The ATAP final report includes a 30 year vision for Auckland’s strategic public transport network. It is a substantial expansion of what we have today and quite closely resembles our “Congestion Free Network” developed in 2013:


ATAP generally goes out of its way to avoid making a call on the specific mode of new strategic public transport projects, instead using the phrase “mass transit”. However, it does show CRL as the only expansion of the heavy rail network (in red) with all other new strategic PT routes presumably being something other than heavy rail. Elsewhere, ATAP notes the need for ongoing investment in upgrading the existing heavy rail network over time to provide for growth in passenger and freight services – but not an “expansion” of that network.

This is quite a change from the 2012 Auckland Plan, which envisaged heavy rail to the Airport, the Avondale-Southdown Line and, in the longer term, rail to the North Shore. At times we have also seen the Mt Roskill rail spur being considered as another useful (if relatively small) expansion of the heavy rail network.

This change appears to have occurred on a relatively ad hoc project by project basis, rather than as part of an overall strategic plan, which I think sits behind much of the discomfort that people have felt about Auckland Transport decision to progress light-rail, rather than heavy rail, as their preferred strategic public transport mode to the Airport. It is worth thinking about this shift at a network level, in particular at the question of whether further expansion of the heavy rail network is likely. If not, it seems that CRL may actually be the end of the heavy rail network – rather than a key catalyst for its expansion.

Compared to other PT modes, heavy rail has some advantages and disadvantages:


  • Very high capacity
  • High speed
  • Can leverage off existing network


  • Very demanding geometry leading to high construction costs
  • Creates severance when at surface level

For Airport rail, the capacity requirement of heavy rail wasn’t really a factor, due to relatively low projected passenger volumes – around 2,000 southbound trips in the morning peak in 2046 (compared to around 10,000 peak trips coming over the Harbour Bridge today in the morning peak):


While I think actual use will be much higher than this (models tend to substantially under-estimate future public transport use) it will still be well within the capacity capabilities of other modes like light rail. Therefore, the comparison really came down to a speed vs cost trade-off, with the high cost of serving heavy rail’s much more demanding geometry making this trade-off clearly fall in favour of light-rail.


The high costs of serving heavy rail’s demanding geometry means that heavy rail is most likely to “stack up” as the best option when we’re looking at a corridor with extremely high demand (i.e. beyond what might be able to be catered for through other modes) or where we can utilise the existing network.

North Shore rapid transit is potentially an example of a corridor which is likely to have very high demand in the future – because it is the only connection between a very large part of Auckland to the north, and the rest of the region. Early work a few years back suggested heavy rail as the preferred option, but more recently this appears to have shifted – illustrated by ATAP’s strategic PT network map linking North Shore rapid transit into the proposed Dominion Road LRT line. I know Auckland Transport are currently looking at different rapid transit options to serve the North Shore once the Northern Busway hits its capacity limits. I suspect the main question will be the trade-off between the extra capacity you get from heavy rail against the much higher costs of having to regrade the busway, along with the challenge of how it would link into the rest of the public transport system.

Importantly, even if the CRL does “complete” the heavy rail network and we don’t see major new lines in the future, there’s major upgrade of the network we have that will be required over time. Most obviously this is to separate passenger and freight services, but over time I see the need to separate local and express passenger trains – especially as the southern greenfield area grows. Therefore, ATAP’s $3 billion 30 year rail programme is almost certainly on the light-side of likely future investment in the heavy rail network in Auckland.

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  1. Our transport models clearly need up dating. There is plenty of reason to be sceptical about the projected demand figures quoted above for a Mangere/Airport line; they look very light. If nothing else there is a good argument that parking cost correlates strongly with Transit use; the higher the cost of parking the higher the uptake of alternatives to driving. And does anywhere other than the central city have such expensive parking than the airport?

    In fact, even if you are determined to only ever drive to the airport you should be in favour of a high quality alternative being built; it will not only decongest your drive because other will surely switch, but also put downward pressure on parking charges there. In both cases this is simply through competition. Currently road [even if using a bus] is the only route to the airport, and land hungry parking faces little competition.

  2. There is a report like ATAP every 10 years, each one has a new bunch of initials and each one has the same ‘conclusions’ (land use and transport should be integrated, strategic approach, bla, bla bla.) They are not so much planning exercises as a collection of current ideas and peoples pet schemes. Even dumb ideas go in they just get allocated to the ‘third decade’. There will be more heavy rail if it makes sense and can be funded regardless of what ATAP says.

    1. Yep, I have the same thoughts with the Airport line. Even though the recent report suggests light rail, it likely won’t happen for 20 years anyway and by then there may be a strong case for heavy rail.

      1. I think we’ll end up with at least 2 lines to the airport, the first will be the currently proposed LRT and later heavy rail will go in, probably along the alignment Patrick suggested via Otahuhu.

        This is more like how Heathrow has multiple connections, timing and funding will continue disrupt and delay the plans, until the general public demand different solutions to the issues they see.

  3. It seems very strange that a route predicted to have only 2000 pax/hr in 2046 has been designated to have a rapid transit single seat journey into the heart of the CBD (despite being miles away from the CBD). This seems to be very politicized, I suspect due to the high level of salience associated with airport travel in peoples minds.

    The low BCRs appear to bear this out to some degree.

    Of relevance:

      1. Its for the AM peak and it gives southbound and northbound. Actually I was wrong – it is 2000/pax for the whole peak.

        1. That 2,000 is at a point about halfway out however. If you look at the lines above, the number arriving closer in is about 6,000. That’s more than the southern line does today, more than the busway.

        2. True, but that is beyond the SMART area up Dom Rd. Which isnt relevant to the question of “Should we build a 1 seat rapid transit solution from the aiport to the CBD?”. The whole focusing on that type of solution is coming from a mindset that psychologically overrates the importance of airport transit.

        3. Matthew – I imagine it comes from people’s experiences overseas, the places that are easiest to travel in often have a single rail connection to the city where the majority of accommodation is. Of course this alone is not a reason to spend significant money on a one seat connection. The simple solution in the short term is clearly creating a dedicated bus corridor to Puhinui with frequent services, would be interesting to see how Skybus respond to this.

        4. Ok sure, but you can say exactly the same thing for all the other lines which have the same or less demand at their outer ends. Should we build a one seat ride to Swanson village, a one seat ride to Albany, a one seat ride to Papkura? None of those are (arguably) as good a terminal as the airport, but that misses the point. It’s not about getting to the end so much as all the place you can go to or from along the way. Is a train that *only* goes from downtown to the airport justified, not in my opinion. Is a train that goes from downtown to midtown, to Eden Terrace, Balmoral, Mout Roskill, Onehunga, Mangere and the airport justified… yes.

