The new Government has committed to at least the first stage Regional Rapid Rail which is great. In my previous post I discussed how it may be better to accelerate the programme incorporating parts of Stage 2 in 1. In this post, I am going to discuss important traps we must not fall into.

Frequency and Span are Freedom – End the Hunt for the Great White Commuter. 

One of the important traps we must not fall into when doing Regional Rapid Rail is to think about commuters only. If we provide one train to Auckland in the morning and one train back to e.g. Hamilton the scheme will find it much harder to work for many reasons:

  • It’s hard to base travel on a single service or even two as its pretty risky if you miss it. Decent frequency makes the service much more viable to people;
  • This isn’t just about Auckland it’s about Regional Development as well. People need to be able to travel to Hamilton etc. Therefore we need “counterpeak” services;
  • The demand isn’t just commuters, in fact, research from previous reports on a Hamilton – Auckland rail service show commuting only makes up a small part of potential demand for the service
Usage Occasions, Page 16

Just as with the principles of the New Network providing a decent frequency as well as the span of service is integral. This cannot just be a single train in the morning and evening if it is to be a great service lets learn from the success of recent PT improvements in Auckland.

Don’t Rush – There is Time to Get this Right

This is another trap we should try not to fall into. The idea is popular and everyone wants to hit the ground running but taking a little time to make sure we get the service right will make a huge difference in the service giving us time to

  • Sort out the Third Main in Auckland so the service doesn’t get stuck in or add to the congested section between Westfield-Wiri;
  • Have a really good think about the rolling stock. Can we get something great second hand overseas, or is there something much better than the Silver Ferns as proposed originally?;
  • Have KiwiRail do any upgrades they need to do between Papakura and Hamilton, including potentially the Whangamarino Deviation;
  • Making sure that the future upgraded Puhinui Station integrates well with the service.

This doesn’t mean delaying starting the service for five years or so, but giving it a little extra time to really improve reliability nd get those travel times below two hours, which I think is crucial to making it a success.

Commit Long Term – This is About Regional Development

While having a train between Hamilton and Auckland is cool and will be really useful we cannot forget the real goal behind Regional Rapid Rail is to enable Regional Development across the Golden Triangle.

If the Government only commits to a small trial for a short period with a “we will see” approach then Councils, Developers, and People cannot make long-term plans to develop around Regional Rapid Rail. It would be risky to buy a home in Huntly if the service could be cancelled in 2 years time. This doesn’t mean the Government needs to commit to Stage 3 just that it won’t cut the service in the foreseeable future. It also means Regional Rapid Rail shouldn’t be judged on simple financials as it’s an investment that allows a step change in long term regional thinking.

Not falling into these traps will go a long way to making sure Regional Rapid Rail is a long term successful investment for New Zealand.

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  1. This highlights a key flaw in our transport project evaluation processes. They are structured to primarily evaluate movement effects, and much less so landuse ones. Transport or movement effects are immediate, but more temporary, land use ones are slower to materialise but much longer lasting. Movement issues are easier to quantify and are more evident on the cost side, Landuse harder to quantify and much more important as value.

    But here’s the kicker, Transport outcomes are not ends in themselves, they are a means to the ultimate twin aims of society prosperity and wellbeing. And permanent changes to landuse, caused or supported by transport investments, are the real long term providers or destroyers of ongoing prosperity and wellbeing.

    This is to say that transport investment decisions create and shape places. And those places create and shape the parameters of our lives. We should think much much more carefully about how we are shaping our world when we chose between quadruple laning SH1 all the way to Hamilton or committing long term to reviving intercity rail with our next transport dollar.

    It is, among other things, the difference between reviving satellite towns like Te Kauwhata in a compact walkable form or watching Pokeno sprawl, as it is now, as a detached new Pakuranga just waiting to be swallowed into the endless exurbs of Auckland and Hamilton.

    Our current evaluation processes at breathlessly biased to the short term.

    1. Absolutely agree regarding currently we only assess short term movement effects we do not assess the more important long term land use effects (spatial economics).

      In my opinion we need to make room for urban growth and we need to do it with multiple transport modes, that includes rapid transit from the get go….

    2. Yes, we’re pretty foolish to have been ignoring this in our planning, and we’re suffering from it.

      I’m also interested in the psychological changes that happen. The driver/commuter/passenger/person behaviour that changes as new modes become possible. Related to land use, but also related to opportunities, vehicle ownership, fitness and general interest in health, commitment to the neighbourhood or city, emotional health and prioritising of time and money.

      1. “I’m also interested in the psychological changes that happen”

        This morning I drove my 19 year old daughter 34 km to Papakura to get a train to Britomart. We arrived early for the next train so she went to get a coffee in a nearby cafe. As I walked back to the car a man in high-vis kindly informed me that due to a union meeting there would be no trains until around 2 pm. Back to the cafe to inform my daughter. I left and later discovered that she had been advised to take a bus to Otahuhu where she could catch another to Britomart…but there was no connecting bus so she ended up getting an Uber after getting somewhat distressed.

        The psychological change that has happened is that next time she will drive…,and the time after that. Thanks AT! Thanks RMTU!

        1. My guess is the RTMU didn’t give AT much notice, as the first I heard of it was from the display board at the train station yesterday morning.

          If that is not the case and the did give good notice, AT have communicated it extremely poorly.

        2. I was caught out by this. The AT website said there would be rail replacement buses every thirty minutes. They neglected to mention this excluded the southern line for some arbitrary reason. I was advised to walk to the next suburb over to catch a bus to Otahuhu and connect to the once hourly service… a journey that was going to take one and a half hours in total. I took a taxi.
          Thanks RMTU, thanks AT.

        3. The RMTU notified Transdev last Friday of its intention to hold the stop work meeting, meaning AT would have had 3 days notice prior to the meeting occurring, which was held in Britomart on Tuesday.

