As most of you are probably be aware, we’ve long suggested that we need to change our thinking about any future Waitemata Harbour Crossing. A $4-6 billion road tunnel and dramatically widened northern motorway which will only serve to flood the city centre with cars at a time when we’re trying to make it more pedestrian friendly.

Instead we’ve suggested that we need to look at completing the missing modes. These can provide a form of resilience in their own right, much like the BART tunnels in San Francisco did after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Soon Skypath will provide the missing active mode piece of the puzzle which leaves just a transit crossing as the missing component.

Given any new crossing will almost certainly be in a tunnel we believe that any dedicated transit crossing should be a rail one. This is for a number of reasons such as having greater capacity, not needing to deal with fuel emissions and from a purely political point of view, the idea of rail to the shore is a popular one. As we understand it, the current plans will see only one new crossing built – a road crossing. The NZTA have told us they will leave space in the designation for a rail crossing, either as a combined road/rail tunnel or separate tunnels next to the road ones. None of the options would include connections on either side of the harbour so regardless a rail crossing is a completely separate project and one for which the justification to build will be destroyed thanks to the new road crossing.

We believe that a rail tunnel could be built for much cheaper than a large road tunnel and that the money saved on the tunnel itself could then go to providing rail connections on the North Shore. There are actually a number of ways rail could be connected to the North Shore. I suspect many in the wider public would just see it as an extension of our existing rail network however this is our least favourite option. Other options include a Vancouver Skytrain style Light Metro system and AT’s recent infatuation with Light Rail also presents that as a potential option. I should point out that at this stage I don’t have a clear favourite but I do very much like the extra coverage that might be able to be achieved with the latter option.

To gain consent for the road tunnels the NZTA will have to show that they’ve properly investigated alternative options. This the failure to do this was one of the reasons they got tripped up over the Basin Flyover. We do not believe that the NZTA have properly investigated a transit only crossing as an option. This view was once again highlighted this week when they pointed us to a 2010 document which claimed a rail crossing would be astronomically expensive. By that I mean $11 billion+ expensive.

So how on earth would a rail crossing cost $11 billion? Here’s how it seems some of their thought process have gone.

They Say a rail alignment has to take in both Takapuna and Albany in a single alignment. The location of Takapuna being someway to east of the motorway is an issue and one of the reasons it’s not served by the busway. They also note that a rail corridor along the existing motorway would require substantial work to modify including pushing retaining walls by back 3m. In addition they note that other areas of higher density are not right next to the motorway – this is no surprise as motorways tend to push density away.

Next they dismiss high level operating patterns they effectively say buses are better because you can run them on lots of different (infrequent) patterns including express buses straight to the city. In contrast rail would require some people to use feeder buses – oh the humanity. Of course this was from all before the new network which in large part will see a lot more of the system operating like the rail diagram.AWHC 2010 PT Plan schematic

Taking the above into account they then try to join them all together in a rough alignment as is shown below, squiggling all over the North Shore. As you can see the line goes all of the place in a bid to serve various pockets of population and development.
AWHC 2010 Rail Alignment 2

As I’m sure you can imagine, getting consent for a project like this would be no easy task. Such an alignment would also create even more severance issues in many places on the shore. To deal with that the authors of the report state that the rail line would instead need to be underground. An entirely underground North Shore line, you can almost hear the dollar signs racking up.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Once in the city they want to send it somewhere else – ideally to link up with the existing rail network. Two options are shown for this, trains either going via Britomart then another tunnel up through the city to Newmarket or going via Aotea. The Aotea option is shown below.

AWHC 2010 Rail Alignment City Centre 1

So to get rail to the shore the NZTA are saying that we need a tunnel from Newmarket all the way to Albany, no wonder it will cost so much.

AWHC 2010 Rail Alignment costs

Lastly it briefly covers whether the project could be broken up and staged. Once again the short answer is no because it would limit the benefits available.

All up this appears almost like some kind of hatchet job deliberately designed to make rail look like a much inferior option. Given all the changes that have occurred in transport in just the last five years it seems it would be a good idea for the NZTA and AT to go back to the drawing board on this project and come up with some fresh thinking. We’ve been told that work is going on between the two agencies looking at what the future of the Rapid Transit Network on the shore is but it sounds like that is limited by not questioning whether the road tunnels happen. I also wonder if it will end up looking something like this from 2012.

