As part of the recent Coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, one of the major policy wins for NZF was the creation of a $1 billion a year fund for regional development projects included Regional Rail. It is highly likely that these Regional Rail projects will include upgrades to the Northland rail such North Auckland Line to Whangarei as well as a new branch line to Marsden Point.

So what do we know about these likely projects?

North Auckland Line

The North Auckland Line (known as the NAL) is the rail line between Westfield Junction (near Penrose) and Otiria Junction (near the Bay of Islands). It is in pretty poor shape once you get past the end of the Auckland rail network past Swanson. Due to funding constraints, the line has not been maintained to a great standard with several speed restrictions along the route. It is nearly all single track and many of the tunnels do not have the approved clearance for standard containers yet alone Hi-cubes which does limit the type of rail traffic between Auckland and Northland.

In June I OIA’d KiwiRail which tunnels were the issue and how much it would cost to upgrade the loading gauge for them to carry Hi-Cubes which they estimated at between $50-60m. The tunnels that need to be upgraded are tunnel 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 ,11 and 13.

KiwiRail back in April at the Grow Northland Rail Seminar was quoted as saying

Gordon says it would cost $240 million to bring the railway from Waitakere to Whangarei up to the same standard as the Hamilton to Port of Tauranga railway.

He also quoted some other figures but we likely won’t need a massive upgrade of signals nor electrification.

While I am not sure much container traffic will use the NAL, focusing effort on freight such as on logs, bulk goods and cars could help provide a really good alternative freight link. Focusing the upgrade around a potential of moving car imports to Marsden could result in an outcome that benefits both Northland and Auckland. Who doesn’t like a win-win, or as Matt the other day put it:

While moving all port operations to Whangarei seems impractical, perhaps moving a specific part of the port there could work, the cars. Northport has plenty of flat land near the port that could be used to store vehicles while they are processed. Combine that with a fleet of car carrying rail wagons for the upgraded lines and cars could be railed to Auckland. They could pass through the urban area at night to avoid conflict with passenger services. Even adding an extra $100 or so to cover the cost of transport those cars, it is minor compared to the cost of buying a new car. An option like this would have many benefits. It would allow the Ports of Auckland to focus their efforts on improving how they handle containers. At the same time also freeing up a lot of their land closest to the city centre. A solution that might be able to keep everyone happy. What’s not to like?

The upgrade of the tunnels alongside the commitment to electrification to Pukekohe could also make the Rodney Local Boards desire to run a diesel shuttle to Huapai slightly more feasible as the relevant safety issues would be addressed and enough spare trains would exist to make the service more viable. I’m still not sure if this will make the service feasible as there are other issues but as long as it goes through the business case process, does not detract from the much needed Northwest Rapid Transit Corridor or sucks up outrageous operational expenditure at expense of the New Network, then I’m open to it.

It would also be smart to work with freight companies on the possibility of an inland port on the NAL in Northwest Auckland creating a major rail/road transfer point without having to send every train through the congested Auckland Rail Network as well as opening much more opportunities for the use of the NAL.

Marsden Point Branch

One of the major projects that would likely happen is the building of the Marsden Point Branch Line between Oakleigh and the Port, connecting Marsden Port to the national rail network. The Upper North Island Freight Story estimated that the cost of this link would be around $130m and recommended that in the short term KiwiRail develop a business case for the link.  However, in the same OIA as above KiwiRail told me they have not completed any business case for the Marsden Point Rail.

The good news, however, is that ONTRACK designated the corridor in 2009 and it was approved.

Re-opening of Mothballed Lines

The Dargaville Branch, as well as the North Auckland Line north of Kauri, was recently mothballed and an easy win for Northland Rail would be to re-open these sections. Another interesting idea from Nick to re-lay the line to Opua Wharf in the Bay of Islands then running a scenic train similar to the Northern Explorer from Auckland to the Bay of Islands. This would be a fantastic addition to KiwiRails Great Journeys of New Zealand. Interestingly The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway recently gained received resource consent to re-lay much of the line themselves privately so this is very feasible.

Reopening these lines will be very cheap and coupled with the Marsden Point Rail Link could provide lots of value internally within Northland as logs could be moved off trucks and go direct to Marsden, very much as the situation was before the port was moved as the old port (located in Whangarei) did have rail links.

Imagine a Train to the Bay of Islands

So the costs of these upgrades would likely be around $500m range. This compares pretty favourably to National’s commitment of an expressway to Whangarei which NZTA estimated between $2.2b – $3.2b.

