The Green Party released a new freight policy yesterday. They’re looking at ways to invest to increase safety and reduce carbon emissions:

The Safer, Cleaner Freight policy sets a target for moving half of freight on rail and by sea within 10 years of the next election. It allows the transport budget to be used to fund rail projects, and commits to the electrification of rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

“National’s single-minded focus on a few expensive highways is downright irresponsible, and will ultimately force more and more trucks onto New Zealand roads,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“National spends five times more on a few low-value motorways than it does on the entire rail network. National’s pet projects will actually increase congestion and the number of trucks on New Zealand roads, meaning within a decade Kiwis will have to share the roads with an additional 1.7 million truck trips every year.

“New Zealanders are sick and tired of more and more trucks congesting their towns and cities and bearing down behind them on the road. Every year, an average of 55 people are killed in crashes involving trucks, and over 850 are seriously injured.

“Rail is our second corridor. A single train can remove 70 heavy trucks from the road. By investing in rail and shipping we will not only make roads safer, but the air cleaner, and create a safer climate for future generations.

“We will invest $860 million to electrify rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – New Zealand’s busiest freight corridors. This will help to move freight safely off the road, and create a zero emissions freight service in ‘the Golden Triangle’.

“Instead of demanding that rail return a profit, which has set rail up to fail, we’ll fund it from the transport budget in the same way roads are, providing the investment needed to move freight in the most effective and clean way.

“Moving freight by rail and ship is not only safer and cheaper, but better for the environment. Shifting half of New Zealand’s freight by rail and ship is the equivalent of replacing over 1.6 million petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles.

Possibly the most interesting part of this is the proposal to open up the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) to allow it to fund all modes. We’ve just seen an example of the problems with mono-modal transport funding, with NZTA charging on with planning a third road-only Waitemata harbour crossing rather than considering all the alternative ways to get people across the harbour.

Allowing rail infrastructure to be funded by directly out of the NLTF is an idea that we’ve long augured for. The NLTF is used to help fund public transport services and some infrastructure on the basis that those services help alleviate some pressure from roads and therefore drivers. Why should the same principle not apply to other areas of the transport space and while the Greens’ proposal focuses on freight, but surely it would also make sense for NZTA to adopt an all-modes approach for urban passenger transport as well.

Their proposal to electrify the “Golden Triangle” rail line sounds pretty expensive and there is no way Kiwirail in it’s current state could even consider it – although I suspect the economics of it would be challenging under any funding regime. However, this route is the busiest freight corridor in the country, so if there’s a case to do it anywhere then it’s here.

By way of illustration, the Ministry of Transport’s 2014 National Freight Demand Study found that the rail moved a total of 4.7 million tonnes of freight between the Auckland, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty regions in 2012 (see Table 4.4). That’s around 29% of the total inter-regional freight movements of 16.4 million tonnes (Table 4.7). The image shows rail freight movements by volume and comes of an interactive visualisation by Aaron Schiff who used the data from the National Freight Demand Study.

Rail Freight in NZ

In the short term, the best way to get the most out of the upper north island rail network might be to build more passing loops to increase rail freight capacity. For example, the rail line from Hamilton to Tauranga is largely single track with a few passing loops, which limits it to only four trains an hour (two each way). The last passing loops added just a few years ago as part of a $13 million package of works and doubled capacity on the line between Hamilton and Tauranga, compared to many transport investments that is very cost effective.

Inside Auckland, building a third main line for the Southern Line is pretty crucial as there are already conflicts between passenger and freight services that will get worse after CRL. We understand the cost of doing so is fairly cheap compared to most transport investments we hear about but the project has been languishing as Auckland Transport and Kiwirail can’t agree on who should fund it.

While these are fairly specific examples, on the whole it seems like would be easier to make beneficial (and relatively cheap) investments like these if rail could compete for funding out of the NLTF just like other transport projects.

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  1. Agree pointed this on Julie’s page plus CBT there is way more cost effective and important rail projects to do first.