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73 comments

    1. I think Matt’s point is that the high price is a consequence of arbitrary/questionable design decisions, rather than intrinsic to the concept of rail to the North Shore. Especially:
      1. Straightening out the alignment to use the existing busway would be save squillions. Takapuna could then be operated with buses until demands warrant a separate standalone branch line, possibly extending to Milford.
      2. Plugging the line initially into Britomart, with the tunnel between the city and Newmarket via Aotea considered as a possible stage II when warranted by demand.

      Those two changes alone probably bring the cost down to say ~$3 billion. Not what I would call cheap – but certainly much cheaper than what’s been costed here.

      1. I would have thought the spur line to Takapuna would be better to then hook a right and head down to Belmont (stops at Hauraki Corner, Takapuna Grammar, Belmont). This would resolve a lot of congestion down the isthmus while not impacting negatively on the Devonport Ferry service (that will still be faster for most people south of Belmont). I chose Belmont as it is a good central point towards Bayswater etc also.

        As for the main route, the whole point of the busway was that it would eventually be converted to rail so I don’t know why they have this squiggly snake design. Also corners slow rail down and aren’t pleasant for passengers (squealing steel on steel etc).

        I don’t think it would be a good idea to link into Britomart. Better to cross under Aotea and continue on with stops at the University, Hospital and connect in somewhere around Newmarket with the trains possibly carrying on to the Airport if they aren’t terminating around Newmarket. Another consideration would be to future proof the design for a more inter-regional design (a long way in the future might be good to extend the line to Silverdale and then eventually to Warkworth and connecting up with the Northland line just West of there at Kaipara).

          1. Would be a tunnel into Takapuna anyway. Probably cut n cover down Lake Road would be the cheapest. Light rail would help but in reality it would be stuck in the same traffic. Also would allow high density along the route which it is crying out for but can’t currently be supported do to road capacity.

    2. If you are going to tunnel then it’s nuts to keep it so close to the busway. Would make more sense to either go though Ponsonby/PtChev and then up through Birkenhead/Glenfield to Albany. Or go off to Takapuna then up the East Coast beaches.

      Either way will be too expensive. Stick to building heavy rail on the busway with some trams feeding into it from either side.

  1. I’m pretty sure National won’t risk the road tunnels option being turned down like the basin flyover. Fully expect the Waitemata Harbour Second Crossing Act 2018 to bypass any sort of risk that it will get turned down.

  2. Matt rail is always inherently more expensive to build than roads due to more gradual gradients, less tight corners etc. Having said that and accepted that there will be substantially higher costs I am all for a rail crossing to the North Shore. More so than the CRL.

    1. Rail grades and curve constraints are no worse than motorways. Oh and a rail line is only 10 or so meters wide

      1. I think a rail line to Takapuna and (eventually) Albany would be great. We could start to pay for it by getting rid of the other rail project – trains to the Casino.
        Of course gradient is a problem – much more so than on motorways – but the CBD to Takapuna would be easy. Maybe the line should go Takapuna – Britomart – Airport. Sorry to the punters on here that want a stop at K Roads more colourful bars but for the good of the shore, you and the gamblers can walk from Britomart or take a connecting bus

        1. I love the way the people on the Shore think that the only thing that matters is for them to get the airport. The rest of the city only exists as this thing to block their journey out of the country. The Shore is only 20% of the city, oh yes it’s important, but so is the rest.

          Funny that you mistake the CRL as ‘going to the casino’ rather than past it, because that’s exactly where the Shore line is currently planed to terminate! I do agree that a linking of the Shore and Mangere/Airport lines is a great plan and one we should be advancing instead of wasting billions on a third road crossing in order to clog the city and Shore local roads with private vehicles. First step along that route is to complete the current rail network south of the harbour.

          1. Nah it’s not as important as those lovely tramway-era suburbs south of the CBD of course.

            All kidding aside there is an easy explanation for that attitude. What did the city centre look like 10, or maybe 20 years ago? From what I’ve heard, it was more like how High Street, or that corner between Cook and Union Street are today. Some people assume it still is like that today, and of course they will give you the totally weird look if you suggest going to the city centre.

            And the airport, well have you ever tried getting from the shore to the airport? that will either cost you a $100 taxi ride each way, or you’ll try to figure out how to get there on public transport and then pay the taxi fare anyway.