I think this is also good news for Regional Rapid Rail. If $500m of spending on Northland rail can be justified then spending of around the same amount of money for Stage 1 and 2 of Regional Rapid Rail in the Golden Triangle which now makes up over 50% of New Zealand’s population and is expected to account for over 70% of New Zealand’s growth in the future can definitely be justified.

Golden Triangle Population Medium Projections
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  1. If moving cars to Northport happened it would need yards inb Auckland also to be connected in some way to the rail network. A benefit of this could mean a return of moving vehicles further south via rail as well.

  2. I for one would use an Auckland – Bay Of Islands passenger service, especially if it was linked into the proposed RRR as we’d be coming from the Waikato.
    There has been a distinct lack of ‘noise’ from the Government on Regional Rapid Rail since the election. Is it still on the table or has it been quietly dropped?

    1. Governments don’t talk about every policy every day, I’d say it is just not in the media at the moment. There is probably a reasonable amount of behind the scenes work, such as securing rolling stock and determining the timeline for the 3rd main before they would want to make any announcements.

  3. $500 million is a lot just to move some port services.
    Don’t we have any existing ports near a rail line? Tauranga? Napier?

    1. Yes, we could spend $500m to increase capacity on the NIMT to Hamilton which is at capacity.

      Or we could do both as this clearly has other benefits (such as reducing road freight).

    2. It doesn’t just move cars. Northport gets 150+ logging truck / trailer units per day that nearly all run on local – regional ‘highways’.

  4. We do not need a gold plated double tracked system for Northland rail. Just an upgraded single track railway which can handle all wagons and with a connection to Marsden Point. I agree it will be an excellent scenic railway journey for passengers as well. The track to Mount Maunganui is mostly single track and look at the tonnage that rail line can move. Shifting cars to Marsden Point is just one cargo. What about shifting the chemicals inbound shipments to Marsden Point and railing them round the country in tank wagons? That would free up the tank farm for development of the cross harbour tunnel and next to harbour recreation space. Once Marsden Point got a container chemical then we will start to see ships stopping there and containers being railed to Auckland. Passenger rail from Britomart to Whangarei will no doubt be more attractive than flying, and holiday weekends in the Bay of Islands will be enjoyable without a stressful drive.. Great news all round.
    Mayor Goff and Auckland Council must soon begin to realise that Auckland Port is going to be a small port over time. Winston Peters is on the money calling for regional boosting by asking for redevelopment of our neglected rail network. Look at the discussion in the UK –

    1. It will be a long trip in a passenger train, probably around six hours. It will have to appeal to the leisure tourists as I can’t see it taking a lot of long weekend traffic given the drive time is quite a bit shorter.

      1. 1. Why would it take 6 hours? Genuine question.
        2. Having experienced rail travel around the world, and having just driven this road two weeks ago with four kooky 9yos playing “who can make the others wet their pants first”, I know which way I’d prefer to get to Opua if given the choice. Spending the time on the train playing the above game, or for that matter last card, or even watching a movie – or indeed sleeping post-camp. It was hellishly hard to concentrate on the driving and the traffic was nonsense. Bring on rail to the North.

        1. The meandering nature of the track means it is considerably longer than the road and a very slow trip due to the curves. I’m basing it on the old rail car times, I doubt a locomotive hauled train would do it any quicker, could easily be slower.

          I agree trains are great but in some parts of NZ they are a lot slower than the road, the section between Oamaru and Dunedin is another. A six hour + trip each way along with connections at each end eats into a large chunk of a long weekend.

        2. To be fair, those old railcar timetables included many more stations (stops) than you’d have on any proper modern tourist train. KiwiRail has demonstrated with the Northern Explorer how cutting out “unnecessary” stops can shorten the overall journey time. There would still, though, have to be an upgrade of the NAL track, combined with limited stops, to significantly improve on journey time for any new train vs. the old railcars.

        3. Hmm, finish work at 17:00, rest of the family get themselves into town and all down to britomart for a 18:00 departure. Arrive in Opua 24:00, transfer to accommodation and checkin, in bed by 1am. Having crossed most of the planet by train, think i’d drive on this occasion.

        4. Dan C – fair call. My comment was predicated on it not being a 6-hour railcar amble, but more of a 4-hour tilter. Also YMMV depending on your anxiety level regarding driving on crappy roads with high levels of distraction. For example once we discovered there was a train from Singapore to Terengganu we chose it every time – preference being to be able to talk nonsense with mates, share a beer, fall asleep, and arrive tired yet alive after 9-10 hours, vs 6+ hours of white-knuckle silence trapped in a taxi van dicing with death.

