As many of you may be aware there has been a lot of discussion regarding the third and now potentially fourth main.

For those who haven’t here are some great articles to get all caught up.

A Coalition of Transport Advocates has now started a new campaign which we are calling #Campaign4theMains.

The campaign petitions the Government and relevant agencies to fund/build the transformative low-cost Third/Fourth Mains allowing the unlocking of freight/passenger rail capacity not just in Auckland but Nationally by removing two of the key bottlenecks on the rail network the congested Westfield-Wiri section as well as the Westfield Junction.

The petition on already since Friday has nearly 400 supporters.

I personally have signed because these two upgrades are integral to unlock the true capacity of rail freight in Auckland.

It will mean:

  1. Faster passenger trains with even spacings (clock face timetable) between trains rather than bunched coming around the same time resulting in frequency not unlocked fully;
  2. Saves AT/NZTA from needing to buy a passenger train as fleet can be better utilised saving around $10m;
  3. Takes 100s of trucks off the roads each week including around the Waterfront if the fourth main is built as well which is one of Auckland’s best assets and likely to a focal point during America’s Cup. But also fewer trucks on roads outside of Auckland which are also feeling the strain;
  4. Allows Express/Intercity trains to work properly when/if hopefully one day they are introduced;
  5. It’s great for the economy;
  6. Makes it easier to introduce 15m all day passenger frequencies across the rail network;
  7. It makes KR more profitable as they can run more trains more efficiently meaning fewer subsidies needed from taxpayers or more money that can be re-invested back into rail network;
  8. Great for the environment reducing pollution and helping us meet our climate obligations;
  9. It is value for money just $60m for a third main & $150-200m to build both a third & fourth main. That is small change for such a transformative investment.

I encourage everyone to get behind the #Campaign4theMains and please sign the petition here. Please also feel free to Tweet/Share on Facebook and other social media to get the word out.

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  1. “Faster passenger trains with even spacings (clock face timetable) between trains rather than bunched..”

    I dont see how that is arrived at. For practical purposes, unless its an express train programmed to use a 3 rd track and bypass those stopping at all stations, trains will still stay on the same track. Its not like a bus way where you just use the next lane to by pass a stopped bus.
    The second reason doesnt follow from the first as there is no better utilisation for the reasons above. In fact using express services will probably require more trains as they provide extra capacity. There is no secret sauce method of extra passenger capacity by shuffling trains around an extra track, it requires more trains.

    The other reasons seem poorly argued as well: make KR more profitable ? Their train routes are fairly long distance , an extra 10 min saving around Auckland isnt going to matter much, since there are capacity constraints between Hamilton and Mt Maunganui.

    There are very good reasons for adding a 3rd line between Middlemore and Manukau junction, some of the reasons given arent credible though.

    1. Bunched means turning up in a similar time.

      For example at Papatoetoe you have the Eastern & Southern Lines both 6tph each so 12tph equaling a 5m frequency or an average wait of 2.5m.

      However because the trains are timed to come very close to each other instead of having an even 2.5m wait it can be longer because the bunch the trains through to fit the freight trains.

      It also means instead of having a simple timetable as the trains would all be timetabled 10m after each other instead of at the moment where it is not so.

      Another example with buses is for myself I catch on Ellerslie-Panmure Highway Buses and there is a lot of them so I have high frequency. However because they all come through at around the same time if I miss a bus I still have to wait 20-30m for the next bunch of buses making the frequency useless to me.

      “There is no secret sauce method of extra passenger capacity by shuffling trains around an extra track, it requires more trains.”

      Incorrect for example if you have a service with 10m headways with a total travel time of 70m you require 7 trains. If you decrease that total travel time to 60m you only need 6 trains to provide the same capacity.

      This is why AT has been working with CAF/Siemens/Transdev on speed improvements through door operation and signalling improvements as it means they can maximise the fleet. It is also why they express the Onehunga Line during peak past Greenlane/Rems because its means instead of needing 3 trains to service the Onehunga line they do it with 2 using the set saved to make a 3 car on the Western or Eastern 6 car.

      KiwiRail currently can’t feasibly expand there capacity so are not able to maximise the returns they could get out of the network. Freight trains have to wait around clocking up tons of labour hours and whenever passenger services are delayed they can’t make a slot having to wait. It makes a massive difference to their profitability which is explained in the business case.

      1. The bunching of trains is because they leave different departure points at different times, a 3rd track isnt going to change that unless its programmed to run on the 3rd track- which then kills it being using for express trains or a freight train coming the other way.
        As I said before , its not normal running for trains to weave in and out of two tracks. Its just easier for a trains to increase or shorten their station dwell times.
        There is of course no answer to the speculation about ‘improving KR profitability.

        1. I recommend reading the business case the passenger trains are not using the 3rd main but the removal of freight allows them to be timetabled better.

