Rail has been on a roll recently, electrification has vastly improved the quality of our trains, patronage has been soaring – sustaining over 20% per year on year growth and as of January was at 15.5 million trips. Added to that the first stage of the City Rail Link is now under way and of course most recently the government got on board with starting the main works in 2018. With so much positive news it can be easy to forget that there are still some fighting very hard (thankfully unsuccessfully) against these changes.

This was highlighted well by former ACT leader Rodney Hide the other day who pulled out some of the most clichéd, bizarre and contradictory arguments for reasons why we shouldn’t be building rail. If you didn’t know he seriously believed what he was saying you’d swear it was comedy. Listen to it yourself below but some of the comments include:

  • Trains are a 19th century technology that are “hopeless at moving people around in cities” and “not suitable, not designed for shifting people” – I look forward to Rodney’s campaign to re-educate so many cities all across the world. Even in the context of Auckland it is clearly not true given the rapid growth as soon as a half decent service was provided.
  • That “since the 70’s “they stopped work on completing the motorway network, so it’s never been completed and the idea there was to congest the roads so that people would be forced on to trains” – perhaps he would like to explain what the $4 billion that’s has been/is being spent the Western Ring Route is all about then.
  • That it’s all an evil scheme by planners to try and control people’s lives rather than letting people choose how they live and travel – because people can obviously choose to live next to train stations and catch trains that don’t exist.
  • He used to catch a train because it was a convenient way to get from Newmarket to the city yet he doesn’t think it makes sense to make it convenient for a greater number of people.
  • Why invest in PT anyway when driverless cars will save us all. Will also be great because will be “privately owned and privately run” – Of course that’s exactly what happened with PT in the early 90’s something we’re only just recovering from now.

Perhaps someone needs to show Rodney what’s been happening with rail patronage which will be close to 16 million a year by now.

2016-01 - Rail Patronage

Interestingly he didn’t make any of these criticisms just a month an a half ago when praising Len Brown and to a lesser extent John Key, for getting the project over the line. One of ironies of course is that without the amalgamation of the councils, for which he was responsible, it’s likely the CRL would never have been signed off.

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  1. Well since when has Rodney been seen as anything other than completely demented?

    I don’t know why the Herald bothers keeping him on. His usual stuff is low value tripe, and it can’t exactly sell any papers.

    1. He actually praised smokers as basically being defenders of liberty and compared the anti-smoking campaigners with fascists in a previous column.

  2. It is a dad and mum view from people who don’t understand the limitation of urban sprawl and the agglomeration effect of smart growth, and the relationship between transit and smart growth.

  3. Critically this corny view doesn’t grasp spatial efficiency and its centrality to city performance; and no movement system is more spatially efficient than underground rail.

    It occupies very little space yet delivers so many people; and people are the economic force of cities.

    Below is a slide from an AT presentation at the recent IPENZ conference showing the spatial efficiency gains expected from autonomous vehicles [in orange; under various conditions, CAV = Connected Autonomous Vehicles]. Clearly they will add to the efficiency of motorways, which will be great, but is hardly supportive of the idea we need to build more of them, but still they won’t get anywhere near the spatial efficiency of even walking and cycling, let alone quality Transit systems; especially rail:

  4. ACT member and mayoral candidate Stephen Berry has a similar stance. Trying to understand anyone from the ACT party’s rationale for opposing rail, all I can divulge is that they hate the idea of having their freedom to drive cars taken away – therefore oppose other forms of land transport in their entirety. Despite what we know so far is rail transport is obviously popular as patronage is increasing month after month, it’s showing there is nothing popular about sitting in congested traffic jams on a daily basis.

    1. A true ACT party should believe in privatising the roading system. I’m talking proper privatisation involving the roads and land being sold to private firms who can then charge people to use them and sell the non-performing assets (land) for better use. Under this model it would be stupidly expensive to drive in Auckland and I can’t imagine any roads in the city centre would make commercial sense so they would all be closed and the land sold off, possibly to mass transit operators who will get much better throughput in that space. We can stop subsidising PT as it will be cheaper than driving without subsidies, and the market can freely decide if people want trains or private cars.