          Quite frankly if it only went from the city to Mangere it would still be a good idea and still probably move more people than any of our existing lines.

        5. Hmm, it has a BCR of 1 with WEBs included, and about 10% of benefits due to making the punters walk further. Not sure its a goer.

        6. You realise that almost all projects get more benefits as the cases progress right? The model clearly isn’t properly validated, fixing that will add heaps of benefits.

          I’m not sure what your argument is with the comment about walking? If two people take an hour on a trip, one walks 20 minutes and catches LRT for 40 while the other drives for an hour clearly that 20-25 minutes of moderate activity has massive social benefits. Doing that daily drops your risk of heart attack by over 50%, and the EEM correctly accounts for that.

        7. Does it? How do you know what the persons preferences for walking are? How do you know whether or not they will offset excersize elsewhere? This didnt appear to be addressed. Its BCR is very low. The transport benefits are dwarfed by the cost. Maybe they will find some innovative ways to make it go up, its still going to remain low. Of interest they think it will run with an operational surplus.

        8. @ Nick R “It’s not about getting to the end so much as all the place you can go to or from along the way.”.

          Yes we are moving/have moved to the more interchange model of PT but I can see the a “one seat ride” does have some weight when it comes to travellers simply due to the luggage issue…and tired grumpy travellers….or very easy transfers are needed..walk across a platform all on a level at least. I realise workers and others will want connections along the way as well and perhaps make up the biggest portion of users anyway.

        9. “Does it? How do you know what the persons preferences for walking are? How do you know whether or not they will offset excersize elsewhere?”

          The EEM addresses all of those points so that we do not require the transport engineers and economists looking at every single project to do it themselves.

    1. That prediction is a total nonsense. The models are just not fit for purpose. As was said to me by an insider; ‘the model hates rail’. Or more accurately, is optimised, unwittingly or not, to promote private vehicle use.

    2. Isn’t the Airport destination a red herring? I would have thought opening up suburbs like M Bridge, Mangere and Favona etc to rapid transport should be the real aim or purpose. This is where heavy rail doesn’t cut it, especially if you go through Puhinui Junction.

      1. Fair enough, but why not all the other suburbs in Auckland not currently served by rapid transit and why a one seat journey? The proposal for the east is to run BRT to Panmure (2 seats). Why not run bus priority or whatever into the rapid transit network. Do it at multiple locations – end of Dom Rd (assuming LRT), Onehunga, Otahuhu and Puhinui. If the focus was genuinely on the regions PT you could set up high quality / rapid feeders into the RTN and you could do it very quickly (well except for Dom Rd which doesnt exist yet).

        1. One major difference – there is a dedicated corridor for a significant part of the SW rapid transit route, this is not the case for the SE. I imagine building a busway along SH20 wouldn’t be much cheaper than light rail, or was that not what you are suggesting?

          How were you thinking this corridor would connect with Otahahu?

        2. The main trunk eastern bus will run from Botany all the way to downtown via the busway, although many other routes will terminate short. Over time I think that should be improved too, possibly with light rail from Botany to the city.

  4. Does CRL “complete” Auckland’s heavy rail network? I hope not.
    The freight network needs to be upgraded, with a third southern line for freight only, maybe connected to the Port.
    I have always believed a heavy rail link to the airport will enable freight to go direct to the large warehousing and distribution businesses at Airport Oaks, say to and from the Port of Tauranga.
    That would mean a freight siding and yard near the airport.
    Lets be realistic no one is going to build a brand new Port. Brown sucked us in with that expensive exercise. So we need an improved rail link, track, tunnels etcc to Marsden Point as well in the plan.

    Rail crossing removals – that is a large expense that is not being fully addressed. If the passenger train set is to operate at faster speeds & higher frequencies, the crossing problems need addressing.
    Electrification to Pukekohe and beyond – I would say a visionary planner should be working on passenger services to Hamilton now. Tuakau, Pokeno, Te Kauwhata are all growing rapidly as Auckland dormitory towns, but they are in the Waikato so AT has no interest.
    Northern services, to at least Helensville……those folk are forgotten about as commuters.

    One question; when the CRL is completed and operating, do we really need a light rail tram up Queen Street?

    1. I hope there is no freight on an airport line, as it will severely impact on the ability to deliver high frequency passenger services. Is there any evidence of a significant flow of freight from Tauranga to Airport Oaks as you suggest?

      1. Freight is common on airport lines in Europe. It’s moved in the dead of night when the line would erstwhile be unused.

        There should be no doubt about heavy rail to the North Shore for the same reason, freight movement at night would greatly reduce the need for trucks to continue to add cyclic stress to the Harbour Bridge etc.

        1. Even the thought of freight on the north shore line is nothing more than a fanciful pipe dream, where it this freight train going to unload? what will it carry? Southdown will continue to be the rail to road freight transfer point, there will never be a reason to duplicate it on the shore and IF there was ever the need for another rail road transfer point north of Auckland it would be north of Auckland on the current NAL (nowhere near the proposed north shore commuter line) with a direct link to any possible future expansion of Northport. The same goes for freight trains on the airport line, why would a freight train be put together at Southdown (even directly from POT) to travel in the ‘dead of night’ what would be a ten minute (remember it is the dead of night) truck trip.

        2. Martin, could you tell us which airport lines in Europe carry rail freight? I can’t think of a single rail link in Europe (or elsewhere) that takes freight to the airport: for example, there are no rail freight facilities at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Liverpool, Manchester, Amsterdam, Paris CDG, Cologne, Frankfurt, Lyon, Geneva, Zurich, Rome, Newark, Munich, Pisa, Aberdeen, Barcelona or Birmingham airports, all served by mainline rail.

          They all know fhat airport passengers and freight do not mix.

    2. ‘One question; when the CRL is completed and operating, do we really need a light rail tram up Queen Street?’

      Yes, and a gazillion buses too. And boats, and bikes, and feet, and taxis and Ubers….

      1. CRL is the arterial. Light rail will function in the CBD as a distributor, it is the perfect mode for that function.

  5. What on heck were they sniffing with the Airport Modelling capacity
    This (from you guys) shows already a large amount of trips (45%) generated to and from the Airport already come from the South and east.

    Now factor in the following:
    1) Airport complex still growing
    2) Southern Auckland population growing the fastest
    3) Most airport generated trips are from workers rather than passengers

    And I think we are going to get more than 2,000 airport generated trips to the Airport from the South alone let alone factoring in the City Centre and the North Shore.

    Heavy rail going in first to the Airport is able to handle the generated trips now. The Botany Line to the Airport gives the extra capacity (and redundancy capacity) for when the South and Botany areas expand in the first and second decades.

