With a new government we expected to see significant change to transport in New Zealand. Yesterday we got the first glimpse of that with the signing and release of Labour’s agreements with New Zealand First and the Greens. Of the two agreements, the policies outlined in the Greens confidence and supply agreement are most relevant to the issues we talk about the most so I’ll start with that


Under the section of “Sustainable Economy”, one of the listed goals is focused on transport. It states:

Reduce congestion and carbon emissions by substantially increasing investment in safe walking and cycling, frequent and affordable passenger transport, rail, and sea freight.

Sounds good, and there are then a number of specific policies listed to achieve this.

Light Rail is go

We’ve had plenty of debates about light rail over the last few years with National opposing it or only saying it was needed decades in the future. As part of the agreement those debates appear to be over with it stating:

Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland

This is fantastic news and hopefully means that Auckland Transport (ideally now with support of the NZTA) can get on with actually delivering the project instead of having to come up with new angles to again prove the project stacks up. It’s unclear at this stage just how long it will be before we see any diggers on the ground or when the first stage might be able to open. Potentially, by the time the CRL is finsihed we could have both it and Light Rail operating which would also allow for the council to push on with it’s planned urban realm upgrades.

I think that having this confirmed will also make other rapid transit discussions easier. For example, we know that the Northern Busway is going to need to be upgraded in future, the option of extending that light rail route to the North Shore can now be more actively discussed.

East-West Link killed

As part of the agreement, the East-West Link “will not proceed as currently proposed“. This is great news those last two words are crucial. We absolutely need transport improvements in the area so hopefully the NZTA go back and look at the local road upgrades they previously dismissed despite being able to deliver significant benefits. I also wonder if we’ll ever hear the outcome of the Board of Inquiry, it would be fitting if they were planning on rejecting it anyway.

Better walking and cycling

As mentioned yesterday, National’s Urban Cycleway Fund was one of the best urban/transport policies they delivered during their time in government. The Greens agreement will confirm more investment in active modes, listing:

Safe cycling and walking, especially around schools, will be a transport priority

Changing how the National Land Transport Fund works

One of the most bizarre parts of how we fund transport is that the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) has been prohibited from funding some forms of land transport. This includes rail infrastructure and footpaths, even when they have direct and positive impacts on the surrounding road network. As stated below, that is set to change

National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and walking.

Unsurprisingly, one of the truck lobby isn’t too happy about this, seeming to think that NLTF stands for National Large Truck Fund.

Looking at travel support for those on low incomes

During the election, the greens campaigned on extending the idea behind the Supergold card to those on low incomes or a benefit. Investigating this has been agreed as part of deal with labour.

New Zealand First

For NZ First, the main area of interest for us is a $1 billion Regional Development Fund. Among other things, the agreement notes that that it will include:

  • Significant investment in regional rail
  • Commissioning a feasibility study on the options for moving the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration.

The rail investment has been rumoured to account for up to half of that fund and would almost certainly include funding the already consented line to Northport. Such a line could have interesting implications for Auckland given that post CRL, the rail network is going to be pretty busy most of the day.

Later today it’s rumoured we’ll hear that Phil Tywford will be the new Transport Minister and that Julie Anne Genter will be the Associate Transport Minister. If true then this is a fantastic outcome and they’ll be a powerful team.

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  1. A lot of good stuff and finally some hope. That Ministry of Transport could be a real catalyst for change.
    If light rail for the isthmus and south-west Auckland is go – who’s going to actually do it? NZTA or some special company, like with CRL? I’m a little bit worried if it’s given to AT will end up like Eastern busway (besides, isn’t AC already at its debt ceiling?)

    1. This is a burning question for me too. Given it was adopted by both Labour and Greens and seems rhetorically consistent with NZ First’s interests you’d hope that Phase 1 could proceed with a timeline and targeted to work towards Phase 2.

