For the last few decades we’ve treated rail in New Zealand quite differently to how we treat roads. Rail has been considered a business that needs to pay its way and make a financial profit. Investment in rail has been about supporting that by ‘turning around’ the business. By comparison, we invest in roads based on the expected impact that investment will have on the overall economy. This includes through measures such as though improved travel time savings, safety and other others. The impact a road project will have on fuel tax and road user charge revenues is never even considered.

The former National government were never happy rail was bought back and many party members were ideologically opposed to rail. Whilst they ultimately provided investment to improve rail, they always did so begrudgingly, treating it like a millstone hanging around the country’s neck.

Yet a report for the NZTA from 2016 that was released yesterday shows the value that rail is having on our economy. Transport Minister Phil Tywford is saying that the report was sat on by the previous government due to their opposition to rail.

Rail is delivering up to $1.5 billion a year to New Zealand in hidden benefits, according to a study prepared as part of a joint KiwiRail/NZTA team looking at integrated transport planning.

“That far exceeds what the taxpayer is spending on rail,” KiwiRail Chairman Trevor Janes says.

The study, carried out by professional services firm EY, looked at some of the wider economic benefits the rail network brings to New Zealand.

“The areas where rail is delivering for New Zealand include cutting congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving safety on our roads and lowering spending on road maintenance and upgrades.

“These benefits do not show up on the balance sheet, but they are very real, and they make a huge contribution to New Zealand.

At $1.5 billion annually that’s a significant impact. Unsurprisingly, most of the benefits come from getting both people and goods off the road and reducing congestion. What is surprising is that more than half of all the $1.5b in benefits comes from Auckland’s rail services – more on that shortly.

Mr Janes says the biggest contribution from rail comes from the reduction it brings in road use.

“Rail is taking cars off the road and it’s taking trucks off the road. That is saving the country $1.3 billion a year because it cuts congestion for all road users, including other freight movers.

“The study found that without rail there would be the equivalent of an additional 100,000 daily car trips on our roads each year – 76 million light vehicle hours reduced through rail – and 57 million of those hours were on Auckland roads.

“Rail also means heavy vehicles such as trucks are on the roads for 11 million fewer hours each year – the equivalent of 30,000 trucks driving for an hour every day.

“Using rail cuts New Zealand’s carbon emissions by 488,000 tonnes a year. That is the equivalent of taking 87,000 cars off the road, saving millions of dollars. Rail freight has 66% fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight which is useful for New Zealand reaching its ambitious climate change targets.

“New Zealand has a road toll issue with deaths on the road rising markedly since 2013. Taking trucks and cars off the road makes for a safer New Zealand with EY estimating that because we have a rail network, there are 271 fewer fatalities and injuries on the roads.

The table below breaks down the benefits

As you can see, by far the biggest area of benefits comes from passenger services reducing congestion on our roads. The report breaks this down as between Auckland and Wellington. Auckland’s impact is much greater due to the higher levels of congestion and comes in at $848.78m to $863.43m. Wellington makes up the other $291.83m to $303.74m.

What’s particularly important about the Auckland numbers is that the authors deliberately used old, lower ridership data to be conservative. They used 2014 data in which rail ridership was less than 13 million trips. That’s right before the explosive growth of the last few years. That’s over 3 million fewer trips than when the analysis was conducted in 2016 and there are now over 20 million rail trips. That means the benefits from Auckland alone are now likely to exceed $1 billion.

Of course, the growth we’ve seen has been thanks to investment in projects like electrification. As such, I’d expect at least some of those benefits to have been captured in the various business case processes. Although given the phenomenal growth that has exceeded all predictions, not all of it will have been.

Kiwirail say that ultimately, the real point of this report is to allow for better discussions about how we invest in transport. We certainly welcome that and the new government seem keen to engage.