          Tony – YMMV too about what you need a car for once you’re there. My experience is that riding the rail trails, or spending the weekend fishing and eating at the Duke and visiting all the places in Russell – neither would actually require a car.

          That said, I’ve declared the option of a train to Rotorua “brilliant” but would need to find a shuttling solution for 3 tired small kids and their bikes.

          Don’t get me wrong; cars are excellent at some things (we own two) – but getting out of Auckland on a Friday and back in on a Sunday is not one of them, these days.

        5. Overnighters are also an option when a slower train journey can be preferable to a faster train or car journey. Leave at night and arrive somewhere at 7am after a good nights sleep. Better than getting up the next day and driving and arriving in the afternoon, or having to take a previous day off work.

        6. Yes Dan, overnight trains are great. And in the example you gave, I’d always choose the train. 🙂

      2. Not that it is like-for-like, but the old twin-set railcar service between Auckland and Okaihau covered the distance between Otiria Junction and Auckland in ~6 hours. At Otiria, they connected with NZR Road Services busses to Kawakawa, Opua, etc.

    2. @ Don. Thanks for that link.

      As a product of the UK in the 1950’s I grew up with the Beeching cuts and remember well the shouting-down meted out to anyone who suggested that closure of these lines was a bad idea. “They’ll never be needed again, they’re obsolete, a bottomless pit for money, no place for them in a modern society. . .”, etc.

      Well it’s great to see that view now being seriously challenged, even if 50 years late. The arrogance and stupidity of leadership in the English-speaking world has a lot to answer for.

      But sadly Beeching’s legacy lingers on here. “Close it and rip it out before anyone can change their mind”, is exactly what is happening to Wellington’s trolleybus system this very moment.

    3. Would rather we upgrade it to at least double track while we were there. Lets not do a typical kiwi half baked infrastructure solution to save costs.

      1. I would have thought double tracking at great expense a winding slow railway line would be the definition of half baked. There is no guarantee this line will ever have the demand to justify double tracking, so could well end up being a large white elephant. Single tracking with passing loops can handle considerably more trains than this line currently handles.

      2. Some double-tracked sections of the Main South Line around Christchurch and Dunedin were singled after those cities’ respective commuter rail services were withdrawn, and that line sees more traffic than the NAL has of late.

      3. If there was a desire to rebuild the track and remove a lot of the slower sections, then yes double tack, rebuilding the asset properly and electrifying at the same time, however the current winding path probably isn’t worth the effort as others have pointed out.

        the likelihood that this will be required soon is low, unless logistic changes allow for increased capacity across large amounts of the rail network north of Hamilton/Tauranga, which I deem unlikely as most logistics operators are all about roads, not rail, so thinking would have to change first.

        1. Demand for increased capacity can sometimes be a fickle beast. For years, there’d been talk of possibly electrifying the Midland Line on account of how busy it’d become, particularly with coal freight traffic. Then the bottom dropped out of the coal market and it doesn’t look like that (electrification) will be happening any time soon.

          Quite frankly, if the volume of traffic on the NAL out of Auckland ever grew to the extent that either double-tracking or electrification, let alone both, were being seriously considered, you’d probably also need to be looking hard at other major related infrastructure works like the Southdown-Avondale Line, a very expensive proposition indeed.

        2. That suddenly seems so ironic to me: Using electric powered trains to transport coal….what to run a steam powered trains or power station to make electricity and pollute the world?!

        3. Pretty much all the coal that comes out of the West Coast is used in the steel manufacturing process, something that can’t be done at present without coal. But yes there is a bit of an irony!

  5. The Labour-led government has inherited massive momentum in motorway building throughout the Waikato and in to Tauranga. Most of those big jobs will complete this term.

    It would take an heroic effort from the Minister of Transport and Kiwirail and NZTA to get a contract for the Marsden Point and Northern line rebuilds to be let within three years. Signed contracts make the job largely irreversible, nothing else can.

    It can be done, but it needs really sustained stakeholder pressure to achieve it.

    That’s where Greater Auckland comes in.

    GA have done great on the policy front influencing coalition policy.

    But the Minister has to turn around the NLTP/RLTP and GPS, as well as get funding through the May 2018 budget, as well as get NZTA and Kiwirail to gear up to do it. Plus, funding CRL and 3rd line which are big budget items.

