This is a Guest Post by Nick R.

The Malaysian rail network is remarkably similar to New Zealand’s. So similar in fact they actually run some old New Zealand Rail carriages on a tourist train the length of the country. Much like New Zealand, Malaysian rail was developed by the British in the colonial era using the cheap and cheerful approach to linking the main population, industrial centres and ports together. It is characterised by winding, narrow gauge alignments of single track, with relatively small diesel trains running at slow speeds across level crossings and old bridges.

Or at least it was.

Eight years ago, I caught the train from the capital Kuala Lumpur to the second largest urban area in Malaysia: the twin cities of Butterworth-Georgetown in the northern state of Penang, not too far from the Thai border. This 400km journey took around seven to eight hours at a leisurely average pace of about 55km/h. At the time the route was so slow this train ran as an overnight sleeper, with bunk beds for the passengers to sleep through the night. A fun experience for a backpackers’ holiday, but hardly a serious transport proposition.

But a few years ago all that changed. The Malaysian government did a comprehensive overhaul of the line to turn it from an an ailing freight line into a higher-speed rapid rail route. This project was impressive in its extent and outcomes.

They electrified and double tracked the whole line, purchased brand new narrow gauge electric tilt trains and a new depot to keep them in, upgraded stations, eased curves, rebuilt the trackbed to high speed standards, grade separated road crossings, fixed all the drainage along the way, built one major tunnel to bypass a mountain range, and combined that with a new viaduct to skip a particularly windy section of route. This was topped off with a new branch line into the city of Butterworth to access a new terminal station.

In short, they done went and fixed everything from end to end.

Now to be clear this isn’t true high speed rail. While it is the fastest metre gauge train in the world, the top speed in service is still a relatively gentle 140km/h. However the real magic comes not from top speed but from average speed. The upgraded track and tilting trains let them maintain an average of around 110km/h on the line, including through the curves and allowing for stops, which is twice as fast as the old line used to manage.

The KTM Class 93 narrow gauge electric tilt train

From the outside, the train look the part. They just look fast. An while the Malaysian, and New Zealand, loading gauge requires somewhat narrow trains, this is made up with by using long trains with six or eight carriages. Onboard the trains are great: new, efficient, tidy, well laid out… unremarkable even. There is no sensation of tilting, the ride quality is good and you don’t really notice the speed despite the tight curves and narrow tracks. About the most interesting thing is the scenery, and the range of noodle dishes available at the cafe counter.

So the results? Well these days the new express takes just 3 hours 35 minutes between Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth, or a just over four hours will all the stops. It has literally halved the travel time. Clearly that kind of speed is a game changer, and indeed rather than one overnight train they now run twelve return trips a day, with departures every half hour at peak times.

The ETS morning express route, KL Sentral to Butterworth Station in 3 h 35 mins.

Clearly a fantastic improvement, but what of the cost? Obviously this scale of comprehensive upgrade isn’t cheap. In total, the whole package of tracks, electrification, stations, trains, depots and crossings for 400km cost the equivalent of around $7 billion NZ dollars, or about NZ$18m per kilometre. This is a significant sum for sure, but still an order of magnitude cheaper than true high speed rail.

What does this mean for New Zealand? Given the similarity of the train and track systems between the two countries, it’s reasonable to expect we could do a full electric rapid rail overhaul for about the same cost per kilometres.

Using those costs and outcomes as a benchmark, we could give the 90km of train line between Papakura and Hamilton the full bells and whistles double-track-electric-rapid-rail treatment for around $1.6 billion dollars. Like the Malaysian example, this cost would include some track realignments, level crossing separations, new and upgraded stations, a depot, and the trains themselves. With the same average speed upgrade as Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, Papakura to Hamilton would take 49 minutes. Britomart to Papakura express, with a third main and a little careful timetabling, should take about 35 minutes. That would mean Britomart to central Hamilton in about 1 hour 25 minutes with a few stops along the way (Note: I haven’t assumed the full upgrade all the way through the Auckland suburbs to downtown, and have estimated times accordingly. Doing the full upgrade through Auckland itself could easily double the cost… even if it did bring the Hamilton-Auckland travel time down to 60 minutes or so!)

Of course that makes for great passenger connections, but it also means a fully electric, double track and faster line for freight trains too. That raises an interesting proposition: with Auckland to Hamilton done we’d have electrification from Auckland all the way to Palmerston North, that’s handy for clean and efficient freight movements. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to also electrify out to Tauranga and the major port there?

We can sketch up that idea pretty easily too. I’ve seen some documents that put the price of electrifying New Zealand main lines at $2.5m per kilometre. I believe this includes minor track works and drainage, but no realignments or speed upgrades. So not the higher speed upgrade at $18m a km, but a regular electrified main like with average speeds of 80km/h or so. If we apply that to the 95km long rail line from Hamilton to Tauranga, we get a cost of about $240m. So this would allow fully electric freight on the main trunks between Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North. And combined with the above, we would be looking at a passenger train time between Tauranga and Auckland of a touch over two and a half hours, and Hamilton to either Auckland or Tauranga in less than 90 minutes.

All up, using the Malaysian upgrade as a guide this programme would cost about two billon dollars. That is a very significant chunk of money, but it would buy not only a regional rapid rail system with frequent electric passenger trains running at fast average speeds between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, it would also fix up and electrify the main freight routes of the North Island. A relative bargain compared to some of our highway projects?