Share this


  1. I expect the heavy truck lobby is one of the loudest. Heavy trucks will always be needed to move heavy items from place to place. But heavy trucks are the biggest cost for road maintenance – I have vague memories from school 50 years ago that a heavy truck going round a curve exerts immense forces on the road causing it damage whereas 10,000 family cars doing the same journey would cause minimal damage.

    Railways have a place in modern NZ – it is important that transport decisions are made with the true costs known.

    1. Absolutely. The damage done to our roads by trucks is immense.
      I’m very glad this report has come out and it just goes to show how pigheaded and anti-Rail National were (and still are).

    2. 50 years ago the damage caused was bad and yet we didn’t have the Stephen Joyce authorised and promoted 53 tonne – 22 metre “as of right” road destroyers that exist now.

      Nationals blind ideology and connections to their donors certainly held us back, in many respects.

    3. RE the truck vs car damage – I was wondering if that were hyperbole, so I googled it. Got bored after the first few hits agreed with you 🙂
      I knew that from a physics viewpoint trucks would cause more damage (in a non-linear relationship), but I had no idea that it was so profound a difference. That really is quite astounding!

      Rail is the future for so much of NZ’s transport needs, especially since we’ve already made such extensive investments into our core infrastructure.

      It’s sad that no political party would be keen to legislate in favour of rail, if that resulted in trucking companies going out of business, for fear of the political fallout.

    4. Yes this is true, a lot of the roads need to be designed to handle these loads, but any reduction in heavy loaded trucks will prolong the life of the pavement. Its also good to note that buses exert as much or even more (due to overloading) on pavements than trucks do, which further reinforces benefits of light rail on certain routes.

      Trucks ARE paying higher RUCs that are supposed to account for this extra damage to our roads, we all know this is not high enough to fund this extra damage but its also not like they are ignoring the fact that extra damage occurs either, and from a road perspective this is supposed to be accounted for during pavement design (making the road more expensive).

      Without doing a full cost comparison, I suspect that rail built for high loads is much more economic per tonne than roads are, over a 50year period. This is just a educated guess though so would be interesting to see what the numbers would say e.g. how much more cost effective.

    5. Bear in mind trucks pay more for the damage they cause though… This is the biggest problem we’ve got, the RUC money goes into a big pot and the truckies don’t like to see their money spent ‘subsidising’ public transport. I’m not defending them, this is just the way things play out, they would prefer to see their RUC money maintaining roads not going on a busway

      1. Trucks pay more than the average car at about a rate of 100, or at best 1000 times more per km travelled, based on simply comparing fuel taxes+RUCs for trucks and cars.

        But considering that a massively overloaded/improperly loaded truck can easily cause several orders of magnitude more damage. Over a less loaded truck in the same configuration (and that in itself is about 4 orders of magnitude higher than the average car).
        you can see that even at 1000 times more, the cars are actually overpaying.

        I don’t see whatever the trucks pay in RUCs now is actually matching the scale of extra damage they cause. Simply as those RUCs never ramp up at that sort of rate that reflects the true costs of the damage inflicted.

        From what I can see the most a really big,big truck will pay is in the order of 1-5 dollars a km depending on the weight/axle distribution and how many tonnes (e.g. 20+) massively over the limit it is. So the maximum is for the absolute extreme case, which would never cover the true costs of the damage done. And even as you come back to the normal top end, the rates are still way too small for the damage inflicted.

        So I can guarantee whatever you or they think, that they are not paying their fair share of the road damage.

        Truckies might think that “their” RUCs should only pay to fix up roads they drive on, but it doesn’t work like that. I can’t dictate that my taxes are not used to pay for certain things I don’t like [say hush money paid out to Saudi Arabian business men for alleged damage they suffered from a Government decision to ban exports of live anmals]. But I can’t do that and have to accept the rough with the smooth. Same for RUCs.

        And in the near future truckies may well find that their RUCs end up subsidising railways – thus causing them to pay their competitors. What are they gonna do them? Call for removal of RUCs altogether?