  5. I think the interviewer was just as bad. He challenged Hide once with a loopy full toss down the leg side and then came out and said that he totally agreed with him. A good interviewer should challenge the subject to provide evidence and justify themselves regardless of personal opinion.

  6. Wouldn’t waste time giving oxygen to Hide. This type ideologicaly driven unsubstantiated drivel is thankfully now seen by most as a fringe view only held by angry right wing nut jobs.

    Which shows how far we have come in a pretty short time.

  7. Additionally: Trains “are hopeless at moving people around cities” Luckily the people that use Panmure Station are true rational actors and prefer reality to the dated ideological views of the crank party.

    The chart below shows why this station is booming, not only fast but also reliably so, because it is ‘Congestion Free’: [ source: also from AT’s Pete Clark at IPENZ conference].

    Clearly somethings Auckland needs more of not less.

  8. I wonder if Rodney actually does believe any of that rubbish, but rather is simply parroting what he thinks his audience wants to hear.

    There probably are people who will quite happily believe The ‘real reason’ roads are congested is because we stopped spending money on them and that money for roads has been hijacked by ‘evil city planners’ who want to control our lives. Some people will unquestionably believe a conspiracy theory if it reinforces any pre-conceived prejudices that they may have.

  9. RH swipes the taxpayer subsidy on the train he so conveniently caught – but makes no mention of,the cost of the roads he wants! He also lauds Uber for dropping us door to door – with no acknowledgement of the health benefits if we walk to the PT and then to our workplaces – and the high cost to taxpayers if we don’t do THAT! Ah the joys of the imagined past where there was the freedom of the perfect road and always space to park right outside the desired destination! And where the spare tyre (the bodily one) did not have to be considered.

  10. Mr “no-subsidy” should just calculate the cost of capital on the $14 billion motorway building spree currently under way [the same ones which haven’t been built since the 70s]. I’d do it for him, but my calculator doesn’t have enough space for $70,000,000. Per year. For ever.

    [@ 5%]

    1. Which is $700m after 10 years; $28 billion after 40 years. Not to mention the opportunity cost; or the maintenance cost; or the costs of destruction of the urban and rural areas these roads pass through.

        1. Don’t forget Transmission Gully’s extremely wasteful PPP costs. Buying a $900,000,000.00 road for $2,700,000,000.00 is a criminal level of pissing money away.

          1. Ah, but don’t forget, its $2.7B for a $900m road thats always fully maintained by the PPP operator, and thus always open and available for use, because otherwise there is no cost to NZ ‘cos we only pay when its open.

            Unless of course, there is a large natural disaster, say an Earthquake, a fire, severe flooding, a tsunami or two, rising sea levels, or any or all of those very things that might mean they have to close said road for a bit.

            And all at the very time when said road would actually be needed and really useful to have too.

            But when was the last time Wellington had any of those things recently? So it’ll never happen in the life of the PPP right?

    2. He also fails to grasp, or prefers not to mention, that the prime beneficiary of the millions that use the rail system each year are drivers! All those people off the roads and out of the way is indeed of direct benefit to all road users, and the economy as a whole.

      The best way to help road users in a city is to invest away from the roads. He wants to drive? That’s sweet; we want to make it easier and more efficient for him, just in a way that will actually work, unlike building ever more motorways.

  11. “given the rapid growth as soon as a half decent service was provided”
    There is going to be a war when Rodney & Co realize that the post CRL script requires 12 trains per hour per direction over the peak period zooming over all the level crossings on the Western Line. Each closure maybe 36 seconds, maybe longer. Only the odd time will the lines be in sync.
    Query for the traffic engineers out there. Will the extra trains relieve congestion to the extent that traffic actually moves more freely?
    If not, will the pollies cripple the rail system to keep the crossings open? There are already worrying signs that “demand” for rail is going to be managed by limiting capacity, and as Matt says, providing a “half decent service”

    1. No. But we WILL suddenly find the money to grade separate the most important crossings, which we should have done ages ago.

  12. “Trains are a 19th century technology”
    Isn’t a car basically a ‘horseless carriage’ Correct me if I’m wrong but horse driven carriages have been around since before we had cities.

    1. If Loco hauled trains are equivalent of horse and cart, then EMUs are like cars (i.e. all in one). Things is, you can buy driverless trains today.

