costs of maintaining a small oddball fleet, capital costs of a very small batch of locomotives, training costs of a small orphan fleet will dwarf simple maintenance and fuel advantages of electrics vs diesels. I am confident of stating that the marginal capital costs to KW of adding those additional services are close to zero. 3 new electrics will cost $2M to $2.5M each plus spares and having spent that capital they will have additional net operational costs. Can they charge more for such a service? No.

          “If you or KR can’t make rail freight stack up its not because they’re forced to use electric locos – its because of the massive freight subsidy that road freight operators are getting from the Government and from local ratepayers”

          An overly simplistic argument but essentially no argument from me…but that’s the way it is. If KW is required to haul freight electrically in urban Auckland a level playing field would require truck operators to do likewise. In the meantime burdening KW with additional cost is going to move freight from rail to road because it is a very close-run cost comparison here and now and increased oversized trucks (aka “high productivity motor vehicles”) are already taking traffic off KW and placing a greater burden on ratepayers.

        6. “I live for the day that KR gets smart about communicating with and listening to the public”

          So instead of one loco shunting at Westfield, dragging the rake to the port, then shunting the port, you would have a diesel at Westfield, then a loco swap to an electric, then another swap at the port, with two of the three locos sitting idle doing nothing most of the time? I can’t think of a slower or less economic way of doing things.

          Railways shouldn’t be constrained by nimbyism. You live beside the tracks, you accept what runs on them. Come to think of it, I do believe you have said that yourself!

  3. Maybe Ports of Auckland could buy their own diesel shunter. In the past Industry and ports have done the last leg. But I suppose they would need one at Wiri as well. AS for using the EF’s well apparently they haven’t got fuses on the locomotives so they rely on the overhead to not provide to much current. Maybe POA or AT should buy some suitable electric locos as well. They would be useful to pull SA set as well or broken down electric units. Hybrid locomotives would be cool.

    1. There’s not much shunting to do at the port, so it’s probably not worth having one there. They used to base a DH at the port, but ditched it due to it being more efficient for the loco bringing the train to Auckland to just place the wagons straight into the port. The container rakes largely stay together, with most arrivals either going stright in, or being broken into two.

      I don’t see the point in having electric hauled shunts. Even if you did, you would still have a greater number of diesel hauled freights travelling through the suburbs. Even large metropolises like New York, with around 1000 freight trains a day within the urban areas, don’t have anything but diesels hauling them. Why should a handful of freights in Auckland be an issue? It’s nothing by comparison.

      1. “Even large metropolises like New York, with around 1000 freight trains a day within the urban areas, don’t have anything but diesels hauling them.” – really? The only significant rail route through New York City traverses Manhattan, and, by law, all trains have to be electric. The only other through routes use carfloats across the Hudson, which would be stretched (to say the least) to handle 1000 freight trains (or even 1000 freight cars) a day.

        1. The number of freight railways in suburban New York is massive. You understand NY is much greater than Manhattan?

          Point is, having electric hauled shunts in Auckland is pointless and unecessary. They don’t do it anywhere else, and for good reason. Heck, in the US they don’t have electric freights anywhere, and millions of people live beside freight railroads far busier than Aucklands.

        2. Yes, but all trains going through New York City have to go through Manhattan (and are therefore electrically hauled) or via low-capacity carfloats, and New York City has very few freight railways in its suburbs – perhaps you’re confusing New Jersey with NYC?

          “having electric hauled shunts in Auckland is pointless and unecessary. They don’t do it anywhere else” – sorry, but another sweeping inaccurate generalisation (eg Switzerland), just like your 1000 diesel-hauled freights per day in NYC.

          I suggest that it would help your case to use facts rather than hyperbole.

        3. Yes Mike, the greater NY area, not just the central city. But also in hundreds of other North American cities, every day tens of thousands of large freights rumble through suburbia within earshot of tens of millions of residents.

          They don’t have a single electric locomotive on any of them. So why are a handful of small freights in Auckland an issue?

          KiwiRail has enough to worry about without having inefficient logistics and additional cost pushed on them, for reasoning that is basically unfounded.