    I was also concerned that they didn’t seem to understand Wellington has a different traction system 1500vDC compared to 25kvAC so it’s not as simple as connecting the elect and running trains

    Like the idea but not sure they consulted Kiwirail or rail experts on the specific projects announced

    1. Given the EU run dual voltage trains without an issue getting new electric freight locos if the NIMT is electrified fully will be no problem.

      Going to the Third Main – given it is for freight then Kiwi Rail pay for it fully not Auckland Transport. That said while we are at it with the Third Main with the Southern Line given the growth in Drury and Paerata (both SHAs and Drury containing the 5th Heavy Industrial Complex) should be extended all the way to Pukekohe so we are done with it whole hogged rather than piece meal NZ is so famous for.

      1. The argument is that Metro services will also benefit by separating freight out, so this win-win should be reflected in a pay-pay. Also, the possibility of allowing Metro services to use the 3rd main would allow greater flexibility when needed, raising the issue of whether 3rd platforms need to be provided at each station. These are the issues being worked through.

        Of course all would be solved if NLTF would simply get on and fund this nationally significant piece of infrastructure.

        1. I suspect the third main will get commandeered by suburban services during peak hours so AT should definitely be involved in paying.

      2. Yes I mentioned duel traction loco’s on CBT but this gets more custom and requires a higher budget for the loco’s.

    2. Can we not buy multiple current locomotives? I know alot of other rail networks overseas that span multiple countries and electrical systems have these.

    3. New Loco’s can run on either Harriet. Although long term it would make sense to convert Wellingtons network to AC. Also even the Auckland network is slightly different to the NIMT network but again would probably just upgrade the NIMT to the Auckland network standard at the same time as this Hamilton/Tauranga upgrade.

      1. It would be relatively easy to convert the NIMT to 25kv/AC and buy or refit EMUs for the Kapiti Line, and leave the rest of the suburban network as DC.

        1. Not sre what “relatively easy” means, but GWRC would require a fair bit of compensatin to modify their brand-new EMUs, and ripping out brand-new substations wouldn’t be a good look. Neither would it be easy to segregate the Kapiti Line from the others in the Wellington station area, so multi-current freight locos with an AC/DC changeover north of Waikanae would make much more sense. The NLTF paying for electrification makes a lot of sense, too, avoiding the complications of the current three electrifications each being used exclusively by a different operator.

      2. As far as I am aware it’s the old loco’s that can run on both. Auckland’s EMU’s can handle both I believe.

        The problem is the 1500vDC traction for Wellington you would need to convert or run duel traction loco’s which cost more.

        1. Off the top of my head, I don’t think new dual voltage locos would be much more expensive that single 25KvAC locos. This is because modern 3-phase AC drives actually transform and rectify the incoming single phase AC supply to a “DC-link”, before re-converting it to controlled 3-phase AC. An incoming DC supply would simply feed straight into the DC-link stage. Most of the equipment is needed for 25KVAC anyway.

    4. Thanks for your comment Harriet. We did consult with Kiwirail. There is no question there is a huge amount of investment that needs to happen in track maintenance, bridges, passing loops, etc and we assume all of that will happen under our policy. The push for electrification extension is really bc Kiwirail want to standardise their fleet, and if they’re going to buy new locos, we think they should primarily be electric for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, because this infrastructure has a very long life and we have to phase out fossil fuels asap. An added benefit is they are more powerful, quieter, cheaper to maintain and operate. Kiwirail told me there is no problem getting new electric locos than can handle the different voltages – it’s included in the costings they gave us.

      1. Julie its can’t just passing loops here and there.

        Its a whole third main from Auckland with a possible fourth between Westfield & Wiri. Its grade separation of Westfield, junction, its double tracking the two single track parts left between Auckland & Hamilton, its double tracking the ECMT except Kamai.

        This is expensive in the range of 1 billion dollars. But would result in vastly greater capacity for freight which would mean these upgrades would fare better on a business case.

        Its good to here that Duel Traction Loco’s are accounted for though.

        I don’t disagree with electrification especially if for passenger trains you procure tilt trains, the Queensland Diesel ones run 160km/h revenue speed & 211km/h on a speed run on 1067mm narrow gauge same as us, its just the above have to be higher priority. The rail analogy is like we wouldn’t do Electrification of Auckland without DART finished first. The policy seems like trying to doing the opposite elect before DART, cart before horse.