        But if that situatino arises, to me is just and is simply a result of the pendulum swinging back from the unbalanced situation they’ve managed to put in place and enjoy for so long, so its a really small price for them to pay.

        However if truckies want to pick a fight, they won’t have far to go, the operators of the medium to small trucks should have a conversation with their mates – the operators of the largest trucks, as the small to medium trucks are subsidising their larger kin through the RUC regime. As clearly the many smaller/medium trucks are paying more than they should in RUCs and the larger guys are living of that and paying less than they should. So if they want to argue for fairness, maybe we let the costs fall where they lie and then discuss about how to level the playing field?

      2. ML, trucks pay more, but don’t pay their fair share. Car drivers are vastly subisdising the whole truck industry. It is a huge hidden subsidy that most people don’t understand. A 40 tonne truck exerts 1-2million times more force onto the roads than a 1- 2 tonne car. Trucks aren’t paying a million times more in RUC, so we are all subsidising them. Rail doesn’t receive the same subsidy, so it doesn’t look very attractive. Make trucks pay their fair share and suddenly rail will look far more attractive and trucks would only be economic for short trips with high value goods.

        1. Hi Ari, how much does it cost to maintain a typical two-lane road per km? And please explain the ‘million times more’ argument? References please.

        2. Auckland Transport (AT) Says here that it costs $18,500 a year in maintenance and renewals for a sealed road within AT’s jurisdiction and about 1/3rd that for unsealed.

          But that is not necessarily to State highway or HPMV standard. Some State Highway Roads like say Manawatu Gorge Road would cost a lot more than that to “maintain” due to the excessive work needed to keep it open and frequent washouts.

          Transmission Gully road on the other hand (as described by Stuff here). is a state highway [2 lane each way or 4 lane] indicates about $125m per year in interest, maintenance, inflation and other costs once open. But that was back in 2014, before they had to increase the earthworks budget by 50%.

          So divide 125m by 27 km and you get around $4.6m a km most of that interest costs to build it, but even so that $18,500 a year from AT seems pretty low actually to keep the road usable. So there you have two extremes of what a road costs to renew – per year. Doesn’t mean you renew it every year, thats just the money you have to set aside each and every year for each and every km to maintain it.

          But for that road you easily run 1 million+ 1-2 tonne cars down a sealed road in a year and not do much damage to it – as long as the seal surface stays whole the road itself will generally cope. If built to standard. 1 Million cars a year is only 4500 a day for 220 days of the year. Not that busy.

          Yet one 40 tonne badly load distributed truck could tear the road surface up letting water in to the subsurface, and do all that damage in the few minutes it takes to drive it.

          You could probably put 1 billion cyclists down the same road and they’d do way less damage than even a million cars would.

          So Ari’s comment while being a little hyperbolic, is not out of the ball park.

        3. I agree with you Greg re light vehicles and cyclists, just not so sure on the trucks ‘not paying their way’ argument. In a rural setting with low truck volumes you’re right but in the main, we’re talking arterial roads. Say you’ve got a trucking company doing 50 truck movements per hour. Conservatively say 8 hour day, 250 days a year paying $600/1000kms per truck. That trucking company is paying $60k per km per annum. They’re not the only trucks using the road though and the neighbouring companies are probably doing the same thing.

          Auckland Motorway Alliance maintenance contract is $55m per annum for 260km of network ($211,000 per km per annum assuming solely fixes to pavement damage) but obviously the highway network has much higher heavy vehicle movements per hour than example above and 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

        4. Did you travel the two lane road between Blenheim and Christchurch, via Murchison, after the earthquake wrecked Highway One? I did. Speed reduced to 80km/h, extensive roadworks reducing it to single lane every few km. That road, which was one of the South Island’s finest, was destroyed in a matter of weeks by heavy trucks.