        1. Stage 1 of RRR, or something similar, would cost a few tens of millions at most and could be running within 12 months if they cracked on.

          For three parties that are aligned on rail investment and regional development it seems like a no brainer.

  2. I’m trying to work out what has happened to the West Auckland light rail. Surely this (and other Labour policies) would need to be be in the agreement because Labour will need NZ First and Greens to support the policies to get them through unless they are in the budget. At first glance the agreements look very one way to me.

    1. It’s worth remembering that these are just the agreements or concessions to those parties. Unless they explicitly replace Labour policy then Labour’s policy stands so I’d expect to see a lot more happening

    2. These are really high level agreements.

      It would kinda awkward to put the whole NLTF and all other spending items across other sectors in it.

      The Greens put Light Rail to the Airport in the agreement I presume because it was a big thing they campaigned on and it shows a clear public win.

      Grant has also already publicly said all Labour policy stands except that which is specifically changed due to the agreements.

      1. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Greens want to start building the Mangere-Airport line sooner than Labour? (As in asap vs soon.) If so, I think that would explain why it is specifically noted. (This also lines up well with your reasoning viz the Northwestern line).

    3. I think it’s simply a matter of timing: light rail to the Northwest was unlikely to be started in this three-year term. The Greens support it (even if it’s not explicitly spelled out in the agreements), and I don’t think NZ First will oppose it if they’re getting their desired investment in the regions.

    1. I think that if you did Avondale – Southdown you would still need the 3rd/4th main. I have also been wondering if there will be space in the Avondale – Southdown designation for both Heavy Rail and Light rail.

    2. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but Avondale to Southdown is not an option any more (after widening of SH20), at least in the original corridor. Plus the gradients on that route are quite difficult for heavy rail. I’m not really sure how the increased rail traffic is supposed to work with 10 mins frequencies. Widening through some places (like New Lynn) doesn’t look like a cheap option either).

      A this stage it’s only a feasibility study, and I think a previous one delivered some location on Firth of Thames (which would be easier to get to than Whangarei).

      1. Depends on what you are trying to do.

        If you want Northport to replace POA and POT you will need Avondale-Southdown because of the large amount of freight paths that will be required.

        If you are just moving bulk goods, a few containers and the cars then you can get away without it with peak time freight curfews and an inland port in the Northwest.

        Third/Fourth Main will still be required for Regional Rapid Rail as well as getting all freight movements going to/from anywhere in country south of Westfield.

        Avondale-Southdown is fine even with Light Rail. The issue is a ton the corridor was not protected and is a little windy because of the grade which will require bowling a ton of houses in Hillsborough. It only follows SH20 as far as just before Hillsborough

      2. I seem to recall that KiwiRail did a land-swap for part of the SOL corridor to accommodate road improvements and to maintain the possibility of the project still going ahead at some undefined point in the future?

  3. Almost all of the trains to Marsden Point, should the line be built, will come from within Northland, particularly Otiria, Dargaville, and Wellsford, carrying logs. It is unlikely to make much difference to the number of trains through Auckland, perhaps an extra freight each way, at night.

    Should container business relocate from Auckland to Marsden Point however, then we’ll see more trains through West Auckland, but that would be largely driven by shippers and industry, and won’t happen within the next decade. Any rail upgrades needed in Auckland at that time, including the SAL, will likely be for a future government to deal with.

    1. Yeah that will be the big win getting the mothballed lines back up and the rail link to Marsden for logging traffic.

        1. Nope the Marton NPL can handle all current traffic volume and a volume increase could be achieved with minor improvements. The only advantage to reoppening the SOL would be a transit time improvement and rail doesn’t,t handle much time sensitive freight anyway

        2. Agree with Vance. Can’t happen soon enough. I will always regret that the line was closed before I had the chance to go on it.

    2. I think to move the port of Auckland wholesale to Northport is impractical and economically inefficient. That would mean building a huge new port and road and rail links across Northland and Auckland simply so we can transship all of Aucklands imports and exports a further 200km away by land.