      2. If the trip into the port was via Newmarket and the train pushed back into the port sidings and the return to Wiri was via the Eastern line could this be done by an electric loco all the way if there were, say, two empty wagons between the loco and the first loaded one? Would this give sufficient separation between the end of the wires and the unloading area? To add a greater safety margin the final section of wires could be depowered after the loco was decoupled and moved away. At the Wiri end the train could be pushed back onto the sidings and the Loco swap ends for the next trip.

  4. Come to think of it why stop at Wiri. Pukekohe,Tamaki and Henderson would make good container transfer sites. Probably not economic for Kiwirail but for Auckland council it maybe a better alternative to spending rate money on roads. Spend it on the rail system instead. After all they already own trains and Veiolla and they could get Veiolla to run them.

  5. I sometime work a premises that back onto a railway line. The track is flat and straight in this area and continuously welded rail. Trains passing at a fair clip. Inside then building we barely notice the trains passing.

    In my experience the noise output from diesel locomotives depends whether they are climbing or descending. A loco on dynamic holding back a West Coast coal train on the Avoca Bank fair screams. likewise pulling a coal train past Reefton up to the saddle.

    I am not familiar with the Auckland situation. Is the track in the area flat?

    1. Heading from the port is an incline all the way to Purewa tunnel and the diesel locomotives can be extremely noisy on this climb, including the new Chinese built ones which generate noticeably more low frequency vibration than older paired locomotives we usually see. By contrast they all glide fairly quietly down the hill to the port.

      Uphill is a sustained 90db conversation stopper if you are standing on the platform while downhill track noise only is a significant reduction. prob 10db less noise -ie nuisance. electrics would be great to see, especially as many trains run through the night hours now.

  6. The EF’s are getting on for 30 years old, so I think it’s reasonable to argue that it’s time to buy some new locos that would be more efficient and that can happily co-exist with modern kit (which is much more sensitive than clunky 1980s technology). Most modern European locos will do dual-voltage 25Kv AC / 3Kv DC / 1.5Kv DC ‘out of the box’ (15Kv is complicated by a need for heavier transformers) and its also becoming the norm to include a small diesel unit for shunting in yards, un-wired sections and getting the train out of the way should the overhead power fail. Modern traction control also makes locomotives far more efficient by digitally controlling the power at rail, so you get more effective HP at rail.

    Without wanting to complicate things too much, such locos (which don’t forget, could be leased), should also considerably reduce the costs of long-distance passenger services as they could work all the way through, provide head end power (so no generator van needed) and also work with a control car (so no time-consuming shunt moves needed at Britomart), either using the US AAR or German UIC standard (which also includes the ability for the driver to do things like close doors remotely, talk over the PA etc). That might just make Hamilton and Tauranga to Auckland viable, amongst others.

    Once you have a fleet of new locos it should be relatively straightforward to infill the gaps, particularly if project teams and equipment from Auckland can be kept in place before electrification is complete, though the main issues with electrification are getting sufficient clearances in bridges & tunnels and immunising signalling from stray traction currents.

    As for the third line out of Auckland, the trend in the UK is to move away from doing work ‘on the cheap’ and look at realistic long-term solutions that will provide sufficient capacity for at least the next 20 years. On that basis, and also because it is generally far more expensive and disruptive to add capacity in the future than today, there is a realistic requirement for a new pair of lines out of Auckland in order that there can be sufficient capacity for freight growth, regional rail services etc. As much as anything else, the logic is that its currently very cheap for well-run governments to borrow money, and such infrastructure projects are a good way to prop up the economy. If the national government don’t want to be seen to be shovelling money at Kiwirail, then the easy option is for Wellington to pay for it, but take repayment as a facilities charged based on usage – that way it’s off Kiwirail’s books and they pay for it by the KM. That’s effectively what’s happening in the UK with electrification in south-east Wales, as the Welsh Assembly isn’t allowed to borrow that sort of money on their own.

  7. The third line is a fraction of the cost of the CRL, and would have significant effects on reliability and ability to improve schedules at all hours of the day. It’s more than time it was done.

  8. I quite like the two DBR’s doing the port job better than a screaming DL. I should get some photos before they disappear.

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