        5. Ari, you are right.
          The typical truck causes 20,000x the damage to a road than a typical car.
          Previous papers I have read indicate that trucks don’t pay the full costs. I presume this is still the case.
          To improve NZ economic efficiency trucks should be paying the full cost. This would result in some freight movement to rail & a reduction in the government’s fiscal subsidy.

  2. As much as the report being withheld makes my blood boil, this report means almost nothing at the end of the day.

    There is no political mileage left to extract. There’s no money left to allocate. All they can do is use the report to justify rebalancing how rail is funded/managed.

    One reason that the report won’t create widespread or long lasting outrage (it’ll be forgotten by this time next week), is that the numbers are too large. People can’t connect with the data. People will either have a hard time appreciating the numbers and their impact, or they’ll have a hard time believing the numbers – In which case the risk is turning the doubters into opponents.

    1. If the new government lumps in rails infrastructure costs with the highway network budget, as per the way money is thrown at roads, then it’s a winner.

      I mean surely rail could have been factored into the SH16 rebuild or the alignment improvements of SH1 between Mercer and Hamilton.

    2. Not so. There is plenty to do that can be done. First is to show that there is a strong justification for road taxes to be used to build rail projects as road users are the prime beneficiaries of successful rail networks. Watch this space.

      1. Yes but isn’t the congestion free network a farce when any additional loadspace created by more people or freight going on the rail corridors just going to be filled up with more cars on the road. See – American Economic review in 2011 that found ” “These findings suggest that both road capacity expansions and extensions to public transit are not appropriate policies with which to combat traffic congestion. This leaves congestion pricing as the main candidate tool to curb traffic congestion.”
        Whilst getting more things on rail is great for all sorts of reasons we should not pretend it will reduce road congestion in anything but the short term.

        1. Rapid Transit enables three things that do deal with traffic congestion, and that is relevant to the economists quoted above (though why you’d look to the US to solve traffic congestion i have no idea…):
          1. enables more and more people to simply avoid it entirely, to render it irrelevant and therefore more parts of the economy to function regardless. Example: in the Sydney morning peak only around 10% of those accessing the city centre do so in cars, these are still congested, but also relatively irrelevant to the functioning of that place. Plenty of overseas examples, and the beginning of it in AKL (80K trips on rail on av week day, not on road network).
          2. enables places to develop more complexity away from simply dorm suburbs and commercial centres both dominated by driving and parking land use. Example AKL city centre now has ~50k residents, who either work/study there, overwhelmingly on foot, or travel counter peak to do so.
          3. enables road pricing to be both practical and more likely to be politically acceptable. If pricing people out of cars they need some other way to move. In fact a quality Rapid Transit system is really a prerequisite to Road Pricing. Not many US writers seem to understand this. RP has never been introduced anywhere without it: London, Stockholm, Singapore, Milan. Driving in the US is heavily subsidised, so far from being priced!

        2. No one should be claiming that PT or cycling or any other alternative will reduce congestion. As you point out, induced demand means it will just fill up again.

          The point of the CFN (and the cycle network) is to provide am alternative so people can still get round despite the congestion, not as a solution to it.

          Totally agree that road pricing is the only mechanism ever found that actually reduces congestion. Question is when there are sufficient alternatives available for the people who choose not to drive.

          Of course some of those trips will just dissipate but some will be necessary but not economic once the road charge is paid so alternatives are needed.

      2. Yes Patrick you are absolutely right. It is possible to re-allocate road spending to rail where contracts have yet to be signed. And even if contracts have been signed it is possible still to have a conversation with the supplier where they are able to supply different structures for different modes.

    3. “As much as the report being withheld makes my blood boil, this report means almost nothing at the end of the day.”
      No, absolutely wrong it means a hell of a lot. Only today Bill English was accusing the Government of a lack of transparency. I think the expression is he was blowing smoke up our arse.