          1. Agree Patrick but the CBR of double tracking will be much higher than the elec we should do the more beneficial projects first or if we are to do it right then be upfront and cute the correct funding which will be more than 860 million the Greens didn’t do the latter

        1. Harriet. Expensive is a relative term I think. I have seen cost estimates for the Waterview Connection ranging between $1.4bn to $1.7bn. This is for 4.5km of motorway and associated interchanges.

          By comparison I do not feel that $1.0bn is excessive for a fully modernised railway linking three major cities across the North Island.

          1. I’m not against it what I am aganist is saying 860 million for elec not mentioning track duplication etc. then going oh yeah that’s planned to so its not really 860 it’s 1.5 billion plus

            I support spending that money but be honest about it

        2. And if you’re going to the length of double-tracking most of the ECMT it would make sense and be cheaper to include electrification in the same project, rather than having to re-visit it later, especially if the re-build wasn’t done with electrification-compatibility in mind.

          1. Don’t disagree but 860 million doesn’t pay for that which is why I’m questioning the announcement

    5. my understanding is that the mainline electric locos pick up 125kvAC from the overhead line and deliver !500vDC to the traction motors. Picking up 1500vDC from the pantograph shouldn’t make driving the wheels impossible with a little cunning electrical gear.

    1. Yes coal from west coast mines to Lyttleton. It’s high traffic and high volume so creates very high tonnage.

      Interesting stuff in that paper, almost all coastal shipping is petroleum products out of Marsden Point, with a bit of concrete and fertiliser. Negligible containers or soft commodities.

      By tonnage, coal is the only majority by rail, but dairy is 50/50 and pulp, paper and meat not far off. But by tonne-kilometres, rail does a lot more “work”: 75% of dairy, 50% of meat, 90% of coal, 60% of steel.

      Hard to argue against rail freight when its moving our coal, farming, and forestry around.

        1. KiwiRail’s above-the-track operations do turn a profit. It’s the nonsense that the below-the-track stuff must be paid for from operating income that keeps the company in the red. If they could separate infrastructure from operations and report them separately it would be immediately apparent that running trains makes money but running tracks doesn’t. With that clarified it would then be a matter of getting the government to fund the tracks in the same way that they fund the roads. But that wouldn’t satisfy the narrative that rail is a hopeless money sink that should be shut down as quickly and quietly as possible.

          1. Matthew W – correction State Highways are partially funded from user charges, there is a significant top-up from general taxation.

          2. I dont think that is the case jezza.

            In the very recent past some money has been loaned to NZTA which still is to be paid back with user charges. Even then I dont really even see this looking at NZTA’s most recent annual report.

          3. Jezza’s right, it needs topups.

            And its called a combination of: mortgaging your future [or robbing Peter to pay Paul], subsidisation for every other situation/transport mode – with roads this chicanery is called “investment in the future”,

          4. Fund it out of those same road taxes. Getting trucks off the road benefits the remaining trucks and also benefits everyone else. Isn’t that the point? Slap a bit of a levy on KR using some weight-damage calculation, like is done with RUC, but the country as a whole is better off if long-distance freight goes by rail rather than road. Less pollution, fewer road deaths, less damage to the roads.

            Rail is a lot cheaper to build and maintain than roads, especially when the roads against which it is being compared but with which it cannot compete for funding run to $10s-of-millions per kilometre.

          5. That isnt really the same way they fund roads though is it. I mean it is in a literal sense, in the same way me buy you lunch every day would mean our lunch budgets were being funded in the same way, but that isnt really a cogent argument is it?

          6. I can’t find a specific reference so I’ll have to retract my above statement. Either way I tend to agree with your statement below that there is a genuine cost saving to road freight through using roads with much higher use than rail, meaning the cost is spread more widely. However, there is still the matter of council funding of roads out of rates, which provides road transport with an advantage. In addition to this there are benefits to the road network through reduced damage, accidents and delays with more freight moving by rail.

