Last Friday the NZTA Board approved funding to progress a rail service between Hamilton and Auckland (well, Papakura).

Here’s the Minister’s announcement:

The NZ Transport Agency Board has approved a business case for the next steps in a start-up trial Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced today.

Phil Twyford said approval of the business case is an exciting step towards the planned roll out of a five-year trial service to begin in March 2020.

“We know more and more people are commuting between Hamilton and Auckland, and introducing this trial service will give them a choice in how they do that,” Phil Twyford said.

The business case allows for the fit-out of rolling stock and the detailed design of infrastructure. The total cost of the five year trial, including the service operated by KiwiRail, is estimated at $78.2 million, including $68.4 million from the NZ Transport Agency and $9.8 million from local authorities.

“The Government is committed to investing close to $4 billion in public transport, rapid transit and metro rail across New Zealand. This trial service will demonstrate how investing in public transport can help manage growth and shape our towns and cities.

“It would stop in Hamilton at Frankton and The Base in Rotokauri before going onto Huntly and finally stopping in Papakura in Auckland, where passengers can change onto the Auckland Public Transport Network. Future stops may include, Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau.

“A new station including a platform and Park & Ride parking area will be created as part of the Rotokauri rail stop and the Huntly platform will need to be upgraded.

“The service would start with a four-carriage train which can carry 150 passengers each way. As demand grows, it would be expanded to a five-carriage train carrying up to 200 passengers,” Phil Twyford said.

NZTA will now work with local councils and KiwiRail to develop a pre-implementation plan in early 2019.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this proposal. On the one hand, much of the current impetuous for this service came out of our Regional Rapid Rail proposal last year. But on the other hand, this start-up service really isn’t very good. There are just two trains northbound in the morning and two trains southbound in the evening – and despite only stopping in four places between Hamilton and Papakura, passengers still face a total travel time of nearly two and a half hours each way!

In December last year Harriet laid out several key points in relation to making sure we got inter-city rail right. They’re worth quoting at length:

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

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.

The start-up service unfortunately does fall into a lot of these traps. It is only just about commuters, there aren’t any counterpeak services to get people from Auckland to Hamilton, the initial phase doesn’t integrate with Puhinui and it does seem rushed. The big impact of this rushing is that the trains can’t go north of Papakura, pushing people into having to make a transfer onto all-stopping local trains to continue their journey.

All that said, it is also quite exciting to see a first, tentative, step towards the vision we laid out in our Regional Rapid Rail proposal. Furthermore, it seems that this first step is definitely the hardest – and it will potentially be quite easy to make significant further service improvements if there’s a strong commitment to ongoing improvements. Not after the ‘trial’ is completed, but regular improvements to run more trains and invest in the corridor to deliver ongoing incremental improvements – while we plan for a more comprehensive, fast, inter-city service.

The business case gives us some good hints about where to start with further improving on the service. Here’s a summary of the operational costs:

Of the total operating costs of around $7 million a year, about $3.5 million a year is for service delivery and the rest on maintenance and overheads. This means that for another $3.5m a year they could at least double the service levels (off-peak). In other words, for the six year trial it seems we are spending $76 million and getting a pretty bare minimum train service. A good first step would be to keep those trains running throughout the day, spend $96 million and get a far more viable product. In other words, spend a quarter more for two to three times the train service.

Then we should start to look at track improvements. The third main should be completed in the next 3-4 years, as will at least the first stage of the Puhinui interchange. This means, hopefully, that we might be able to run the trains right through to Otahuhu. Some investment in the rail network south of Pukekohe to shave off extra travel time, plus opening up a train station in the heart of Hamilton, and we’re well on the way towards something that might actually be attractive.

I just hope that a pretty poor initial service doesn’t undermine this initiative in the long run as there will be plenty out there looking for any excuse to stop it. It seems to me that ensuring ongoing improvements are made throughout the trial period and that they are clearly advertised is key to minimising this risk.

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  1. On the upside there’s a LOT of room for incremental improvements over the five years the ‘trial’ is committed to operating.

    Any rail buffs know where Kiwirail is at with duplicating the NIMT across the Whangamarino Wetland and other improvements along that route?

    1. The BCR of fixing/bypassing the Whangamarino swamp section must surely be well above most competing road projects, 15km or so of slow, single track on one of the busiest rail lines in NZ with many, many freight trains. With that fixed and a few other minor realignments between Rangiriri and Te Kauwhata, it should be possible for modern DMUs/EMUs to maintain 120-130km/h the whole way from Huntly to Meremere.

      1. Yes one of many smallish projects that could be done to improve freight (& passenger) services in NZ for a small outlay compared to some of these roading projects. In saying that I think the momentum is building for even a slight pendulum shift.

    2. And in recent memory the system that was almost closed down now carries upwards of 20,000,000 passengers a year .
      And that started by an almost closed down system until someone decided to get these DMU’s from Aussie , upgrade them and put them to use , then they got a few more and some carriages from England which looked so rundown they should have ended up at Pacific steel but they then altered and got them running and the people flocked to use them .
      The next stage that helped was laying a “small” length of track from Newmarket to Swanson and now we have the busiest system in the country , and since 2014 it works better than it ever did . So with these nay sayer’s get head out of the sand and help the country produce a great regional system instead of complaining it’s going to cost mega $$$’s . We have the around 50-60 Carriages in Taumarunui that are waiting to be upgraded/used for these services so spend the money on them and put them on the run then these motorist’s that see them heading Nth/Sth might use them also .
      I know Waimarino needs double tracking and the river at Ngaruawahia needs to be doubled the piles from the old road/rail bridge are still standing and all it would take is to they the new infrastructure over the top and then we may have reasonable double track all the way . that to start will be the quickest way the we can start to worry about Electrification of the final section .
      And if they decide to move the track from Waimarino keep that section for freight and use only the new for passenger services which then make the run faster to Auckland without interference from the slow services .

      1. Imagine if those DMU’s had only gone into the city in the AM and back to Swanson/Papakura in the PM with no services during the day…

        1. Except, Bryce P, the train to Waitakere was the all stop service serving the whole western line, which was the last western line service for the day.

        1. And with this new service at least they are giving it a minimum of 5 years where as the Swanson to Helensville service 12mths the original Hamilton/Auckland around 2yrs or was the trip the otherway around which was stupid to start with . People don’t realise that it is like if you are starting up a new business it takes time , money and a lot oe effort to get it off the ground i.e. a minimum of 3yrs just to get the customer base and you must advertise properly to get the base and if you don’t what happens no-one will walk in the door and the doomsayers will then say they were right [it’s a flop] and that happened previously .

          And with this product expose it to everyone out there and show them it’s a better service than what they have now , and what will happen in the future . Like what Airlines do months before they add a new plane to their fleet they show the market this is the better of what we have now to draw in a new customer away from the opposition

          And keep the Bean counters away from it or we won’t have nothing

          And you have to spend money to make money even if you run a lose for a while

    3. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

      There’s a LOT of room for incremental improvements in dwell time over the four years the electric trains have been operating in Auckland. These changes are far simpler than building whole new inner city stations and new deviations, yet what improvements have we seen?

      1. Sadly, this is a very good point. Between dwells/doors, and driving style – easily 5 mins could come off each line I’m sure. It’s barely happened.

        Would benefit this too, of course.

        1. this is a report dated 2011 about the Hamilton – Auckland service it shows the Dwell times for the Auckland part of the journey and they are shorter here than what we have now – page 10

          To ensure that sufficient time is provided
          i for passengers to safely board/ alight, a
          typical dwell time allowance for a railcar is 2 minutes. The station dwell time allowance
          for an Auckland MAXX service is 30 seconds

          and there are different departure times which seem better than this new service – page 7

          and here is the full report dated Friday 12 August 2011

  2. Commuters are going to be comparing their rail trip against their road trip:
    Timewise – do they spend over two hours driving each way every day at present?
    Costwise – will it be less than the cost of petrol for the trip?
    Quality wise – will the trip be an experience that is more pleasant than sitting alone in a car with the radio on?