    Seems a part of the ATAP needs redoing.

    1. Yes indeed. That graphic I have from a document, not sure where I got it from, titled: “Board Meeting| 27 June 2016, Agenda item no. 11.6, Closed Session”

      1. Sweet. Those figures on Airport trip figures already contravene what ATAP believe. So are they trying to minimise to play down need for Heavy rail which gives best options in capacity and speed. We have a tendency to under estimate rail patronage so what ever NZTA and AT say multiply it by a factor of 20 over a decade.

        1. Does HR actually have more capacity *in this context* though.

          We can get 12 tph down Dom Rd before we lose signal priority, and then put 12 tph down Manukau Road for a total of 10,800 pax per hour both ways. We need to get the CRL to 36 tph both ways to beat that capacity. Plus if anything the HR option has more downstream demand than the LR option, particularly at Panmure.

        2. 750 x 12 = 9,000 off heavy rail to the Airport. Can the LRT system handle 24 TPH (every 2 mins) at the Airport end or is congestion going to be an issue.

          Anyhow 12 TPH off the heavy Airport Line with another 12 through the Botany Line should give capacity for a long time.

        3. Can you get 12 tph from the airport into the CRL though? That’s about 2/3rds of opening day capacity, and about half the theoretical capacity….

        4. Nick the airport is the obvious other end to the Swanson (western line), it doesn’t matter if it is via the Onehunga line or my preferred option Otahuhu there are no extra trains in the CRL. If it is to go via the more sensible Otahuhu option then Onehunga could easily replace Otahuhu as the other end of the planned Otahuhu to Henderson service (via Grafton). The Onehunga line is not a viable partner for any of the other lines and the airport via Otahuhu gives a good connection to the south as well as the option to run alternate services via Newmarket and Panmure if congestion becomes a problem.

        5. Well it is extra trains because currently there are only two an hour from Onehunga to the city. Ben was talking about twelve and hour, that is ten extra trains. If you are talking about new Otahuhu route then that is twelve extra trains.

        6. Nick post CRL there will be initially from the west 12TPH (6 western line most terminating at Newmarket a couple at Onehunga, 6 southern line terminating at Manukau) from the east 12TPH (6 Western line most starting from Newmarket, 6 eastern line terminating at Papakura) so having the 6TPH from Swanson terminate at AIAL and the Onehunga train go to Henderson (something that happens to be my preference right now but we won;t go into it as it attracts too many negative comments) there is the grand total of zero extra trains in the CRL, there is however more from Newmarket to Otahuhu and that is why the comment about them being able to alternate between via Newmarket or Panmure.

        7. Nick so how was it again that having the Swanson trains terminate at AIALinstead of Newmarket or Onehunga no matter how many there is going to increase the trains in the CRL?

        8. I don’t think you guys understand the problem here…

          We need to *ADD* 12tph to the network.

          Botany line doesn’t count, extending a service that currently stops half way to provide a short runner doesn’t count. Those are transfers of capacity, not additions.

          I think you can do it by running something like this:

          To do that you need to get 36tph through the CRL both ways. I really don’t know if that is possible.

          @Ben, yes I do think we can turn 36 trams per hour around at the airport from the Botany line and both isthmus lines Build a 6 platform terminal like Britomart with a straight, fast run in that can either go driveless if we elevate of trench it or operate under line of sight if we don’t. That ends up as 6tph on each platform for a turnaround.

          Please demonstrate diagramatically how you will add 10,000 pax capacity to the proposed HR/LR network without putting 36 tph through the CRL.

        9. Sailor boy this was in reply to the question from Nick “Can you get 12 tph from the airport into the CRL though? ” there are no more trains in the CRL by having the Swanson trains terminate at AIAL, the only place there is more trains in between Newmarket and Otahuhu and by alternating them between operating via Newmarket and Panmure there is still less trains per hour (including freights) than will run through the CRL so if it is possible in the CRL it would be possible on the rest of the network by having the same signaling.

          I know it is hard for you to understand due to your obsession with LR but if you actually looked with an open mind I sure even you could understand it. LR makes a great intermediate distance distribution network but not a long distance arterial that is required for the airport and Mangere.

        10. “There are no more trains in the CRL by having the Swanson trains terminate at AIAL”
          Granted, but were we planning to run 12tph on that route?

          “The only place there is more trains in between Newmarket and Otahuhu and by alternating them between operating via Newmarket and Panmure there is still less trains per hour (including freights) than will run through the CRL so if it is possible in the CRL it would be possible on the rest of the network by having the same signaling.”

          Freights are hard to interline and I seriously doubt that we have the ability to put 12 tph more through the Westfield junction even when we quad track it and I really don’t know if we can actually build two flying junctions that close to eachother with all of the other constraints.

          I know it is hard for you to understand due to your obsession with HR but if you actually looked with an open mind I sure even you could understand the problems that HR faces. LR makes a great intermediate distance distribution network that is required for the airport and Mangere.

        11. Sailor Boy why would there even need to be any flying junctions? Quad tracking from the Westfield junction to Otahuhu (built as part of the airport line works) allows the Southern and eastern lines to be separated from Otahuhu north so the airport line branching off the southern line there allows HR to run to the airport without putting anymore trains than are there already and with improved signaling the trains would be able to run closer together increasing the frequency further.
          LR via Dominion Rd (Dominion rd being a full service in its own right) does nothing for opening up and linking the residents of Mangere with their work places and workers of Airport oaks with their homes but does give a cramped uncomfortable link between the airport and CBD (how many tourists would travel that line as most Aucklanders will still find driving the easiest to the airport as it would not require going via the CBD). If the airport must be LR it needs to go fom the Otahuhu hub terminal to the airport (via Favona, Mangere, airport oaks etc) then to Manukau, Botany and Panmure to give maximum catchment and patronage.

      2. About half the peak service on the western and southern/eastern will be unidirectional, in opposing directions from each side of the network. Running an extra train from the airport is one train you can’t run from the other lines. At the end of the day, there are only so many slots per hour, and an airport train would occupy some of them.

  6. The real reason ATAP goes out of its way to avoid making a call on specific modes is to placate a Minister of Transport convinced that shared driverless cars are the future and will solve all of our transport problems in ‘a few years’. In theory, the way it is written allows ‘mass transit’ to be provided by trains, buses, driverless shuttles, Ubers or even Martin Jetpacks.

    In the Minister’s ideal future there will be no need to spend public money on buses and trains – because trains (and buses and light rail and bicycles come to think of it) are a 19th century technology and therefore inherently bad (!?).