      It would be like moving Auckland International Airport to Whangarei, just so that all the passengers to or from Auckland have to travel by road or rail for a few hours extra each way.

      However, to move one or two specialisations of the port might be a more effective and practical option. I’ve heard that one of the most space hungry imports at Auckland are the cars. They sit parked across half the wharves for a week or ten days after the ship unloads, waiting to be trucked five or six at a time to south auckland for processing.

      Why not move the car imports to Marsden Point and rail them down to south Auckland two hundred at a time? Adding two or four freights a day to the Western Line should be no problem if you get the schedule right.

      That would need a fleet of new car carrier wagons, some sidings in the right places and of course the NAL upgrade and Marsden extension. But after the rail upgrades that might be only some tens of millions of investment in wagons and sidings… and it could free up a billion dollars of waterfront land around Bledisloe Whaft.

      1. Yeah Nick, that’s the part of POA that could be moved IMO. Ardern was quoted during the election saying she didn’t like seeing piles of cars sitting on the wharf either.

        1. Yes, they are a specialist car carrying vessel. They sometimes go back with wood products for Japan as a back load.

  4. Saying the obvious it is impossible for sensible investment in homes and commercial buildings to occur whether by council, government, investor or citizen without clear transport plans. If everything changes because National is out of power then it is quite possible that everything will change again when they return.

    Labour/Green/NZF supporters have many reasons to celebrate and many policies to reverse but with transport it is important that the inevitable changes described in the article are achieved with a minimum of blame and a maximum of all party agreement. The way this website has given praise to National’s transport achievements is a good start.

    The advantages of PT, railways and cycleways to members of the public who never use any of them has to be emphasised. An anti-car attitude could be highly counter productive at the next election. Reject the east-west link with facts not enthusiasm and our own pet projects need to be carefully costed and justified otherwise it is so easy to kill investment three or six years hence.

  5. According to the Herald, Ken Shirley of the Road Transport forum is not a happy chappie indicating that the integrity of the Land Transport Fund is being threatened! Prioritising the use of the NLTF for rail infastructure, cycling and walking shows contempt for the user pays integrity of the fund he says. The fund was ring fenced for roading projects and paid for by road users through petrol excise and road user charges etc etc…………

    Well tough Ken!

    1. Quite right, his words are a little more than the temper trantums of a toddler whose parents have started insisting that he shares the toys with his brothers and sisters.

    2. Yes and Ken should realize the road transport never payed for the death and destruction it caused, getting back to rail transport will save lives or don’t they care about that.,

    3. Ken argues that automobiles and trucks pay for their use of the roads by paying fuel taxes and road user charges and that cyclists and PT users do not. This is not true -ratepayers are a significant contributor to the public maintenance and construction of roads -so are subsidising cars and trucks. Also within the road space -I suspect cars are over paying for the damage they cause in comparison to trucks.

      In reality, NZ has been subsidising car and truck dependency in all sorts of ways (street design, car parking minimums, lack of congestion charges…..) since at least WW2.

      If NZ was honest about this process, removed the hidden subsidies, then a lot of the heat would go out of the car dependency sprawl/urban containment arguments NZ periodically has. Then NZ could move forward -in both the congestion free transport and affordable housing parts of the built environment.

      1. +1 Other hidden subsidies include what we will pay to try to cope with climate change from carbon emissions, what we all pay for the health costs resulting from accidents, poor air quality and from car dependency.

        If Ken Shirley is upset, the policies must be on track. 🙂

      2. Also haven’t some projects required the transport fund to be topped up with funds from general taxation? and hasn’t this pretty much always been the case? meaning that without general tax-payer (and/or rate payer) funds, a large number of the roads around the country would probably not exist?