  3. It has long been evident that countries with greater rail utilization have lower road deaths per 100,000 of population.
    Despite lip service to reducing the road toll the National Government continued to pursue a policy that inevitably led to the latest spike in road deaths and with little remorse.
    As a previous long time supporter I gave up my membership of this political party some eight years ago. Their post election tactics of bombarding the new Government with more than 6,000 puerile written questions also leaves me cold. Their arrogance shows no bounds.
    And Twyford is right to be indignant that Bridges or whoever sat on EY’s NZTA report and did not make it public while in office.

    1. So National are responsible for the latest spike in road deaths? Yeah right.
      I guess if the road toll continues to increase from here on, the Coalition of Losers will be responsible.
      I look forward to JAG’s resignation then.

      1. It’s not a spike, it’s a steady climb over the last six years. You don’t think the policies of the government over those six years might have something to do with it?

        By all means, lets look again six years from now and see what has happened to that trend, then we can see what JAG has achievied.

        I don’t understand the coalition of losers comment. You mean the coalition that got a majority of votes, and more votes that the previous government? The same coalition that greatly increased it’s vote while National declined in votes and lost all it’s former coalition partners entirely, bar a single seat held by a toff from Epsom who is now ignored even by his own side?

        Who are the losers again? Pretty sure heammoraging votes, losing all your partners and not getting a majority counts as losing.

        1. I would not have even fed his “losers” comment.

          He sounds like a crying 6 year old in the playground who can’t accept he lost. Leave him to it.

        2. Vance is still bitter that he lost. That’s what will happen when you alienate every other party you might need to work with.

      2. I’d say there would be a lag when policies are put in place. There are still significant road projects on the books that will suck up money that could otherwise be used for safety improvements for the next few years.

        If JAG is in the role after two terms and the road toll is still going up then yes she should resign.

        1. Of a wrong turn when coming from the Stuff You comments!

          He’s a self proclaimed resident troll who comes out from his rock every now and then.

    2. Rail utilisation is a result of multiple government policies, including previous Labour governments. Investment in roading gives immediate benefits that are visible very early on, where investment in rail infrastructure is more of a long term solution, many of the benefits may not be felt immediately. Hence governments tend to look short term 6-10years (they are only guaranteed 3 years of power).

      Labour have just managed to jump on to the fact that people in our major cities are frustrated with the lack of public transport, and a resurgence in support for rail infrastructure before National which is a shame from a investment point of view, as we have spent a proportionally large amount on roading in the last few terms of government. However people still view transport as a low priority election issue, and National have been masters on economic management during their last terms. This was the first election I have witnessed where people I knew actually voted based on transport decisions.

      1. Disagree National have been masters on economic management. No productivity growth for the last 5 years. It’s only because of immigration that the total economy is still growing, but on a per capita basis it’s almost stalled. We are each getting a smaller slice of a larger pie. That won’t make the country richer.

      2. “masters of economic management”. Good grief! National/Act coalition have been a disaster for the economy – it’s all been done on the back of huge emmigration, even greater borrowing, and cutting costs to the bone when the dire economic effects of these cuts will show up in years to come.
        Cullen left the books in such a good state that National/Act’s economic mismanagement could continue disguised.
        9 years of a do nothing, fudge the books government. Ideologically driven policies that made no sense economically – the rail scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.

  4. Back in the day when the balance of payment mattered one of the justification for rail was the cost of the trucks which needed to be imported versus home grown locomotives and other rolling stock and home grown coal instead of imported petroleum products. Now days we just sell off another few hectares of farm land or some more houses to overseas investors to balance the books. I don’t notice this in the report in my view it should have being.

  5. We have known for a while, there are indirect economical benefits and returns in using rail for inter-regional and long distance bulk freight and passenger services, so the report doesn’t suprise me. As we know, the current national rail network is under utilized and with good investment to upgrade the infrastructure to be more efficient, the indirect and direct benefits will increase.

    I strongly believe that the national rail infrastructure (track, tunnels, bridges, signaling, etc) needs to be taken away from Kiwirail and placed under NZTA as a separate division similar to what has happen in Sweden and Norway and open up the network to other operators, allowing Kiwirail tol be a freight or freight/passenger operator only not a rail and track operator as at present.