          AT and Transdev could very quickly stop all this disruption and inconvenience by dropping their unsafe proposal to remove the Train Managers off the trains which has seriously angered rail staff and many passengers, the overwhelming majority who still want the Train Managers on the trains.

        4. “which has seriously angered rail staff and many passengers, the overwhelming majority who still want the Train Managers on the trains.”

          Citation needed.

        5. I think your citation is above, Sailor Boy, with regards to angering rail staff. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be holding stop work meetings and strikes.

          Passengers on the other hand, I share your desire for proof.

        6. It is not as if the Uinion meeting about train safety was not advertised! One bad experience puts you off – how often have you been stuck in traffic from a motorway incident?

        7. I’m a daily train user and was unaware of it until yesterday morning. It’s quite reasonable to think that an irregular user, who either knows the timetable or looks it up online would be completely unaware of the stop work meeting.

          I have no problem with the occasional stop work meeting, however the lack of advanced notice to the public and bus replacement services has really let passengers down.

          Do you know when the RTMU notified AT of this stop work meeting?

        8. I received an email from AT the afternoon before regarding this. Not sure if it was because i have opted into receiving emails after registration of a HOP card or what. Obviously a casual user would be unlikely to get one of these.

        9. It’s the fact they said there would be replacement buses, but then didn’t have any, that was the problem. Wrong information is worse than none at all.

          And I very seldom get stuck in traffic on the motorway, because I usually take the train!

    3. The problem is that land use assessments are less accurate than transport assessments. Transport models are not very good but land use models are typically even worse. Show me a bad transport forecast and I will show you a ridiculous land use forecast. So the system has reacted to that be not building transport facilities until after land use has developed and created a problem. The result is the funding system practically requires a problem to already exist. The exception to this is when things become political and ministers ignore the usual system to deliver something they think will get them re-elected.

      1. Yes it’s the modellers that want fixed land-use inputs, cos it’s too hard otherwise (only what can be counted, easily, counts). One alternative is not to make assumptions about future changes and try to serve them (predict and provide) but to discuss what ideal or preferred land use could look like and reverse model the transport investment we’ed need to make to get them (decide and provide). Or, less deterministically, model what are the land use consequences of the proposed transport investment pattern are. This can hardly be difficult.

        We know if we build highways we get dispersed, expensive, unhealthy, injurious, and ugly auto dependent places, but if we add high quality Rapid Transit and Intercity services, and good walking and biking focussed streets, we get denser, lower individual cost, higher productivity, health enhancing, safer, lower carbon burning, varied places…

        So, what on earth are we doing, now, deep into the 21stC, with these terrible evaluation processes that privilege the former…?

        1. The idea was to add some rigour to the whole process. If you simply allow someone in authority to say ‘I like this, but not this’ then you get ‘Roads of National Significance’ and the East West Link. There are many more Margeret Thatchers in the world than there are Jane Jacobs. The concept of saying ‘build it and they will come’ has resulted in a whole history of stupid investment from major roads and bridges in Japan to an international airport at Knock in Ireland, not to mention third world debt to the World Bank. Please don’t try and tell me that all it really needs is some right thinking people (by which you mean people who hold your opinion) to be in charge of everything and that process would work out. That is start of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.
          I am not defending the current system, I don’t even believe that travel time is a benefit. But whatever we do should be a system that allows testing and analysis not just some ‘assume and spend’ method.

        2. Urban planning in NZ is completely dysfunctional. What is the point in all the experts when the outcomes are so dreadful? Housing is expensive rubbish and transport is not much better.

          The whole lot needs a massive shake up….

        3. Miffy, if you think that’s what I’m arguing for then either I can’t write or you can’t read.

        4. Apologies if I misunderstood Patrick. It was your ideal land use that alarmed me. Most times I have come across people who think that exists they are usually some bow tie wearing twit visiting from the USA pushing whatever is the latest fashion in their circles. The Council would adopt their advice and then nothing remotely similar ever actually occurs. The best examples I can think of of ‘decide and provide’ are probably the the southern motorway to Drury or the Central motorway junction. In both cases the people in charged decided on a landuse they would cater for then provided a transport system to suit. Maybe things would have worked out different if they had a mode neutral assessment system and hadn’t just assumed one land use outcome.

        5. Actually Patrick it was never the modellers that asked for fixed land uses. It was economists who made that rule both here and in the UK as they didn’t believe the land use models. I have never yet met a modeller who wasn’t keen to make their model ever more complex.

        6. In the UK the fixed matrix methods were specified in the Appraisal Manual by HM Treasury. You even had to used the Treasury prescribed growth factors. They eventually got rid of that process. In NZ it is a little bit different. You have always been allowed to use quite sophisticated models but the standards you had to prove them to meant most people opted for a cheaper way. Usually a window from a larger model and use that as a fixed demand. But is was most definitely economists who set up those rules through TR9 and the Economic Evaluation Manual. Then to really make sure there was no long term planning the Treasury made us use a 10% discount rate for years and at one point a B/C cut off of 5.0. The result was money only got spent on existing queues of cars and not on other modes or anything that might change transport longer term. When the future benefits are discounted so heavily then there is no merit in spending money trying to model future changes accurately. It isn’t going to change the result you get. So instead you focus on the present year model.

        7. People need to be wiser to pick the right planning model based on outcome evidence.

          It would be unwise to adopt planning model from Los Angles as the end result had been a failure.

          It would be wise to a find role model from a list of internationally successful planning cities and study their planning models and adopt the good essence from it.

          I don’t think hiring ‘experts’ from United States and Sydney would do us any good.

  2. The Government has committed to the Third Main between Otahuhu and Papakura so lets focus in getting it there rather than Wiri.

    Tenders are out for Puhinui Station so will be interesting to see where this goes next year.