          7. I understand that prior to the Roads of National Significance programme, State Highway- and 50% of non-State Highway costs were met from the NLTF. I understand also that the RoNS have blown this out of the water and are relying heavily on borrowing or on-going PPP liabilities which may be part-funded from tolls but at the end of the day will require a big subsidy.
            Anybody got sources to confirm this?

        2. “With those numbers you have to question why it cant turn a profit”

          Because unlike other freight operators the railways are made to pay for their own construction and maintenance costs out of their income.

          The road freight industry only appears to be more profitable than rail because all of us who pay rates and taxes are paying for the road surfaces the privately owned trucking companies drive upon. The profits they make go into their own pockets, not back to the general public who support and supply their essential infrastructure.

          In practical terms the trucking industry is only viable in it’s present form because it is maintained by invisible public subsidy.

          If road freight was compelled to operate financially in the same way as the railways then the picture would look very different indeed.

          1. State highways (the equivalent of rail ways) are funded out of user charges as well, so I am not sure I see such a great distinction. I think the main advantage trucks have is they share the road (and associated costs) with other rather prolific users, cars.

          2. That may be the case (generally, when the government isn’t cooking the books to fund the RoNS), but overall the funding for the road network isn’t paid for by users, and clearly trucking relies on the entire road network to function. About 40% of the total road funding comes from property taxes (i.e. rates).

            Rail is also saddled with a mountainous back log of maintenance and renewals from the privatisation era. If the state highway network was run into the ground for 25 years trucking companies would struggle to fund below-wheel operations of the highway system.

          3. There are valid reasons why rates fund local roads, viz they provide access to said properties. I am sure if someone wanted a railhead to their property they could be asked to pay a share as landowner. Where is your 40% from? I thought most local road spending was 1:1 NZTA/TA. NZTA spends about a third of the NLTF on local roads, which would mean that rates make up 25% of all road funding.

          4. Same reason we fund anything with taxes, the socialised funding is efficient, and benefit is hard to divid up. User pays and user benefit is not always possible nor workable.

          5. Hey Matthew, RUC might pay towards roads but they in no way pay for anywhere near the costs of road maintenance caused by the damage that trucks create. Road damage increases exponentially the heavier a vehicle is (or more specifically the heavier the axle load is). So for every large truck you would need in the region of 200 cars to cause the same amount of wear and tear. Whenever you drive over a bumpy sealed road in NZ 99% of the time it is caused by trucks. If we moved more freight by rail then the road maintenance savings could be used to build new roads (passing lanes/motorways etc) or for other things. So yes trucking is subsidised and rail isn’t (even if it had to pay some sort of RUC for the vastly smaller wear and tear caused) once you remove the track maintenance costs.

        3. Because they have to bear the total cost of maintaining permanent way. It’s like saying trucking isn’t profitable if the haulage company had to pay for the entire cost maintaining the road infrastructure. It’s an accounting sleight of hand to back up the National’s one trick policy of roads, roads, roads. It’s destroying Auckland and the regions alike.

      1. The collapse of Solid Energy will put a pretty big dent in the traffic on that route from 2016 onward,

        also the “milk train” route from Manawatu to Taranaki has now stopped due to the expanded fonterra plant at Pahiatua being able to process all the supply locally…

        In terms of major volumes for Kiwirail the Golden Triangle is pretty much it now….

    2. There is growing dairy traffic from the West Coast as well. Plus a certain amount of other stuff – logs, agricultural, aggregates, general etc

    3. I think that coal biz has taken a hammering recently. Coal is in decline globally and it ain’t coming back. I doubt NZ’s little operations will ever be competitive with huge Aus and Indonesian ones in the context of secular falling returns.

      1. The coal that comes out of the West Coast is mainly high-grade coking coal used in steel manufacturing, which isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. I suspect the prices will bounce back again. The question is if mining disappears from the Coast whether it will ever make a return with domestic environmental concerns.

        1. Either way, if you always wanted to go on the most scenic rail day trip in the world right here, in our own backyard (my opinion, and I’ve done a fair few rail trips around the world), then now is the time to book your tickets on the TransAlpine (as that line wouldn’t be financially viable without the coal). My recommendation is August for the winter beauty of the Alps, stopover in Greymouth for a night, visit Punakaiki by rental car and return back to Christchurch the next day. If you have 3 days, then stop @ Arthur’s Pass for another night. But this trip is absolutely stunning at any time of year. If you don’t get to do it before the coal demand dies, then you might need to bring your bike to do it.