    Greater Auckland and the Northland civil society groups and MPs will need to lobby the Minister of Transport and Min Finance really hard and fast to make this a reality. Otherwise they run the risk that this idea dies should the coalition only last one term.

    1. A determined government could probably find a way to back out of a major project under contract if the actual work hadn’t progressed too far. It would be more likely seriously expensive do to so, particularly if the contractors had penalty clauses included in the contract to protect themselves from this sort-of situation. Essentially, the government would have to buy the contractors out of the contract so they didn’t suffer any losses as a result of the project not going ahead. Case in point, recent calls for the demolition of Wellington’s trolley bus network to be halted were declined by the Minister of Transport because it would cost the government too much to pay out the company that had already been hired to remove the infrastructure. The government would have to weigh the cost of backing out and the potential political fallout from that against just letting the contract run to its completion.

      In an historical example, the 2nd Labour Government (’57-’60) commenced construction of the Nelson – Blenheim railway line in 1960. By the time of the election at the end of the year, progress on the project had only gotten as far as a partially completed new station yard in Nelson. The incoming National government wasted no time in cancelling the project. In that case, it was probably easier for National to stop the project because it was governed by an enabling act of parliament (that they promptly repealed) rather than a commercial contract, and the construction was being done by the old Ministry of Works (so presumably the relevant minister just told them to pull their crews out).

      1. I am not aware of a government stopping a large signed infrastructure contract in the last 50 years. Isn’t going to happen.

        The current government has a narrow window of time to get its stuff really locked in. The 6 monthly fiscal update this Friday will have the best pointers to Budget 2018.

        I am struggling to see any process formed fast enough to get money from Shane Jones’ fund.

        Rail funding will be competing against big ticket items like CRL and 3rd main, plus the usual $500m subsidy just to keep Kiwirail afloat, before the Northern Line gets more.

        1. ‘I am struggling to see any process formed fast enough to get money from Shane Jones’ fund.’

          They have got three years. If they can’t get money from the budget, a contract locked in a construction started on the already consented Marsden Pt rail in three years then they don’t deserve to be in government.

        2. ‘I am not aware of a government stopping a large signed infrastructure contract in the last 50 years. Isn’t going to happen.’

          Except it has… See link in my comment above.

          Short story: Prior to the 2014 Victorian state election, the coalition government rushed to sign the contract for Melbourne’s East-West Link to protect it. The Victorian Labor party campaigned on halting the expensive road and redirecting the funding to more important transport projects such as Melbourne metro tunnel ( When the Labor party won the state elections, they kept their promise but canceling the contracts ended up costing the taxpayers more than $1.1 billion AUD. No one wins… except the contracted companies.

          In light of this I would agree it’s unlikely to be done here but it isn’t an absolute.

        3. Last example in NZ would the Nats cancelling the Nelson-Blenheim Railway in 1960. Construction had started at Nelson.

        4. Since New Zealand’s Ministry of Works wasn’t disestablished until the 1980s and they were responsible for the construction of many of the government’s major infrastructure projects, using a timeframe of “50 years” is a bit misleading. Anyway, I wasn’t trying to suggest that major infrastructure projects had been cancelled in this country. Fortunately, it has typically been the case in New Zealand that when an incoming government hasn’t liked a big project started (physical works) by a previous government, common sense has prevailed and they haven’t tried to interfere in the completion of the project. Usually by that stage it’d be too expensive to pull out anyway vs. letting the contract run.

  6. Jezza – a long 6 hour journey Ak-Whangerai.
    Would that not depend on the standard to which the NAL is rebuilt? With 120km/hr or faster capability, some decent standard overtaking loops and dual mode trains such as those proposed for the RRR system then that 6 hours would shrink to a more reasonable time. Northern Regional Rail please.

    1. It’s a very curved line, even tilt trains would struggle to get any decent speed going. In theory if you threw enough money at it you could have run fast trains, but it would basically be a complete rebuild of the line, an expense that would be hard to justify with 70,000 people.

      A tourist train is definitely worth a go, although I think it’s biggest challenge is the Northland is a destination for coastal scenery and the line doesn’t really take in any coastal vistas.

    2. The Coastal Pacific journey time is ~5¼ hours with an “operational speed” (according to Wikipedia) of less than 70 km/h. The Northern Explorer journey time is ~10½ hours, down from around 12 hours several years ago. What is unreasonable?