    But yes let’s get this right. Build once, build right first time!

    1. Are you sure that tenders are out for the station? Last I saw it was just or the detailed business casse for Airport to Botany.

        1. A new Tironui station really needs to be built at Walters Road to provide better access to train services for all the new residents moving into this area with the massive amount of residential development occurring and to serve the retail complexes which have been developed on either side of the railway line at this locality to provide a convenient appealing alternative to using cars to get to these places. There is probably more retail activity at Southgate and The Warehouse retail site now than what there is in Papakura’s CBD. Madness to not have a station here still.

      1. The third main between Westfield and Wiri was needed yesterday. While any extra work needed should of course account for a fourth main, we shouldn’t in anyway delay this project to build a line that will be needed in 10 – 15 years.

        1. Fully agree, quadruple tracking needs to happen to be able to provide any reliable expansion of both freight and long distance passenger services. Waste of time just building a third main with all the disruption and work involved, when according to KiwiRail, for $200m much needed quadruple tracking could be built between Westfield and Papakura.

          The very busy section of the North Auckland Line and Auckland-Newmarket Line should also be triple tracked between Westfield and Parnell, which can be done, which would provide much needed additional capacity for freight and future long distance passenger services both north and south, which will be particularly needed once the Marsden Point Branch is built to NorthPort and if relocation of the Ports of Auckland to NorthPort occurs.

  3. Interesting to hear the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, not commit to the third main project. He said it’s not guaranteed and needs to compete with the rest of NZ for funding of that project. Is Labour choosing not to play the game they sold to Auckland Labour voters?

    1. I was a bit surprised by those comments as well. I’d be surprised if the third main was delayed as it is a very cheap project (basically a rounding error in the budget) and has significant benefits.

      I think his comments might have been more directed at Pukekohe electrification.

      1. If you want to get really worried read the HYEFU,
        There appears to be absolutely no incentive to anything quickly…

        Auckland and Wellington Rail Priorities (New)

        The Government has identified as transport priorities a number of metro rail projects in
        Auckland and Wellington. Although the Government has indicated that rail investment will
        ultimately be funded through the National Land Transport Fund,

        achieving this will require further exploration that may not be completed in time for some or all of the following projects:

        • the Third Main Line in Auckland
        • electrification of the Papakura to Pukekohe line
        • establishment of a commuter train service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga
        • the Wairarapa line upgrade, and
        • double-tracking the Trentham to Upper Hutt line.

        Also Kiwirail have only been allocated only 200 million in govt CAPEX 2018/19 and 19/20, ( the same as in 2017),

        1. The way I read that is treasury saying that they will need to be funded through alternative channels, not that they won’t be funded until the NLTF is restructured.

          Of the five the bottom two were already funded by the previous government, Pukekohe is probably a few years away anyway given they have just approved battery EMUs. That just leaves the third main, which could be funded out of petty cash if need be (the core part Westfield to Wiri was also agreed by National), it’s that cheap and the RRR, which could be funded from the regional investment fund.

          I agree more certainty would be great, but I think people are getting a bit pannicky about a government that has only been in office for a couple of months.

        2. Its nice to be optimistic and interpret this as a treasury hint to find alternate funding but the ‘further exploration that may not be completed in time’ for NLTF funding sure looks like the govt saying no guarantee of funding within the term of this govt.
          This appears a better fit to Grant Robertson’s statement about 3rd Main.and those other rail priorities listed.

        3. No, they were never “Funded” ,

          They were promised by the Government party in the run up to an election….
          there was never any budget bids or approvals,

          The only thing in the last budget was $98 million for taking out wooden traction poles in Wellington….

        4. AT are not helping themselves here. By running 20 min weekday frequencies including the Western line and 30 min evening and weekend frequencies on all lines, they are making it clear to Kiwirail and the government that there are other issues impacting frequencies therefore the 3rd main isn’t urgent.

  4. Put me down as one of the people who would use that train for visits, shopping, maybe even sports fixtures. The twice-daily commuter train from Wellington-Palmerston North is pretty useless for that precise reason. I would have liked to visit my mum in Palmie while I was in Welly, but that train only runs at commuter hours.

    1. Yes I enjoyed looking at that chart. I’d certainly use the RRR for holidays – which doesn’t even rate a mention! I imagine most of those categories around the 6% mark would increase steadily if there was a frequent, reliable and not-to-be-cut-again service.

    2. Absolutely for sports fixtures, imagine being able to go to the cricket in Hamilton or the Mount and everyone being able to have a few drinks!

    3. Daphne, most people would consider the commuter train from Wellington-Palmerston North as only once-daily. It runs Palmy-Wgtn in the morning, and runs back in the evening. There is no choice of timings.

      I tried to suggest that the one 8-car train be split in half and run as two 4-car trains, giving an earlier and later choice of timings. Would have needed another loco and crew only, and two DC-class loco’s would suffice power-wise, rather than having to use the gruntier DF which the 8-car consist requires.

      Could have significantly boosted usage by getting away from the once-a-day, at-this-time-only, take-it-or-leave-it offering.

      No-one listened.

    4. A new daily return daytime service of the Capital Connection could easily be made by running the train between Wellington and Palmerston North via the northern Wairarapa Line. There is plenty of time to enable such a service to run in between the time of the current Capital Connection service arriving in Wellington at 8.30am in the morning and departing again at 5.15pm in the afternoon. Running the service via the northern Wairarapa Line would provide towns along this line with a passenger train service which could also bring tourists / visitors from Wellington for day trips, as well as providing alternative transport through the Manawatu Gorge while the gorge road is closed.

      1. I don’t see the point of this. There are already off-peak services between Wellington and Masterton, so all this achieves is providing a once-a-day off-peak service between Masterton and Palmerston North.

        That is an area with a low population and to top it off it will only be able to spend a limited time in Palmerston North before turning around again, so would be next to useless to anyone wanting to spend a few hours there, especially given the station isn’t central.