    If rail doesn’t beat road on at least 2 out of 3 of those metrics, it’ll fail.

        1. Yes ok, let me rephrase that: the market is not all or even mostly commuters and the scheduling should reflect that.

      1. Yep, I have read the post – but if you are offering a service that has trains in the morning and evening only, it seems pretty clear that they are in fact targeting commuters. And in the end, everything comes down to Time, Cost and Quality. Any service will win if you can beat the opposition on all 3. Any service is likely to lose if you only have 1 out of 3.

        I actually have to make this trip soon, from Hamilton to Auckland, in Feb 2019. I don’t think I can fly. I’m not going to bike it. I could possibly grab a bus, or I could hire a car. If i had to do this every day, I’d have to weigh up my options – what is best for me? I would seriously love to take the train, even if it involves a transfer in Papakura – but the transfer would need to be seamless. No 20 minute wait for the next train. No standing in the rain on a wind-swept platform wondering if // when the next train might arrive. I’d want WiFi freely available on the train, so I could keep working, and I’d want a seat guaranteed, so I wouldn’t have to stand the whole way.

        I’m just hoping they have thought this through, fully.

        1. If there isn’t a guaranteed seat on these Hamilton services then they will have been a roaring success and I’ve no doubt service improvements would be made.

        2. Jezza – absolutely, yes – I hope that the service is so jam packed with commuters that they have to put on extra carriages and run extra services – but I wouldn’t want to stand for two hours. At least with your own car, you are guaranteed a seat….

    1. Train should win on comfort, as you will be able to walk around and do work or watch movies on the service.

      The business case says the time is competitive at peak hours.

      Cost really depends on whether you pay for parking, as well we wear and tear on your vehicle.

      1. Who gets up and walks round on a train?? I don’t, at most you might go to the toilet or get a coffee, but I would expect a coffee/snack cart so you don’t need to get up. On the other hand my car has much better seats than any train, it’s quiet, it has a excellent sound system and I wouldnt need to transfer from the station on another service to my ultimate destination.

        1. Can you operate your laptop while driving? Look at the passengers on a train or bus. What are they doing? Almost without exception they’re dozing or using a phone/laptop.

          What’s the bet more than a few commuters will simply sleep in their seats all the way to Auckland.

        2. Better seats than any train? Any NZ train perhaps but I very much doubt your car has better seats than the high speed trains in China – Mmmm. Very nice!

          As for walking around – Same as for aircraft, or working in an office – You shouldn’t stay seated for hours at a time.

      2. Fred, yes, I agree about the parking, but most people don’t factor the wear and tear in – if they have a car anyway – in fact they will have probably driven to Hamilton’s godforsaken desolate railway station anyway. The cost of taking the car is of course way higher than just the fuel cost, but who is factoring in their insurance costs and garaging when doing a quick calc to see if it is “worth’ taking the car or the train?

        Also agree that the ability to stand and move and go to the loo is a great plus – can’t do that easily in a car.

        1. There is also going to be a park and ride station at Te Rapa, so you won’t necessarily have to drive to the “godforsaken desolate railway station”. Which, incidentally, is only a 15 minute walk/6 min bike ride from the desolate Hamilton CDB.

        2. Yes often people pretty much just compare with petrol costs, until their car needs replacing, the drive belt done or all four tyres replaced etc.

  3. Yes my principle issue with the announcement is the use of the term ‘trial’. It’s thankfully not really that with five years funded, but rather a slow return to service in a way that, also slowly, re-builds capability and market, while waiting for the necessary track and station infrastructure to eventually become available.

    Then we can look at new intercity rolling stock and a much more frequent, faster, and better designed (city to city) service. I look forward to see planning for that ‘real’ future service as this interim one gets going.

    This kind of start is probably necessary in a situation where service was not just run down, as happened at every Australian city (and Wellington), but completely abandoned. Much easier to upgrade a run down service than to revive an entirely dead one.

    It is extremely minimal however, and therefore must have equally minimal ambitions for ridership.

  4. “Commuters on the train can expect to pay $12.20 one way to travel 88 minutes from Hamilton to Papakura.”

    I’m guessing there’s no farebox recovery for this? I suspect some Auckland PT users will be miffed at the cost; 14 cents per km vs. the 30 cents per km I’d pay to catch the train from to Britomart.

    1. So, it’s a winner for the commuter on the cost front then. Twelve bucks is a good price – less than the cost of petrol?

    2. Buttwizard
      Just because Aucklanders pay some of the highest public transport fares in the world is no reason to wish this for others.

        1. No, we cannot let this devolve into a Hamilton vs Auckland argument (which is unfortunately what some of the Waikato supporters have done). This should be seen as an opportunity to create a viable service that works both for Waikato to Auckland commuters but also for those in Auckland that may need to travel to Hamilton. Auckland has a population in excess of 1.7M. To set up a service that completely disregards that fact that some of these may wish to travel to Hamilton for business, or other reasons, is somewhat bizzare.

        2. And subsidised (HOP)fares on Auckland commuter trains once they xfer at Papakura? Yes, Auckland ratepayers have skin in the game on this as well.

    3. So that’s 30 cents per km for a service using modern EMUs which runs a 10 to 20 minute service from early in the morning to late at night seven days a week. Compared with an old diesel loco plus some old carriages running two services in each direction a day. With nothing on Sunday. See the difference.

    4. $12.20 fare cost
      max of 150 x 4 fares per day with all seats full
      assume 250 operating days per year (not running holidays or weekends)
      Total farebox $1,830,000 which is only about 25% of OPEX.

      While this sounds like a good idea, it looks quite expensive.

  5. Hamilton to Papakura in 88 minutes is too long. Should be a maximum of 75 minutes for that trip.
    2.5 hours from Hamilton to Britomart does seem like a very long time though! Although I have never driven that during peak times so would have no idea how long that journey would take.

    1. I drive it every week. Two and a quarter hours at peak is good, three hours is not unusual.

      The proposed service is around two and a half hours from Frankton to Britomart. From where I live in Hamilton to where I work in Auckland would be over three hours.

      I won’t be doing that daily.

        1. Fuel costs are affected by the degree of congestion. Say a bit over seven litres of diesel plus RUC’s.

          The big saving would come from not keeping a parking space in Auckland.

    2. I regularly do Paeroa to Britomart with a mode change from car to rail at Papakura. The distance is equivalent to Hamilton – Britomart (both 123km according to Google maps). The trip takes me 2.5 hours.

    3. The Southern Motorway is always jammed between Drury and Takanini with the road widening works. It’s a real nightmare, especially at peak times. The road works are supposed to be finished by the end of 2019 so the situation may be different when the new train service starts running.

  6. To me the fatal flaw is the stop in Papakura. Is there any good reason why the trains cannot continue from Hamilton all the way to Britomart or Newmarket? If the 3rd main line missing is the issue why can the trains not stop at Puhinui? Also no stop at Pukekohe. To me the train should have the following stops: Hamilton (Frankton), The Base, Huntly, Pukekohe, Pakakura, Puhuinui (if not Newmarket or Britomart).

    1. I’m guessing that the first trip from Hamilton to Papakura is on a diesel train, and then it changes to an Electric.

    2. There is no spare capacity between Westfield and Wiri. In theory they could run to Homai but that would require a new platform and track to be built only to become redundant in a few years when the third main is completed. Papakura already has the extra platforms.

      1. A low cost solution to get RR trains to Puhinui is to fill in the missing track sections of 3rd main from just north Homai to Puhinui. Just a couple hundred metres of track on already prepared trackbed. Even if complete W2W 3rd can’t be done by 2020 this section to Puhinui looks like a couple of months work. Although a Westside Puhinui platform would be very useful for RR too.