  7. ATAP is a political plan for transport between the current Central Govt and Auckland Council. ATAP could easily be wiped out after a change of Govt next year. It’s almost worth the paper it’s printed on.

    1. But what it’s done is to get the dinosaur-like, climate change ignoring, autocentric National government to commit to some half-decent PT for Auckland. That’s shifted things forward. It’s defined what the worst case scenario for Auckland will look like, and it looks a bit better than it did. If there is a change of government it will only get better.

  8. If we could go back in time, would we have a heavy rail passenger network at all? If they had ripped up the heavy rail tracks and put in light rail ones it would be much cheaper to expand the network, and I reckon the CRL would have been a lot cheaper as bigger gradients would be supported so wouldn’t need to be so deep (maybe cut and cover the whole way?).

  9. This is a really interesting topic.

    In the interim I’d argue yes it probably does complete the network. Heavy rail to the airport is sub-optimal as I’ve discussed many times on appropriate threads. Long term though I can see heavy rail going to the North Shore, most likely via a tunnel and utilising the existing busway to some extent.

    One of the problems with a compact city and the high land costs is that infrastructure projects become very expensive. Heavy rail to anywhere a prime example.

    I still believe that instead of double tracking we should have abandoned our rail and adopted a Vancouver style system. Surely would have been cheaper to add new lines but hey what do I know (rhetorical question Patrick).

  10. No, there needs to be two more rail lines. One to the north shore and an eastern line that actually goes to the east, over the Tamaki river at Panmure / Waipuna then via Botany and joins the southern at MC

      1. So they should pay for other areas like the Shore to get gold plated infra on top of the busway they’ve had for decades?

  11. Regarding speed difference between light rail and heavy rail, the proposed speed for light rail are unlikely to speed up – ie 80kmh.

    Where our heavy rail can run to 110kmh with further opportunity to be upgraded to high speed rail.

    The speed comparison case study they made is comparing the worse case scenario of our currently inefficient heavy rail to the best case scenario light rail.

    1. If you are talking about a new dedicated line then they are about the same, both heavy and light rail can do 110km/h given the right vehicles and track design. If you are talking about street sections then clearly light rail can’t beat the speed limit (but would be capable of it). Also it’s worth pointing out that top speed is a bit arbitrary in some cases, you seldom reach it in an urban area. For example the Onehunga Line between Britomart and Onehunga averages just 28 km/h, despite the fact the trains are capable of well over 100. While some track upgrades could increase that a bit, it would never be anything close to needing that sort of top speed.

  12. Well no, the CRL doesn’t complete Auckland’s heavy rail network.

    Mt Roskill spur, sure.

    Third set of tracks around the Eastern Line and south to wherever the constraint ends. Beyond Papakura? And some time we’ll need a fourth set of tracks.

    Which is why I think heavy rail Puhinui to the Airport is sensible. I don’t see why the Airport should be _either_ light rail _or_ heavy rail. Horses for courses: heavy rail to/from Puhinuni (direct services for the CBD and south to Hamilton), and light rail via Mangere.

    With all the growth out in Kumeu / Huapai, as Mr Brewer of all people is now saying, double tracking the western line from Swanson may make sense one day.

    Not sure about the North Shore or East Auckland: light rail feels right.

    Apart from the fourth main, you’d think this was all do-able at a pinch compared to the $ 33 bn the Nats are planning to throw at roads in the next 10 years.

  13. My view is that the CRL completes the rail network at a strategic level… for now. Yes there should be third/fourth mains for freight and operations, and electrification and a couple more stations down south, but I think that is fundamentally it for the network that can run into the CRL.

    While the CRL is an essential and very effective project, it does “only” double the number of trains we can run on the network. We’re going to need that for the demand on the existing lines alone over time, it doesn’t leave much scope for new lines and extra coverage.

    From my view there are probably three main suburban corridors that need rapid transit added (or mass transit, or whatever it’s being called these days), i.e. the isthmus-airport, northwestern and eastern. Maybe you can add an upgrade of the northern to that. I doubt we could run even one of those into the CRL in addition to the existing network, let alone all three. It seems that these need to be light rail or something similar so they are feasible to build, and so they add capacity with new infrastructure rather than plugging into something existing (listen to me talk like the CRL is built already!).

    However, in the considerably longer term there might be a case for going back to heavy rail, once the suburban mass transit corridors are done. I dream of higher speed longer range express rail running north to south, say Orewa through to Pukekohe and beyond. For that to work you’d have to build a second CRL, a harbour crossing, a north shore line and probably more tracks on the southern… but it would give you huge speed (Papakura to Albany in 30 mins!) and a huge whack of capacity…. and huge cost ($5 to $10b, more??) Maybe thats the 30 year plan eh.

  14. When at Puke station last week the KR tamper ETM622/ETM672? shot through northwards and the few days before this I noticed some flatcars loaded with rail and concrete sleepers at Westfield. Perhaps, maybe wishful thinking, these were being made ready/available to lay more of the 3rd main, the short missing section around Wiri EMU depot or maybe pushing north from the dead end at Puhinui.?
    Otherwise where were they being used?

  15. I think the “demanding geometry” argument against heavy rail is overstated. Sure, trams can navigate much tighter curves at very low speeds, and can climb steeper gradients if enough axles are motored.

    However for LRT to be of comparable quality to heavy rail requires that there are no restrictively tight curves. Both will suffer from a overly curvy alignment. And over much of Auckland, gradients too severe for the 2:1 motor-trailer configuration of the CAF-units are unlikely to be an issue. Even the climbs up and over to Albany do not appear to exceed 4% which I am sure would be within the capabilities of these trains.

    Let’s not fall into the trap of believing that light rail automatically delivers more for less.

    1. I think you understate the reality. Yes if you build a special non-mainline standard track and use specially powered trains they might do 4% at a stretch, but LRT does 8% off the shelf and up to 12% with special vehicles. The EMUs navigate the minimum radius curve at vector (90m I believe) at walking pace. An LRV would be able to take it much faster, or if you are happy with walking pace they could do a 20m radius.

      Its not so much that the do more with less, but rather that they do enough with less. Being able to transition from ground level to a viaduct or an underpass in one third the distance is important when we are talking about threading new rail lines through the existing city. So it being able to run in the street and turn the corner at an intersection.

      1. No Nick. Your arguments convey your personal preference for light rail, not facts.

        Modelling of AM-unit performance shows that a 3-car set loaded to AW3 (=crush) at 90% of max performance (allows for some slippery rail-conditions) could achieve 80Km/h within 2Km on a 4% grade. Starting acceleration is still a respectable 0.89m/s². This is with the units and track AS THEY ARE – i.e. no non-standard track and no “specially powered trains”.