        It goes the long way between Wellington and Palmerston North meaning most people would just take an Intercity bus instead.

  5. Being a JAFA, Hamilton is not a place I see myself as wishing to visit at any point, however, the prospect of being able to arrive to Mount Maunganui by train is rip-roaringly, spine-tinglingly exhilarating. Friday afternoon, direct from work, togs, towel and t shirt and a good book in your back pack, off to the Mount for the weekend. What a dream!

  6. Some colleagues and I drove to Tauranga and back yesterday for work. 5.5 hours in the car, basically wasted, as there is little you can do on the highway but sit there.

    If we had a train we could have saved 16.5 person-hours, and effectively got in two days work between the three of us while travelling.

    Also, I worked the reimbersement per-km rate for using the car is over $300 for that trip. Our company could have spent $300 on return tickets and would have saved money.

  7. Yes, let’s build this right. Is electrification to Pukekohe important too? Be great to have that out of the way and track improvements through to there done. Can’t see a tunnel through Bombay happening any time soon.

  8. How soon do you guys think this will take to get a frequent train service between Auckland and Waikato?

    Many Auckland Medical students are based at Waikato Hospital for their placements. Being able to travel between Auckland and Waikato in an hour would be very attractive for them. If the frequency is done right, they could leave the hospital at around dinner time and be able to get to Auckland in the night. They could then have the weekend with their family and then train back on Sunday night.

    In addition there is going to be a medical school based out of Waikato University starting in 2020. Having an awesome train service between Auckland and Waikato would mean that students who didn’t get into the Auckland Medical School have a viable option to study at Waikato.

    Regional development isn’t just about planting a billion trees – if done right it can improve access for those not only in the regions but in sophisticated urban areas.

  9. There won’t be any silver ferns running at all new heavy rail be in place all stops and it works and beast train ever and it looks cool no one eles has seen these trains and executive in service ever and no refilling no break downs no maintenance needed its way beater then those election trains in Auckland has got

  10. It’s worth noting that people typically travel to work or education five days a week, while might go and visit family and friends in a different city once a weekend or even less, and might go to an event once every month or two.

    Therefore the importance of work and education to driving passenger demand will be much more important than that graph suggests. While I agree we need something with off-peak and counter-peak services, peak direction services heading to Auckland in the morning and south in the evening will be main earner of this service.

    1. Correct, however I wouldn’t assume work or education would be five days a week, it’s probably more useful for people making periodic or occasional journeys than for 9 to 5 commuters.

      Also that survey does suggest twenty times more people would it for non-work/education reasons. So on balance I would say the non-daily-commuter trips are at least as important, if not the majority source.

      An important factor is the time of day too, sure there would be many people that get up early to commute at peak times, but most of the rest would be in the shoulder peak or across the day. A solid base of trips at times other than peak would allow an efficient and cost effective operation.

      For example, if a train ran from Hamilton to Auckland departing at 6am, it might fill up with commuters wanting to be at work at 8:30. But the same train could make the return run from Auckland south at 8:30 (say filling up with uni students and day trippers), that’s a single train filled up twice on a return run. To target the same number of passengers with the peak commuters, you’d need two trains doing return runs, with twice the cost and half the efficiency.

      1. I think your 50/50 split would be about right, however half of those would be concentrated into one or two services in the morning and evening, they will no doubt be the busiest.

        I agree there will need to be good utilisation of rolling stock, however I imagine it is inevitable that there will be some fleet dedicated to peak services, as there is in pretty much every rail system in the world.

        I think counter-peak will struggle a bit until Hamilton has a central station.

        1. Yep agree on all points there. You’d need about five trains to give hourly service both ways all day. Another two trains inserted at peak times would give you half hourly service for two hours in the peak direction, although these could do something else interpeak (like run out to Tauranga and back). Add in two for spares/rotation, and a fleet of nine trains would given you a very nice network.

        2. Sorry, agree on all points except they would be concentrated on one or two services. Public transport in Auckland carries the majority of trips off peak, I don’t see why the intercity would be any different.

        3. I should clarify my two services during peak was based on the RRR phase 1 where it looked like there would only be two services during the peak. If they were half hourly then I agree it would be spread across five services.

  11. The initial proposal is for two trains each way at peak traffic (= commuter) times. The demand is there for that now.
    Sure – build the more-comprehensive plan for the 4,10,20 year horizons, but don’t use it to delay getting a better service for commuters right away.
    Even without the improvements that are on their way, we can get people to work in Auckland in 2.05hrs vs the 2.5-4hrs it takes during peak traffic now. Providing certainly at peak congestion is where regional rail really kicks butt! Let’s use it straight away.

    1. Sue who is proposing that service pattern? Is it Kiwi Rail? That wants testing. It looks underdone to me.

      As Harriet says above, paraphrased; do it properly or it will fail to change anything much.

    2. Thanks for comment Sue Moroney
      I’m hearing Hamilton City council is in the process of buying land near the Base for Future Park and ride.
      A helpful Question ask from councillor about train was ‘is this linked in with the already 20 something bus already doing the Hamilton / Auckland run’ like if you miss the train you still will get to Auckland or back to Hamilton. Only difference is the bus takes longer because of Auckland traffic.

    3. That’s a terrible proposal and your party should improve it before they let the wider public know what it is to avoid embarrassment.

  12. When you are talking about 100 year investment time frames for rail, it is extremely risky to do that when we have no idea how autonomous vehicles will impact the market. I support metro rail because AV’s can’t meet the capacity that is needed.

    However I think any demand for regional rail will be heavily impacted by AVs in the long run. AV’s will cannibalise from regional rail and maybe some air travel for a whole variety of reasons which will make RR financially nonviable. It wont happen next year, but gradually over time make it harder to justify any investment in inter-city passenger rail.