        1. That’s a good point. Hopefully that is the sort of improvement that can be introduced relatively quickly even if it is not in place by the opening in 2020.

        2. What happens when the train gets to Puhinui the extra track on the western side is currently used to get the AM sets in and out of the depot. I thought of bringing them in on the normal tracks and then reversing them out to Manukau station and storing them at Manukau station on the spare track which doesn’t seem to get used that often. Still what would I know there is probably a hundred reasons why that couldn’t be done if you have the wrong/right mindset. Someone can always think up a reason why something can’t be done.

        3. The track part is pretty easy, but the signalling and platform costs add a zero. What looks like incomplete sections are actually leftovers from the old alignment and will probably have to be removed, not simply joined up. It may take just as long as simply waiting for the third main and Puhinui interchange jobs to be finished in their own time.

        4. Those left over old alignment tracks are south of the PoA inland port and on eastern side of main tracks. They extend to long siding that curves away eastwards to some warehouses.
          The extant parts of 3rd main extend from just north of Homai on western side of main lines. These track sections and the prepared trackbed were laid when the Wiri EMU depot was built so are fairly recent. The south junction for 3rd main to main lines is all in situ and signals are there too. Just no platform west of 3rd at Puhinui and a signal needs moving at Puhinui as its right in middle of 3rd track.
          So, it should be relatively easy to complete 3rd main from just north of Homai to through Puhinui. That would make RR dropping pax at Puhinui very possible

    1. Yes there is…Only 50,000 people live along the 90km Wairarapa line yet they manage to have 5 return services a day including two counter services and they are all well patronised. In fact the 4:25pm service from Wellington now has 9 carriages because it had been overcrowding so much.

      1. The journey time for Wellington- Wairarapa is 1 hour 40 mins. The journey time for Hamilton to Britomart is about 2.5 hours, or 2 hours from Huntly. And involves a train change. Not quite comparing apples with apples.
        Love the theory, but not convinced on the reality.

        1. It depends a bit on how you look at it. If this is as good as it gets for Akl – Ham rail then I agree it doesn’t have much of a future. However, if you look at it as the beginning of a service that will only get quicker and better and make use of a very logical passenger rail corridor then I think it is a good decision.

          It’s worth remembering the shoestring improvements made to the Auckland suburban rail network in the 1990s. While the patronage numbers were tiny compared with what we have to day they were the beginning of much more significant investment in the network to improve services.

          I see this as the same situation with regional rail.

        2. Yeah. High speed would make the commute look better but I don’t fancy the economics of that. Like the notion of god, I would like to believe in it but can’t

        3. Doesn’t have to be high speed, there are lots of things that could be done to improve this route without tilt trains.

        4. High speed in the NZ context is 130-160km/hr, which is entirely achievable using the existing track guage.

        5. Driving over the Remutakas is also a less pleasant proposition than the road from Hamilton to Akl. Apples with kangaroos.

    2. Plenty of population growth has already happened on the Waikato-Auckland council necklace. Pokeno, Tuakau, Te Kauwhata have all experienced massive growth both residentially and commercially – all along the rail corridor. There is strong appetite out in the North Waikato area (Awaroa ki Tuakau ward for instance) for good public transport to the North, and connected active modes between the towns/villages. It’s rather the reason why Pokeno and Tuakau residents are a little miffed at missing out on a station so early in the piece. This proposal would be vastly improved by adding those stations in to create further patronage.

      1. I agree with you. A properly designed regional rail network would cover this.

        I am not sure why Waikato Regional Council is not funding the 44 ‘Pukekohe’ – Hamilton to Pukekoke for more frequent bus services instead of the current once a fortnight service, to connects with train services from Pukekohe.

        I do realize that Pukekohe comes under Auckland Council.

  7. The Wairarapa and Palmerston North services are very much commuter focused and are successful, so there is no reason this would be a problem and is probably the most cost effective for a start up.

    The biggest risk is the length of the trip, but as long as those funding it are willing to play the long game as we were with suburban rail in Auckland then I think it will be OK.

    Surely the transfer times could be reduced a bit on the AM services. People are transferring from a less frequent to a more frequent service here so the consequences of missing a train isn’t as great, better to make it the most efficient transfer as possible on a normal day. Disclaimer: I’m not familiar with the layout of Papakura, but surely the average person doesn’t need 11 mins.

    1. Trains departing Papakura at peak tend (but not always) to alternate between platforms 2 and 3. I’m presuming that the Hamilton train will arrive on platform 1. Platforms 1 and 2 are on the same island. At worst crossing from 1 to 3 would only take 3 minutes.

  8. It is a trial with old refurbished wagons and diesel engines because the money bucket has probably run dry.
    I am betting that the CRL tunnelling & underground costs are now about double the original forecast costs – that is why a contractor decision has not been made.
    The money pot is dry if the Government bail out AT and the Council on the CRL and that means no money for electrification of the main trunk to Pukekohe let alone Hamilton. So that means a cheapy project.
    Worse thing is no return trip from Papkura in the morning or Hamilton to Auckland afternoon trip……pay for the crew to sit all day in Papakura doing nothing. What a waste Phil Twy!

    1. Don, I think that it just depends how you want to spend the money in the bucket. I wonder if $1.4 billion was spent on fast speed electric rail from Auckland to Hamilton, and you predicted that it would save over 160 deaths and serious injuries every year, whether you would be able to get it over the line.

  9. The plan is completely without ambition. Where is the talk of high speed rail that will help to make this a real success? And as well as commuters, surely this rail line is for travellers to and from parts of the Golden Triangle?

    As the world stumbles toward an emissions crisis where are the Government solutions to address it? Surely part of the rhetoric around the launch should have been, “We are moving towards more carbon friendly alternative ways of getting to places that are sustainable travel options for our future.”

      1. It’s only an inter-regional commute because someone drew a regional line on a map. A regular train service between a city with 1.5m and one with 150,000, 140km apart would be standard in many parts of the world, irrespective of how many users are actually commuters.

        1. Maybe if people badly want the lifestyles where they have to commute 140 km for hours each way, then they could move to places where that’s how things are. Perhaps the question should be fixing our town planning so that people don’t have to make that sort of commute?

          Kiwis already work long hours for bugger all wages. The whole “just work on the commute” thing is normalising unpaid salaried overtime and we don’t need that here.

        2. People will travel between Hamilton and Auckland for work and many other reasons irrespective of whether there is a train service.

          The choice we have is to provide a train service or just let everyone travel by car and watch congestion and pollution get slowly worse.

    1. What country of NZ’s population has high speed rail? Even wealthy Norway can’t get all the ducks lined up to make high speed rail viable, they have a well utilised regional and intercity rail network to build it on, we have nothing.

      1. No but there is a lot more speed we can extract out of our existing system. Queensland with a smaller population and bigger land mass than us runs trains at 160kmh on narrow guage railway.

        1. Queensland is also fairly flat and those trains can run for dozens of KM’s before coming to a hill or a turn, NZ has hills and that track isn’t very straight.

        2. Hakodate to Sapporo in Hokkaido Japan also has the same track gauge and has plenty of hills yet operates the diesel Super Hokuto intercity express tilt trains at up to 160km/h. Hokkaido also has a similar population base and outside a few urban areas is largely rural. It should be well within this country’s and region’s resources to operate a similar rapid and regular service. No one is saying we should build a shinkansen or TGV line and service.

        3. Auckland – Hamilton – Tauranga is also reasonably flat, the one major hill already has a tunnel through it.

        4. Simon C – Japan can do it, as they have a population of 127 million and an extensive integrated national rail network, whilst NZ similar size to Japan, has a population of 4.8 million and under utilized predominately single track national rail network that needs serious investment to remove alot of kinks in the network and long term planning to increase utilization in inter-regional and long distance freight and passenger services.