          1. Yes, it’s a bit of a risk, but I think the increasing dairy traffic out of Hokitika alongside the Tranz Alpine is probably sufficient to keep the line going for the foreseeable future.

    4. Mfwic – yes it will be mostly coal but a reasonable amount of dairy products coming out of the Westland Milk Products factory in Hokitika. This table is from 2012, coal has taken a hammering and I think there is now more dairy than coal on the line, iirc if Stockton closes there will be no coal coming out of the West Coast. I camped at Lake Brunner a number of years ago and there were up to 10 coal trains a day in each direction, I think it’s one or two now.

  2. One problem with having a common Land Transport funding body for both road and rail is that its even-handedness in allocating resources could still be skewed according to the preferences of those actually administering it. I am reminded of the Alternative to Roading grants (ATR’s) that were made available under the former Transit NZ/Transfund model

    These were specifically intended to fund things like rail projects where business cases could show that they would be worthwhile in achieving overall transport objectives. Yet the uptake of them was pathetically small. It seemed that local bodies who were entitled to apply for them simply didn’t know what to do with them, and TNZ was not proactive in seeking to apply them. It seemed that those in a position to use the scheme were so steeped in the tradition of spending on roads only, that they couldn’t get their heads around doing anything else.

    If NZTA became responsible for funding rail, there would either need to be a clean sweep of the personalities running things, or else some very robust mechanisms put in place to ensure that non-road schemes are evaluated on an equal footing.

  3. Moving freight by truck only benefits the drivers employed to drive said trucks (and one would hope that alternative employment could be arranged for them). The huge machines cause excessive damage to roads, and contribute more than they actually contribute to the need for highway repair. It is accepted that freight is more economically shipped, in relatively straight lines, so why does this logic not carry over to trains? Trains are superior in every sense, for every purpose. Countries with proper networks are light years ahead. And you only need to look to France to see what truck drivers can do with their trucks when the government irks them (all power to them, protecting workers is a worthy cause). If they ever did one of those Cost Benefit dilusional formulas on train by freight, we would have enough money left over to build trains specifically to house the homeless and transient. God help us if we find real solutions to this nation’s inconvenciences and put neoliberalism in its place (the trash can where the TPP lives). Perhaps the Greens are onto something? More likely, they always were!

    1. When all is said and done it comes down to physics. By most measures trains are one of the most fuel efficient ways we know of to transport large numbers of people and high tonnages of freight. A diesel locomotive uses between a third and a fifth the fuel per tonne hauled when compared with a heavy goods vehicle.

      Three thousand tonne trains in New Zealand are commonplace. Five thousand tonne trains in the US are unremarkable. 300km/h trains are found practically everywhere in Western Europe.These are the largest and fastest machines ever made to travel over land and these are figures the trucking industry cannot even dream of.

      Road hauled freight will never achieve these capabilities.

      1. 3,000-Ton trains in New Zealand are not commonplace. They have certainly been trialled (eg 45-wagon coal consist tested over the Midland Line), but these are special cases.
        While certain sections of New Zealand’s rail network will allow trains of 2,600 tons or more, the maximum for practicality is 2,500 tons, e.g. Auckland-Mt Maunganui “Metroports”, or Christchurch-Oamaru Southern Freights, and in reality, consists are not often built even to these maximums.

      2. “When all is said and done it comes down to physics” – No, you’re all being entirely naive there. Much as it makes sense on paper to send goods by rail, the practical truth is that when all is said and done, it comes down to speed, convenience, double-handling and drivers pay packets. Take rail for logging, for instance. I’m currently working near State Highway 1, and also next to the main Trunk rail line. There are logs being taken both by road (several logging trucks per hour) and by rail (freight trains with up to 30 loads of logs). If it was just physics, then all the loads would be going by rail – but it is not. I have no way of knowing where any of the logs come from, but the logs on the train will likely have already been taken part of their journey on trucks, and off loaded from trucks onto the freight train. At the other end, in Wellington’s Centreport, they have to be unloaded again, and sometimes moved again by truck. By comparison, the logs on the trucks were put there once, and it will stay on the truck right to the edge of the wharf. No double handling.