    1. Maybe we just regulate against AV then? Cars are fundamentally inefficient – so much weight to move around per person – so if they’re going to make regional rail nonviable, they seem like a technology that’s only being promoted because we’re blind to our options.

      1. Actually Heidi, cars are lighter in terms of weight-per-person than railway carriages at average passenger-loadings.

        3-car AM unit with 230 seats, tare weight = 132 Tons, equates to 0.57 Tons-per-seat
        Average sedan with 5 seats, tare weight = 1.5 Tons, equates to 0.3 Tons-per-seat

        Things get worse (for trains) if either vehicle is only partially loaded:

        3-car AM unit with 50 passengers, tare weight = 132 Tons, equates to 2.64 Tons-per-person
        Average sedan with single occupant, tare weight = 1.5 Tons, equates to 1.5 Tons-per-person

        But an important thing to bear in mind is that trains have become extremely heavy, largely because of the huge mound of safety requirements heaped on them. An AM unit must be able to withstand a potential collision with a heavy freight train without disintegrating.
        But there is no equivalent requirement for a car or even a bus to withstand a collision with a heavy truck. If there was, then car (and bus) weights would surge upwards.

        Cars (and buses) get away with being lightweight because no-one really cares about the reality that they will disintegrate in a serious crash. This happens all the time and society does nothing meaningful to change away from this.

        If you want to be safe, get yourself inside a heavy train and be glad of the weight!

        1. Thanks, that’s interesting. So for cars we could use the measured occupancy rate for Auckland of 1.14 people/car (sorry if this is for specific times or routes – it’s the only figure I know) giving 1.32 T/person. To get to this on average for a carriage, it would have to have an occupancy rate of 1.32 T/person divided by 132 T/carriage, or 1 carriage per 100 people, ie 100/230 seats. On average.

          What are the figures for Auckland trains? Obviously different services have the full range from over 230 passengers to almost empty. And what are the figures for cities that have a well-established rail service?

          Cars are also designed to crumple in places to absorb the energy of car-car collisions as a way of protecting the passengers… In short, for energy efficiency, nothing beats cycling. For safety, trains win out. And cars are neither safe nor energy efficient, but are tolerated for their flexibility. And that’s fine unless we start designing around them. Ooops, we already did that… 🙂

        2. Yes. A 3-car AM-unit at 132 Ton tare-weight would need 100 passengers to have the same tare-weight per-passenger as a single-occupant 1.5 Ton car.

          A loading per 3-car set of over 100 pax would possibly only happen in the peaks, but I am not certain of this. If Wellington is anything to go by, loadings fall off substantially outside the peaks, but this is made worse by a policy of doing little to encourage uptake of empty seats during these times.

          The other thing counting against the weight-efficiency of trains is the significant amount of empty, out-of-service running that goes on. All in all, the utilisation of the stock is quite poor, but everyone knows this is the price we pay for having highly-peaked travel-patterns. And of course this applies even more so to urban roading which also has to be supersized to cope with peaks. Indeed a modest 2-track railway can be made to cope with a much greater percentage increase peak/off-peak than a typical modest 2-lane road which reaches capacity far sooner.
          If that makes sense.

    2. I can’t see your logic there, it seems to be based on RRR only being used by people who can’t or don’t like driving, if that was the case it would almost certainly fail. It will be used by anyone who finds it more convenient than a car and that would still be the case with autonomous vehicles.

      Do you think regional rail in Europe will disappear with the advent of autonomous vehicles? It didn’t with the advent of vehicles.

      1. I think Ari is making some good points. Unless the train is quicker or cheaper than an AV, why would you take the train?
        A high speed train over a long distance, or a commuter train during congestion, will probably be much quicker. But an off peak train to Hamilton, much less likely.
        Price is an unknown – how much will an AV to Hamilton cost? We know a Taxi is very expensive, how much cheaper should an AV be?
        But can anyone really say when AVs will be viable in NZ? If its not for 30 years, why even think about them?

    3. I doubt AVs will have any impact on regional rail, quite the opposite. Automated cars will make it very easy to get to a train station from where an automated train can take you at high speed on a direct alignment to another city, where another AV can deliver you to your final destination.

      By what mechanism would automated cars cannibalise automated intercity trains? Note that even our EMUs already have the technical means to be fully automated, you’l get fully automatic trains well before you’ll have a car that can drive you fromAuckland to Hamilton.

      1. There are plenty of factors, but for example: Why use 3 vehicles or more for your trip when you can use 1 that sticks to your time table and route perfectly?

        1. Because all else being equal, it would be slower, subject to traffic congestion, far less energy efficient and as a result, far more expensive.

          Same reason we no longer run buses from every little suburb to downtown, same reason we don’t fly 50 seater turbo props from Tauranga to Fiji.

        2. The same argument applies to vehicles today, many people will choose to do the trip in a car, you haven’t given any reason why AVs will make things worse for RRR.

        3. If the train is high-speed like in Europe over longer distance, then AV’s won’t be able to compete, but I am talking about the NZ context where our trains won’t be doing 300kmph.

          We no longer run buses from every little suburb because it isn’t viable against cars economically. Same with the small planes example.

          Things aren’t equal and that is how the market is in reality. You don’t have to convince me. You have to convince customers in the real world. RR has to compete in reality, not some imaginary scenario. Where is your evidence it would be slower when you consider the entire trip, any transfers and all congestion? Is congestion even relevant if the my total trip is still shorter than taking the train? If I am in a mobile entertainment pod, do I care if the trip takes a longer? I don’t use the train because it is energy efficient and I doubt 99% of other people do either. Fuel costs aren’t the only consideration when it comes to transport. If that were the case, why aren’t we all using sail boats to get around?