    1. Interestingly, immediately after the government buy-back Ontrack was still run independently for a while. I can’t remember for how long, though something tells me it was at least a year before they were brought into the fold.

      The idea of splitting the infra back into an Ontrack-like entity is a popular one and, in my opinion, the right one. It’s not going to happen very quickly though – I’d be surprised if the split was done in under 18 months. KiwiRail still runs Train Control as it’s own entity (separate from the main network), however the old Ontrack employees are now firmly part of the main company (as the I&E business unit) using corporate ICT. A project of the scope required is not small. When Toll NZ sold the refrigerated transport division, the project (Project Chill) took 6+ months and I&E is much bigger.

      Still strongly think that it should be done though.

      1. I agree with you, that train control should be separate out of Kiwirail along rest of the rail infrastructure. To me Kiwirail should be a freight only or freight/passenger operator not both. If other countries can do it, so can NZ.

        There is no reason that NZTA can not operate a road division and a rail division.

        1. Vertical separation of above rail services and below rail infrastructure can cause more problems than it solves. In NZ the market for rail services is unlikely to be big enough to support more than one rail freight operator so there doesn’t seem to be much point breaking KiwiRail up again.

  6. Doesn’t this report also pour a pile of scorn on KR’s short sighted decision to axe the Electric locos on the NI Main Trunk they made late last year?

    How much will the $1.5B of annual benefits be impacted by [i.e. reduced] thanks to running a fully diesel fleet [of slow, noisy, DLs] down the NIMT compared to the previous operation using Electric Locos.

    Surely any “cost savings” KR claimed existed [if they ever did] for that decision are now proven to be complete rubbish when looked at in the wider economic context, just like this report does.
    As all the costs involved in achieving those alleged “savings” KR claimed they would make, were simply externalised to NZ Inc.

    That is the sort of creative accounting we see from private business not what we expect a Government State owned entity like KR.

    The last one of those State owned enterprises that involved in this line of activity with creative number crunching simply went bust – that was Solid Energy. But unlike Solid Energy, Rail in general and KR as its main user of rail are simply too critical to NZ to be left to wander into the wilderness [and hopefully die] like they have been.

    Timely information indeed, why National even commissioned the report is beyond me, as surely even they realised that Rail is not actually the basket case its made out to be. Even Treasury deep down knows/knew this. Despite seemingly recommending KR be disestablished to National. I can see why having got the report they sat in it, not the sort of positive news they wanted them or us to read about I’m sure.

    As for heavy HPMV [53 Tonne] trucks causing way more damage.
    Higher weights don’t ipso facto mean more road damage – if that weight is spread over more axles and the load properly distributed then in fact a bigger truck with a heavier load can in fact do LESS road damage compared to say a 44 Tonne truck with fewer axles.

    However, what the HPMV rules didn’t factor in is the extra external costs of NZTA and many local councils having to strengthen existing bridges [or build newer ones to the higher standard] to cater for these trucks peak loadings.

    And the RUCs for all heavy trucks simply do not fully capture their true costs, even though they only make up 5% or so of the fleet they causes damage in a far higher proportion than the numbers would suggest.

    1. I imagine it would be a very small proportion of the $1.5b benefits. It looks like around $1b is due to suburban passenger services in Auckland and Wellington, I would assume most of the rest is freight across the country. The busiest section – Auckland to Tauranga is not electrified either way and I suspect the impact of the central section of the NIMT being electrified or not would be relatively insignificant.

      That of course is not to say it was a good decision by KR, there has been quite a lot of other evidence to suggest it is short-sighted.

      1. “I imagine it would be a very small proportion of the $1.5b benefits.”

        True, but so was the alleged cost difference between upgrading the Electric Locos versus scrapping and replacing with DLs.

        Big difference between this year and past ones is that we now have to get our Greenhouse gases seriously under control, which is going to cost either way.