            And a lot of people absolutely dread having to make a transfer. Mainly because from experience they expect it to add some ridiculous amount of time to their journey time. (just read a few comments on the new network consultation) Let’s just say the new network is very badly needed on the shore.

    2. Except in a long tunnel … where rail can be way cheaper because of a smaller diameter and far less ventilation requirements.

  3. FFS. Were the authors of the report high when they put that together? “Okay, we have an existing and well-used transitway we could re-purpose for rail. Let’s ignore that. What’s the most expensive solution we come up with?”. They’re not just trying to invent a gold-plate option, it’s the gold-plate option encrusted with useless decorative diamonds.

    1. Just doing what they we’re tasked with; providing a document that can be pointed to that says:
      1. we considered all the options
      2. rail to the Shore ‘would be nice but just isn’t practical or affordable’.

      Is a comically bogus analysis. A rail line no more needs to go via Takapuna than the motorway does. Is predicated on the car users’ idea that the most important condition in transport is a point to point one seat ride. Yes this is what personal transport, cars and bikes, offer, but is not how successful public transport works. There is already an available RTN corridor there and available, complete with stations; let’s ignore that! A perfect place for a fast spine off which to hang frequent bus route to leverage great east/west services off the Rapid north/south mainline.

      The irony is with the much more direct and faster tunnel from Wynyard to the Shore then converting the busway, would give this part of Auckland the very best service; the fastest to the heart of the city and beyond. This would make the upper Shore the highest quality access by car or Transit in the city. The Lower Shore already has great quality in the ferry service. Top shelf for the Shore.

      Properly presented and understood this should be a very popular option for people to consider, and clearly would be cost competitive with the driving inducing craziness of the third road crossing.

      1. What interests me is the cost of the Gaunt Street – Takapuna section is estimated at $3bn. Not including the cost of the Takapuna and Gaunt Street stations ($600bn ontop). Given the total cost of a road plus rail crossing is suppose to be $4.5bn this means the vast bulk of the cost is the rail tunnel. So a road only crossing costs just $1.5bn, or am I missing something? Or is the $1.5bn cost of a road only crossing and $3bn for a rail only crossing have something wrong with it?

        Can someone please help me here

        1. Well for a start the cost of $4-6b doesn’t include rail at all, it’s just motorway. And it doesn’t include the cost of widening the motorway North or South either.

          Then a harbour tunnel would be only around 2km long. Gaunt St to takapuna is about 7km, so it’s assuming an extra 5km of tunnel to get to Taka.

          1. Thanks, so $6.9bn, not $4.5bn. And the $1.6bn rail figure is less than half the $3bn suggested for the same stretch on this document, asking how accurate all these costs really are

  4. I think it is worth noting that the report is not actually by NZTA, but by a consultant. In the case of the report you link to here, they have used Parsons Brinckerhoff to compile the data and produce the report. In the case of the ill-fated Basin Bridge, they used Opus, while for the report into Wellington’s public transport, they used Price Waterhouse Cooper. I think that Opus will have taken a bit of a spanking over their role in Basin Bridge…

    I hadn’t heard of Parsons Brinckerhoff before, but their website says that they have 14,000 employees worldwide, and have been involved in projects like the Perth light rail, and tunnels like Victoria Park. But so, what I’m saying is that they probably know what they are talking about, and its probably not just a “gold-plate option encrusted with useless decorative diamonds.”

    1. Guy, you can’t get sucked into thinking that what consultants put on their websites is necessarily indicative of their capabilities. That fact companies have thousands of employees means nothing: its who works on the projects locally who matters. Note that this is not a dig at any particular consultancies, just an observation that global companies operating in nz do not necessarily bring their global expertise to bear on a project unless client pays for it. In this case, the alignment of that rail line doesn’t really seem to be something that a specialist pt planner would come up with, for reasons that others have noted above.

    2. Guy, please don’t allow yourself to be fooled.

      The Public Transport Spine Study in Wellington was done by AECOM – also a reputable international consultancy. But they merely did what they were tasked with: i.e, investigating options for a Wellington-2-Airport spinal PT service, pretending that the rest of the region doesn’t exist, and that anything involving the letters R, A, I, and L must under no circumstances be recommended.