    4. I think Ken makes a good point – the fund should be ring fenced to pay for roads. That means:
      – AT can spend their full budget on walking, cycling and PT.
      – No more RONs – that money can be spent on PT.
      – The council will be quite happy with all that market rent they charge the NTLF for their roads being on council land
      – The NTLF will pay the full cost of transport based pollution, both local and national
      – The NTLF will pay for all deaths and injuries (not covered by ACC),

      1. If he wants to go fully user pays on roads then lets do it, Mr Shirley can fill his boots with extra petrol tax and RUC to offset all the rates money and general taxation no longer going into roads.

  6. It’s like I’ve woken up in an alternate universe. Does this mean it puts to death our LRT vs HR to the airport debates? ;). Will the detailed funding, planning and building just start or will feasibility & revised business cases be done still?

    1. Doesn’t it depend on whether RoNS now means Railways of National Significance or we’re going to stop the rubbish and move to a mode agnostic NZTA who fund projects based on the merits of individual projects.

    2. I think so since was in Greens agreement.

      Phil T Housing announcement today also includes a major part of KiwiBuild being leveraging Southwest Light Rail for it.

  7. Does anyone know if KiwiRail will be changing their order for diesel engines back to electric for main trunk Hamilton to Palmerston Nth freight haul? I believe both Greens and Labour campaigned on this change.
    Have not seen it mentioned in any news report today or yesterday.

  8. A question for those who might know out there. Let’s say if the regional development fund has 50% set aside for rail (say half a billion). Would it be enough to fund north port rail link, gisborne to Napier line re-opening and phase 1 regional rail?

    1. From memory Marsden link is about $240m, Gisborne line wasn’t too much to reopen and the first stage of our RRR wasn’t much either. There’s a bunch of money that would be needed to update line from Auckland to Whangarei too

        1. Don’t forget new rolling stock mainly container and log wagons and maybe fertiliser wagons will need to be purchased also they will need to be ring fenced so Kiwirail doesn’t take them somewhere else where they can get a better yield from them. Also scrapping wagons to move freight prices up the yield curve will need to become a sackable offence.

        2. Gisborne really makes no sense though, I’m sure kiwirail would take the money if it was given but the annual maintenance on that line alone costed far more than the revenue. Bridges are expensive. They would do better on extending the rail spur out to Clandeboye,

        3. Frederick, maybe the Napier-Gisborne Line maintenance was expensive, but how much more has been spent on SH2 since the rail line closed? We have to look at things holistically.

          And about your idea of a branch line to Clandeboye, are you referring to the dairy factory? Branch lines for bulk freight have been shamefully neglected in the last 20 years. If it’s dairy factories which are to be served, a branch to Te Rapa dairy factory in Hamilton would seem to be a good idea. Surely all the export product from Te Rapa isn’t trucked to the ports of Auckland or Tauranga?

  9. Sadly, Phil Twyford still has that racist nonsense about “Chinese surnames” to live down before he becomes a fit person to have any responsibility for multicultural Auckland.

    1. He has just been appointed “Minister of Housing and Urban Development” and “Minister of Transport”. So given the focus of GA he and his decisions will be discussed a lot.

      1. It’s great to see these very closely-linked portfolios in the hands of one Minister.

        We seem to have a tendency to silo things in NZ, whereas everything that the likes of Phil Twyford and Julie-Anne Genter have said indicates that they genuinely understand how transport, land use, and other social policies work together.

        Phil T will indeed be discussed on GA a lot in the near future. We live in interesting times.

  10. Am interested to see what this translates to in Christchurch. Pre-election there was talk from both labour and greens about massive changes, like brand new heavy and light passenger rail networks. But they were very light on detail then and this latest agreement is even lighter.

  11. Good to see that the East-West Link motorway has been killed. The big question is what will replace it. This area of Auckland has a lot of potential and it would be great to see the Manukau Harbour treated well for once.

    Seems LR to the airport has won the day over HR or any other option. I hope this can be fast tracked and begin ASAP. Does anyone know how long this would take to do?