        Remember that these units were specified when the CRL gradient was contemplated at 1in26 (3.85%) and a huge power-margin was allowed for. 4% would eat up anything Auckland would reasonably require except perhaps for short sections of ramp, but 4% is by no means the max they can handle. It is simply the gradient I calculated over the 50m ascent between Sunnynook and Sunset Rd on the Northern Motorway, for those who insist that this route would be too steep for heavy rail.
        (See )

        As regards Vector curve – the speed here was recently raised to 30Km/hr after it was assessed that the previous 25Km/h was too conservative. This is hardly “walking pace”, and is set more for reasons of passenger-comfort than technicality. Sure an LRV could ‘take it much faster’, and so could an EMU, but the resulting cant deficiency would produce a ride more akin to a bus than what is normally expected of a train .
        And sure, an LRV could handle a 20m radius at real ‘walking pace’ but is this the sort of “rapid transit” that Auckland should be aspiring to?

        LRT does not offer the ‘magic bullet’ that its proponents claim. If a budget-priced option is chosen then there will be big trade-offs with performance-quality. If quality comparable to heavy rail is wanted then the cost will be comparable also.

        1. My personal preference is for heavy rail Dave. Unfortunately infrastructure planning and investment isn’t based on personal desire. Why is it you guys always turn this into some sort of mode fetish I’m-a-heavy-rail-guy-you’re-a-light-rail-guy thing?

  16. So have had a brief look at options. They looked at a hybrid brt rail option. Looked like they were phoning it in in report (interestingly the at website only describes the report as focusing on HR vs LRT despite the bus options ). So they run the brt to Onehunga and then load hundreds of millions of cost onto option for upgrading rail starions and rail line. But LRT assumes Dom Rd already there. So why not look at the option of BRT to the bottom of Dom Rd? A lot of benefit on LRT option was Dom alignment so these benefits would have transfered to a BRT LRT hybrid option.

    You never knkw they might have found an option with a decent bcr.

    1. Would building a dedicated BRT corridor from Dom Rd to the airport really be that much cheaper than just going with LRT? It still requires a dedicated, grade separated corridor to be built, and any bridges would have to be wider for buses than light rail.

      1. If you mean a proper offline busway it depends on the specifics of the context, but from what I’ve seen from reviews of international construction costs they are about the same. Properly engineered bus running way with pavement and drainage and lighting etc tends to cost about the same as ballasted track and wires. Bus stations usually need to be bigger which can tip the scales one way, but buses can skip onto bits of street or motorway which in practice makes them a lot cheaper to work around the tricky bits. Also bus depots and stabling tend to be more distributed and remote while LRT requires a large flat site connected to the network.

        If you are doing like for like with underpasses, elevated sections, retaining walls the requirements are about the same, but its easier to compromise with buses.

      2. Well for one they are planning on an LRT harbour crossing, shoulder running for buses. Plus all the rail capital costs

        1. In that case I’d prefer the LRT option as it sounds like it is doing the job properly. We don’t expect cars on the Southern Motorway to get off and drive through Newmarket and get back on again at Kyber Pass just because a viaduct is expensive.

        2. Its to a BRT standard, doesnt look like they have cheaped out. Its a big bridge, lets use it efficiently before building a new one.

  17. There will be plenty of service expansion to come, northwest of Swanson and south of Pukekohe, so in that respect heavy rail will expand.

    But it’s been quite dismaying to see how easily previously strong advocates for airport and north shore heavy rail have accepted AT’s view that light rail or buses should be considered. The reality is that a decision has been made by central government and AT that there is to be no more heavy rail in Auckland. Light Rail is a PR diversion to soften the blow of the fact that heavy rail expansion has been dumped in favour of buses for at least the next 20 years, i.e., the foreseeable future.

    We should be doing what Perth did, and expanding heavy rail significant distance north and south, for transit orientated development to occur along that spine. In Auckland’s case this means developing services south to Hamilton, and north to Orewa. Distances that only heavy rail can properly cater for. A long heavy rail spine accepts the reality that Auckland is going to spawl like never before, whilst ensuring PT is at the fore. Buses and light rail are not going to cut it for Orewa and Hamilton, and trains are the only viable way to avoid an all out car fest.

    We need an upgrade of the existing line south, and a new line built to the north.

    1. Agree, yet for the long term HR is the only meaningful solution for both Airport and NS.
      Outlook doesn’t look good now or the near future, we may have to wait until Chloe has been mayor for a few terms..

    2. I think LRT to Orewa would be fine as long as units with good seating capacity were provided for these services, it would not work with metro style units built for high standing capacity.

      1. No, LR is a local access, medium distance technology. A train to Orewa? Make it a train. But long distance new rail lines are not a near term issue at all. Outside of where we already have track going to useful places the present issues are closer in where there are concentrations of people and attractions. LR is good for that, in particular Dom/Queen, and the mid Shore.

        Nick’s suggestion of a later new HR line, connected to the Southern line spine for longer distance journeys on the Shore is a good one, but a good few decades away, and billions of $.

        Intercity trains south will happen first. Exurban northerners will be on buses and in congestion in their cars for a while yet. Good separate bus ways will be first step, and can sequel a corridor.

        1. If LR is built to Albany then I can’t ever see a situation where HR would run to Orewa or further north as this would require a separate HR corridor and harbour tunnel at great expense just to serve Orewa and surrounds. Or are you thinking LR would be replaced by HR along the North Shore when this happens?

          Completely agree intercity trains to the south will happen first. I think they might be sooner than we expect with the rapid growth in traffic congestion on the Southern Motorway.

        2. Well I think you may be limiting your thinking by past priorities, policies, and conditions. AKL is now very firmly of a new scale and pattern that will mean new responses. Depending on scale and pattern of future growth, and the impacts of both evolving technologies and environment and social policies, I can clearly see a time when both LR and HR systems are required and indeed funded in the wider city. And AKL will always be longer than it is wide so the most likely need for faster higher capacity, less frequent stopping systems is North-South.

          Also a quad tracked NIMT, and new Northern Line under the harbour and reaching a long way north. Like I say depending on the variables mentioned above. The southern line would offer two services; all stopping and limited stop longer distance express trains, and will certainly need more tack, especially for freighters too. The Shore would have LR serving the former role there, and this would be built first, they would be separate systems…

          Not inconceivable, but a longer term vision.

        3. HR requires a separate corridor regardless. Because of the grades only a small portion of the busway could be converted, and anyway the busway is only 6km out of the 32km from the city centre to Orewa. Maybe you leave the busway alone anyway, and add to the network rather than upgrade?