    2. “Doesn’t this report also pour a pile of scorn on KR’s short sighted decision to axe the Electric locos on the NI Main Trunk they made late last year?”

      In 9yrs of ideologically narrow-mindedness on transport, this one takes the cake. Does anyone know of a country anywhere which in one week signed up to the Paris Accord and in the next, with a stroke of a pen, actually formalized a decision to revert from renewables back to fossil fuels?

      The stupidity is breathtaking.

      1. Australia might come close with their current stated intentions to keep on “burning coal baby” for megabucks of ongoing investment in clapped out plant upgrades versus putting that money in renewables right now for a net cost of $0 as the experts have concluded that would cost.

        I’m not sure which of NZ or Australian Governments was taking a leaf out of the others book until recently.

        But times, and Governments have changed. Time for both sides of the Tasman to look forward and embrace the carbon free future instead of sleepwalking backwards into it.

        Seems that our new Ministers get it, but obviously KR’s board has missed that memo.

  7. Wouldnt it be better to get rid of all the rail and use the corridors in Auckland and Wgtn as busways and maybe some of the main trunk for self driving trucks? There is next to no freight moved by rail now – the electrication was a waste of money, the rail ferries are going and they will truck containers to Spring Creek soon. The Wairarapa-Hawkes Bay line has one freight train a week. The freight trains are unbearably noisy and when the Kaikoura line was out most of the containers were carried by three more coastal ships being added – much better for the environment.
    It’s a mode that we need to call time on – it costs a min of $250M a year in taxpayer aid. I doubt it would be missed apart from a few rail nuts….

    1. Any chance you could explain why it would be sensible to get rid of the rail corridors in Auckland and Wellington and replace them with busways?

      I would have thought scrapping newly purchased EMUs, new signaling systems and the recently installed overhead wires, while spending a whole lot of money laying a new road bed and widening all of the tunnels to take buses would be a giant waste of money beyond anything you have described.

    2. I’m interested in the idea, but have several queries: Have you worked out the energy consumption difference? For whatever rate of electrification uptake that is likely for the two options (rail and road) have you worked out the carbon emission difference? How much wider would the main trunk line need to be made to take trucks both directions? Would you need extra land also for passing lanes, on and off ramps? What would the capacity difference be between rail and main trunk road? (Therefore how many trucks could be taken from the mixed traffic roads for each of the two scenarios?) Is there a danger of “truck-dependency”?

      Re busways, yesterday’s post on how to decide between rapid transit on light rail or busway probably gives you some answers for city passenger transit. Rail is more space efficient than busways.

    3. I suggest that you read KiwiRail’s annual reports for the last few years. They’re available via a quick Google. Get the infra (even if only the tracks and related) funded in the same way as roads and then KR would make over $100 Million profit per year.

      To fully fund the tracks is very cheap in terms of $/KM when compared to our road NW.

      As for saying that freight trains are practically non-existent – Confirmation Bias at best, lack of information at worst.

      According to the 2016 Annual Report, KR moved 100 million tonnes of freight that year, with an operating surplus of $109 million. Source:

      If that’s a company in decline… Wow.

    4. “It’s a mode that we need to call time on – it costs a min of $250M a year in taxpayer aid”

      You obviously missed the discussion on the massive trucking subsidy, above.

    5. “It’s a mode that we need to call time on – it costs a min of $250M a year in taxpayer aid.”

      A BCR of 6 to keep running trains! What a deal!

    6. Most of the rail corridors outside of Auckland and Wellington is single track, so would need significant expenditure to be widened to allow for two lanes of trucks. In addition if these were truck only roads then it would not be unreasonable for the trucking companies who used them to pay for all of the cost of maintaining and renewing the assets on them – just as KiwiRail has to. I can’t see many trucking firms wanting to do this.