        The simple truth is that in some places it is easy to get to a rail head, to load the logs onto a train and some places it is not. Sometimes it is simply less hassle for the logs to go on a truck in the forest, and stay there right up to the edge of the ship in the port. No double handling, more speed, more convenience. In ports like Napier, where huge volumes of logs come in from Wairoa, Taupo, Kaiangaroa, and central Hawkes Bay, every single log comes in by truck. The rail lines are abandoned (Gisborne to Napier is broken and “mothballed”), or missing (Taupo to Napier was never built). The whole industry is built around trucks instead. Sad but true. Not physics, but dollars.

      3. More naivity – 300 km/hr freight trains ? You’re dreaming mate. Yes, on the flat, straight, high speed, wide tracks of Europe, on certain lines there are 300 km/hr passenger trains, but the freight trains are slow and lumbering, just like ours. On our narrow tracks, our winding rail bed with frequent tight curves, and on our dilapidated infrastructure, most of our freight trains (and our passenger trains too) can make a maximum of 80 km/hr, but more often it is about 45 km/hr. Plain, simple truth.

        1. In France and Germany they run freight in the TGV and ICE networks. Admittedly it’s mail parcels and pallet sized stuff and not bulk logs or whatever, but it does happen.

        2. Clearly you’re not familiar with much of the NZ rail network (eg Auckland-Tauranga, the Main South Line) that is not winding, has few (if any) tight curves and is not dilapidated – and (except at the extremes) track gauge makes negligible difference to a railway’s operating characteristics, so “narrow track” is irrelevant.

          Freight trains are currently limited to 80km/h, but that’s not always been the case 90 and 100 (I think) have been permitted for specific rolling stock in the past.

          And of course an average speed is slower than a maximum! Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that exactly the same happens to trucks – though, bizarrely, speed limits are much more strictly enforced on the mode that is inherently much safer.

          Plain, simple truth, as you say.

          1. Actually I’m very familiar with the NZ trunk line. My point is that neither we, nor the Europeans, run freight trains at 300kph.

  4. At 2tph/hour at 3,000 tones each, the ECMT is moving far more freight at peak than the Kaimai Road, equivalent to 240 HPMVs each way. This section needs to be dual tracked ASAP to allow Passenger trains through the golden triangle too.

  5. What is the likelihood of a need for grade separation in towns along the routes if rail freight is increased? I live in Feilding, so well south of the “golden triangle” and unlikely to be affected in a major way, but I often see traffic back up quite quickly if a train comes through at an inopportune moment (The NIMT cuts the town in two with the town centre on one side of the tracks and most residences on the other). Are there towns like that further north or not likely to be an issue?

    1. You’d need to do a fair bit of grade sep here in Hamilton, but Huntly, Ngaruawahia, and Morrinsville are the only other towns on the line and they are mostly grade sep already.

  6. Thank you Matt Cloud for something I had not thought about.
    Mathew W, there is quite a lot of TA funding from the petrol taxes as well which does not seem to relate to the wear and tear produced by the light vehicles. Could a surge in the rail availability with passengers make a difference in the next few years as a Carbon Emissions revenue starts to bite on the number of vehicles on the road?

    It’s nice to know that someone who is dealing with the political issues of the nation is also posting here thank you Julie Anne Genter, I hope that the Transport Blog is helpful to you and your colleagues.

  7. Bring it on. What else can I say. We need more freight on rails. Build the stuff to make it happen, can’t keep adding more trucks to the road. There seem to be some anti-train misinformation on Paul Henry this morning.

  8. As was pointed out on TV this morning, Toll has one of the biggest truck fleets – tells you something. Trains can’t be everywhere. Some freight it will work for, some it will not. Instead of blanket statements that this or that is the best answer, a bit more thinking is required. there are no silver bullets. If rail were more efficient and cheaper – freight companies would be beating the door down.