      2. NZ has an under utilized national rail network, minimally maintained national State Highway network, under invested regional road network and a few expensive gold plated 4 lane roads of national significance.

  10. They’re spending more than 10 times as much on building Hamilton bypass and should have cancelled it to put the money in upgrading rail. Without that a frequent bus would be as fast, would cost the same as the infrequent train and wouldn’t be disrupted when electrification eventually comes.

      1. The same political reasons that got us 97% reliant on cars and see us unable to reverse carbon emissions. At some stage the government has to change that, or admit carbon zero 2050 is impossible.

        1. I doubt we will have many carbon emitting cars in 2050 will we (depending on how we generate our electricity of course)?

    1. No country with a population like NZ’s has high speed rail, even significantly wealthier Norway hasn’t built high speed rail, it just doesn’t stack up financially.

      1. My understanding is that the plan here is to do necessary track upgrades and run dual mode trainsets capable of doing 160 km/h.

      2. Norway can’t do high speed rail due to terrain… not for lack of want. It’s not necessarily TGV/Bullet style trains that are necessary, but something more along the line of Queensland’s tilt trains. 125km should be able to be done much quicker (once demand is proven etc etc)

        1. James it has nothing to do with terrain, Norway is spending a fortune tunnelling and bridging mountainous areas and fiords on the road network, the same would happen with high speed rail, but as I said the main stumbling block is numbers, there just aren’t enough people who would use the system to make it financially viable and competitive against air traffic.

          WimD to get 160kph in NZ the tracks wouldn’t need upgrading they would need to be completely replaced, and it we electrified the existing NIMT fixed-tension catenary would need to be replaced with a constant tension system.

  11. Instead of wasting money refurbishing the platform at Huntly, build stations at the real growth areas of Te Kauwhata and Pokeno. The passenger demand from those stations is only going to increase and the shorter distance/travel time to Auckland would also make the train more attractive to commuters.

    1. Yes found the business case, Huntly station capital cost is $2,240,000 (includes platform, facilities and the track infrastructure changes). $1,000,000 of that is for rebuilding station siding track, switches & signals.

      Not against doing this Huntly one, but it would be interesting what Pokeno would cost. The town planning there a bit weird to position it, but to get this one in early would be really good if possible.

      (as an aside, aghhh, horrible font used for the BC document headings etc makes layout all weird to read)

  12. Actually they could run a pretty intensive service between Hamilton and Papakura with two train sets. Seems a bit of a waste to limit themselves to morning and afternoon return aimed at commuters from Hamilton and Auckland.Still I suppose Intercity buses would want a subsidy if we were to run a subsidised train in competition.

    1. Haven’t seen any suggested Regional Rail livery yet but something different please for the SAs and SDs, not matching AM livery. It’s likely KR DF diesels will be the traction (as they can run 110km/hr) and a matching livery would be good on them too. The current KR reddy orangy yellow livery is getting old and boring.

        1. And here is another with the ADK’s on their inauguration and I hope the Hamilton – Auckland goes like this with the passenger numbers as I have read somewhere they were carrying around 500 per journey

          And it’s a shame they didn’t raise the platforms

          . And here is another you tube video :-

        2. If they are going with the colour of the Waikato River for the livery then they will need to paint them brown.

  13. I’m really glad that the government have committed to running a service at all. This really does need to improve ASAP though. The following improvements should be made (roughly in the following order and all well before the ‘trial’ ends):
    Just turn the trains around and run ‘counter peak services’. The first would arrive in Hamilton before 9am.
    Extend the service to puhinui for a single transfer to the airport, Manukau, and the eastern line and faster journey to the city centre.
    Buy units to achieve hourly service 5am to 9pm.
    Get to a station at Ruakura with an improved walking route to the university.

    This is all well achievable by the time the CRL opens and service can then be extended to Britomart.

    1. I don’t get this obsession with running, what would certainly be empty trains, back to Hamilton in the early morning. If you want this trial to fail, waste money doing that. Just getting the $80 million for this trial was difficult enough, the priority must surely be to increase patronage and that means more services heading north in the am peak and south in the pm peak and servicing the growth areas in Franklin and North Waikato.

      1. Depends on whether you think this is a commuter only service. I get the feeling the more likely users would be tourists, Hamiltonians catching flights at Auckland Airport, people taking a day trip to Hamilton / Auckland, etc. These people are less duration sensitive. If it only runs at peak then you can pretty much eliminate most of these users.

    2. The counter peak would not need the trains to be turned around as the SD car is a driving cab. The loco is pushing instead of pulling.
      Running through to Puhinui just needs a few hundred metres of missing 3rd main track around the Wiri depot to be laid. An RR platform could be included in the Puhinui interchange station. Both of these 2021/2 feasible

      1. Sorry, I meant ‘turn around’ as in changes directions as opposed to actually rotating the train to face the other way. Should have been more clear.

        1. Sorry, i should have realised thats what you meant as physically turning the train doesnt make sense. Too much amber nectar before bedtime

  14. Needs to be a minimum frequency similar to the Wairarapa services or it will flop like the once a day palmerston (political football subject to change in government) train does. Frequency is freedom.

    1. The Palmerston North service is definitely not a flop. Up until electrification was extended to Waikanae this was the only service in the country to run without a subsidy, even now it’s farebox recovery is much higher than any other service.

      1. How come they were going to cancel it until recently then? They didnt even repair the buffet car for several months when it needed repairs.

        1. It crosses between two regional councils so Kiwirail have found it very difficult to secure anything more than short term subsidies for it. This is something the current government is solving by giving NZTA the ability to fund inter-regional transport.

  15. Will be interesting to see how this goes… And if it is a flop, does that really tell us anything about how well a decent service would be used?
    I can only imagine if a National government were in power and it was a flop, not only would they cancel it but they would probably do something to ensure it can’t be resurrected (e.g. demolish some stations or something)

    1. Don’t forget it was under a Labour Government that we lost five passenger rail services, including
      the services that ran Auckland to Hamilton, in the early 2000’s.

      It is ironic that a Labour Government is now trying it reinstate one of those services, at huge

      Don’t get me wrong, I live in Pukekohe and go to Hamilton every fortnight – I would love to
      be able to go by train again.

      1. 1 – We don’t have a Labour Government now – we have a Coalition
        2 – Labour now is not like Labour back then. The world moves on.
        3 – Rail in Auckland was completely run down to almost zero in the 90s. Different now.

        1. Also, the previous National led coalition oversaw more km of track closed than any other. Its well past time rail stopped being a political football.

        2. Unfortunately, no matter which party is in power, the government has a conflict of interest. It derives a ton of money from petrol tax and any reduction in the number of cars on the road sees that income fall. The govt is caught in the COI position of trying to encourage PT uptake that might cause a significant fall in car usage and the loss of revenue.

          National basically ignored PT, figuring that more and more drivers sitting with engines idling on congested motorways was good for filling the coffers. Thankfully, we have Labour operating to a different ideology, with the Greens ensuring they don’t waver.

  16. It’s great that this is happening, and I hope it’s a catalyst for improvement. However, the initial offering is a little sad and disappointing.

    Ignoring the slowness of the trains as something that will need to be improved over time with multi tracking and improved trains (I still remember with wonder staying in Osaka and commuting to Kyoto almost 60km away by bullet train in 15 minutes) – the timing of the services isn’t super practical.

    The time between the first and second morning and susequent evening services are either just above or just below 8 hours. Meaning that if you’re commuting to work in Auckland and want to work an 8 hour day and have a lunch break, you’d have to catch the first and last services. I’d suggest another service in the morning and the services in the evening starting half an hour later, with a third service a bit later for anyone who works late or socialises…

    1. I agree with the need for ‘third service a bit later for anyone who works late or socialises’ even if this was a all stop even bus service from Pokeno to Hamilton, it would be slow, but guarantee you get home, 5:30 leaving Britomart is to early and really puts a big limit on the type of users of this service.