          AV’s mean I don’t need to drive myself and I can sleep in a bed or watch Netflix the entire trip on a decent screen with surround sound and stop where/when I like. It will be superior than driving a car and better than taking the train.

          Just like how high-speed rail in Europe has eaten into the air travel market there, the same will happen with AV’s and other forms of transport. It is all about relative advantage and what different customers want. AV technology increases the attractiveness of car. I’m not talking about car ownership btw, but car-sharing (not ride-sharing). AV tech removes many of the obstacles that stop people from sharing a car today. You get easy access to a vehicle that matches your immediate need at that time, that picks you up at your location and you don’t need to worry about parking.

          A Volvo managed and maintained AV fleet that I subscribe to has huge cost advantages over owning a car. Fewer cars will be used in total, but each car would be driven a lot more. AVs will be driven better and maintained better and be in less accidents with lower insurance. Boston Consulting estimate a 40% reduction in operating costs.

          AVs will make ride-sharing more attractive because no one needs to worry about the first and last mile pickup drop off. If you do have a lot of ride-sharing, your operating costs drop even further to 60% or more. At off-peak time, there is an even greater cost advantage when roads aren’t congested. This is where AV’s are a major threat to regional rail.

          It will mostly depend on how popular ride-sharing will become and how fast the regional train is. Because if you get lots of people ride-sharing, slow trains will simply not be able to compete on cost.

          I can’t predict what will happen exactly, but what I describe is one likely outcome in 20 years. You can fight technological disruption all you wish, but I don’t support public money being wasted to do that.

        4. I’m not convinced full AVs will ever take off here and in many other parts of the world, simply because most roads are open access and have multiple hazards. I expect the settings used will be so conservative travelling in an AV will be significantly slower than it is today.

          However, lets assume I’m wrong and they do.

          RRR proposes speeds of 160kmh, 50kmh faster than the Waikato Expressway is designed for. RRR will also be able to travel significantly faster than road traffic within Auckland.

          Are you seriously expecting to have beds in shared cars, who is going to maintain them, change the sheets etc!? A lot of people (myself included) can’t work, read, watch TV etc in a car even as a passenger but can in a train.

          I’d be very surprised if hiring an AV for yourself for a longish trip would anywhere near as cheap as catching one to the nearest train station and getting the train from there, especially if the AV ends up somewhere where it is of no use to the company that owns it.

          Do you really think ride-sharing with strangers on a decent length trip is going to take off? I think most people would prefer a train. Also ride sharing makes it more like an airport shuttle where you have to go on a tiki-tour of all the places your fellow passengers want to go, hardly appealing.

        5. “RR has to compete in reality, not some imaginary scenario.”

          The irony being you are comparing a fully investigated, compared and costed proposal against one which does not exist in operation today (long distance travel) and for which you freely admit to not knowing how it will operate in the future.

          Quite how an AV is much different than Uber – for the passenger, anyway – I can’t see. Or a driverless train for that matter, if we are talking about the same route.

          Unless your AV is going to take you door to door direct then you are just reinventing the wheel (rail?) at slower speeds if you have to accommodate everyone elses door to door trip, as Jezza points out. And if it is going door to door direct then you are the only one hiring it and so you lose out on economies of scale in terms of paying passengers.

          They will have their place, AVs, but I can only see it as first/last mile complimenting mass transit and short trips in the wider city.

        6. Jezza, honestly I don’t know. I just don’t think we should be investing in something so risky. Like I said it will depend on the speed of the trains and whether ride sharing becomes popular. Long distance to Wellington, AVs cant compete, but to Hamilton or Tauranga, probably. It’s medium distance where AV’s can compete on price and speed. In the city, AV’s just use up too much space and you need mass transit to function. Ride-sharing isn’t just for strangers either, imagine groups of friends wanting to go to the Mount for a few days.

          My problem is spending public money on infra that will last 50-100 years for a very high risk transport model that would not be financially viable and will require significant subsidy into the future.

          KLK, no irony here. I am talking about human behaviour in the real world, right now. Lots of cars travel from Auckland to Hamilton/Tauranga right now. The AV will go from door to door. That is the point. None of this waiting around or finding a ride to/from the train station or airport. AVs will make car travel more attractive and lower cost than it is currently. That is the problem for RR because it makes it more difficult to attract customers.

          It is 20 years from now when AVs with no steering wheel will be mainstream, so it is hard to predict. But what you can predict is people’s behaviour. Some people will always prefer the train. Some people will always prefer the plane. Some people will prefer the car. This is a fact. AV’s make cars significantly more attractive and less costly than current. I would expect a long term shift in their favour with a specific segment of consumers that will switch from train/plane to AV. This is the threat to RR because it hurts financial viability.

          Yes AV’s will be just like Uber, except there is no driver so operating costs are far lower. I expect most manufacturers will move to electric which will reduce costs as well, especially in NZ where we have cheaper renewable power. So you basically have a expensive car with tiny operating costs. So you want to get the most use out of it so you lower prices to get high utilisation of your asset. RR will need plenty of passengers to be viable because they have such high fixed operating costs. Economies of scale isn’t as much of a factor for AVs.

          Companies like Volvo are already making moves towards managing their own fleets of AVs, because they see what is happening.

          We don’t need to convince each other of what is best. The customers will decide for themselves and AV’s will have the distinct economic and convenience advantage when you consider human behaviour.

        7. I would say the bigger risk is to halt planning and investment in what we know works in favour of focussing it all on this weeks flavour of the month magic tech solution. Surely to gamble everything on vapourware that doesn’t exist and might not exist for decades, if at all, is a mugs game?

          I know AVs are a super popular concept right now, but ten years ago it was PRT, ten years before that it was flying cars, ten years before that it was magnetically guided cars (yep we’ve been here before), etc.

          Imagine if we had stopped everything and waited for the PRT revolution to revolutionise?