      The NAL infrastructure could certainly do to be upgraded to get any decent amount of traffic on it (definitely freight, and maybe passenger), but to the standard required for “fast” running? Given the current nature of the NAL out of Auckland, and the work that’d be required to “fix” it (maybe a similar order of magnitude to the upgrade of the NIMT in the ’80s to prepare it for electrification), I don’t see how that’d ever be justified.

  7. As one of the team who put the 2014 and 2017 NZ First Rail Re-Investment Programme plans together we laughed at costs quoted by Kiwirail’s Dave Gordon for gold plating the North Auckland Line. NZ First already has the connection to Kawakawa in mind, good to read Nick is caught onto our thoughts now.

    Huapai rail services are such an easy win, and with track being upgraded it will provide for even faster travel times to the rest of the rail network. The good thing is Huapai trains will never “interfere” with Nor0West LRT plan as that won’t be built for 10 to 15 years in any case. Labour has expressed the only LRT likely to be partially built over the next 3 to 4 years is to Mt Roskill from Downtown Auckland.

    One concern though is that AT want to use parts of the Avondale – Southdown designated rail corridor for their LRT tram plan. That could have future negative impacts on Northland rail services. Best leave that corridor alone for the long envisioned rail line.

    NZ First is having a luncheon with Shane Jones this Sunday and our rail consultant and a key driver of Hamilton trains.

    1. Good to hear you guys are moving on Hamilton trains. A Huapai service wouldn’t stack up on it’s own, but with these improvements in place would be a no brainer.

    2. Thsnks for pointing out the obvious – that the NW LR tram is many years away and should not be used as an excuse to not do commuter HR to Huapai. And also preserving the Avondale- Southdown route too, it was looking like this was to be broken by the Dom Rd-Onehunga LR tram line.
      Great to see common sense prevailing.

    3. “One concern though is that AT want to use parts of the Avondale – Southdown designated rail corridor for their LRT tram plan”
      Why use it for something useful when we could reserve it for some highly unlikely future rail line. Any idea of costs to get Avondale – Southdown operating? What are the benefits compared to using the southern and western lines?

      1. JimboJones “Why use it for something useful when we could reserve it for some highly unlikely future rail line.” That comment is just like the ones we heard “The NAL will never get upgraded or the Marsden Point line will never be built”. Or a comment said many times in the 2000’s – “the Onehunga line will never reopen”.

        Since the 1930’s the Avondale – Southdown corridor has been kept, wisely, for a rail corridor. If you can’t see change is coming with the massive NZ First initiative for Northland rail then you will ask questions such as those you have. For the moment focus is fully on the NAL upgrades, reconnection of Dargaville, Otiria lines, building the Marsden Point line. Then the pressure will come on for the Avondale – Southdown connection.

        Don’t let the LRT line get the way of progress when it’s not really needed or justified to Onehunga or the airport given the HR options which haven’t fully been studied. However, as I mentioned, Labour is only going to partially build the Downtown – Mt Roskill LRT line in the next 3 to 4 years, so not too pressing on the potential grab of NZ Railway Corporation owned land (Avondale-Southdown corridor).

        1. Agree, we will have to make a decision on the best use of the corridor at some stage but not immediately. I would say NW LR and North Shore LR are higher priority than airport LR especially if a quality BRT solution is built between the airport and a Puhinui interchange.

          While I expect NZ First’s proposals to significantly boost the train system and usage in Northland I can’t see it ever sending the volumes though Auckland that would justify Avondale to Southdown, but it is very early days.

    4. Curious, was Dave suggesting that they daylight the tunnels?

      KR has done a lot of work daylighting the tunnels in recent years, in the interest of improved safety and reduced maintenance cost.

  8. Moving freight out of downtown Auckland is worth far more than it could ever cost. Just the thought of not having cars dominating satellite pictures of the wharves is exciting enough itself. If logging trucks can be taken off the roads, surely the savings in road maintenance will more than justify the rail. Regional rail will be fantastic for freight and passenger services alike, imagine if Aucklanders could get to their beach houses mostly by train? As for tourism, trains are still romantic and they would no doubt attract interest from people that already enjoy the other scenic trains. Add to that the benefits of reclaiming the wharves for the people of JAFAtown and no sane accountant will argue. Musical interlude: Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train (to The Mount)