  17. I don’t think this trial will fail but agree with the post that it should be done with a bit more boldness.

    One thought is perhaps ticket prices could be $10 instead of $12 but make the cafe food a bit more premium so those on a tight budget can still commmute without the frills.

  18. Very disappointed that there is no allowance for day trips. While it is true that this is the only reason I ever go to Hamilton, I am hardly alone in that.

    1. Of course that ‘analysis’ makes no distinction between capital costs and operational costs in arriving at this supposed per person subsidy. But it’s good you have brought this to everyone’s attention as it shows the political difficulties in just getting this very basic service up and running.

      1. I am sure that if the costs of any RoNS were only spread over five years theses roads wouldn’t stack up either. Sorry I forgot, they already don’t stack up. And let’s not forget that the economic assumptions for the RoNS assumed significant population growth in the surrounding areas.

    2. Here are 2 media articles regarding Hamilton/Auckland trains services.

      This article is about cost comparison if people want to move to Hamilton and commute between Hamilton and Auckland –

      This article is about the service –

  19. Can someone please justify why a train service is being subsidized when there are existing bus services running commercially between Hamilton & Auckland at high frequency?

    From the business case:
    “The benefit cost ratio is 0.5 at the standard 6% discount rate, based on Present Value net benefits of $62.4m and Present Value net costs of $118.8m over the 30-year evaluation period”

    The bus travel time is only 2:05 CBD to CBD & runs hourly & half hourly typically.

    The train service is undercutting a commercial service & will affect its viability. Intercity have every right to ask for their own subsidy.

    The only justifications for the train service is that:

    a) The fare is subsidized (vs bus) so that low income people are able to make a journey that they couldn’t otherwise afford to make with regards to social connections & there are socioeconomic benefits.

    b) The future expected real carbon costs are so high (NZ productivity commission NZD150-250 real 2015 $) that the future benefits of the train service are substantial (mode shift with higher petrol costs, reduction in crashes). (I note changes in future real costs were not (maybe now?) typically included in NZ analysis)

    1. Are the bus services truly commercial? Road users in NZ do not cover their costs.

      How much do Intercity pay towards provision of bus stops, shelters, toilets etc? My understanding is they just expect local authorities to provide these for free …

      What about the Capital Connection being subsidized? Intercity operate “commercial” services between Wellington & Palmy too …

      1. The Capital Connection does get a subsidy from Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizon District Council to cover the short fall between fares and operating costs, as NZTA does not pay PT subsidies if PT travel crosses region boundries, which the Capital Connection does.

        Since the Wairarapa Connection train services operates within the greater Wellington region boundries, it receives subsides from NZTA.

        InterCity is fully commercial and does not receives subsidies from town, city, district, regional councils or NZTA for their services. InterCity is under no obligation to provide bus shelters, etc but there are towns in NZ, where InterCity will use their shareholders (Tranzit, Ritchies and SBL) bus terminals or shelters or terminals that are provided by local or district/regional councils.

    2. If you ever come back to NZ, feel free to experience these bus ‘services’ and understand why a rail commuter service is absolutely vital. As for the supposed 2.05 running time, try catching a bus from Auckland to Hamilton during the afternoon peak and see how far you get in 2 hours. You are clearly completely out of touch with the traffic situation in Auckland as it is in 2018, it’s often absolute bedlam.

      1. I know its bedlam in Auckland. All the more reasons for congestion tolls which would further increase the benefits of a train service through modal shift.

        Even without the tolls, there are clearly travel time reliability benefits of a train service.

        That said its not appropriate to potentially put a commercial business out of business on peak services with a taxpayer subsidized alternative.

        If the government wants to run train services then:
        a) add the congestion tolls
        b) remove the ratepayer subsidy to motor vehicle users
        c) implement an air pollution excise tax on fuel
        d) implement a health excise tax on fuel
        e) increase the value of life NZ uses in analysis (other jurisdictions have higher values)
        f) allow future expected real carbon costs to be included in the analysis
        g) implement the train after doing a) to f) if there is sufficient demand to support train + commercial bus.

        1. Most of those suggestions are not politically viable while the majority of Auckland residents feel they have no realistic alternative to driving. So work on providing the alternatives, like this train service, before attempting to introduce tolls, taxes and other measures perceived as punitive and unfair by many voters.

    3. You are correct, that InterCity does operate up to 13 coach services and Skip Travel operates 4 daily services of which 3 are express services between Hamiton and Auckland. The 4th Skip service goes via the Auckland Airport.

      Out of the 13 IntyerCity services, 5 are express services with 1 being Hamilton/Manukau/Auckland City and the other 4 being Hamilton/Auckland Airport/Auckland City which have the InterCity Gold premium seats.

      The only drawback with Intercity/Skip the morning and mid afternoon to early evening traffic congestion on the Auckland Southern Motorway, especially the afternoon services from the city and the airport

      The 4 Intercity services and 1 Skip service that travel via the Auckland Airport travel into Auckland city, using the Waterview Tunnel which by passes the morning traffic congestion on the Southern Motorway between Manukau City and Newmarket. From the Airport to Hamilton, the late afternoon InterCity services can suffer delays due to merging congestion of State Highway 20 and the Southern Motorway.

      1. Just on that, is there any possibility of ever getting a bus transit lane on the southern motorway, or parallel to it? In the near future electric buses freed from traffic congestion could be a most fine thing.

        1. NZTA didn’t include dedicate bus lanes in the current Southern Motorway upgrade nor when the SH20 was built.

  20. “From the business case:
    “The benefit cost ratio is 0.5 at the standard 6% discount rate, based on Present Value net benefits of $62.4m and Present Value net costs of $118.8m over the 30-year evaluation period””

    It’s not so long ago that a lot of people on here were decrying BCRs like this for roads.

    1. A BCR of 0.5 is bad, no question. However:

      1 – It’s a trial so the point is to work out whether the benefits do outweigh the costs or not. The BCR that really matters is the one worked out near the end of the trial to decide whether to continue with it.

      2 – A big part of the costs are fixed costs for building/upgrading stations and other infrastructure. If patronage justifies putting on more services then the marginal benefits should exceed the marginal costs, causing the BCR to improve.

      3 – The problem with roading project Benefit Cost Ratios is the flawed assumptions that go into them, not the fact that they’re low. The largest component of of a roading project BCR is often travel time savings. These are based on a traffic model that assumes induced traffic isn’t a thing (spoiler: it is). Once induced traffic has swallowed the travel time savings the project might go from a BCR of 1.2 to a BCR of 0.3 or something but by then the project is complete so no-one notices this. Passenger rail has very predictable travel times so the benefits are not based on unattainable numbers.

  21. The train is going to run between Hamilton and Otahuhu, but without passengers between Papakura and Otahuhu. It could therefore quite easily stop at Puhinui, and allow passengers to go that far.

    1. Why to Otahuhu? Is this because the empty train will go to Westfield depot where it will possibly be serviced before returning to Papakura later in the day?
      If this is the case then why not just take the passengers to Puhinui or Otahuhu?

      1. My guess is it is very low priority between Papakura and Otahuhu, it goes when there is a slot available, so would offer a less reliable ride than just transferring at Papakura.

      2. Otahuhu is no good, as the train leaves the mainline before reaching the station, and entering the yard from the north end isn’t allowed. Puhinui is fine though. I don’t think it will sit at Papakura for long, as they’ll want the track freed up asap.

        Perhaps that’s something on of the PT advocacy groups could take up – lobby for the Puhinui stop. Still got 15 months until it starts.