        8. I’d say RRR would have a significant advantage over cars (AV or not) between Hamilton and Tauranga as there is an existing rail tunnel that can be utilised.

          Groups of friends car share now when they go away for a road trip, this is another one where I can’t see what difference an AV would make.

          While I can see how electric vehicles (AV or not) will make operating costs cheaper and AVs would reduce insurance costs, I suspect vehicle use in NZ must be reasonably close to saturation already. I doubt there are a huge number of people thinking they would use cars if they were cheaper to use that don’t already drive.

          I think it would be a huge gamble not investing in RRR and getting 20 years down the track and finding AVs are still a mirage and our roads are ever more crowded.

        9. “My problem is spending public money on infra that will last 50-100 years for a very high risk transport model that would not be financially viable and will require significant subsidy into the future.”

          So you don’t want us to spend any money on roads or rail until AVs are here? That’s utterly ridiculous. RRR can work for $100m, it can work amazingly for $1b. Let’s at least spend that first $100m because AVs aren’t going to be an option for at least ten years.

        10. “Lots of cars travel from Auckland to Hamilton/Tauranga right now. The AV will go from door to door”

          So replacing one car for another. What problem are you trying to solve? It obviously isnt vehicle congestion or travelling time.

    4. This mentality means nothing gets done; It’s the all elusive “high tech about to solve everything just around the corner invention” means we should just keep driving cars for now & building more roads.

      1. We shouldn’t build a fibre network because mobile data speeds will one day match it. We shouldn’t buy another MRI machine because it will be outdated in 10 years time. Etc.

  13. I believe it would prove a more popular option than taking the intercity or Mana bus. My return home from uni takes between 6-8 hours on a bus depending if we get stuck on the southern motorway. A Tauranga train would offer more consistent travel times. There are many uni students in similar positions. Let’s make this happen

    1. @ Malcolm. Yep, I was at uni in England many years ago. Always travelled to and fro by train. It was great.

      1. When I was at uni I wouldn’t fork out $100 plus for a train if I could get a $20 bus and 4 dozen beer for the same price! Times have changed.

        1. It wasn’t $100+ “Scenic Trains” when I was in England, but real trains for ordinary people. People wishing to get from A to B, and saver-fares which could be quite reasonable.

          Just like we could and should have here, except that some Kiwis just can’t envision it.

  14. The fundamental flaw in your proposal is that you want a very large spend up for something that will be a trial. A trial, by its very nature, is to test whether something is viable before commiting to a large spend up.

    Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga is currently very well served by frequent, commercially viable buses and planes, none of which require a subsidy, and from cars on the new expressway which also operate with a 100% “farebox recovery”. Your proposal seeks to take people away from these commercially viable modes and put them into one that will require a very large up front spend, followed by permanent subsidies.

    You need to be able to explain and financially justify the proposal in order to convince the government and public at large, not to mention the operators of the commercially viable transport that already exists, to get a really good quality trial put in place. To date, nobody appears to have done this.

    As it stands, we may get a couple of SA sets refurbished, and a handful of services put on each day. But they will be very expensive to operate, and the subsidy won’t survive the next change of government. To avoid that, you (or someone) is going to have to come up with a more convincing argument for why such large sums should be spent to take people away from cars, buses and planes that don’t require subsidy, and put them into trains that do. That should be the highest priority item in your “let’s get it right” approach.

    1. Geoff read the post. Not a trial. We want the reverse of a trial. A commitment.

      A cut-price infrequent half-arsed service will not work. I’m sure you remember how that went with the West to South trial? Who would change their travel habits based on such a poor offer? That’s right. No one did.

    2. The Auckland rail network survived an initial development period where farebox recovery was as low as 20 % despite a change of government, no reason RRR wouldn’t survive the initial development stages as well.

      Labour governments traditionally make the changes in NZ and National governments tend to just tinker around the edges with the status quo. I don’t think any government would successfully campaign on cancelling rail projects in the future.

      RRR is a step-change in land transport, it offers the only realistic possibility of 160kmh land transport in the most populated part of the country. It also does it using a rail network that largely already exists.

  15. No one knows anything about trains or public transport and all comments are bad ideas and don’t work only one train and I seen how it works and nothing like this in million of years and all stops

        1. You may want to check out the comments in the original Regional Rapid Rail post – I’m pretty sure Blair isn’t being sarcastic, but is just very enthusiastic about the idea, and has a very particular way of communicating (at a glance it may be sign language or something similar).

          My favourite comment in that post, whether from Blair or others: “its like the train be the winning loto ticket but every one wins”

  16. My concern is that waiting too long risks National getting back into power and throwing RRR out the door. It will be much harder for them to do that if it is up and running.

  17. National don’t like rail for public transport so they want more traffic every where and more chance of running out off gas faster and higher prices and things been cheaper be cost lots more u can’t get to a to b with out rail and busses gets stuck in traffic like every one else if it was running it will make every thing easy if out the door it be so much header and less public transport opinions but if it runs and Prof them wrong

  18. There are two major issues here before things like rolling stock or new alignments:

    – Suburban capacity

    – Journey times (on existing route)

    They’re intertwined a lot. The third and fourth lines are essential for both. Once trains are reliable and able to get out of Auckland quicker, the demand will grow.

    This is NZ, there is never a big bang. It will be furtive, need to prove itself and investment will be staged/staggered. The Silver Ferns are toast. A loco consist makes more sense for now – but good DEMUs (source a fleet alongside some for Wellington) – are needed.

    Enabling limited stop services (and increased freight capacity) – will make further investment more viable. It also needs to be quick. The amount of Waikato all-shacks stops is not what this needs for now. People will talk about the headline journey times to Hamilton and Tauranga, and switch mode through that. Service patterns and increases for local services should follow and augment.

    1. Never a Big Bang… except with urban motorways where we can spend a million dollars a metre. Or with rural highway upgrades where a billion dollar deviation is normal. Or with convention centres. Or stadiums. Or boat races.