  9. Cement could be a new traffic for the line. I was under the impression that it was being transported on Golden Bay bulk ship to Auckland and loaded into containers at their Auckland bulk facility and then shipped on Pacifica to the south island but I see containers being delivered by road presumably direct from the Portland plant. Anyway its something like 50 containers per week. Go down to the wharf tomorrow and see the empties being lifted off then the full ones being loaded on the Spirit of New Zealand. I don’t why Kiwirail isn’t carting now. Lack of enthusiasm I suspect given that there is a siding into the works the last time I looked.
    So when it comes to all the figuring out of how the NAL can be made to work new wagons and new containers and new sidings must be financed none of that bullshit where Kiwirail asks for the customer to pay for new wagons like the logs to the chipping plant at Portland. And the wagons must be ring fenced for Northland transport so the bastards can’t take them away and use them somewhere else where the think they can get a better return. Also the person who is charge of scrapping wagons must have a ministerial appointed minder who can keep him or her in check. Keep that in mind when you are advising Twyford.

  10. Southdown will happen I predict within 10 years.
    PS: When Phill Tyford said they were going to build 100,000 homes a year. I thought they would be getting setting up a ‘ministry of work’s program building factories, employing builders and doing it? Is this right

        1. I can’t see passenger volumes on what is a crosstown line justifying the cost of building and the speed advantage would just be for freight moving from west to south, again not a large benefit.

          That just leaves resilience. I struggle to see what the benefit would be that would justify the cost, do you have any scenarios you were thinking of?

        2. Coincidence, a work cuz sez his wife and dtr drive from Kumeu to ottahu to work 5 dayswk, when we talked he sez that Xtown west train to southdown would iho induce pxs. I spose we dont know just how many existing or potential ppl do that trip.
          Build that line, will relieve CRL load and i’d bet it be px used plus keep those freights from inner city rails.
          Btw that New Lynn underground station wl soon need jap type train stuffers and a limited stops to cbd or exprss rush hour train.

        3. ‘work cuz sez’, ‘sez that Xtown’, ‘iho induce pxs’

          It’s not 2002 with a Nokia 1100 anymore, can you write something that is actually readable?

        4. Ok, sorry, I didn’t realise that GA needed a grammar standard.
          Just read all of the RRR and most posts there are from blair, are these more readable than my post? What is the standard?
          sorry if I sound grumpy but those electric train seats feel like I’d get bone arse after a few weeks commuting

        5. I agree with you that ‘Blair’ is a shocker. Someone did ask him to get his posts reviewed before posting but nothing changed. I’m picking most of us see the name and just ignore him now. I know I do!

        6. It was me asked Blair to get his posts reviewed. I felt he was trying to make some useful comment but was having problems getting the sentences sorted out. I have read his posts many times but my semantic analyser can’t cope
          Bogle (brian?) i see older regular train passengers bring a cushion, the outdoor chair type but agree that those seats in the EMUs are seriously sore.

        7. It would be pretty ironic if sprawling Auckland needs to get train stuffers. A more clear sign of ill-directed funds I can’t imagine. Let’s hope more capacity gets put in before we get to that point.

  11. But the trucking lobby won’t like this option and the highway builders won’t get $2B to build the motorway to Whangarei! This proposal is in danger of being progressive and putting public interest and superior options before private sector profit and political party donations.

    1. “Progressive”. That’s what it’s all about.
      Please let us know about all the businesses that are just waiting to use this line.

      1. Northport, Mainfreight, Fonterra.

        Sure, it’s only three, but they are enormous. Huge market to get trucks off the road.

        1. And doesn’t include the mill and timber processing operators in Northland that have in the past requested it.

  12. Absolutely bring on the rail to Northland the sooner the better. A win win for Nzers and tourists. The benefits will soon out way the costs

    1. Agree. Northland has been ignored too long.

      If it needs to be considered a tourist train initially, fine, but I’d hope that eventually it would receive the funding it needs to operate as part of a rural network, with feeder buses / cargo carriers covering a large area of Northland. Getting the tracks back into shape and in use is step one. This could provide huge opportunity for Northland businesses, including niche horticulture and eco tourism options for NZers who choose not to burn aviation fuel. We also need to provide for people who simply don’t drive – kids whose parents live in different places; people who can’t afford a car, people with disabilities, people who have a fear of driving from losing family members.

  13. There is considerable potential for rail in Northland with shifting log traffic once the line to Marsden Point is built.