      I was left wondering how on earth AECOM could have put their name to this trash, but the reality is that money was offered for services rendered, and had AECOM not done it, one of their competitors would have.

      I suspect a very similar situation faced PB with their AWHC Network Plan study. The desired outcome was given in black and white; the task was merely to colour in the middle bits with crayons, as it were. No serious or innovative analysis of options was wanted.

      The only way around this charade is at the political or community-mobilisation level. Normal reasoned debate, submissions, or expert advice are not listened to.

  5. A rail tunnel for $11b must show as much more favourable than a road crossing in the business case. I presume the costs for a car crossing in the business case include the cost of a 6 lane tunnel from papakura to albany that is needed to actually add capacity to the network. There’s no point building this incrementally as the benefits of a road crossing would be severely limited.

  6. I find the costings very hard to understand. The just completed Bosphorus rail tunnel in Turkey cost about NZ$500000 per metre (13.6km long 56mtr deep $USD 4 billion). Being deeper and longer one would expect it to be more expensive per metre.
    The above costing implies that tunneling under land is as costly as tunneling under water.
    The proposed road tunnel is 2.5km @$4b $1.6m per mtr.
    How do these costings compare with CRL and Waterview per metre?
    Tunneling from Albany to Kyber Pass seems overkill.

    1. It’s easy to see how they costs this:

      20km of fully underground rail tunnel from Newmarket to Albany @ $250m/km = $5.0 billion
      11 fully underground rail stations on the tunnel @ $300m each = $3.3 billion

      Total is $8.3 billion, add on 30% contingency and you get $10.8 billion for the project.

      The costing is probably quite accurate for what they proposed, the problem is that they started with a completely absurd concept.

  7. This is the sort of post that explains why I love this blog so much – it gets behind the soundbites and is doing the work that any half decent journalist should be doing. Instead we just get Bernard Orsman conducting a public feud with the council for clickbait.

  8. Hey well at least they looked at it 😉

    But as a shore resident forget Takapuna it’s always been a place we had to travel through on bus to go to this city waste of time. Use the existing bus way as to be honest there is actually quite a lot of people who live close to it now. You could easily put another Station on Wairau Road as a work destination probably more commonly used than Takapuna. Also take it all the way to Albany which is quite a big growth node. I personally would be happy to ride my bike to the bus way station (Constellation 15 minutes) if I new I could get straight on a train all the way to Penrose, it would actually be a joy. Also don’t forget that point: Bikes can go on trains so it makes them a lot more attractive. People who live in Takapuna love cars to be honest and sure don’t need a train through their little sea side town.

    Next this will allow people in Albany to get anywhere out south effectiantly and vs versa.

    I do like what NTZA did with the city side of he rail going through the hospital and domain but as stage one just go to Aotea Station. Also could someone tell me how wide a rail corridor needs to be, as the bus way must be 7 meters wide now?

    Thanks again Matt

      1. I am sure light rail would need as much width as heavy rail if given its own bounded corridor and the same requirements for track-worker access. The trains themselves differ in width by centimetres only.

        Any extra corridor width for heavy rail could only be because of additional “nice-to-have” clearances and access-requirements. The actual minimum requirements for heavy rail are much less than 10m. For instance, Newmarket Tunnel is only 7.3m wide.

        We need to compare like-with-like, and stop torpedoing heavy rail by burdening it with extra requirements.

    1. The existing busway was designed with light rail in mind so would easily be adapted. Light Metro, aka Skytrain, would fit perfectly.

    2. Takapuna does not have a large resident population either. The land is fairly narrow and it has Lake Pupuke to the North. From a transport perspective it is probably more a place to go to to work, shop or play rather than a residential hub.

  9. Clearly the assumptions were given by MoT and the consultancy had to work within them. I refuse to believe that any engineering firm would be willing to put their name to this otherwise.

  10. Three questions

    The original Harbour Bridge is solidly built: it was to carry the clip-ons. Could it take light rail under the deck?

    Might light rail run to the north shore in long trains, and then be cut in two to make it short enough for street running? In you concept diagram, one might go left and the other right.

    What about light rail under the shipping channel to Devonport, then across the inlets west of the peninsular?

    1. Metro rail, a light heavy hybrid could run atop the existing bridge. The only thing stopping heavy rail to the shore is the gradient. Metro takes care of this.

      Rail to the shore could be done for sub $1B, that is if people really want it to be done.

