Apologies It has been a long time since my last post. I have had a little trouble with my health and as a result had to move to Brisbane. I’m feeling slightly better now and hoping that I can get into the habit of writing again. Hopefully, this will be the one that gets me going again.

But enough about updating on me I know what you really want an update on is that integral piece of infrastructure we fought for last year; the third main. For those not familiar here is a good run down.

After a lack of news I decided the contact KiwiRail, unfortunately, the update isn’t very good:

Attributable to  KiwiRail Group General Manager – Investment, Planning and Risk David Gordon.

“The current situation is that KiwiRail had applied for funding  from the National Land Transport Fund to construct the Third Main.  We have been advised that at this time we will be funded to further develop the business case in order to make a further submission to the NLTF in the new calendar year for the full design and construct costs.

“At this stage we intend to have a revised submission to the NLTF for them to make a decision by the middle of calendar 2019.”

So the original business case must have either not been detailed enough or not done the NZTA way which will have its own business case process to access the transitional rail funding bank as part of the recent Government Policy Statement.

As a result of all this red tape, it will not be funded this year and will have to wait till the middle of next year for a decision to proceed. Even then after that we still have to go through all the procurement and consenting processes let alone the time actually building the main.

At least, however, the NZTA are funding the updated business case itself.

It seems we have a long wait yet for the third main.

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79 comments

    1. My understanding is that the third main from Westfield to Wiri is intended to be primarily used for freight movements. Is there a particular task that the fourth main is intended for?

      I wonder if we might get better value for money grade separating Westfield Junction rather than building the fourth main right now.

      1. A fourth main would allow use of the line for express or regional services as well as additional freight. Not necessary right now exactly but it will be cheaper to do it all at once than staging it.

  1. Thanks for the update, even though it’s not the best news at least it’s good to know where things are at.

    Great to have you back posting, looking forward to reading some more.

  2. I wonder whether NZ will ever embrace rail.

    Next year we are going to Salzburg, Austria and then travelling by train to Milan. We are travelling from a city of 150, 000 people to one of 1.35 million. Does that sound like the difference in size between Hamilton and Auckland? Milan though is 9 hours away from Salzburg. Despite this we have the choice of 19 different trains to make the journey to Milan. How many passenger trains from Hamilton to Auckland?

        1. I agree, the bulk of people will be going end to end, on their local trains that serve towns inbetween Salzburg and Milan, and anyone travelling Salzburg to Milan can piggy back on this demand, something simply not possible given the population of the towns between Auckland and Hamilton

          Given that there is only one direct service per day (an overnight sleeper – highly recommended), and most services involve 2,3 or 4 changes, the bulk of passengers certainly will not be travelling end to end from Salzburg to Milan

    1. Don’t disagree with the sentiment, but your population figures seem to be based on arbitary council definitions.

      More appropriately, Saltzburg province is about the same size as Auckland region, but with half a million people. Greater Milan is actually Italy’s largest urban area with almost 8 million residents.

  3. Dan C. I guess we come from different viewpoints. Europe has embraced trains because of their efficiency and reduced environmental impact amongst other things and NZ thinks driving is the way.
    The total population of Austria is only 8 million

    1. Austria has 8.7 million people in an area less than 1/3 the size of NZ it is also surrounded by other countries and will pick up a significant number of passengers through this.

      While I agree NZ could do a lot better with rail than it currently does, the comparison between the two countries is not really valid.

    2. It easier to embrace trains when you have 450 million people living on the train network.

      There’s also 153 services connecting Milan and Salzburg by plane. Should we be aiming for that between Auckland and Wellington?

      I love trains, use them regularly in Europe and have travelled halfway around the world on them twice, but you have to be realistic in your expectations and comparisons to the NZ context.

      In Japan a bullet train would do the distance from Auckland to Hamilton in 20 minutes, sounds great eh? But who’s going to pay for that sort of investment here? It would starve all other transport projects of any funding for decades.

  4. For work I have to drive at times, I find the difference between traffic on the north shore the “south shore” to be incredible, and I put it entirely down to rail. The fact that North of the bridge they only have the NEX, means so many more cars. The reality is that we don’t need to be talking about Light Rail to the airport, and third maining, we need to be talking about Light Rail to the airport, to Massey, third and fourth maining, Avondale to Southdown rail link, moving major port operations to Northport, hydrogen freight trains, rapid/frequent passenger rail to Hamilton and Tauranga and banning the derogatory terminology used by some National partiers when they refer to “trolleybuses” (this seems to be the “best” tactic they have devised in opposition). The unhelpful pushes for waterfront stadiums, port extensions and waterfront carparks need to be shelved and we need to concentrate on the trains. People who disagree clearly need to spend more time on trains! I am entirely off topic I know, but there is not enough commentary around on the full picture train development plan.

    1. Matthew Thorne makes sense. Auckland Council and their CCOs should be getting the essentials right and getting on with it. Transport is the key. Money already spent on proposals for stadium, port extensions and waterfront carparks is wasted.

      1. I’d agree except I’d add in Placemaking as the other key to repairing the places ruined by transport – eg Nelson and Hobson Sts and all the car-dominated roads and at-grade carparks throughout the city centre. What’s important is that placemaking doesn’t just fit in the gaps left after the transport solutions have been found, but actually leads the changes and sets the limits around the transport infrastructure.

    1. The government needs to stand on some toes and get this project moving ASAP, the benefits are so numerous and obvious it’s beyond belief that it should be delayed again, for years!!

  5. Great to see you back at it Harriet.
    Hopefully you can get us all the good transport goss and analysis from there as well.

    Once you get a moment to get to the Gold Coast, make sure you try out the G – that’s the light rail.

    Since it’s so successful there are plans to get it southwards to the airport, which would be a fair old stretch.

    Those Australian system benchmarks are just getting more and more important and hence to the construction community.

  6. Yay, great to hear from you, Harriet. Return of the supersleuth! I hope your health is better. And looking forward to more articles.

  7. Has anyone researched property transactions along probable third and fourth main routes prior to release of the unredacted business case? I was sure I’d be called a conspiracy theorist if I brought it up before, but I’ll risk that now because the sales data should all be available. Not something I have time for, but I was wondering if anyone else had followed this? Quite happy to hear that the idea is nonsense, but the rumours did have a pretty strong source.

    1. OIA LINZ if you have a specific target. Otherwise a friendly real estate agent can export from the shared database. Should really be open access data.

  8. Well what a surprise (not). All the 2017 BS from then transport minister trying to suppress the business case for the 3rd and 4th mains and here we are end 2018, yet not an iota of progress.
    Having traversed the NM to Puke rail route hundreds of times this last 2 years, the short bits of extant 3rd main, esp south of the emu depot and up to Puhinui are just left to rust. Yet it would be so trivial to complete a long loop from just above Homai to just past Puhinui.
    I can’t help thinking that KR has exaggerated the need for the 3rd main since existing 2 mains appear to be easily coping with all current AM emu traffic, all freight trains including to POA inland terminal and NIMT up and down, plus all transfers of dmus between Pukekohe and Westfield depot. Other odd traffic such as the track maintenance machines also fit in.
    In fact, spending some many periods of hours at Puhinui there are many quiet periods where additional trains could be slotted in. Perhaps just more shorter blocks with additional signalling although what there is looks more than sufficient.
    I’d even say that the few proposed regional rail trains would likely easily fit in too, if they were terminated at the extant 3rd main at Puhinui station (and a platform to west side was built).
    Anyway, disappointing lack of progress, but then maybe the 3rd will not be needed until after the CRL is done. The motorways must be coping too with freight movements.
    Good to have you back Harriet and I hope you get time to continue to enlighten us.

    1. The lack of a 3rd main is the reason that we still don’t have 15 min frequencies off-peak and why the window for 10 min frequencies is smaller on the Southern and Eastern lines than it is on the Western line.

      The 3rd main is definitely needed to have the desired train frequencies.

      1. I don’t disagree with what you say but still can’t help thinking that if there was any urgency to get SandE 15min off peak frequency + wider 10min freq window AND it depended on having a 3rd main THEN urgency would have been given to sorting out the 3rd main.
        That’s not happening so Qed 3rd main is not yet needed.
        Wasn’t there a need for more AM sets to implement higher frequencies hence the tranche due for delivery 2019? Or was that just to make all trains 6 cars?

        1. It is urgent but it’s mired in bureaucratic nonsense. You’ve got to remember the previous government was deeply opposed to any rail development and the same organisational structure is still mostly in place, Project DART should have been an ongoing program, the Auckland rail network is still well below the standard of a modern commuter rail system.

          1. Agree the state of the track is poor. Bolted joints, rock and roll ride, crumbling ballast over soft spots. Track bounces up and down 50mm at Takaanini Station when a goods train rumbles through. Have KR lost their expertise after being treated as a cash cow?

        2. Yes, the additional sets are to have all units except Onehunga run as 6-car units.

          This issue in the past with the third main has been funding – Kiwirail don’t really have the cash for capital improvements like that, now there is a funding channel, but it appears to be going through this very slowly.

  9. Just too much bureaucratic and red tapes

    That’s why privatization is more efficient.

    If kiwi rail are granted land development rights near the station, we may have a better outcome.

    1. No we won’t they will simply sell the land off to some developer for pocket change.
      And we lose the ability to control the outcomes even more so than now.

      And no, desptie your endless calls for it.
      Privatisation is not always the best solution to any [or particularly this] problem.
      Nor is privatisation always more efficient – Kiwirail got into the mess it’s in now precisely because of prior governments privatisation of the rail system (tracks and all). And it was driven into the ground by the private owners.

      Same government also forced all councils throughout NZ to get out of the provision of PT services so they all had to sell their bus operations for a song to private operators.

      Hence the mess of crappy PT services and “hands off” approach to PT we have to suffer through for the last 20+ years. it will take 5-10 more years to get it back to where it was, let alone make it any better.

      Hows that demonstrating the “always the better outcome, when privatised” BS you spout?

      1. 100++
        Problem is most people now are too young to know anything but the current way things are “meant” to be run. The idea that a public service could be run for the benefit of the public without a private provider clipping the ticket isn’t even on their radar.

    2. “Kelvin” remember what happened the last time KR was privatized they sucked what little money out of it and Helen Clark bought back what was left of it . So blame the Yanks and Aussie for ruining it and Douglas for selling it .

  10. I’m in Beijing at present and have discovered that the city is upgrading bus routes from diesel to electric-battery trolley bus routes. This is to cut down on the pollution from diesel engines. Watched some trolley buses switch from and to overhead electric at a couple of bus stops.

      1. Whereas in Wellington, capital of clean, green NZ, they have replaced electric trolley buses with diesel buses as they don’t care about the pollution from diesel engines.

        1. The media should report that when this plan is happening and have people pressure the politicians.

          Either the media is incompetent or there is a lack of transparency.

          1. Another glib comment.

            The media did report, the people did pressure and the politicians still did it anyway.
            sometimes politicians don’t listen. Does that make the people, and the press victims or culprits?

            Didn’t help that the trolley bus operator and the provider of the overhead wires were not the same outfit and one didn’t want to maintain the wires and other infrastructure as it cost too much – the other wanted to carry on using it.

          2. Greg
            In that case the media should follow up with the consequence of that bad decision, and the voter for the next election should punish the politicians.

          3. Greg N: both the trolleybus operator (NZ Bus) and the overhead wires provider (Wellington Cable Car) would have been happy to see the trolleybuses continue. It was the the owner of the power supply (Wellington Electricity) and the funder (GWRC) that literally pulled the plug.

  11. More bureaucratic nonsense. More money wasted on reports etc. The only additional report that could possibly be needed would be to make a case for the 4th main. The 3rd should already be under construction as all 3 parties in the new government said yes to the 3rd. IIRC Julie-Ann Gentner was a big advocate for this and as associate transport minister should be all over this. Haven’t heard a peep from her except for riding a bike while pregnant and pushing some other women’s issues.

          1. Well I’d imagine so. And also that when she returns from parental leave she’ll have even more motivation to make good strategic decisions to bring long-term improvements to our transport networks. If you have any questions you could always ask the acting associate minister of transport who is filling in, or one of the other transport ministers.

            If you think our system should be set up so that MPs can’t live real lives, you might like to think about whether that would bring a good diversity of opinion and experience to parliament.

          2. Steady there Heidi, lower the flame gun.
            Thats a whole nuther debate on MPs living real lifes. Despite procreative necessities the associate transport minister should follow up on this third main delay when opportune, hopefully asap.
            The real issue here is NZTA lack of enthusiasm to progress any non road mode. I still remember that senior NZTA manager who enjoyed the smell of fresh hot asphalt when constructing a new highway.

          3. It was just a pair of secateurs. The flame gun is still in the workshop, next to the scythe.

            Indeed. And others in the industry. The image of the cock-a-hoop transport engineers leading the walk along the new Newmarket viaduct remains vivid in my memory. So happy with themselves, while I was surveying the decades-long place ruination the original one had caused, the car yards, gas station, carparks, illegally parked car transporters…

  12. I don’t see any signs that Kiwirail is prepared to carry any time sensitive freight into and out of Auckland which is probably the most important market that there is for it to compete in if it really wants to take it too the trucking competition. So a third main is not necessary for freight as non time sensitive freight can go out in the middle of the night or be slotted into the present timetable.
    So its really up to the passenger market needs to justify the third main. I see the proposed Waikato trains wont even stop at Pokeno or Tuakau.Can’t work that one out. If they could terminate at Puhinui rather than Papakura and if they stopped at Te Kauwhata, Mercer, Pokeno and Tuakau and if they ran hourly throughout the day we might have a useful service. And it would increase the frequency of service between Puhinui and Papakura. So a third platform at Puhinui for Waikato train could do the job.
    Passengers at Papatoetoe and Middlemore already have ample services.
    Passengers north of Otahuhu could have short runners from Otahuhu to Britomart on the eastern line if there is enough space at Britomart and if increased frequncy are justified. There is already a third platform at Otahuhu almost ready to go and there could be another line on the eastern side which could ease congestion at the junction. .Penrose passengers can catch either Southern or Onehunga trains

      1. Well there are three tracks there and it is used by trains to wait for other trains which are coming through the single track line in the swamp. It is also the junction of the road to Port Waikato if I remember rightly. and it might be a good place for a Park and ride.It might be that some trains could turn around there as well because it will have the cross overs. Seems to me it would be a useful place to have a platform especially if something goes wrong and passengers needed to be transferred to road to complete there journey.

      1. Back in the early 1990’s there use to be a constant stream of trains running south in the early evenings. There were express and normal freights to Palmerston North and Wellington some with connection to the ferries. The Bay Raider ran to Roturua with road transport transfers to Gisborne and Hastings. A train ran to New Plymouth via the SOL. And they ran pretty much to the timetable. The idea was to get the freight to its destination for next day delivery. For a time there was another named train the 24 south which left at 12.00 pm and arrived in Christchurch 24 hours latter.
        It would be good to get back to that operating model but I am not sure that Kiwirail wants it and of course Roturua and the SOL lines are closed.. However If Kiwirail were to indicate that they were interested in handling time sensitive freight again and were prepared to operate road rail transfer depots at Kawerau, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti with road transfer to Gisborne, Hastings and New Plymouth I would be happy as a taxpayer for money to be spent on a 3rd or even a 4th main.But as it is even though Kiwirail is providing a useful service to the nation with its current operating model I don’t think we need to spend money expanding the capacity of the Southern .line. Another factor is there would need to more siding space in the freight depots to handle not just the increase in volume of freight but the fact that it will all need to be processed in a narrow window.

    1. With the recently announced upgrade to Puhinui station where it becomes an Auckland Airport gateway and transfer station it would be a perfect opportunity to terminate regional trains there instead of Papakura.
      This would require a new western platform for the existing 3rd main at Puhinui. Also if the missing sections around the emu depot were installed and the short section between existing 3rd south of the depot to the block entry nearer Homai (where points for 3rd main are already installed), then that would complete enough of the 3rd main to permit Regional trains to avoid the busy main lines of the Eastern line to Manakau and all the activity around the emu depot and inland port.
      The main advantage of running Regionals to Puhinui is then airport pax only have one change at Puhinui. Instead of changing to emu at Papakura then changing again to bus at Puhinui.

      1. Three good advantages to Puhinui, assuming a third track from Wiri:

        -Last place to stop before hitting the congested section with more than the southern line on it.
        -Allows transfer to both the southern and eastern lines for double frequency to the city centre, and options to get to Newmakret, Ellerslie, Sylvia Park etc.
        -Single transfer to Manukau, and soon the airport.

        1. Plus it’s 12 km closer to the centre of the city, so will be better for passengers, regardless of which mode they’re transferring to. Papakura is nuts as a terminal for the regional rail. It should be much more central, really. Any reason not to make it Onehunga?

          1. Papakura is not ideal but, absent an additional track through to wherever the preferred termination station is, it cannot overtake the EMUs so is limited to their mean speed (which is low given that they stop at every station).

            Wherever they terminate will require trackwork and signalling to enable these trains to be stabled during the day and crossover to the southbound track for the return journey. Papakura currently has provision for this for the Pukekohe shuttle and I am guessing that the assumption is that electrification to Pukekohe is in-situ by the time these trains are operational.

            My view is that the 3rd main and the Westfield flying junction should be built ASAP based on a guess that the rate of return ( asset utilisation, time savings, fuel efficiency, customer satisfaction etc) is much better than electrifying the remaining sections of the NIMT.

          2. I expect that the majority of passengers will be picked up at Pokeno and Tuakau and will not be traveling right into the CDB so in my view the trains should be all stops to Puhinui. Have a look on stuff apparently a decision is to be made quite soon by the Waikato regional council. We urgently need someone in govt who understands the issue to make the correct decision. Phil Tyford must be up to his eyeballs just dealing with housing.
            https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/108292102/hamilton-to-auckland-passenger-rail-service-takes-another-step-closer

          3. On reconsideration it probably should be hourly to at least Mercer which has the trackwork to reverse trains with say three or four returns daily to Hamilton. Think back to when they had the Silver Fern railcars running between Hamilton and Auckland in the 1990’s to the early 2000. It was the patronage they picked up from Pukekohe that filled the train. So when they dropped the Hamilton Auckland service they had to start up a Pukekohe Auckland service. Hopefully this time there will be sufficient patronage to continue the Hamilton service.

    2. It might not be time sensitive, but it’s not that simple to just move all the freight at night. It is much more cost effective to use rolling stock throughout the day, with a train say making two return trips between Tauranga and Auckland each day.

      That is why Kiwirail still move some freight trains during the peak. The third main is needed to allow for an increase in off-peak suburban frequencies.

      1. There is also the issue of the time at the other end of the journey. There is a train out of Auckland that is severely impacted by morning commuter traffic in Wellington if it is delayed.

        1. And freight trains out of Auckland have to connect with the ferries – miss one and it’s a long wait for the next.

          KiwiRail may not be targetting time-sensitive freight, but it certainly runs time-sensitive freight trains.

    3. Right now the HC & WRC are looking at getting 3 SD’s and 7 SA’s for this service with the 1st leaving at 6.00am and the 2nd at 6.40am from Hamilton and departing Papakura early evening . And if and when they finally double track the 14.5m across the swamp they might a start hourly service

      1. That’s an odd number of SA and SD, I assume two trains of one SD and three SA, leaving a spare SA and spare SD? What’s going to pull them? A DF locomotive? For a future hourly service they would need many more SDs and SAs

  13. The third main completed between Otahuhu and Middlemore a few years back to relieve a freight bottleneck seems to have kept KiwiRail happy for now.

  14. Welcome back Harriet. At least space is being left for 3rd and 4th mains when other improvements are being designed and built – e.g. the major upgrade to Puhinui Station now in the works. I see absolutely no urgency for the 4th main to actually be built any time soon but the right of way should definitely be established now. As to the third main this can be developed in multiple stages – initially creating a series of passing loops between pinch points such as over bridges that need to have extra spans added to allow for the 3rd and 4th mains. Although the delays are excruciating, completing the third main all the way is probably not required before the CRL is opened and frequencies increase dramatically.

  15. And if they can fill in part of the Whangamarino swamp with the spoil from the CRL as stated in this Stuff article dated Jun 18 2018

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/104646013/auckland-tunnel-waste-may-be-used-to-doubletrack-waikato-rail-line

    Then we can have double tracking almost all the way to Hamilton but if they do an engineers report on the piles north of Ngaruawhia [the previous use used to be a road rail bridge so they should be okay] then we will finally have a proper link all the way which should ease a lot of the freight problems and a proper Commuter service

  16. Any truth to the rumour that the third main has had to go back to the drawing board to have room made for the new policy of future proofing for nine carriage trains?

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