        1. If you read our work you’d know thats exactly what we pushed for.

          Shuttle to airport, and both southern and eastern lines to transfer to. So much better than Papakura but needs track and station work.

  22. This is a waste of money, and is being done in a very poor way. As someone who spends 2 to 3 days a month working in Hamilton, I was looking forward to being able to get the train as it would give me about 4 hours a day of productive time, but with no train to Hamilton, it is no use. I could live with 2 and half hours of travel time, as that would be close to what I spend coming home anyway when I leave around 4.30, but having to get to Frankton, and then from Papakura is stupid, and I just wouldn’t do it. They would be better to wait and do it properly, run the trains to Puhanui at least and to Hamilton CBD. The way it is being done will be destined for failure, and as someone else has said most people on here would decry a BCR of 0.5 for anything else.

    1. You can travel on InterCity 4.30pm express service from Hamiltonarriving SkyCity at 6.50pm and travel in comfort in the big comfy seats at the front of the bus. If traveling from Auckland, there is 7.30am InterCity service from Auckland arriving Hamilton 9.25am with the big comfy seats on the upper deck plus you have wifi both directions and have 6.5 hours in Hamilton. Problem solved.

      1. Zippo/ejtima – Its your comments is why NZ has under funded local, regional and national public transport systems. So you are happy to uses fossil fuel and but more CO2 in the atmosphere and have sea slowing going up Queen Street?

        Ejtma – What is wrong with InterCity? At least they are providing inter-regional long distance passenger travel without rate/tax payer subsidies..

        Zi[ppo – Sit in the lower deck if you get motion sickness if you want to read. Not all InterCity Auckland/Hamilton/Auckland services are double deckers.

        1. What is wrong with InterCity?

          Plenty, they are cramped, uncomfortable, get stuck in traffic, run late, stifling hot and, to make it worse, are overpriced. Every time I’ve tried using those buses it turns into an endurance test. It’s obvious they are used overwhelmingly by people with no other option.

        2. It seems that you are referring to AT buses. I use the buses that are dedicated to operate between Auckland/Hamilton/Auckland only that have the premium comfy seats up front as this makes the journey between Hamilton and Auckland more bearable and yes the buses do get stuck in traffic on the Southern Motorway but that is not the fault of InterCity but NZTA bad planning in motorway design. I can not understand why NZTA didn’t include dedicated bus lanes in the current upgrade of the Southern Motorway.

        3. The reason that InterCity fares are so called ‘over priced’, as services reflect the actual operating costs and are not subsidize by NZTA or by any local, district or regional councils.

          I also would like to point out, InterCity fares also cover the operating costs of marginal InterCity services where fares of those services don’t cover their operating costs. These marginal services are operated as ‘socially responsible’ services.

          Yes, there are people like me who do not own a car and use public transport to get around. At least my carbon foot print is smaller than yours.

        4. I have travelled a number of times by InterCity bus and they are usually fine.
          But I would definitely prefer a train if it was possible.

        5. They are diabolically cramped at the back to make room for the “premium comfy seats” up front, they spend half an hour tediously trundling around the airport precinct over judder bars and, everytime I’ve used it, the temperature is stifling. The overhead air vents barely work and offer no relief. I checked the temp setting on the dashboard when we finally arrived at Hamilton and I staggered off, 26 degrees, unbelievable and unbearable.

        6. Intercity Buses smell, they are slow, cramped, noisy, full of backpackers and get caught in traffic and stop every five minutes. I would rather be in my own car, at least I can get where I want to, make phone calls in private and have time to think. The train offers a realistic option that gives me another 2 hours each way to do things.

          I am quite happy to use fossil fuel, I am still not convinced about the impending doom you suggest as the world has been through these cycles previously, I am happy to do my bit, and one way I can do that is to use the train or bike when it is possible.

        7. It seems that you have traveled on InterCity services that going to other destinations like Rotorua, Napier, Hastings etc, that stop/depart Hamilton for passenger pick up/drop offs.

          I use the buses that are dedicated to operate between Auckland/Hamilton/Auckland only that have the premium comfy seats up front to make the journey between Hamilton and Auckland more bearable. These services are express with one prebooked pick up/drop off stop at either at Auckland airport or Manukau City. They are quicker than the inter-regional services, don’t smell and not cramped.

          The only time they are not quick, if they are subject to traffic congestion on the Southern Motorway and SH 20A/B which is not InterCity’s fault but bad motorway planning and design by NZTA for not including dedicate bus lanes.

          Yes, I do agree, frequent train services would be a better option until then, I am stuck with InterCity or Skip, as I don’t have a car.

          By the way, earth warming has been much quicker in the last 200 odd years of industrialization than in the earth’s natural history.

        8. They are diabolically cramped at the back to make room for the “premium comfy seats” up front, they spend half an hour tediously trundling around the airport precinct over judder bars and, everytime I’ve used it, the temperature is stifling. The overhead air vents barely work and offer no relief. I checked the temp setting on the dashboard when we finally arrived at Hamilton and I staggered off, 26 degrees, unbelievable and unbearable.

        9. Zippo – you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. I have traveled in the so called ‘cramped’ standard seats behind the ‘comfy’ premium seats and there are fine. Since traveling between Hamilton and Hamilton is boring. I prefer to pay the extra $5.00 and travel in the ‘comfy’ premium seats.

          With regards to your comment about spending half an hour tediously trundling around the airport precinct, the reason is Auckland airport has become a badly designed dysfunctional place that is an on going construction site, I hope, once the Airport Company finally builds the all in one domestic and international terminal building getting around the airport precinct be easier. I am not holding my breath.

          Do you ask the driver to make the air con cooler?

          Since I don’t have a car, InterCity or Skip are the only way for me to travel between Hamilton and Auckland on a regular basis, since there is no frequent train services or flights between Hamilton and Auckland

    2. Note that this is a five year trial service. It’s very likely that during that time the service will develop, perhaps additional trains off peak plus peak morning Auckland to Hamilton and evening Hamilton to Auckland trains.
      Since the redevelopment of Puhinui rail interchange will be well underway in 2019 then there is good chance of terminating at Puhinui instead of Papakura. This Regional Rail service will expand and grow.

      1. I hope you are right. Who is going to pay for the additional platform space for regional trains at Puhinui? I don’t see AT paying for it, based on their and AC lack of interest in providing a proper inter-regional/long distance coach terminal for Auckland city.

        1. And here you go. The true purpose of transport investment is shaping land use. This is of course a long term thing. See the mention of Ham-Akl line and new southern line stops:

          The nay-sayers are all focussed on short term cost, never long term value. Twisting the economic evaluation methodology to bias the short term is the favoured play of the austerians. That way leads to long term inefficiency and inequality….

        2. “Patrick Reynolds” This Gentleman sounds like he is doing the right thing with a station at Dury which should be done now and further down the line towards Pukekohe there is a place were the track bows and it looks like there use to be an island station many many years ago , and a new station needs to be built just north of papakura where the large housing development is

          This is his comment from that article in the Herald :-

          “It’s called mixed-use here and it doesn’t work for everywhere. It needs to be around transport and infrastructure. Sylvia Park and LynnMall have railway stations. There’s talk of The Base getting a station and we are pushing hard to get a station at Drury. We’re doing master-planning. There’s interest from local and central government because they see this as an opportunity to resolve issues of housing, particularly in Auckland.”

        3. david L, that historic station south of Drury was possibly Paerata, which was closed in 1982. There are 2017 proposals to reopen it and another at Drury West to serve new housing developments in the area.

      2. Listened to this post again & yes a key thing is to at least offer more runs during the day & perhaps earlier/later in the day so it’s not a purely a one way commuter service. It’s not that much more money using the same capital investment & configuration & timing. Surely after it’s initial start (or before it starts ideally…so advertising/PR is not confused) they can quite quickly have all parties inject more money into it.