          Not just Onewa, it could stop at Albany for example (which should be intensively built out within a decade or two), and places like silverdale, dairy flat and millwater which will all be built out by then. In twenty years time where will they be growing the city? The rest of the land between Albany and Orewa will probably be done by then, and the valley between Orewa and Kaukapakapa seems to be an obvious candidate.

          If it’s many decades away in any case, why not plan for one early then one later? One for the inner existing suburbs, one for the outer towns and expansion sites. Recall what happened with the west. They picked the western line rail as ‘the one’ to fix western transit for ever, and less than a decade later realised they should have been building the NW busway and are now scrambling to retrofit it. I’m sure in ten of fifteen years we’ll be scrambling to squeeze back in a third line running across Whenuapai and Hobsonville.

          The test case is clearly the south, we could easily end up with three layers of rail (intercity heavy rail to the Waikato, regional heavy rail to Papakura/Drury/Pukekohe, suburban light rail to Mangere, Botany), plus frequent and connector level bus. If the south can have four or five different modes, two kinds of rapid transit to the North isn’t a crazy long term goal.

        4. @ Nick R
          Just re-stating some of what I have already said above, as you keep repeating the same misleading arguments with regard to heavy rail and gradients:

          Modelling of AM-unit performance shows that a 3-car set loaded to AW3 (=crush) at 90% of max performance (allows for some slippery rail-conditions) could achieve 80Km/h within 2Km on a 4% grade. Starting acceleration is still a respectable 0.89m/s². This is with the units and track AS THEY ARE – i.e. no non-standard track and no “specially powered trains”.

          Remember that these units were specified when the CRL gradient was contemplated at 1in26 (3.85%) and a huge power-margin was allowed for. 4% would eat up anything Auckland would reasonably require except perhaps for short sections of ramp, but 4% is by no means the max they can handle. It is simply the gradient I calculated over the 50m ascent between Sunnynook and Sunset Rd on the Northern Motorway, for those who insist that this route would be too steep for heavy rail.
          (See )

          And you also mention the ‘requirement’ for a separate corridor for heavy rail. Well this requirement simply recognises that rapid transit needs to be kept away from other traffic, pedestrians etc. If light rail is allowed to mix in with these, then it won’t be rapid. Or if it tries to be, then safety will be compromised (Example

        5. That’s all we’ll and good Dave, but rather that keep repeating that to me you should tell it to Kiwirail, because they categorically will not build or allow a railway with a 4%+ grade. Certainly not the 6-8% other rail modes can do easily.

          You should also tell that to the CRL team, because they’ve spent an extra half billion on portal structures and deep level stations because of the grade constraint. I’m sure they’d love to hear all about it.

        6. Nick as Kiwirail are in the business of moving freight they build their railways to what a 1000 metre long freight train can handle, no freight trains will go through the CRL not because they are not electric but because they can’t climb up out of Britomart. As the north shore rail just like the CRL would be built to the spec required by AT (with government funding presumably) it would be built to what their AM (by the time the shore has rail there will most likely have fully replaced the current fleet so maybe even higher spec) fleet can handle and outside possibly the climb up (would most likely be cut like the motorway but deeper or tunneled) to Lonely track rd (north of Albany) there is nothing on the shore the current EMU fleet can’t handle.

        7. At the extremes whatever is possible or not possible in the engineering is very black and white. But, within that it becomes very grey.

          Fact: every day heavy rail “normal” electric locomotives and “normal” carriages (double deckers in Germany) operate along gradients steeper than 5% in Germany and Norway. Is this good practise from a value engineering perspective? If there is another option or if one were starting from scratch – probably no.

          In Auckland, setting the gradient limits for prospective heavy rail corridors will be due to a range of factors, not least of which is the preparedness for the lead engineer to “push the boat out”. I guess that if you are going to make that train lug all that extra weight around so it can mix it with freight trains, then why would you then limit that corridor to make freight non-viable due to excessive gradient? The exception is if the proposed route in question is a small but significant cog in an existing heavy rail network where freight has a separate pathway, as with the CRL.

          Where that corridor is going to be a standalone new corridor, either design train and track from the ground up with the option for freight in mind. Or go to some form of light metro or light rail which will need a separate corridor if it is to be rapid mass transit……but can economically go much steeper.

        8. Ted, for better or worse Kiwirail own the heavy rail network, legally their standards are applicable.

          You guys say there is nothing that the current fleet can’t handle, but again I have to ask why the CRL is so deep and the grades so shallow, relatively, if the vehicles procured for it are allegedly capable of so much more? Why did they arbitrarily make it so much harder and expensive on themselves?

          Tuktuk, that’s it. If you ignore the need for freight or mainline standards and focus on urban passenger rail only, you can select track and rail systems designed to only do urban passenger rail, which are easier, cheaper and more effective. That’s light rail/light metro in a nutshell.

        9. Nick that could all change after the next election with it being NZF policy to break up Kiwirail reversing the mistake made by the last Labour lead government when they bought the trains off Toll.

        10. I agree with that policy, Kiwirail should be a SOE freight company (in competition with whoever else wants to run on the tracks) and the ownership and operation of the physical network should sit with a government department, probably NZTA. But would those standards for mainline railway change appreciably if it were shifted from one wing of the government to another?

        11. Nick R, you ask “why the CRL is so deep and the grades so shallow”?

          Perhaps I’m being simplistic, but if you look at the longitudinal cross section on page, the answer appears to be to give a reasonably constant gradient between the existing lines at Britomart and Mt Eden, together with the need to go under the CMJ.

          And could you also provide a reference (or more detail) for your statement “[the CRL team has] spent an extra half billion on portal structures and deep level stations because of the grade constraint”?


        12. “but again I have to ask why the CRL is so deep and the grades so shallow”

          I understood it was to keep the railway below the motorway junction, which of course is itself sunken below the surrounding terrain.

  18. Nick R.

    The Kiwirail track-design specifications leave open the maximum gradient of new mainline construction by stating that it will be determined by the Track Engineering Manager. I don’t know from where you get this “Kiwirail. . .categorically will not build or allow a railway with a 4%+ grade”. It is not correct.

    Perhaps you are not aware, but prior to the opening of the Rimutaka Tunnel in 1951, Wairarapa Class RM railcars worked over the Rimutaka incline by conventional adhesion alone. The ruling gradient of this was 1:14 (7.14%).and these vehicles successfully ran this route for some 15 years.

    I have no problem with you expressing a preference for light rail if you believe it is appropriate in particular situations. Often there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as to mode-choice but a series of value-judgements which need to be made, as objectively and honestly as possible in regard to costs, benefits, feasibility and outcomes.

    It does not help that you and a few others repeatedly bolster your arguments with false information about heavy rail, specifically it seems to put it in a bad light and skew the comparison.