    The area I have greatest concern is “regional development”. In the past this usually means hamstringing Auckland and the Port issue seems like it might fall into this trap. While I think all would agree that the Port needs to move, it should be remembered that this is an asset owned by Auckland. I know many people are opposed to asset sales but we should be even more concerned with our assets been taken away. If there are any decisions on moving the Port the other options explored in 2015 need to be canvassed as well.

  12. Why not reopen the rail line to Cambridge so that it will make it easier for oldies to travel there to check out retirement villages and thus free up housing in Auckland?
    It’s only a couple of k’s from Hautapu so it shouldn’t be too expensive.
    A win win.

    1. Drove past there over the weekend and by the look of it the original formation is fully intact. There is some new commercial building near where the station once stood but it wouldn’t take much to restore a working line.

  13. I think some are overlooking rail operations yet once again….

    Firstly it is heavy rail, obviously built for freight trains even during the “DART” project on the NAL, as the axle loading is quite high.

    Secondly, perhaps passenger services may have to give up some track time off peak a bit more than what is currently taking place. Have we forgotten, it is track for rail as well. I propose that off peak, there is a 20 minute window for freight services every hour. That still allows for 10 min frequency for the rest of the hour. During peak it can still be 10 minutes.

    Third. No mention of a CT site north of Swanson serving West Auckland or North Auckland, which could see at least one return service per day and could operate during daylight hours. (If not two or more).

    Fourth. That a good portion of freight services could run through the Westfield – Swanson overnight. At least one per hour during the 2100-0300 time frame could see 6 services in each direction. Track works could still take place, since the signalling system is bi-directional, and the block sections are quite short on the Western line.

    Five. That there is timetabling issues post-crl (I know it is fact, please don’t tell me it isn’t). That perhaps the route between Mt Eden and Newmarket may have to consider NOT running regular passenger services through that area due to a high number of conflicting train movements at Mt Eden. This could allow for freight services to wait in between the Western and Southern line.

    Six. Suburban trains will no longer change ends at Newmarket post crl. That allows for much better flexibility at Newmarket.

    seven. We will no longer need the onehunga line now that we are getting light rail. sacrifice it, and close it. It’s not worth it any longer. If there needs to be a link to the airport via that route, do it another way. I’m sure most regular passengers on that route can take light rail into town instead. So there is a big reduction in services on the NAL between Penrose and Newmarket. And also, removal of what could end up being an over complicated network for the CRL.

    1. Mount eden is being fully grade separated with the CRL, it will be literally the place with the least conflicting movements on the whole network.

    2. Thats great to see in the planning. Yes, I stand corrected. I should have used the right term, congestion. And not solely at Mt Eden, but between Wiri – Henderson.

  14. It will be interesting to see what sort of travel support for those on low incomes will be organised. Free travel on public transport for children would be a good start.

    1. Heidi,
      I know that it is Green policy but I can see very little merit in it. Most children currently probably pay a one zone fare of 99 cents to get to school. The argument seems to be that because of that cost most parents prefer to drive their kids and that this is one of the major causes of road congestion. I think that this premise is wrong and that parents choose to drive their kids for completely different reasons.
      I see that JAG has costed this policy at $23 million. I think that we can get a far better outcome for this money by moving towards the Vienna yearly pass model that costs adults about $2 per day and I believe kids half that. Despite that city having 900 million public transport trips per year this scheme seems to be pushing growth.
      It is adults who make the longer daily trips and control family movements on the weekend and so it seems that getting them from their vehicles will produce the greater return.
      I am currently trying to cost such a scheme, but my initial projections are that we can do this for around $23 million for the first year with the assumptions that: AT car parking rates be increased by about $3 per day to help fund this(and yet would still be below market); and that the yearly pass is not available to park and ride users on the premise that these facilities come at significant cost. Such an approach does not penalise the car parker as they simply pay what they pay now. It would provide a significant incentive for the user to get there on foot, by bike, car pooling or by feeder service to obtain significant savings.
      I will post later when I have done more work.