  23. Whilst it is great that NZTA has approved funding for the Hamilton to Auckland train services, I do have concerns whether the services will serve the 5 years in its current format considering Hamilton has strong National support with Hamilton East and Hamilton electorates being National and a city that is fixated on the car.

    The biggest problem with the services, they will be terminating at Papakura, as there are currently no train slots for regional train services on the Auckland rail corridor between Papakura and Britomart. Whilst there is a strong support and large population catchment for regular train services between Hamilton and Auckland, having to catch another train at Papakura to Auckland couple with a very limited timetabling, defeats the purpose of having Hamilton to Auckland city train services and will be its probable down fall.

    The first InterCity bus from Hamilton to Auckland departs Hamilton at 4.20am, the first Skip service departs Hamilton at 6.30am and the last bus from Auckland departs at 8.45pm, it is easier to travel by bus or a car. The only advantage traveling by train is comfort and space

    I agree with the points raised in Matt’s comment, there is only shot at this and needs to done properly. If the 3rd main and hopefully the 4th main is built between Westfield and Wiri, double tracking through the Whangamarino Wetlands, reopening of the Hamilton central railway station and a fleet of purpose built rolling stock like the Alstrom Coradia ilint hydrogen/battery power trains, the is not reason for a frequent regional rail network between Te Awamutu/Hamilton/Auckland (Britomart)/Hamilton/Tauranga/Auckland/Te Awamutu.

    1. “The only advantage traveling by train is comfort and space” – No a big factor is the time reliability offered by a train service, even if it takes longer.

  24. “The only advantage traveling by train is comfort and space”.And cost. Intercity are trying to charge $27(sometimes even more) plus a $4 ‘booking fee’ for those 4.20am and 8.45pm trips.

    1. A bit of scarce mongering going here. InterCity like the airlines, operates a dynamic fare yield management system, so fares will vary on the time and day of travel. What day did you see the $27.00 and what type of seat type – standard or premium and fare basis – Standard (Non-Refundable) or Flexible (Refundable)?

      The 6.30am Skip service from Hamilton to Auckland fares start from $7.00 plus $1.99 booking fee for the reservation whether its one way, return or multi travel. This is express to Manukau city and Auckland city.

  25. Get the Chinese in to build some new standard rail, track suitable for higher speeds. Possibly put a third rail in for narrow gauage compatability as an interim solution (night freight). Connect AKL, TRG and HAM.

    They’d probably get the tiny amount of track required built in 6 months.

    1. The Chinese government achieves those tight timeframes by exercising absolute power. They do not require resource consent or general public support for structures, changes to watercourses, stopping roads, or increased noise levels. The state owns all property so there is no acquisition, just eviction. Workplace safety laws are virtually non-existent and the public also accepts dozens of deaths on major projects.

      We could get the Chinese to build those tracks, but unless we stop New Zealand law from applying to them, they won’t do it any faster.

      1. Of course they will get it done faster, once NZ approvals are granted. Look at the pre-fabricated viaduct systems and automated track-laying systems they use. They have rolled out ~26,000km in a decade.

      1. Another thing to consider with Chinese rail projects is how ex-urban they can be. There is a lot of potential for urban growth in China over the coming decades.

        A 200 km/h line has just been completed through Taishan this year that has stations up to 7 km from the established cores of fairly small cities – like Taishan City (~400 k people).
        One potential terminus for this line,Guangzhou South Station, was built in fields at the edge of the city (17 km away!) in 2010. It’s full of high rises now.

        Eventually this line will tunnel under the Pearl River Delta to Shenzhen Airport and SZ North Station – that will be the costly bit, no doubt!

        Quick and cheap construction is not all about lower standards of production.

        1. “Master Chief2221” Are you quite sure about that ? have you heard about these scrupulous orientals and there wheeling and dealings to make a quick buck on the sly

    1. I’m guessing it is based on people doing some work on the train, which given how long the trip is will be a significant number.

      1. Really…so the govt is assuming that employers will be cool with this?
        Also, anyone who works with sensitive and confidential information (i.e. most people) won’t be working on any train.

        This is a hilarious oversight.

        1. Given the commute time is 2.5 hours each way I think it is quite reasonable to expect that the target market will be people who can do at least some of their days work on the train.

          If you catch any medium distance commuter train in Europe, Australia or for that matter the Wairarapa and Palmerston North services you will see many people working on the train.

          The most popular trains on the Wairarapa line also have a gap of less than 8 hours, which clearly shows there is a demand for this kind of service.

  26. Agree that the proposed schedule will rule out many casual travelers. But also that it is a start and network improvements (3rd/4th main, extension to Puhunui and Hamilton Central) should see end-to-end travel as quicker and much more enticing. In saying that….

    I think that this is a bit like the airport rail debate. How many travelers, as a percentage, will be going end-to end? With a couple more stops in the Waikato then I think the number of people just going between Pokeno and Hamilton could be huge. I also think the potential of those just going between Huntly and Papakura (for an interchange) could also surprise. Extend to Puhinui and the link with the airport and ultimately the east could see another surge.

    I think that there will be a surprising number doing the (to start with) 2.5hr commute between Hamilton East and Britomart, but over time, that could be a much smaller number than those people travelling a much shorter distance on the line. It’s why I am surprised the WRC aren’t pushing for return trips during the day – even if just within the Waikato.

    And then once it goes further east to Tauranga – boom.

  27. It seems the train is only on speedwise on par with driving if you are going to drive during the peak.
    There are comments here about InterCity getting dealyed by traffic on the southern motorway…

    Why not have the InterCity from Hamilton terminate at papakura like this train does? Avoiding the bottleneck on the southern motorway or detour via the airport. Will cost a fraction to operate and will have much better travel times, not to mention all day frequency.

    Spend a few years in the meantime fixing the track so the train isn’t so incredibly slow, then launch the train service when they can offer something competitive.

    1. InterCity experiences delay on the Southern Motorway between Newmarket to Drury more so between Manukau City and Newmarket especially in the morning and midde afternoon/early evening peak periods

      For InterCity operate between Hamilton and Papakura is not going to achieve much in time saving, as InterCity would have to leave the Southern Motorway and travel 2-3kms to Papakura.

      If InterCity (Ritchies) or Go Bus had a contract with the Waikato Regional Council for dedicate non stop express bus services between Hamilton and Auckland City (SkyCity) using extra long tandem axles 60 seater coaches with more seat pitch and tray tables carrying up 50/55 passengers traveling via Waikato Expressway, Southern Motorway to SH20 (via Waterview tunnel) to the city would be more practical.

      These coaches could be based at Go Bus Hamilton Depot.

  28. I think this is excellent progress. So is this financing model the way that rail services to other parts of nz will be financed? Is it the council area that passengers originate from that is responsible for applying to nzta to join the existing passenger rail network?
    If a Tauranga to Hamilton (and beyond) service starts then Tauranga and their regional councils will have to provide some capex and opex and apply to nzta for makeup funding.
    Is it because of this financing model that we get a Hamilton to Auckland and return commuter trains only. There is no talk so far of an Auckland to Hamilton and return commuter or any off peak trains. Is this because it would not be fair for Hamilton ratepayers to be subsidising Aucklanders to travel to Hamilton? Should this be ATs responsibility?
    Is this split funding model just too complicated? Should rail passenger services not be solely and completely financed by govt via Kiwirail of some other rail entity?

    1. I believe that AT is not keen at this stage to fund regional rail services that go outside the AC boundry. The business case that Waikato Regional Council submitted to NZTA is similar to what GWRC is planning to do with the Capital Connection train services between Wellington and Palmerston North.