    1. yes that exactly it, objective judgement based on costs, benefits, feasibility and outcomes. Where I get the comment about what Kiwirail will allow for new rail projects is from working with Kiwirail on new rail projects. It’s not false information to bolster arguments, it’s objective judgement of the information I have. If the comparison appears skewed perhaps it’s because they are skewed in reality?

      I’m still curious as to why all of these rail projects they have designed (e.g CRL, airport rail) and tried to value engineer significantly have always maintained such expensive and restrictive geometry if, as you say, it’s no way near that bad. Why would they make it so unnecessarily difficult and expensive? I know some folks like to explain the airport thing on some great and sinster conspiracy to make heavy rail look bad (to what end exactly?!), but how do you explain the CRL? By my calculations a 5% grade would allow K rd station to be just 10m below ground level and able to be built by cut and cover. So why are they mining it out 35m deep?

      Yes I am aware they had special purpose built rail cars that briefly ran on the incline Fell railway, I’m also aware that they went to considerable expense to tunnel around the incline so they could run normal trains on the line too.

      1. If the K Rd station was only 10 metres deep and the line was in a cut and cover tunnel, how would it cross the CRL? A flyover? A level crossing? The depth of the K Rd station has more to with where the line goes after that than the gradient the trains using it are comfortably capable of.

        1. Well if the vehicles were capable if such steep grades the tunnel would be able to rise and climb at will! The CMJ is only 12m below the K Rd ridgeline. Currently the CRL will pass under the CMJ at about twenty metres deep, thats about fifteen more than it would be if grade wasnt a constraint.

        2. .. but then form Aotea to K’Rd station it would be far steeper if that was the case…that cross section shows roughly a nice even gradient. I’m no engineer bur surely it’s nicer to work with and with plenty of clearance from the motorway CMJ it would be more desirable (CMJ vibrations, future cut & cover expansions?).

        3. Nick R – we’re still waiting for the evidence that the CRL is grade constrained, and that such a constraint has led to an extra half billion dollars being spent, apparently on “portal structures and deep level stations”. Could you give us the details, please? Repeating an assertion doesn’t make it true!

        4. Nick it appears Grant is pointing out, the gradient is consistent and the depth of the stations it due to keeping the grade consistent while giving plenty of clearance below the likes of the CMJ. It would make no sense to have a steep section to make a station closer to the surface to then at best level out to go under the CMJ (at worst have to drop back down) before starting to climb again to make the NAL at Mt Eden.

        5. So with the CRL gradient would a DL or other diesel loco be able to rescue an emu set if there was a grid failure?

        6. Ok so you wanted some evidence, here you go. Maybe the do stretch to 5% in specific conditions in Norway or wherever, but Kiwirail won’t allow it, the CRL it constrained by being as steep as possible, and future heavy rail lines are going to be likewise constrained to a max grade of less than 4%.

          Kiwirail’s rail engineering standards set the max grade at 1 in 32 for main line track. See section 20.,%20Effective%20Date%2019-04-2013).pdf

          “The following are the thresholds for temporary and permanent features on the main line beyond which the Access Provider must consult Operators through the Joint Technical Committee. Grade maximum 1 in 32 ”

          An article by Beca on engineering the CRL, it states several times that the absolute max gradient was 3.5%, and that the gradient was one of the main engineering challenges on the project.

          “The mandatory criteria included: ƒ That the absolute maximum gradient shall be 3.5%, 1 in 28, uncompensated (4% compensated).”

          “More than three stations on the route are not feasible due to the gradient constraints (maximum rail grade for the route was set as part of the operational requirements at 3.5%, 1 in 28, uncompensated or 4% compensated).”

          “The primary engineering challenges are summarised as follows: Extremely steep vertical grades which significantly influenced alignment options on the 69m vertical climb from Britomart to the NAL (Figure 2)”

          And from the Notice of Requirement for the CRL, which describes maximum track gradient as a restriction on the tunnel design options.

          “The CRL is restricted by a number of technical parameters (including maximum gradient for the safe operation of a railway) and physical constraints (including the topography of central Auckland).”

          The CRL gradient is consistent because it is at the absolute maximum they could do and they had to squeeze every single metre of climb out of it they could. Ted, it would actually be best practice to have the alignment rise to a station the drop away again, this allows trains to naturally decelerate with gravity approaching the platform, then acellerate away again after it. And it would have saved huge amounts on the construction of K Rd station by not having to build a ten story building underground to reach the platform. Have you seen the station renders, you think they chose to make it that deep?!

        7. ‘“The following are the thresholds for temporary and permanent features on the main line beyond which the Access Provider must consult Operators through the Joint Technical Committee. Grade maximum 1 in 32 ”’

          The key words are – ‘beyond which the Access Provider must consult Operators through the Joint Technical Committee’. Straight away, although NRSS/6 states the ‘Grade maximum is 1 in 32’, the CRL is in fact 1 in 28 – we have an inconsistency.

          At the end of it, these are all value based decisions made by senior engineers who make an assessment of the overall operation. In the case of the CRL, the high frequency of operation, the large pool of train drivers who will be regularly driving through the tunnel, the on-board safety systems, the volume of passengers all no doubt influenced a decision they were not comfortable with steeper than 1 in 28. The steeper than 1 in 20 operations in Norway and Germany are up the side of a mountain, with lower frequencies, and probable dedicated pool of drivers and rolling stock.
          I repeat again, the argument is not about some magical engineering number (up until this side of 1 in 18 or so), it is about economics and the suitability of the track section for the specific task.

        8. Hi Tuktuk, yes I understand all of that and totally agree. I never said there was one magic engineering number, but I did say that there were very real constraints on current and future heavy rail projects regarding grade. Yes its a combination of engineering, operations, policy etc.. but regardless of the complex reasoning for that outcome, its a limitation of heavy rail to grades of less that 4%.

          I stand by my assessments that a) The CRL is at a maxxed out grade for heavy rail in Auckland and that grade impacts on the design in a way that makes it expensive (an unavoidable issue but one that has been dealt with in the design, and one that doesn’t really affect the value of the project given the benefits are so huge), b) current and future HR projects are similarly constrained, and c) the constraint isn’t going to go away because people talk about Fell systems or Swiss mountain railways.

          This is a little crazy, these guys accusing me of like loving light rail and hating on heavy rail and cooking up numbers to secretly discredit heavy rail. Who gives a shit? What possible motivation could I have for that? Anyway, new HR in Auckland would be limited to less than 4% grade, while new LR would be limited to about 8% grade. Thats literally twice as steep, which makes a huge difference when trying to fit rail systems into an existing urban area. Case in point, for a HR line to pass a road with grade separation, for example, would require a viaduct or portal structure about 300m long overall to clear 5m of height and get back to ground level again. If the structure needed to have a curve in it as well as a grade (given nothing in Auckland is straight) the structure becomes half a kilometre long. Conversely with LRT, the same structure would be literally half as long.