          Its all in the doc

        2. The trains on the two suburban lines are bunched together to create slots for freights to fit into the schedule inbetween. If the freights are on the third main they don’t have to bunch the suburbans.

    2. Page 20/21 of the business case discusses the staggered 12/8/10 min intervals to accommodate two freight paths each of 9 mins by delaying dwell times at some stations. Also in reality you end up with unscheduled delays. Post CRL it will be further exacerbated.

      1. Exactly right. Saying you do not need a third main if everything goes right means you do need a third main. In the real world things go wrong. A third main adds reliability as well as capacity.

  2. It makes you wonder how many transformative transport projects – PT and cycling especially but roading as well – there are across the region that the $1500 million EW link will be used for. Projects under the $100m mark

    20? 25? The 3rd main is $60m, Skypath $24m…..Imagine if they could all be done in the same time that EW is planned. It would a be a different city.

    1. Yes. The benefits of EW are not certain, likely, or even in fact assessed. But the opportunity costs of it are certain and huge.

      A direct result of our broken and mode biased transport funding allocation system.

      1. Did you read the NBR article about the financial incentives for the “expert witnesses” on the EWL enquiry? Worthy of it’s own post really.

        1. It’s to do with the alliance model they are using/testing. It’s a group not individual performance pool for the alliance. But as they are shareholders of a company in the alliance, they do receive a benefit.

          Part of the issue as it was not declared in their statements.

          You could also say they can charge more fees it the EWL goes to the next stage. But I guess that is up to the board to judge their Independence on that basis.

        2. Thanks. Presumably it was so for the WC too, with the hilariously named Well-Connected Alliance. I laugh at the name but I see three variant names come up on google for the East West Link Alliance, so maybe a catchy name makes sense. They’d better be careful or the public might catch on to a name like the Well-Greased Alliance.

          Can you give a title for the article? The library has electronic copies so that’s worth trying.

        3. Talking about the WCA.

          Leader had a pro waterview piece, but I note that this was written during the school holidays.

          “” Lynfield resident Grant Brodie, who works in Ponsonby, said “door-to-door” he’s saving 10 to 15 minutes each way using Waterview Connection. “”

          I wonder if it’s still as fast now school holidays have finished.

          Here is the link and title of the NBR article:

          “Concerns caused by Auckland’s East West Link success fee”.

  3. The business case says the 3rd main has a B/C around 1.7 but the 4th is just under 1. Surely that means build the 3rd but not the 4th or am I missing something?

    1. The business case doesn’t capture the full benefits of the fourth main as its scope is Westfield-Wiri

      While the fourth main has benefits for this area its main benefit is allowing more freight access to/from POA as well as decongestion of Westfield junction which would have not been fully accounted for as was not the purpose of the business case.

      1. So maybe the better way forward is prepare a business case for the 4th main that captures the benefits it might create rather than building something that might have a B/C of less than 1. If the B/C is higher then it could be built rather than just assuming it must be a good thing.

        1. mfwic, the business case also doesn’t take into account any social or environmental benefits (which most large projects do take into account). These typically add around 1 or more full point/s to BCR if they are a positive thing (which in this case it most certainly would be – better PT, lower operating costs, less pollution, less trucks etc). The 4th main is likely to have better social/environmental outcomes than the 3rd so really the 4th becomes a BCR of 2 or more and the 3rd moves to around 3 or more. Going forward of course the 4th would become even higher but the costs to build it then rather than now would also be higher.

    2. Every month as rail ridership inexorably climbs the time savings value rises steadily higher. Is already undervalued in this document. Now remember time saving is the big one that NZTA lean on for motorway building and widening justification, even though they know it is only ever short-lived because of the traffic their very own projects induce.

      Furthermore, as more people use rail PT, and more services are added, journey times actually decrease as waiting times shrink. So what is a vicious circle for vehicle traffic is a virtuous one for high capacity rail systems.

      This should mean that models value time and service improvements on Rapid Transit systems higher than they do for traffic. No chance with the hopeless models used in NZ, and the way they are used by our road-building agencies like a butcher leaning on the scales….

  4. I agree that the 3rd and 4th mains are no-brainers, however I do have to question “It makes KR more profitable as they can run more trains more efficiently meaning fewer subsidies needed from taxpayers or more money that can be re-invested back into rail network” – Operational efficiency is a given, however the only reason that they’re not rather profitable now is the cost of supporting the track infra (refer to their last few annual reports). How much would the support of this new infra be on an ongoing basis? Is the infra opex 100% offset by the increase in efficiency and capacity?

    I assume that the business case answered those questions, but I’ve not read it. Nor would many people have read it. Take-away: Explain why the increased opex = increased revenue to the point of cost-neutrality or better, rather than hand-waving it.