    1. Ricardo the Green Party’s proposal is to make more use of rail where it is practicable. Already there are a number of logistics (= trucking) companies that recognise the value of rail for their line-haul operations and integrate use-of-rail extensively in their operations. Toll is one such. Mainfreight is another. Mainstream a third. Unfortunately due to the debacle of Privatisation and certain bankers sucking the financial lifeblood out of the railway, it currently limps along in an under-funded state. The Greens seek to redress this, to upgrade and move rail forward, to make it easier for more traffic to use it. NZ First also seeks to extend rail’s reach to important places where it currently doesn’t go (e.g. Northport, Whangarei). What is there not to like about a more positive strategy towards rail that will see trucks unloaded from the roads?
      Or are you one of those people who believes, as our current government does, that whatever the “problem is”, the “solution” is to spend most of our transport funding on a few high-cost, poor-business-case motorways, and hardly any on rail? because that is what is currently happening.

      1. The whole Northport thing seems like a debacle. They had a port that had access by rail, so they built a new port that didn’t have access by rail and requires trucks for everything. Go figure.

        1. Sure it had rail access, but Marsden Point has natural deep water and is the logical spot long-term for Northport. At some point it will begin to play a role in Auckland’s cargo needs.

  9. Instead of throwing money at uneconomic highways, they want to instead throw money at uneconomic rail projects. This is why the Greens should be kept well away from the country’s purse strings.

    $860m will do a lot for rail. But throwing that much at merely swapping one locomotive type for another, won’t make the slightest change to mode share. Customers couldn’t care less what locomotive is hauling their train.

    There’s a reason they state $860m. That’s the exact figure produced by KiwiRail in 2008, when they announced that would be the cost to electrify to Tauranga. They also said it was highly uneconomic to do so. And since it is a figure produced in 2008, I would suggest that in 2016 it will be greater than $1b.

    It’s unfortunate that New Zealand does not have a single political party that advocates for balanced transport economics. They all want to throw money at whatever fits their ideology, and not at what makes financial and practical sense.

    1. Geoff there is an urgent need to renew life-expired and unreliable old diesel locomotives, and also to overhaul or renew the fleet of electric locomotives. Customers care very much if their goods are late because an old loco has broken down.
      Doing nothing about this is not an option. Therefore whatever is done might as well be done with a non-fossil-fuel future at least vaguely in mind, even if it doesn’t all get done at once. What makes “financial and practical sense” must be balanced against a strategy for the future that looks beyond this year’s budget.

      1. Putting aside that the Golden Triangle is mostly operated by new diesel locomotives, if there is a need to replace the remaining older ones, it makes financial sense to replace them with more new diesels. The cost difference is huge. New diesels to cover the ECMT is around $100m (and this has been done). New electrics to cover the ECMT is around $1.1b. It’s this kind of economic recklessness that keeps the Greens in opposition. Their policies are ideological ones, not economic ones, but economies do not run on good intentions.

        Rail needs more funding, but it needs to target projects that will make a tangible difference, rather than an ideological one. Infrastructure replacement (bridges, track etc) needs to happen faster. Axle weights need to increase. More and larger wagon varieties need to be built. More sectors need to be targeted for customers, instead of restricting the business to small loads that can be stuffed into containers only. New rail ferries are needed, and innovation needs to return to planning and service delivery. Why has the Auckland to Christchurch rail transit time gone from 24 hours to 36 hours, with plans to get it to 40+ hours?

        I look for these tangibles in party policies and I see none. I also see no changes proposed to road transport funding. Where is the proposal to increase RUC’s for trucks so that they pay for more of the costs they impose? Or is that a vote-killer?

        The Green’s rail policy is underwhelming. The sentiment is there, but the practical plan is not.

        1. “Rail needs more funding, but it needs to target projects that will make a tangible difference, rather than an ideological one. ”

          A question Geoff, does that apply to outer suburban rail or just freight?

        2. As much as I’d love to see electrification I’d have to agree with you. I think it’s more important that further expenditure on rail goes towards areas where the greatest time savings can be gained as that will improve the competitive nature of rail, and also ensuring existing infrastructure such as the NIMT electrification across the Central Plateau isn’t wasted.