          The idea that heavy rail has no real world constraints and that it will always be cheap and always the best mode for a route is, well, ludicrous frothery. It’s ideal for some conditions, but terrible for others.

        9. Consensus? Yes – without rail freight in the picture, and with the topography of a rumpled blanket and/or the need to fit into the existing built-up landscape, the economics favours less mass (light rail) given equal capacity. Unless there are unique local circumstances that enable the economics to overide the other factors. Have a great Labour day holiday 🙂

        10. Nick R, that Section 20 of the KiwiRail “Engineering Interoperability Standards” document you refer to relates to changes that KiwiRail as access-provider can make to its existing lines without having to consult 3rd-party operators. It is not cast-in-concrete design-manual for new projects. As you acknowledge, the CRL will exceed the 1 in 32 stated maximum.

          I cannot comment on why 3.5% has been settled on as the “absolute max” for the CRL. But it is certainly not set by the capabilities of the CAF units. In earlier designs it was going to be 3.85% (to permit ‘nice-to-have’ level alignment in stations), but at some stage this was changed. A particular requirement was that a rescue-unit should be able to push a crush-loaded failed unit up the grade with a certain level of emergency-performance. This may have had a bearing on what was eventually settled, but I am sure there were many other considerations besides this is determining the eventual alignment.

          You ask what possible motivation could be ascribed to you for “hating on heavy rail”. I can’t answer that, but some of your claims as to what heavy rail can and can’t do are patently false. I have simply tried to call you out on these, without attempting to attribute a motive.

          I entered this discussion in order to comment on Matt L’s statement that “a disadvantage of heavy rail is very demanding geometry leading to high construction costs”. The evidence I have given, plus real-world examples I reference in earlier postings ( ), indicate that Matt’s statement it is not the full story even if it may have a degree of validity.

          You have gone to considerable lengths to try and refute what I say, seemingly to ‘prove’ that more heavy rail is not appropriate for Auckland. Why?

          If it could be achieved, would more heavy rail not be a good thing for Auckland?

        11. Ok round in circles I see, but I’d like to clarify one thing. I’m not saying what heavy rail can and can’t do at a technical level everywhere, I’m saying what it isn’t been able to do in Auckland, for whatever reason. I have no idea what combination of factors set the maximum for the CRL at 3.5%, I just know that was the maximum and that any similar extension will have the same maximum.

          Also if you read further down I’ve not suggested HR isn’t appropriate for Auckland (I outlined a series of regional extensions where I though it the best mode). The point is more that it isn’t *always* appropriate and there are better options for suburban corridors. My motivation? Finding the best value for money and progressing projects that are actually fund-able and implementable on a reasonable timeframe. If it were up to me there would be heavy rail everywhere and it would all be really cheap and awesome. But wanting that doesn’t magically make it so.

          Your last comment is perhaps telling of our different approaches: “If it could be achieved, would more heavy rail not be a good thing for Auckland?”. I’m sure we agree there. But maybe for you “achieved” means technically feasible, but for me “achieved” means affordable, fundable and politically viable? I’ve got no doubt you could physically build a heavy rail line to Botany, for example, but I have serious doubts you would ever achieve such a project.

        12. Nick, you have said that the “grade constraint” has meant spending an extra half a billion dollars or so on portal structures and deep-level stations. Could you give us a source for this?

        13. I think some of the coal mine branch lines on the West Coast (e.g., Rewanui and Blackball/Roa) had sections with gradients of about 1 in 25 (4%). Of course, the locos were only hauling empty wagons up the grade, and full wagons down the grade (the main issue being braking). Still, those train consists were made from heavy cast iron and steel, not modern lightweight materials like aluminium or carbon-fibre (or polymers/graphene in the future?).

  19. Bigted, you think it was a “mistake” that the last Labour-led government bought the railway operation off Toll? Well the alternative was that Toll would have carried out its threat to close large sections of the network which did not have an “anchor customer” (including some sections like the central NIMT which have since thrived), as well as reneging on payment of its access charges to the government.

    Labour re-nationalised the rail business to secure it as a strategic asset for the future of New Zealand. Had they not done this when they did, we might not have much of a rail system by now. The real mistake which those with short memories fail to acknowledge is that the previous National government sold it in the first place. And the second mistake was that the current National government which took over from Labour just after the re-nationalisation happened, has shown an abject lack of interest in doing more to exploit and make use of this asset.

    In the scheme of things I don’t think it matters too much whether Kiwirail runs the whole operation as-now, or whether it is re-divided into network + open-access operators. Both have their pros and cons. Ultimately the success of rail will depend on the competence, motivation and vision of those running it. And if this is lacking at management level, then the competence, motivation and vision of those at government level to fix this. The absence of the latter is plainly what has held things back since re-nationalisation. As we all know, the current givernment’s prime motivation and vision has been to spend most of the transport budget on a few hand-picked roads of dubious economic significance.

    1. Dave the mistake was rolling the trains they bought off Toll with Ontrack (the rail infrastructure company) that was already owned by the government. The government could have just opened up the rail network to whomever wanted run trains instead of giving Toll the capital to double their truck fleet.

      1. Interesting you say this Bigted (i.e. better to keep above-rail and below-rail as separate entities), because this is exactly the situation that has prevailed in the UK since privatisation, and what the transport-informed over there are now agitating against. The present fragmentation has meant that train companies operating over a certain line do not have much control of what happens on that line in regard to prioritising spending, maintenance, business objectives etc, and find themselves too much at the mercy of the monolithic “Network Rail”. Under British Rail towards the end of its existence, the railway was divided up into business-sectors with each sector having control over both train-operation and the tracks over which they principally ran. This was reckoned to be a successful operating model.

        If you are a regular reader of “Modern Railways”, you will hear regular calls for a return to “Vertical Integration”. Although road transport seems to work ok with roading providers fully-separate from road-users, this doesn’t work so well on rail because ‘below rail’ and ‘above rail’ are much more interdependent. Maybe New Zealand would get away with it if there were only a small number of train companies, but in Britain with its myriad of companies the whole thing has become a dog’s breakfast.

  20. By the time we upgrade the northern busway (or sections of it) to LRT, it will be really maxxed out, can’t imagine the disruption while it’s getting built! Would it be better/necessary to make a new LRT line, and then the busway could later be upgraded (even more big time) to a HR corridor? In any case I understand tunnels would be needed for either LRT or HR systems across the harbour.

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