      I think it is high priority, getting another 20% of Auckland hooked on rail will speed the airport line and other post CRL projects.

  11. If this rail was build then the busway would become available to widen the motorway for the congestion caused by the extra lanes caused by the road tunnel or is this too much of a cunning plan.

  12. a lot of this discussion relates to some ideal transport technology rather than the purpose of that technology, i.e. to serve the movement and connectivity needs of the people and their activities now and into the future

    to that end, the Auckland Plan (which HAS to be the starting point for any discussion about future transport links) has both Takapuna and Albany as metropolitan centres, therefore not connecting to Takapuna surely runs contrary to the purposes of that plan, rather than being treated as some unfortunate irritant that disrupts the purity of an ideal transport network

    with the present and future activity in mind, the alignment shown in Fig 7-1 makes quite a bit of sense, with the possible exception of the arc to Windsor Park, which could more sensibly be to Apollo Dr or William Pickering

    that then starts to tell you about possible technology (light or heavy rail) and look further at what the options offer

  13. Has all the necessary connections, improvements and motorway widening needed to make an additional road crossing work been costed? and once added to the 4-6 billion dollar figure which only covers the cost of the tunnel won’t this bring the full cost closer to the 11 billion figure they have proposed for rail?

    1. Time and time again we have seen that the ploy is to make the favoured scheme look as cheap as possible by out-and-out deviousness, and all non-favoured schemes to look prohibitively expensive by loading on and inflating every additional cost that can be thought of.

      And under the present government regime, the favoured scheme is always the roading one.

      1. I was thinking about this the other day – proposed costs vs actual, projected traffic volumes (core of business case) vs actual – and wondered, are these things ever audited? What sort of scrutiny and governance is undertaken on these things. Treasury?

        In other industries, someone would lose their job if they continued to approve spending based on exaggerated costs and questionable business cases.

  14. If Rail didn’t go to Takapuna (or a spur to Takapuna) then Matt would be stuck on a smelly bus for the rest of eternity. He might give up on writing the blog.

  15. I think zig zaging through the shore to Albany is a stupid idea. It is a rapid transit system so erneeds to take the most direct route south. And taka can be linked by light rail or bus.
    The only real hard part will be under sunset rd and the hill coming into Albany plus some sections in wairau velly will need to be worked on.

    1. Those zig-zags would not add greatly to the overall transit time. Station-dwells will account for a lot more (esp. based on current EMU performance!). Likewise 4-minute reversals at the likes of Newmarket waste an awful lot more time than a few wiggles in the route.

      The route should optimally connect the centres of maximum density and importance. Expecting major destinations only-ever to be reached by shuttle-bus is the sort of poverty-mentality that has hamstrung public transport in New Zealand for far too long.

      Every effort should be made to include places like Takapuna unless seriously unfeasible. Bus connections should be reserved for minor destinations only.
      However having said that, if the current busway stations were to become rail stations in the longer term, then it is possible over time that land-use patterns would adjust themselves to nucleate around these nodes also, although the presence of the motorway would tend to work against this. The motorway corridor is the cheap expedient for transit, not the optimum.

      Our 50-year dalliance with road-top-heavy transport has set us back seriously. Time to break out of it.

  16. The irony is, if you proposed this as a roading solution – a 2nd harbor crossing and Auckland’s version of Sydney’s cross-city tunnel – it would be a “must do”.

  17. Forgive my ignorance, as I’m new to this, but isn’t the draw card to light-rail that it can be somewhat superimposed on existing infrastructure? A light-rail tunnel carrying on from Albert St towards Bayswater, along Lake Rd towards Takapuna and the Northern Express, seems to tick some catchment issues expressed by NZTA.

    There would still be major expenses that would need to be addressed, but, given we reduce some of the zigzags, a large portion of the project could be kept above ground.

    Any replies would be much appreciated.

  18. Had just adding on from the widgth of the rail corridor : between 7.3 meters and 10 meters? Why would the existing bus way need to be widdened?

    Also: the Bus way is leading to a few growth Nodes itsoy Takapuna which is missing out abit but I really think they prefer local bus, car as it’s pretty close to the city. Maybe we could loop up behind Barrys Point Road to service Takapuna?