      Since the Capital Connection carriages are currently owned and operated by Kiwirail, the plan is for GWRC to purchase the carriages, so the GWRC than operate the Capital Connection using the business model that is currently being used for the Wairarapa Connection. This means the GWRC then apply to NZTA for funding of the services to the boundary of Greater Wellington Region and Horizons Region, who will apply to NZTA for funding for the Capital Connection train to operate to/from Palmerston North, as Horizons Regional Council will have a contract with GWRC for such services.

      Since AT is providing the carriages and Kiwirail providing the locomotive under contracts to the Waikato Regional Council for the Hamilton/Auckland train services, this why, NZTA is providing the 5 year trial funding, as the services are originating from Hamilton where the carriages and locomotive will be based.

      Waikato Regional Council is working closely with Bay of Plenty Regional Council under the Waikato Regional Public Transport Plan for better and frequent PT bus and rail services in both regions.

      Since the GWRC has a company that owns the carriages for the Wairarapa Connection and the Matangi EMU’s, in my submission to the Waikato Regional Public Transport Plan hearings, I suggested that two regional councils form a company in association with the government to purchase the necessary rolling stock to operate regional train services between Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland and Te Awamutu, Hamilton and Auckland. The rolling stock would be based containing maintenance/stabling facilities in Hamilton and over night stabling in Auckland (The Strand) and Tauranga.

      This means Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council then can apply to NZTA for funding for regional train services within their regions.

  29. I am pretty sure that both Twyford and Jacinda promised to implement regional rail based on the Greater Auckland plan before the election. These commuter trains are not what was promised. In fact this proposal predates the promises which were made. We are not getting what we voted for.

    1. Interesting but certainly looks like Labour’s promise is not what we are getting. Although the couple of $10million amounts quoted do not seem sufficient to get the daily Tauranga and four Hamilton daily trains to Auckland.
      It appears this promise was abandoned when the transport minister distanced himself from directly financing the Hamilton to Auckland regional trains.

    1. create a passenger rail From the quote in the article, Labour will “create a service linking Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga and, if justified by demand, upgrade it in stages to a rapid rail network throughout the Golden Triangle”

      The AKL-HAM announcement is the start of that, no?

  30. Travelling approx. 94km in 88 minutes, an average of ~65km/h is not progress.
    Even the BR InterCity 125 from the 1970’s could do 200km/h.
    Here we are 50 years later! A total joke.

    1. You must not forget there are 2 sections of track that have speed restrictions attached 14.5km across Whangamarino Swamp which has had the restrictions from the day it was laid and a short section at Ngaruawahia .

      The rest of the line they should not have any speed problems , i.e. from Papkura to Pukekohe the ADL’s can get up to around 80-90khm’s per hour and after watching the odd youtube video I think the SA/SD’s can do the same

    2. I agree, it is a joke. A main reason I changed my vote to Labour was the Nats obvious reluctance and feet dragging over support and financing anything PT, especially rail.
      The promise to get Regional Rail in golden triangle sorted out was the incentive to swing my vote to Labour as I have family and friends in Hamilton and Tauranga. Although the roads have greatly improved I find the drive from Auckland and back very tiresome and have unfortunately witnessed one fatal accident and many many near misses especially on the Katikati to Tauranga main road.
      The thought of a train journey to Tauranga, away from the road madness is therefore very appealing, to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. A coffee bar and toilets on train would just be perfection.
      I understood that the RR trains would take a while to set up and get running and perhaps not in this government’s term but I still was optimistic that something could happen with the 3 years.
      3 years to get enough SAs and SDs converted for RR and order up some new dedicated motive power, perhaps dual mode electro diesel locos for delivery in 2 or so years.
      Enough time for councils on routes to sort out the stations, car parks, info centres at stations, ticketing and local staffing/security etc.
      Enough time for Kiwirail to sort out those sections of track (the swamp and others) to permit 160km/hr running
      Enough time for Kiwirail to get serious about the 3rd main in Auckland to not only permit RR trains into the CBD but also allievate the squeezed metro and freight trains over existing mains.
      Enough time for Puhinui station redevelopment as airport interchange

      Instead we appear to have a govt big on big spend up announcements on PT but almost nothing to be delevered with any urgency. A govt that’s backed away from its RR promise and instead implemented a convoluted and complicated delivery method for a one direction Hamilton to Auckland commuter pair of trains.
      The joke is that Regional councils are left to justify there own fraction of the rail system and beg from a roading agency for top up funding to implement the minimum, some would say doomed to failure, PT rail service.

      Is the rail system in NZ not a national strategic resource? Necessary for the future development of New Zealand.
      Yes, Labour has dropped the ball here. I will not be fooled again by false promises

      1. OK, vote for National and get no train service at all. You don’t seem to understand that this train service is a start. That long list of demands you made was never going to happen in just 3 years after decades of neglect and, in fact, active hostility to ANY investment in rail infrastructure, especially passenger trains. Be reasonable, this development is starting from scratch, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

        1. No,no I’d never vote for National but NZF may be the best bet to progress PT. I understand it’s just a startup RR and very limited BUT still think this govt could have shown more enthusiasm and with that large surplus to play with could have injected a few more million to get better startup RR.

      2. “MikeP” The worst part in getting this started is getting through the different layers of all the Regional , District and city Councils to agree with it . Then it has to go to the NZTA who still have the mindset that every thing has to be covered in tarseal and concrete not steel tracks . the sooner the Govt can remove those lovers the better . They have started with KR and track work is slowly but surely happening around the place . And what they need to do is put it in law that a new govt can’t change it without say a 75% vote in parliament and then make it a conscious that way the public can find out who are for rail an who are for automobiles instead of having a minister who is in the pay off the trucking lobby cancelling everything

      3. Here is the latest on the Carriages for the Hamilton – Auckland link from the TRON fb page and Kiwi Rail Blog

        “Four basic concepts were designed, then considered by stakeholders, all based on former SA and SD class carriages made redundant in 2015 by Auckland Transport. These included:

        Refurbished SA carriage with 54 seats
        Refurbished SA carriage with 50 seats and toilet
        Refurbished SA carriage with 20 seats, severy and toilet
        Refurbished SD carriage with 28 seats, space for bicycles, generator room, staff compartment and driving cab

        Other combinations were also designed early on, including a refurbished SD carriage with severy that focussed on wheelchair accessibility, but reduced the number of regular seats to just three. But it was the four above mentioned designs that went through to final consideration, and of these, the second, third and fourth designs listed above were recommended. The 54 seat version was not taken further as it was recognised that international best practice is to provide one toilet for approximately every 50 passengers.

        These three carriage designs have subsequently been classified by KiwiRail as classes SR (seating), SRC (seating plus severy) and SRV (seating, genset and driving cab).”

        And here are the 2 links ;-

        1. Good to see some progress details. I found the comment on electrification to Pukekohe interesting in that it may be extended to Pokeno. As suspected the RR trains don’t actually terminate at Papakura but run from there, empty, to Westfield for stabling until evening return. Can’t see why pax drop off could not be Puhinui as that would simplify transfers to southern and eastern metro services. Why wait until Puhinui rebuilding is completed?
          Although the need for 3rd main W2W is mentionedit would also appear this is not completely necessary since existing mains can allow the RR trains to run up to Westfield. I still wish there was a morning or daytime return AKL to Hamilton RR

  31. I really hope that this service works out.

    But I fear that the transfer at Pukekohe might kill it. People don’t like having to do those without changing direction, especially when it’s raining.

    1. “Daniel Eyre” They will be changing at Papakura not Pukekohe that way they will be able to get the EMU’s not the DMU”s and then possibly have a seat all the way to their destination .

      1. I don’t know why you felt the need to put my name in quotation marks. But yeah; I meant Papakura not Pukekohe.

        And I don’t know what your point is other than to try and claim that the possibility of getting your own seat “all the way” (including from Papakura) is somehow more desirable than having your own seat all the way… …without having to go through the arseache of transferring which makes no logical sense.

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