      Funny how it’s totally acceptable to spend almost a billion dollars on a duplicate motorway from Puhoi to Warkworth, but spending half that to upgrade the business end of the NIMT and ECMT and run rapid trains all over it… nah can’t happen.

      1. I don’t disagree with you for one second, sadly.

        There is usually something behind most big PT investments like an Olympics everywhere though – road projects less so. The new government need to be bolder, kill some projects and reallocate funding.

        The stupidity is the freight benefits of 3/4th line, redoing the route to Tauranga etc benefit freight just as much. And thus motorists.

  19. For the regional rapid rail proposal to work, a fair amount of capital investment is going to be required such as building / rebuilding new stations at Hamilton Central, The Base, Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau.

    A regular frequent service needs to be run between Hamilton (Central) and Papakura and Newmarket initially using Silver Fern railcars which will need to be fully rebuilt to make them reliable and bring them up to a standard acceptable for 2018. Hopefully at the same time, the maximum speed of the railcars can be increased again from the current 100km/hr to 110km/hr, which will help give rail an edge with competitiveness with road travel times – which it already has on this route compared with coach services and congestion, particularly during holiday periods.

    More capacity could be created at Newmarket station to accommodate the new Waikato / Bay of Plenty services by having all Western line services stop at Parnell (coming in the next timetable change) and run direct between Parnell and Grafton with a new station being built again at Kingdon Street (Newmarket West). This system worked fine previously when Newmarket station was being rebuilt and now with the addition of Parnell Station, transfers between west and south trains could easily be made at Parnell station for those that don’t want to walk from Newmarket West.

    The Tauranga service needs to run right through to Mount Maunganui, with a particular emphasis on having Friday evening service from Auckland to Mount Maunganui and a Sunday afternoon service from Mount Maunganui to Auckland. Irn order for the Tauranga service to have the best chance of success, new stations need to be built right in the heart of the CBD area of Tauranga on Dive Crescent, where a platform could be built on the siding in this area (keeping the main line free for any passing freight trains):

    And right in the hear of the CBD area of Mount Maunganui on the corner of Totara Street and Rata Street where the old fire station is:,+Mount+Maunganui,+Tauranga+3116&ftid=0x6d6ddea2cb9852ff:0x1e43914786262f06&hl=en&gl=nz&shorturl=1

    For a regional train service like this to be a success this time, the mistakes of the previous Kaimai Express and Geyserland Express need to be learned with having appropriate decent stations in the right location where they are within easy walking distance of the CBDs (or a major shopping centre like The Base at Te Rapa) so that people will seriously consider using a train over using a car. The service needs to be well advertised and marketed as well so that people actually know about it.

    While the service is establishing itself the Government through KiwiRail, could work on refurbishing some of the former Auckland SA/SD carriages to later replace the railcars with and to run the Hamilton-Auckland service more frequently with, by purchasing the remaining surplus SA/SD carriages from AT for KiwiRail now before any more are sold potentially to overseas buyers, along with purchasing the ADL DMUs and fully rebuilding these as well. The remainder of the SA carriages could be used for establishing a new suburban service in Christchurch, while the ADL DMUs could be leased back to AT to continue running the Papakura-Pukekohe service while being progressively rebuilt, until full electrification is completed to Pukekohe in 5 years time. Once the electrification to Pukekohe is completed, the ADLs could be redeployed to start a new suburban rail service in Tauranga between Apata-Tauranga CBD-Mt Maunganui-Te Puke to provide Tauranga with an attractive public transport service which is not affected by congested roads.

      1. Newmarket is much closer to the CBD, is a major destination in itself and has a decent station with good local train and bus connections to most other parts of Auckland.

        1. You can still catch a train from Otahuhu to Newmarket, and it wouldn’t take much longer given a Hamilton service would be stuck behind suburban services anyway.

          I can’t see why you would mess around with the existing frequent suburban pattern at Newmarket for a small gain to a few trains from Hamilton.

        2. So what if Newmarket is closer to the CBD? If a Hamilton train stopped at New Market and Otahuhu, you would swap trains at Otahuhu to go to the CBD as it would be almost 5 minutes faster.

          Your pattern massively inconveniences a whole lot of people who transfer between the Western and Southern lines for almost no benefit to travelers on the Hamilton train.

        3. The existing suburban operating pattern is one of the reasons Newmarket station is so heavily congested. Re-routing Western Line services to run via the direct link will free up the station, removing the cumbersome process of the Train Drivers having to change ends at Newmarket, and enable a more reliable higher service frequency to operate on the Western Line.

          When Newmarket West station was in operation, it worked fine and is not far for people to walk from here into Newmarket (more convenient depending which end of Newmarket you are going to) or to the current Newmarket station. There is also Parnell station which now exists where connections to south trains can be made from Western Line trains (and vice versa).

          Once the line to Pukekohe is electrified, the proposed new direct Henderson-Otahuhu service should run Henderson-Pukekohe via Newmarket, with a connecting ADL diesel shuttle between Henderson and Huapai, which will provide a convenient rail service from one side of Auckland to the other via Newmarket.

          With making the above changes to the suburban operating pattern at Newmarket, Newmarket station would be well suited to accommodating existing and proposed new inter-regional trains – particularly if triple tracking were to occur between Westfield and Parnell in conjunction with quadruple tracking between Westfield and Papakura (which will be needed to accommodate the increase in freight traffic to be expected when the Marsden Point Branch line opens to NorthPort).

          Bringing inter-regional passengers / tourists into Newmarket makes more sense as Newmarket is much closer to the CBD and is a more fitting, appropriate terminal as an entry / departure point from New Zealand’s largest city – first impressions last. There are also more convenient local train and bus connections to more parts of Auckland from Newmarket.

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