    Hey Sam : it seems there are different kinds of light rail but on paper it seems cheaper than heavy rail. And can go stepper and sharper courners. I am not a fan of it myself. I find the metro in London slow crowded slow. But heaven rail there seems fast and spacious. Also I think getting more of what we already have is a better selling point for ignorant Kiwis

  19. Suggest recent commentators check out the Congestion Free Network in Transport Blogs ‘Proposals’ as set out in the headings at the top of the header page.

  20. To be honest if they are going to go light rail to the shore it isn’t worth doing. They might as well make 2 lanes on the harbor bridge t3 lanes and have right of way bus lanes into the cbd.
    light rail cars running at ground level in the cbd defeats the purpose as it will stop many more times going into the cbd (not good for those who are bypassing the city) and uses Street space which could be for wider sidewalks or bus lanes last but not least it makes Transfer’s complicated. Especially if you are off to the airport and are wanting to connect to the future airport line.
    And takapuna is nolonger the main center on the shore, so it is not essential it is connected directly by rail.

      1. In Hanover light rail runs under the main street (which have been made pedestrian/bike only) for about three stops and then rises to the surface and thereafter proceeds along its arterial route to suburban destination.

  21. Light Metro (Skytrain) Aotea to Wynard over the bridge (yes is possible) straight up busway. Sorted cheap as chups. Use the savings for Silverdale extension + upper harbour spur that could connect with a NW line in the future with same tech that goes up SH16 then 18 to connect.

    1. Agreed. I’m not sure the demand is really there for heavy rail unless it goes somewhere – there’s not going to be many options for terminus on the Shore so light rail seems like a better bet. When you add in the fact you could start doing it with current infrastructure, I’m a little confused as to why this hasn’t been costed. Actually, we all know exactly why this hasn’t been costed…

    2. I think that you are right and Matt has spoken compellingly in the past about such a project.

      And a spur to Takapuna? I now live as near as damnit to the town centre and I am not convinced. Desirable yes, but vital no. I strongly suspect that continuous bus loops from the town centre going both ways to Akoranga would serve a much greater walk up catchment and therefore be more useful. Happy to listen to a contrary view though.

      1. I have always thought light rail/metro is the solution from a cost perspective. Not just conversion of the busway, but getting quick and easy wins on subsequent lines if necessary on the shore

  22. The notion of a rail tunnel through a low density suburban area boggles my mind. Unless there is a plan to vastly intensify around all the stations, possibly “paying for” the tunnel premium, it’s a dumb idea. And yes, it could have been floated to kill the rail idea completely.

    How about just building a floating rail bridge like the motorway across Lake Washington in Seattle? (OK, so it sank once. Nothing is perfect.) It could be opened at fixed times to let the Chelsea ships through. AT likes to say they’re “innovative”, right?

    1. The other one for rail is a draw bridge. Works for tower bridge. Concept works for Cook Straight ferries to takes trains. Means possibly not need a tunnel at all. Just a rail bridge with a draw bridge . Could make high enough for a reasonable percentage of boats to get under without needing to raise drawbridge.

  23. AT should put a plan together for this, i would expect more from them then nzta,
    and it will be good to see some diagrams and plans as there will need to be 2 short tunnels and a few large trenches on its way to albany.
    i think it will be expensive but not 11b expensive.
    and i think every bus service on the shore should be a feeder for the heavy rail line and that means a large rail and bus station at onewa rd.
    no more buses feeding directly to the cbd.

  24. I would like to see Takapuna with another half dozen Sentinal towers and multiple 10-20 towers plus high density apartments. Build a tunnel via Akoranga to Aotea feeding thousands of workers into the City. Once the busway hits capacity, covert it to heavy rail with an interchange at Akoranga for Takapuna residents to head north to Albany.

    1. If there was a rail link as we have been discussing then there is no reason why there couldn’t be lot’s of business towers there also (not so feasible right now due to traffic from the city).

  25. Docklands Light Rail in London 190 million pounds. Yes, it was a few years ago but it seems to me our boys and girls at NZTA and AT are not good with numbers.

    You cannot help but think this whole routine we go through over major projects, to come up with a really ordinary, OK, dumb, answer is done on purpose. Wasteview, East/Waste Link, Holiday Highway, it never ends. Rail is a four letter word but now and again four letter words have their place.

    Can someone get out the crayons and newsprint and explain it all to me, really slowly. Nothing ever adds up.

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