    The former branch lines from Otiria to Rangiahua and Dargaville to Kaihu should also be relaid to new strategically located central log loading hubs near forestry blocks in these localities on SH1 and SH12 respectively. Branch lines would be easy to relay with the most difficult and expensive part of building railways (the civil engineering) already having been done.

    If the excellent proposal to relocate the Ports of Auckland occurs, the North Auckland line will become a very busy line indeed and should be upgraded and redesignated to become an extension of the North Island Main Trunk from Auckland to Whangarei.

    Relaying the short section of missing track between Otiria and Kawakawa would potentially enable a new Northern Explorer style tourist focused passenger train to be started between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, which would be a real boost to Northland.

    The proposal to utilise part of the Avondale-Southdown rail corridor for the airport light rail tram route should be dropped and instead have the tram line terminate at Stoddard Road in Mt Roskill and build the long proposed heavy rail line from Avondale to Southdown (which will be required if POA is relocated to NorthPort), together with building an extension of the Onehunga line to the airport and the NIMT at Puhinui where it could link with the inland port site (currently being expanded) at Wiri.

    A new ‘tear drop’ shape metro passenger rail loop route could then operate on this line between Britomart-CRL-Mt Eden-Newmarket-Onehunga-airport-Puhinui-Manukau-Otahuhu-Glen Innes-Britomart (and vice versa).

    The Northern Explorer and any new long distance rail passenger services to Hamilton and Tauranga/Mt Maunganui could also run via this new airport loop line.

    Altogether, doing the above will be a much better use of resources bringing the maximum amount of benefit to the most number of people.

    1. Why would you slow long distance passenger services down by having them run through the Airport, Onehunga and Newmarket? Unless you are planning on quad tracking this route they will get stuck behind suburban services, not to mention it is a longer route anyway.

  14. Harriet is bang on when she starts out by listing all the classes of wagons prohibited past Helensville. These don’t carry 2 20 footers, they carry 3. So you don’t just have over-height problems in the tunnels, you also chord on a circle problems. (Remember school cert geometry ?)
    The Dd class double-decker car wagons also had restricted running rights, both with some track, and speeds, because “hunting” sometimes meant scraping tunnels or platforms.
    The track is lightweight, and the formation would not be out of place in “Petticoat Junction”,- showing my age.
    I worked for NZR back in the 80’s when we electrified the NIMT, and several tunnels were simply day-lighted as the fastest, read cheapest, way to achieve the required loading gauge, and provide space for the overhead. Track was almost completely re-laid with concrete sleepers.
    Rule of thumb is to budget $1M/metre, so day-lighting is probably faster here than opening the tunnels out to a larger loading gauge.
    The challenge: they rebuilt the Kaikoura coast corridor in 12 months, they can do the same for the NAL.

  15. Yeah, amen to the curve easing. And gradient easing, and those flimsy trestles. And while we’re about it, let’s not forget loops for 40 crossing totals. If you’re going to do this, bloody well do it right.

  16. Being a British on holiday here in NZ I have travelled on the Tranz Alpine and Northern scenic trains. I have also driven a lot including up to the Bay of Islands. Get freight back on the rails..the roads are taking a real hammering from the double trailer units. If you can reuse existing it as soon as possible and..electrify as much railway as you can. The railways here seem a wasted resource.

  17. Hey hey folks, this is the last great train ride here. Have a look at the NZ railway route maps and compare for 50’s, 60’s,70’s, 80’s, 90’s etc.. look at the contraction. Greater population, more traffic but guess where most of it has gone. If you don’t daylight the tunnels and at least upgrade and fix the line and bridges to reasonable secondary main line level in the near future, all that traffic from the predicted industries will be lost forever and you might as well add the Northland lines including that to Whangarei to the other now blank areas on the map. Forget about Dargaville, looking at google earth the moths have eaten the balls so unless someone coughs up with the dosh for new tracks and suitable rollingstock, it’s a new rail trail friends. Act now and stop the rot or look to the UK or Queensland across the ditch and see where all the tracks and services have gone. Up in smoke…and if the rail companies don’t want to play, they don’t want to keep up that supposed costly infrastructure we’ve all paid to build, when rail doesn’t want to fight for rail, fight for fair, fight for the environment, road safety etc., the end is nigh. Take a leap of faith or go down the drain. You’ll be lucky to retain the opportunity for an outer suburban or inter urban service to Helensville and think how much that corridor will grow in the years ahead. Either that or for you oldies who remember, use the Jetsons mode!