  13. Just goes to show that “intelligent people” – and it is hard to deny that Rodney Hide must be reasonably intelligent to get where he got – can still display a high degree of ‘dumbness’ shown up in some unbelievable blind-spots to reality.

    Or perhaps it is more-that a certain concept (such as, “Private enterprise is better than public”, “Kiwis love their cars”, “beneficiaries are bludgers”, etc), can lodge itself in the intelligent mind and take root there to become an all-pervading ideology that overrides any other consideration.

    I guess we are all vulnerable to this, but maybe a little power and success as Rodney undoubtedly had, can make us all-the-more vulnerable to the “I am right!” syndrome.
    As with quite a few other politicians. . . .

  14. I think he’s a bit odd. I think trains are a great thing, takes lots of cars and buses off the roads. I do however grimace every time I read anti car stuff on this blog.

    1. ACT only survives because National has them on life support. National needs them to hide the policies they would like to bring in – like Charter schools, but don’t want to waste political capital on. They rely on the fact that Epsom people recognise their class interest enough to hold their noses and give their electorate vote to whatever numpty ACT puts up.

  15. Yes rail is so 19th century. Can someone please tell London Underground to stop moving 1.305 billion passengers per year, at a profit, and stop their silly expansion. If Rodders was in charge, why they’d all be stationary on motorways, in their private cars.

    It’s hard to believe that turkey ever got voted into parliament but that’s Epsom for you!

    1. Why are we wasting so much money on 19th century inventions!

      Trains: 1804 – 19th century
      Bicycles: 1817 – 19th century
      Cars: 1807 – 19th century

      And what is with this prehistoric “walking” thing that everyone seems to be doing these days.

  16. To be pro choice, the commuter needs to have a choice – heavy rail, light rail, bus, car and ferry, so if they choose to travel by car, then it is their choice to be stuck in traffic jams, and then hunt around for a car park when they get to their destination. But for many, those choices, other than travelling by private car, simply aren’t there.

  17. This gem from Don Brash today (failed wanna be prime minister)

    “Over the weekend, I received a pamphlet in the mail from Auckland Transport advising what they plan to do in terms of building new cycle ways in the area between the CBD and Pt Chevalier. I was appalled. AT proposes to scatter cycle ways all over that area, including, for example, along Newton Road, Ponsonby Road, Franklin Road, Karangahape Road, Great North Road, etc.

    The pamphlet blithely explains that “on busy roads, we are proposing continuous high quality cycle lanes, ideally physically separated from general traffic”. It goes on to say that “AT will keep as much on-street parking as possible, but in some locations may need to remove parking to make streets safer.”
    Can you imagine what Ponsonby Road would be like if AT added “continuous high quality cycle lanes physically separated from general traffic”?

    I strongly urge everybody concerned about what AT proposes to do to make a submission at http://www.AT.govt.nz/haveyoursay. This is what I submitted:

    What you are proposing to do on the roads that I use is seriously nuts. Newton Road, Ponsonby Road and, to a lesser extent, Jervois Road, are already “fully occupied” and as a result traffic on those roads is already congested. As an example, the speed limit on Ponsonby Road is already just 40 kph because there is only just room for two lanes of traffic in each direction, and parked cars.

    Yes, you could remove the parked cars, but only at considerable inconvenience to the public and to the businesses on both sides of the road. Yes, you could make the road even more congested by reducing the traffic flow to one lane in each direction. That may make cyclists happy, but only at enormous inconvenience to the rest of the public.

    The same kind of comments can certainly also be made about your proposal for cycle ways in Newton Road, Karangahape Road, etc. Auckland Transport is already facing a huge backlash as a result of some of your recently installed cycle ways, such as that down Nelson Street. Ratepayers have paid a lot for these cycle ways and will face more cost to remove them in due course.”

    1. The nutter-led backlash against cycleways is alive in both Auckland and in Wellington.

      Meanwhile in Hawkes Bay and Palmerston North the lanes are going in, no one’s whinging and they’re getting used.

      The default position should be to completely ignore them as their opposition seems to be both irrational and rabid. Time to lay down a lot more kermit methinks.

    2. Economics, the study of the most efficient use of scarce resources. I’m not sure you really are an economist, Don Brash.

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