  10. The success of rail depends upon what happens down at the station. I would like any subsidy to be used to setup and operate more rail connected freight handling yard and warehousing and to purchase and lease lightweight multi modal containers which could be used to deliver freight to and from destinations which are remote from the lines and existing freight depots. The new yards, warehousing and the container owning business would not be part of Kiwirail however it would operate as a rail based logistic companies. The business could be setup as Private Public Partnerships with road trucking companies and Port companies.

  11. I worked for the railways in the early 80’s and we were losing $1M of taxpayers money every day. I gather in the 30 odd years from then nothing has changed much – I read something north of $8B has been flushed down the loo. That rather cool interactive map shows the sad truth – a few lines look busy but 90% of the lines have virtually no traffic at all. I was quoting a house North of Masterton last year and it was in a farm next to the rail line. I suggested they might want to locate the house well away from the rail noise. The owner laughed and said there was only one train a week! Every Sunday at 2pm a fairly modest log train went by moving logs down to the Wellington port who were using ratepayers money to undercut Napier.

    I understand there is virtually no inter-island rail traffic – the ferry being mostly used for repositioning locos and the odd empty wagon. It looks like most of the network is kept open either for nostalgic or political reasons – not for moving freight or passengers. Its a shame because putting this dinosaur out of its misery might release some quite handy corridors for bike trails, busways or one way truck routes. Or novelty tourist railways like the Waihi one.

    Plus every month or two we could buy a new hospital or school.

    1. Several freight trains a day where I am (near Wellington), and commuter rail every 15 minutes. Highly utilised rail network in some places!

    2. Sorry, Graeme, but your understanding about inter-island rail traffic is completely wrong: there’s plenty of it, as a visit to the ferry terminals will attest. But it is under threat: as the recent KiwiRail intently review noted, road-rail transhipment is a significant cost, and KR is introducing two such costly transhipments on each inter-island trip, with the phasing out of the rail ferries. With the Aratere off for survey next month, for the first time since 1962 there will be no rail connection between the islands. Such is progress…

      1. Yes I see there is a bit of freight there still. But I see on the interactive map most rail interisland freight is Auckland to Canterbury so if it wasn’t subsidised then it might go direct by a passing container ship or coastal shipping. I think the rail/track operator should be free of political influence or local pressure groups and not be required to continually operate lines than have a little as one train a week on them. The network is just not a vital part of the economy any more – and hasn’t been for probably 50 years.

        1. Graeme, KiwiRail is not “required” to operate a lines except those where it has a contractual responsibility to do so, eg the Auckland and Wellington metropolitan areas. Elsewhere operation of trains is entirely at its discretion, so perhaps you could share with us the list of lines that are being kept open by KiwiRail for “nostalgic and political reasons”? The one example that you’ve quoted, the short stretch of line between Masterton and Pahiatua, is maintained because it provides a valuable alternative to the NIMT/PNGL between Wellington and Palmerston North/Woodville for when that is unavailable for any reason (scheduled or unscheduled).

          I wonder how many hospitals etc could have been built using the budget for the uneconomic RoNS projects – and of course, railways being much safer and less polluting than roads, any transfer of rail traffic to road would increase demand for medical facilities.

          Finally, the map doesn’t show that 90% of lines have virtually no traffic at all – you appear to be confusing flows with lines. The railway is essentially a single line Northland-Southland with a few branches, and all the diverse flows shown are consolidated on those few lines.

          1. I was just amazed that out of the 15% of freight that the railways carry, how much of it was in such a few short high traffic routes. Of course all the rest of the network should be closed immediately. I hate to imagine the economic cost to NZ of keeping it over the last 50 odd years – from the madness of the 1936-1982 rule to protect railway from road transport competition to the buying back of Toll by the crazy Labour Govt in 2008. Then the latest National Govts handout of $750M for the failed “turnaround plan” and now another $180M needed in the budget to cover more losses.

            One good thing is the corridor is surprisingly wide in most places – and by nature doesn’t have side roads and property entrances off it – and because freight trains are unbearably noisy, not too many houses built close. So its an ideal route for a high speed road.

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