  18. Brittomart to Helensville line.One has to take a hard look at the housing developments,Huapai/Kumeu/Waitakere/This Government says Improvements needed to remove congestion,what are they waiting for,the problem is here now.Do something with rail now.Im sure that some form of rail service is not beyond doing,What is the problem with extending the service,after all the line is in place,perhaps some infrastructure is required,do it.

  19. None of the photos in this article seem relevant. The banner photograph was taken by me at Tower Rd near the western portal of Kaimai Tunnel (Waikato.) The train pictured would be in trouble if it ventured onto the North Auckland Line! Neither the loco or that train of high cube containers is allowed north of Helensville. DXB class locos and trains with passengers are also now not permitted between Helensville and Portland due to the track condition. There was yet another derailment of train 129 on 23rd Jan (2019) around Kaipara Flats south of Wellsford. When there were two trains each way weekdays the line was said to be losing around $2M a year which is probably one reason why KiwiRail kept line maintenance to a safe minimum.
    A photo of double tier car train from a car assembly plant in Europe is hardly relevant – you can forget that running anywhere here with our loading gauge! KiwiRail (or rather one of the predecessors) discontinued this traffic long ago as uneconomic and it is presumed most the GT wagons have been disposed of now (though I did see one survivor recently.) There is probably no way of re-directing car traffic to North Port unless there was the commercial reason and will to do so.
    Finally, what has a photo of the Tranz Alpine train got to do with Northland rail revitalization?

    1. Sounds like we could use your services, John! People do like images in the articles they read, but sourcing eye candy can just take time away from researching the next article. Given that it’s all volunteer effort, how’d you like to offer to provide photos when requested? 🙂

      1. Sure I can if asked. My photo was used like this before from where I’m contactable but wasn’t asked. Here’s a link to my photos in that fully searchable database: All my photos have map location.
        My flickr page has a more suitable heading photo (taken in Northland):
        Another (now locked out of) flickr page you can view – find under people JR4Trains.
        Please ensure I’m assured that any photo use will be appropriate with full photo details.
        There are thousands of Kiwis in internet train groups where media articles get posted and sometimes criticized for things like sloppy research or photo use. This article is a good informative one for public interest with some interesting information that was news to me so I have shared it in one of the Facebook groups. Maybe it may generate support for your group. I do appreciate and support efforts to revitalize rail transport and, of course, would love to see 3, 4, or more trains run each way daily on the North Auckland Line.

        1. You’re a kind soul, John. I haven’t needed any train photos for any of my (few) posts, but I know where to look now if I need some! I’ll try to point the other writers to this thread, too.

          I’m interested in the internet train groups you mention. I love trains but know next to nothing about them. You’re welcome to put some links here to the ones that might have the most overlap in interest with this site. Cheers.

        2. Locomotives of New Zealand is one you can try since I shared this page there. This group has well over 2K members but isn’t the largest. The groups are mostly closed groups so the admin(s) must add but open to all with genuine interest in trains.

        3. I’ve looked at your pictures now, John. Beautiful! Of course, not being a fb user I’d have to decide to become one before I can join that group… not sure how long I’ll hold out against fb … 🙂 But good to have the information here for others if they’re browsing.

  20. John,don’t be so negative about the carriage of cars. With the line rebuilt and an appropriately designed wagon class, then all is possible. KiwiRail got out of car carrying, mostly because the GT wagons were difficult to maintain and volumes were generally small, mostly because of KiwiRail’s limited capacity to provide decent wagons. However, with larger volumes from NorthPort and better wagons this could be a real winner for rail and Aucklanders getting their waterfront back, as Harriett says. In fact, currently, politically, this would be a big sell to justify the line to Marsden Point. KiwiRail needs to consider a, perhaps, less complicated wagon than the GT and one that is easy to use, such as allowing for loading an entire train, rather than individual wagons, and building loading infrastructure at both ends. They could also see if the design could incorporate individual loading and unloading if the wagon was required to deliver vehicles further afield.
    Also Harriett wondered about containers. KiwiRail currently send seven trains per day to Tauranga, each with about 52 truck loads of containers, for MetroPort. My guess is that MetroPort would be keen to increase capacity by sending containers to NorthPort by rail too.

    1. Thanks Niall. I saw a photo double tier car transporter train in UK quick looks like it just might be a possibility for our loading gauge. I’m realistically sceptical of shipping lines calling at more ports. Yes some will skip Auckland. There has to be deal for it and huge investment in rolling stock for this. The tunnel clearance isn’t the major problem as I see it.

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