      1. Looking forward to it and I have enjoyed the Vienna information given recently. This is the right direction to go, I think.

        I’ve managed to encourage several children from families that don’t use PT onto PT. For one young fellow, the weekly trip I took him on has increased his confidence so he is now taking the bus to intermediate school instead of having his parents drive him. But the process has been a direct financial investment from me – from either very high cash fares, or purchasing and funding multiple AT HOP cards that I know will be useless once my son is a bit older as a school student is only allowed one concession card. This is an investment I’m happy to take, but most would not.

        So in designing the “pass” system for Auckland, can you also give some thought to the process of getting children onto PT when their parents don’t buy the pass? Make it easy for teachers, coaches, neighbours, extended families, friends, etc. Sufficiently low cash fares would work, and is one reason why we shouldn’t go cashless unless the difficulties of adults other than parents paying for the fares is sorted in another way.

  15. Where are we at for the North Shore to Auckland transport? Could
    1) Retain status quo and hope by making bus improvements we need no more crossing
    2) Retain one crossing and replace bus with light rail
    3) Add a crossing for buses
    4) Add a crossing for light rail
    5) Add a crossing for cars
    6) Add crossing for cars and buses
    7) Add crossing for cars and light rail
    Factors of how quickly population grows and timing as well
    Thoughts and what has been promised?

    1. My theory is moderate earthquake and the elderly bridge falls down. Auckland council give replacement it highest possible planning priority. After a decade of research into how to establish the parameters for a feasibility study to build a new bridge North Shore residents lose interest and establish a new city called “North Shore” and buy a big ferry. And we all live happily ever after (except for the families of those crossing the bridge as it fell).

      1. My thinking is an earthquake will make the bridge unusable (rather than fall down). However this could happen to a new bridge as well. So continue with old bridge to an earthquake then build another.

    2. Number four would be the most logical. The busway will risk reaching capacity at some point so it would make sense just to go for an LR crossing. In theory with an LR crossing there would be no need for an extra vehicle crossing as the existing bridge will continue to have capacity, or more to the point the surrounding motorway network won’t have any more capacity so an extra road crossing would be a waste of money.

      Ideally the bridge could do with one more lane to make it 5 lanes peak, 4 counter peak, but I can’t see it being enough reason to do a complete rebuild.

  16. One aspect about regional & intercity transport I’d like to raise.

    I was in New Zealand recently, and travelled a lot (Auckland to Christchurch; several points in between). For much of the journey, I was relying on Intercity; the main thing I noticed, in a way I haven’t before, is how infrequent the services were.

    Now, I know that developing regional rail is something of a priority here, especially between Auckland and Hamilton. But the whole exercise did cause me to wonder: is there a business case for public money to be used to expand the provision of intercity bus services? This isn’t in competition with the idea of regional rail – which has quite a way to go, to be honest – but rather, to show what could be done with the market as it now stands.

    The market for intercity bus travel tends to be made up of local people who cannot afford cars, and for tourists. I would posit that an expansion in service would have real benefits for the former group, and would assist the latter by providing an alternative to renting cars.

    Views, thoughts?

    1. Absolutely agree. I think the regional buses can be improved to complement regional rail, and to build up PT patronage in areas where regional rail is coming at some point. Northland is crying out for it; probably other places too.

    2. Over the years New Zealand has locked itself into a mentality that long-distance public transport, if it is to exist at all, means one or two services per day at the most. This is historic and not-at-all appropriate for modern times where the convenience and flexibility of car-travel now sets a high bar.

      The only reason land-based PT has been able to get away with offering such a minimalistic service is because air-travel has largely taken over the long-distance PT task and of course does provide the frequencies commensurate with a mainstay service.