    7. Nuts idea as you are mainly considering freight but not the passenger side of things. Auckland eastern line carrries a lot of people not just freight. Hey let’s close the line and fill the corridor half up with trucks then everyone else can drive or catch a bus and clog the city centre with cars or buses.

    1. Any such “opportunities” would need to be supplemented with roading, not to mention wastewater and sewerage systems. You are effectively advocating for rail induced sprawl which wont find favour on this blog!!

      1. This opportunities are not limited to rural satellite city sprawl.

        Existing brown fields near train stations inside urban boundary can be regenerated by improvement in rail.

  8. I’ve noticed a voice from kiwirail on twitter and other mediums lately. Do they no longer feel afraid of their political masters?

  9. Quick question for someone who has the time to read the report.

    Are the benefits stated net of rail subsidies or at a gross level?

  10. Having read the “Value of Rail” Report I find the analysis puddle shallow at least with respect to most important benefit being the passenger rail service decongestion benefits. The report claims “Our general approach to this engagement has been to model the effects to the road network if there was no rail network – i.e. what would be the potential economic cost to New Zealand from no rail network.”

    The issue is the modelling used to generate the decongestion benefits were based Wellington and Auckland transport modelling the average light vehicle trip time with and without rail. This is fine to estimate the congestion differences when the rail service stops (such as the recent strike in Wellington).

    However, this sort of analysis is simply wrong to estimate the long term benefits of the passenger rail service based on rail users instead being switched to cars. Any sizable city deciding not to build a rail service (or deciding to decommission a rail service) will instead support commuters with an alternative (probably bus based) PT service. Therefore a more accurate assessment of the value of passenger rail would be to model the replacement of the rail service with buses, not cars (This was the approach used in the 2004 Wellington Rail Business Case).

    The other issue is that, given the rail corridors will also be available, no consideration was given to the potential for any alternative bus service to operate on dedicated rail corridors so also avoiding being held up by congested roads.

    This is not to say that such analysis will not also show that passenger rail does provide significant decongestion benefits but it is very likely that this will be a lot smaller than claimed in the “Value of Rail” report.

    1. I agree with your thoughts. For example on the Hutt Line the rail corridor is very wide – 25-30m and wider than the Western Hutt Rd SH2 corridor. So it could easily take four to six lanes. And then the losing the rail through to Wellington will provide and extra 2 lanes or more from Petone. Surely closing the rail would provide must better overall mobility for everyone – and much better access to the eastern suburbs of the Hutt? All the infrastructure is in place – overbridges etc. If the study actually looked at the value created by alternatives if would show the true value of rail to NZ is worse than zilch.

      1. Any chance you can answer the questions I asked you above? Would help me understand something that on the face of it is an insane idea.

      2. You would need to fit at least six lanes into the rail corridor, otherwise you would reduce capacity. If you can only fit 4 lanes lanes the system will be overloaded. How will people get about with such congestion?

      3. @ Graeme:

        The Hutt Valley rail corridor (the land actually owned by the NZRC) is generally only 20m wide. It only reaches 25-30m around certain stations and away from built-up areas.

        The Hutt road corridor is generally 25-30m wide, but does drop to 20m in places.

        By contrast the swathe of land taken for the 4-lane Kapiti Expressway is 50-100m wide.

        But in terms of how much land each mode needs as a minimum, a double-track railway only actually needs 9.5m. The rest is purely a legal buffer-zone for future-proofing and to help guard against encroachment. A 4-lane highway with 3.5m lanes plus 1.2m shoulders and no footpaths requires 16.4m.

        Hopefully you are now better informed.

    2. The benefits of rail, as calculated in the report, can be compared to the costs. To get a comparison to an alternative PT system then one would need to compare the benefits and costs of both systems. It may be, that an alternative would provide similar or greater benefits for a smaller cost. But given that rail is generally a more space efficient form of transportation , I would be surprised if this was the case.

      1. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is comparing rail to no PT service at all is not valid for long term benefit estimation but this is the basis of the majority of the benefits claimed by the report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *