Though the website is down at the time of writing this article one of the more interesting transport policies of New Zealand First was creating a fund/grant etc. to help fund private rail sidings.

For those unfamiliar, a rail siding for the purposes of this post is basically track used for loading/unloading trains so, for example, a factory will have rail sidings connecting to the KiwiRail network where trains can access the factory and load/unload.

These type of funds are in use across Europe such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Switzerland, Austria and Germany have all established sophisticated grant programmes for private sidings. The Swiss Ministry of Transport began supporting the construction and refurbishment of private sidings in 1986, using money hypothecated from a petrol tax. Since then approximately €9m a year has been spent. In 1995 this model was taken up in Austria, where it has proved just as successful; 65 sidings were supported with €25m of grants in 1999 and 2000.

The fund helps fund new sidings or restore old ones. In exchange, the funded party has to meet certain targets such as moving x tonnage by rail or they face penalties potentially having to pay all the money back however while the programmes have been successful one of the reasons it is being held back is the complex application process, varying targets and penalties for non-compliance.

If we were to implement a programme here we should learn from this experience creating a streamlined simple process with a focus on rewards rather than punishment.

A similar system called the Freight Facilities Grant existed in the UK as well which as deemed successful until abolished by the Coalition Government in 2011, however a more general funding system called the Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme to move goods to water/rail now exists. Scotland and Wales kept their Freight Facilities Grant programmes going.

The system also exists partially in the US with many states offering grant schemes or tax credits, as well as Federal Railroad Administration’s Infrastructure Financing loan programme.

So looking at a Rail Siding Scheme might be a good way of creating mode shift to more sustainable modes to help us reach our environmental and economic goals especially considering how affordable these schemes look to be.

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54 comments

  1. Interesting! If a government coalition party are already in favour, maybe a small advocacy campaign is all they need to convince them to direct their energy into this.

  2. The same idea would be a fund provided for private companies that achieves certain social objectives set by the government.

    For example: public transport operators, design driven developer, job creator, social enterprise etc

    This would be more efficient than government driven programes that are poorly executed.

  3. Micheal Beard did a hatchet job on rail freight when he was CEO closing sidings up & down the country, handicapping competitiveness against linehaul trucks for generations while turning away customers that didnt fit his business model. Health & safety laws that made it ‘dangerous’ to shunt sidings resulted in further modal shift to more road freight on our roads shifting the danger to society in general.

    1. In stark comparison to 1953 when, according to Robin Bromby in his book ‘NZ railways’,

      “The 32 mile limit still applied, banning road operators moving any freight over that distance if a rail line existed over the same route.”

      I’m sure most of you knew that, but I didn’t. A simple law like this would keep us much safer on the roads and require investment in railways instead of roads; what a difference to our carbon emissions it would make, too.

      1. Not as much as you think, because every time I see a comment like this, it reminds me that most people think the roads should be reserved for cars. No car driver ever wants to have restrictions on being able to drive their car wherever, whenever. So they all hate trucks, but trucks per weight carried are considerably more efficient than a private car, and there are many places that rail lines don’t reach.

        1. I’m hardly coming at it from the point of view of someone who thinks my car driving rights are affected by trucks. I don’t have a car and I don’t think I have any rights to drive a car.

          My grandmother was killed by a truck, leaving children aged 3,4,6. One of my best friends, aged 22, was killed by a truck that crossed the centreline of a highway. I sat under a truck holding a young, poor, single mother, as she died, having been pulled under it on her bike.

          That’s the direction I’m coming from. The more freight we can get onto rail, the more lives will be saved. It is safer. Yes, land use patterns will be affected, and yes, transferral to truck will be required.

          Just a pity the land use patterns were ruined by underfunding of rail for so long. We could have an excellent network now.

  4. There where some bad accidents (deaths) in private sidings during the 1990’s because insufficient maintenance had being done because Tranz Link was basically bankrupt. Although the companies who were using the sidings were paying fees to the rail company for the sidings.
    However it is often just as cheap and efficient to have a truck turn up at the company premises and load freight then transfer it too rail as it is too send out a shunt locomotive to pick it up and bring it back to a central yard where it is shunted on to a train for line haul. But the fact remains once a company has loaded a truck it just seems easier too leave the freight on the truck rather than too transfer it on and off rail. And then there is the vagaries of rail to take into account as well because with road you can always ring up the driver to see where the freight is. Which is why we use road rather than rail.
    But if the proposed sidings make sense a little bit of funding will help Kiwirail compete against road. However there needs to be contracts because all it takes is for there to a manager who doesn’t want to use rail and then the whole thing is off. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be the manager it might be someone else in the organisation who doesn’t want to use rail because they are too disorganised to get the wagons loaded on time. I personally witnessed an office person who sabotaged a rail contract because she couldn’t handle the fact that the same container numbers kept turning up a few days apart because the wagons were in a loop. With the trucks the fact that the driver came in with the weighbridge dockets meant she had to deal with the deliveries as they happened but the rail wagons could be put aside to be dealt with at a later date but by then she had lost track as to what was happening. She somehow managed to persuade the management that it was the railways fault but it really wasn’t.
    But nobody has ever got fired for using road but I expect quite a few have being fired for using rail.
    So yes a good idea but it execution will take a lot of scrutiny because there are a lot of traps in using rail with timing and paper work. A truck will wait but a train can’t..

      1. New Zealand Rail hard to use for 150 years. Which is why Kiwirail is keen to have Mainfreight or Toll act as Middlemen. Then if something goes wrong they will simply truck the freight to the destination.

    1. The large freight forwarders have their own sidings and sheds and are using rail wherever they can. Essentially what you are referring to is a trucking company that does not use rail, that has every incentive to offer a deal to move the load the whole way by road instead of just running it into the rail yard.

      There is more to it than just sidings, namely that some types of freight require specialised dedicated wagons and loading facilities, and the business are always looking for some way to offload the costs onto someone else. They would regularly blackmail NZR to absorb these costs back in the day.

      1. Is there anything new about having a Japanese parent company holding such a large operation, given the Japanese rail experience – that was my interest in the article.

        1. More likely that the newly appointed Kiwirail Chairman was the previous CEO of Toll and reportedly has close relationships with NZ First. Not that I’m inferring that anything bad or inappropriate has taken place. Maybe goes to show that it’s good to have a coalition because they draw on a wider circle for ideas.
          NZ’s biggest Freight Forwarders or Consolidators, Mainfreight and Toll are significant users of rail. Kotahi / Fonterra spin off CODA is a fast growing user as well. It makes sense to use Rail, it’s easier to hitch a couple more wagons than it is to find and put another Linehaul Truck on the Road.
          Often wondered how easy or difficult it is to utilise rail in this context, severely restricts expansion opportunities to sites where a siding is possible.
          I’d guess that its only fair that private business is encouraged financially to hook up to the network.

          1. Yes, it seems the Toll employees have high hopes the different organisations might be able to work together productively with the new CEO having a strong understanding of how Toll operates.

      2. I see a lot of logs on trucks along marshland Rd. What the heck is wrong with setting up a loading facility at say rangiora.or even Belfast where the yard sidings are still in situ. It’s a crying shame we lost our rural branch lines.torn up and gone for ever.the sane. Thing has happened in the uk.lines closed many torn up and converted into cycle ways or (god forgive) turned into motor ways.I blame previous national governments for the destruction of the county’s decline in the rail network. And the road haulage limit.it should never have changed.

  5. I actually think it would be better to fund Warehousing and container packing facilities at strategic locations along the rail corridor. So companies would load freight straight off the production line onto to a truck which transfers it to the rail served warehouse where its is stored then packed into containers for on shipment when required. I don’t expect that Kiwirail see itself as a logistic company but maybe it should. Failing that it would be an opportunity for a smaller sized trucking company. Or maybe a a bigger sized company to have a multi site business. Government assistance to provide the necessary infer-structure could push things over the line. If the facilities were Kiwirail owned maybe operators could lease these facilities. So a local person gets a day job transferring freight between the factory and the packing facility rather than having a truckie working 70 hours a week doing line haul in the middle of the night. Much safer.

  6. Maximise unitised freight e.g. 10’, 20’ and 40’ containers and flat racks and then Kiwirail contract owner – driver Swinglift operators to load and unload rakes of wagons from simple economic sidings.

    1. Security becomes the problem unless the sidings can justify someone to watch over them 24 seven. At one stage there was 20 kgm blocks of cheese floating around on the black market. Also where will the trucks be based and stored will there be enough work or too much work for them on some days or will they have to travel long distances between jobs negating efficiency. It all gets a bit messy. For example one truck gets allocated to a particular job. The wagons arrive but there is not time to load them all before the shunt arrives to pick them up. The shunt doesn’t know that all the wagons haven’t being loaded and picks them up anyway. The consignment heads for its destination with some loaded containers and some unloaded containers. Now there are not enough containers to load the rest of the shipment. Everything descends into utter chaos and rail loses the job. .Of course that was back in the day before cell phones were invented maybe it would work better today but it would still be difficult without a zillion phone calls. In the end everybody including rail just gets sick of the vageries and gives up. That’s why we have the large centralised inland port with huge stacks of containers because it gets around these sorts of problems

        1. Except you need one gate for the road and one or maybe two for the rail and the costs mount and mount and the whole thing becomes uneconomic. Which is why this sort of operation doesn’t happen now except possibly for logs.

          1. Sounds to me like carbon emissions and contribution to car dependency should be taxed. Level up the playing field a little.

      1. if the customer hasnt finished loading the wagon there shouldnt be a waybill created yet & shunters shouldnt be pulling unwaybilled wagons so half loaded wagons should remain in the sidings (accruing demurrage fees).

        1. What if the rail company is late in delivering the empty wagons. And the office is shut because its after hours and the waybills were filled out before they left in anticipation of the wagons being loaded. Every version of this sort of confusion has played out a 100 times and there really isn’t any procedural process to counter it. And charging demurrage is just a quick way to loose the business. And its worse in the case of trucks delivering to rail side sidings because you have one more party to stuff things up.

          1. build the details into the contract. If rails late delivering, fine them, if the customers late loading,fine them.

  7. In the 1990s when national transport funding was administered by Transfund New Zealand, a grants facility was put in place to enable “Alternatives to Roading” (ATR) proposals to be encouraged. This was particularly aimed at assisting freight movers do things like install private rail-sidings, send freight by barge etc – i.e. schemes which could not be justified commercially by the companies proposing them, but which would none-the-less produce savings to the wider community by means such as reduced roading expenditure or reduced environmental/safety impacts.

    It is my understanding that the uptake of these grants was very low, partly because few in the freight sector back then had any vision for what ATR schemes could be worth applying for, and partly because those responsible for assessing applications for grants were lukewarm to the whole scheme and did not make it easy for applicants to be successful (my subjective impression only; I cannot cite a source).

    A couple of examples of ATR funding applications are studied here:
    https://www.transportationgroup.nz/papers/2004/07_Brennand_Walbran.pdf

    In 2004 Transfund NZ and the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) merged to become Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ), which later merged with Transit New Zealand to become the NZTA. At some stage amid these changes, the ATR grants scheme disappeared and NZTA funding for capital works became exclusively focussed on road funding (to support the then National Government’s highway-building habit).

    Hopefully if such a scheme was tried again now it would meet with greater success.

    1. There wasn’t a large uptake because a whole range of costs have to be factored in, and one of them is getting hold of enough wagons or the right kind of wagons. Fertiliser and logging traffic have been lost because of arguments over who would pay for specialised wagons for example. The invention of a coal container that can be moved by truck for part of its journey (road bridged) has been what has made it possible for Fonterra to move some of the coal their dairy factories need by rail. It would never have worked if they had had to use the special coal hopper wagons and unload them at a terminal and move the coal with a fleet of tip trucks to the customer.

      1. Always wondered why that couldn’t be done for fert.

        IIRC Hatuma was (is??) using containers for lime railed to Palmy from their CHB quarry site then trucked.

        1. There were containers for fert but I don’t think it is that economic. They had a high tare weight and could only carry about 12 tonnes so about the same as the LA wagons they replaced. And it takes ages to transfer them back and forth from the rail yards by the time they went on and off the weighbridge. And paperwork was always a problem because we would have a different driver turning up to do the job every time so they would require constant supervision.
          Meanwhile the road truck and trailers were carting up to 28 tonnes and the drivers handled the paperwork. Today I suppose the truck and trailers would be carrying closer to 40 tonnes still if Kiwirail wanted too I am sure they could design better containers. Maybe 24 footers with a lower center of gravity.

          1. Every time a new driver would turn up I used to have to go out to the intake and show them how to trip the tailgate to discharge the product. There was a pool of drivers so you would never know who you were going to get and some of the containers were different which caused problems too. So there are reasons why no fertiliser is delivered by rail.

    2. when coke opened a new building in palmy in the early 2000s it was built with rails into the loading bay but never connected to the mainline as nobody wanted to pay for it.

  8. The two main issues holding companies back from building private sidings, aside from the cost, is firstly the safety compliance regime they must meet. It’s complicated, and expensive. And secondly, KiwiRail charges a “shunting fee” that is so high it cancels out any benefit of actually using rail.

    ContainerCo recently opened a new container yard in Napier right beside the railway, having chosen the site especially for its rail access. It actually has the siding in place, but went they went to agree on a contract with KiwiRail, the shunting fee suddenly tripled from what they had previously been led to believe it would be. As a result, they didn’t proceed with using rail.

    What we really need is an open access network, with other rail companies using it. Other players will go after private siding traffic with good deals, and the competition would certainly pull KiwiRail into line as well.

  9. If I was entering into a contract for a siding with the type of penalty desribed I’d want to be sure the rail freight costs weren’t going to snowball. Providing this certainty is a problem.

  10. Does anyone have info on the proposed Remuera siding, I assume somewhere on the NAL between Newmarket and Remuera/Greenland stations. Is this a siding for some freight customer or for some other purpose?

  11. Last year I was at a presentation by then KiwiRail Group General Manager Operations Rob McAlpine. He said that KiwiRail was trying to get customers away from using rail shunts and instead use trucks to container hubs. KiwiRail even offered to place a container wagon on loading bays, so that containers could be loaded there. A truck would then pick the containers up and move them to the container terminal. However, customers, such as freezing works did not like the idea and preferred the containers to be shunted into sidings on rail waggons.
    If KiwiRail continues that policy, building sidings makes no sense. If it changes its tune and uses shunts efficiently, then they can be a good way of getting freight on rail.
    Rob McAlpine now works for Queensland Rail.

    1. If you went back through time there were probably dozens. But before the branch was closed prior to it being reopened there was Owens and Winstone wallboards. Although the wallboards had not being used for some time. Of course freight was shunted on and off the wharf but that had being stopped before I came to Auckland in the mid 1990’s. Earlier of course Mt Smart stadium hadn’t grown up and was still a quarry which had is own railway. You can still see where it went. A funny story I heard was that a rake of wagon was in the siding. They used a farm tractor and a strop to move the wagons past the loading point. So the tractor was on the far end and the shunt came along hooked on to the other end and trundled out to the junction with the Onehunga branch with the tractor still attached bouncing along behind on the sleeper.

      1. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!. . . . .

        Unfortunately that sort of thing attracts the attention of the safety-police.

        Must have been before the days of fully-braked wagon-consists, because today the far-end of the consist would need to be checked for brake-continuity before moving off. One hopes the person doing this would have observed a tractor attached!

        1. Its only a story and old guy told me many years ago so I can’t vouch for its accuracy.And yes the safety Nazis would be marching everyone of to the concentration camps if it happened today.

          1. Well we can’t afford to go to Pol Pot about it otherwise billions will starve but yes a shift away from mineral fertilisers would be good. I am still thinking about large scale composting and bio char manufacturing facilities as an alternative. But then you have still have a transport problem. And then there’s phosphate rock, lime and dolomite which won’t be so hard on the soil or the environment as water soluble fertilisers but will still boost pasture growth.

          1. Thanks great video I can almost smell the superphospate made me feel quite nostalgic. But I use organic techniques now in my garden and I am getting good results. Note that there is fertiliser all over the place. Typical of the fertiliser works and stores.

          2. Thank you Royce for bringing that up. We don’t need to figure out how to transport fertiliser because it’s a product we should stop using. There’s too much knowledge available about how to improve our farming techniques for us to continue with such a mad exploitation of our ecological base.

          3. Well we can’t afford to go to Pol Pot about it otherwise billions will starve but yes a shift away from mineral fertilisers would be good. I am still thinking about large scale composting and bio char manufacturing facilities as an alternative. But then you have still have a transport problem. And then there’s phosphate rock, lime and dolomite which won’t be so hard on the soil or the environment as water soluble fertilisers but will still boost pasture growth.

          4. We’re more likely to have a shift away from it if people would realise that the use of chemical fertilisers ruins soil and, together with ploughing, is losing soil at such a rate that it is not only the fastest path to starvation for billions, but also a major contributor to climate change.

            True fertility comes from the life in the soil, and chemical fertilisers don’t help tend that at all.

  12. Stuff them for not rebuilding the line back down to the wharf. Now we will have to wait 10 years for the light rail or maybe for ever to see rails heading across the harbour.

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