      In my view (as an armchair critic admittedly), our land-based PT stakeholders including the government have given up far too easily and have shied away from offering the sort of usable service considered the norm in other developed countries, including those with similar sparse populations such as Norway. This has been particularly true of long-distance rail, where once-per-day take-it-or-leave-it, has become the de-facto NZ standard.

      Where private car and frequent air services provide an easy and affordable alternative, this sort of PT offering is inadequate and doomed to fail. The short-lived recent attempts at once-per-day train-services such as Helensville-Auckland and Hamilton-Auckland bear this out, as does the currently-struggling ‘Capital Connection’. The relative success of the more-comprehensive Wairarapa service stands in contrast.

      The only way such infrequent long-distance trains have been able to survive is by pitching them as tourist-experiences rather than public transport. Long-distance buses are unable even to do this, since they provide nothing that cannot be pretty-much replicated by private- or rental-car, without the inherent inflexibility.

      To me the only way to revive long-distance public transport in New Zealand is for *someone* with money and enthusiasm to kick-start a frequent and efficient service-offering, logically on rail, and see it through to success. That ‘someone’ seems likely be our new government, freed from the shackles of ministerial obsession with building uneconomic motorways, and the service to kick-start seems likely to be the GA-proposed and now more widely-embraced Regional Rapid Rail. If this catches on as some of us predict it will, a general revival of long-distance passenger services (road as well as rail) is likely to follow.

      The future looks brighter than it has for a long time.

      1. Heidi, Dave B, thank you; while I understand the desire to expand regional rail, improving the frequency of regional bus services is something which could be done now, and very easily. And buses could be used, now, to expand the reach of e.g. the Kapiti Line, by providing more frequent connections between Waikanae and Palmerston North. And having worked in this industry for thirty or so years, my own judgement is that frequency is more important than mode; four buses a day will have more appeal in the market than two trains/day.

        1. Wairarapa is a good example of what trains can achieve, albeit with the advantage of a tunnel instead of a winding mountain pass. And given that the peak period service comprises 2x 6-car trains and 1x 8-car train, normally well-filled, I think rail is not an inappropriate mode.

          South America is an interesting case-study in comprehensive long-distance bus-operation. It works well with frequent services pretty-much everywhere, but sure lacks the speed, comfort, quality and safety of, say, the European rail system. By contrast and despite better roading, the European long-distance bus network is slow and ponderous compared to rail.

          Dollar-for-dollar including the cost of appropriate infrastructure (which bus companies do not have to provide) I believe rail wins hands down. But I agree – either mode can be made to work well if given the requisite commitment.

        2. Definitely not either/or but complementary modes. Our terrain must surely tip the scales towards buses somewhat more than many other countries. Even if we were to really expand the rail network, it’ll take a long time to implement.

          For now, if the Greens could influence policy around climate change, one of the most effective things they could do would be to set up a comprehensive regional bus network. Our transport sector releases high levels of carbon emissions, and they are perhaps the most easily reduced of all our carbon emissions. There would be reductions in the road toll too.

          Yes, it has always been frequency that’s cropped up in conversations with people who considered long-distance bus but chose not to – or rather, that their quite flexible timing needs could not be served by what was offered.

          The other thing they could do is improve the toilets. 🙂

        3. One of the frustrating things with buses is the amount of time they stop for and the deviation in their routes to take in towns not on the highway. This can add quite a bit to a journey. A couple of examples:

          I caught an Intercity bus from Queenstown to Alexandra a couple of years ago, it’s about an hour by car, but it was 1:40 by bus as we stopped for 30 mins at an orchard near Cromwell so everyone could buy fruit.

          Travelling between Chch and Dunedin and going via Waimate, which adds at least 20 mins to the journey.

          Not NZ, but a bus trip from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane that was about 1:30 longer than it needed to be as we crawled through the Gold Coast stopping at each centre rather than skipping past on the motorway.

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