    Sorry if this sounded hostile, that wasn’t my intention. 🙂

    1. Freight trains are regularly held up so miss their slot. When that happens it not only costs money but also can delay freight by up to an hour as a result. Anything more than 30 minutes is considered unacceptable by the industry.

      1. Undeniably true, but also failing to address the capex. KR runs several slots per day from the port, south. I’ve not looked at their contracts with customers, however I’d assume a fairly loose timetabling to allow for mechanical and other issues.

    2. I’m no expert on Kiwi rail, but the it would strike me as the problem with supporting a lot of their infrastructure is they have long stretches of under utilized track with few trains/freight movements.
      Adding a 3rd and 4th main in Auckland would be adding a relatively short stretch of track which would be highly utilized.
      So in terms of their overall profitability it would be a marginal increase in infrastructure in an area where they have a lot of commercial activity. This doesn’t necessarily translate into increased productivity but if Kiwirail can’t make money off additional capacity on one of the busiest transport corridors in the country, then they are not likely to make money anywhere.

      1. I agree totally with your argument and fully support the idea of a 4th main – I’m just curious how long it would take for these improvements to cover the initial capex and ongoing opex. Like I said, I’ve not read the report so I’ve no idea, but these are the kind of questions that naysayers would have.

  5. Now all we need is Winston Peters to join the new Government (whoever) and get his promised Northern Line upgrade to Marsden Point. Then we will need a 3rd main on the Western Line or the Avondale line opened up.
    Just wish AT and NZTA start visioning rail options for the future sooner.

  6. Does the inceased freight capacity also mean that new cars can be moved away from POA by rail instead of parking them on the wharves?

    I assume we will extend the 3rd and 4th mains from Westfield through the Eastern line to the port eventually. Any planned changes for the Orakei Basin need to take the 4th main into account.

    1. If we buy some autorack wagons sure.

      You don’t really need to 3rd/4th main the whole thing you can just do large passing loops covering most of it then you don’t have to touch any overbridges, tunnels or the basin.

      Its kinda like one of those 80-20 things where we can get 80% of the benefit for 20% of the cost.

      1. I’d expect that KR would modify existing wagons into autoracks if possible, just like they re-engineered some ancient wagons into log carriers a few years ago (designed in-house, made in Sweden. Link: However I _think_ they made those engineers redundant not long after Peter became CEO, so whilst doable it would make the cost of conversion vs buying a little more interesting (engineering consultancy and design being rather expensive).

        1. We had autorack carriers. Classed as GT and were recognised as long and used as much of the loading gauge as possible. They were however scrapped in 2015. Now they simply load vehicles into containers at Southdown and rail them southwards. Not to sure if it’s currently on hold while they repair the main north line in the top of the south island.

        2. “engineering consultancy and design being rather expensive”

          Compared to what? As a professional in the field I can assure you that on an hourly rate it’s an absolute bargain compared to, say, a visit to the dentist.

  7. I have not heard any commitment from any of the political parties to fund the 3rd main let alone the 3rd and 4th mains OR to cancel or even review the need for the E-W link.
    I doubt the NATs will even consider any of these while they consider the election is a foregone conclusion and they will retain power. The Transport minister’s unconvincing assertions that the E-W link has a BCR of 1.9 while stating there are other unexplained major factors in proving the need for this road, his lack of enthusiasm for the rail network and casting doubt on the KR business case for the 3rd and 4th rail mains, all are indicative of a transport minister that really has no interest in efficient transport and especially anything to do with rail.
    Sadly I think any petition to the current govt will be ineffective.

  8. Who is to say that the funds for the approximate $60m cost to build the 3rd main aren’t available, and haven’t been for quite some time now…..

    1. ok SJC, do you know that the funds are available? Has KR already obtained the funds or managed to accumulate what they need from other budgets or amounts originally allocated for other purposes/projects?
      If so what are they waiting on to commence work? AT to fund Middlemore station rebuild? or the health board to make property available to purchase or swap?

    1. You’re far more likely to get freight lobbies on board if you offer them a credible, actual alternative, which this is. Otherwise it just comes across as opposition for the sake of opposition.

  9. I think we need to give out leaflets near rail stations that advise users about the probability of timetable delays in future because of bottlenecks at Wiri.

  10. No, no need to worry, I feel very optimistic that English and his troupe of ‘moar roads, hate rail’ buffons will be consigned to obscurity in the next few weeks. I hope they are afraid, be afraid, will that fear now result in a last minute panic rush of hollow promises.
    I hope the Lab/Green/NZF coalition govt can take an occams razor to NZTA and exise the tarmacadam old guard, cancel the EW link and reassign funding to the more deserving transport projects.

  11. You might want to update the campaign focus given yesterdays announcement to commit to 3rd main, to focus on the merits of the 4th lane to be done at the same time?

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