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261 comments

  1. Regional rail between the 3 cities would be an absolute steal at $2bn, especially when compared to motorway projects of a similar price tag.

    This project is the Robbie’s Rapid Rail of our time. If we fail to plan and commit budget to this, future generations will ask how we stuffed up such an obvious opportunity.

    1. It does seem good value when the previous 4 way coalition govt wanted to spend $1.2 to $1.8 billion dollars on the east/west link. What is that, 3km?

    2. Hopefully it is more of a 1990s Auckland rail moment. We are starting with the bare bones of a regional service next year as we did with the Auckland commuter network in the 1990s. Hopefully people will see the potential but also the current weaknesses with it and begin the process of improvements.

      1. Yes, if this were Robbie’s rail there would be a grand plan to build it on a different gauge to the existing tracks, while a team at NZTA would already the size and colour of the doors and seats, despite the government having not committed any funding.

        1. Yes if it were Robbie’s rail the Regional leaders would be opposed to it, as would the Mayors of the areas it went through as well as the Government. And it would be promoted by an old man who should have been ‘me tooed’.

  2. Nice work Nick. As Papakura-HAMILTON is already double tracked, except for the short section at Whangamarino just north of Te Kauwhata, so that should help a little with the cost.

    It seems a multi year rolling programme would be the way to do it. Build up and maintain the skills and supply chain necessary to keep cost under control and output efficient by programming a steady forward programme… Electrify to Pukekohe, 3rd + 4th mains, electrify to Te Rapa, launch EMU service, add e-locos for freight and passenger AKL-Parlmy, upgrade ECM, electrify ECM.

    Meantime build the Marsden Link, and upgrade the NAL sufficiently too.

    1. Spot on Patrick – even if they spent say $150m a year. Once the results of each improvement is on display, there will be more momentum for bigger and more ambitious projects

      1. This is the successful Scottish model ~ another place with many favourable comparisons to NZL. Decide what you need to end up with. Break it up into logical chunks. Start and keep going.

        1. Germany too; long term electrification programme steadily working through the list; teams, skills, process, supply chain all steady. No project by project reforming teams, finding and costing supply, negotiating access with operator, endless business rounds and tenders… way way cheaper than the UK privatised model.

          Here: https://www.globalrailwayreview.com/article/69703/building-a-case-for-cost-reductions-in-the-electrification-of-uk-infrastructure/

          Germany has a policy of constant electrification at a rate of 200km per year. The example in the text is at NZD0.5m per single track km.

        2. That was how Queensland Rail did their electrification program in the 1980s – a rolling program with a similar amount electrified per year. The price per km actually reduced through the program as the component supplies got cheaper from cranking out more and more of the same items. In the end they did Brisbane to Rockhampton plus some of the coal freight lines. This was narrow gauge track (3’6″) same as NZ, good quality track, with concrete sleepers. It is also used for freight.

  3. Chump change for a government with unnecessary fiscal responsibility brakes on full. The potential reduction in private motor vehicle use and fossil fueled cargo would more than justify the project. Electric, high speed regional trains make too much sense, and this, as you say, would be a good, relatively inexpensive start. The worry being that if this nuclear climate change moment government doesn’t put it in motion, what chance to we have with any other?

    1. What do you mean by high speed? We will never have high speed rail in NZ, our population just isn’t anywhere near big enough.

      1. There’s no one definition of high speed, for a country with trains that meander along at 90kmh it could be 160kmh.

        Using the most common definitions though I agree with you, we aren’t going to have TGV or even British mainline speeds of 200kmh in NZ.

        1. I sure did, it’s an excellent post and I agree with Nick’s definition, hence my first statement:

          ‘for a country with trains that meander along at 90kmh it could be 160kmh’.

        2. I did but those trains have a design speed if 180kph, they operate at 140kph, I doubt we would see 140kph trains in NZ let alone 180kph which would be high speed in an NZ context.

          It’s a nice idea, which I would like to see work but I don’t see any NZ govt betting billions on kiwis ditching their cars for regional rapid rail.

      2. This is what I said above regarding “high speed”:

        “Now to be clear this isn’t true high speed rail. While it is the fastest metre gauge train in the world, the top speed in service is still a relatively gentle 140km/h.”

        1. I mean the top speed in service, it’s cruising speed seems to be about 120km/h. What it can theoretically do under test conditions is pretty irrelevant.

    2. Definitely Matthew and if there is skill/labour shortages then as part of a tender, put out to the entire world, include that as a must have. Hamilton to Aucklands CBD could be done quickly and efficiently including the quad tracking to Wiri and an overhaul of the Westfield junction but only if we demand it and the government gets its head out of its arse.

      Or will good ol’ humble kiwis go “aw shucks I don’t want to make a fuss” and we keep on going nowhere.

      1. What I’m seeing, Waspman, is saturation of roads-first traffic-flow bias throughout design guides, evaluation processes, economic assessments. Even in things being released at NZTA this year, the mindset hasn’t been overturned, and business-as-usual is persisting. I’ll blog some of it when I get time, but I actually don’t think you can blame the politicians… they’re changing things where they can. This is a long-term game, and we just have to keep exposing more and more regressive documents, processes and cultures.

        I actually think Stiassny could be the right knife if someone could teach him some basic transport concepts so he has a good idea of what industry-specific problems of inertia he’s looking for. New board members will have to understand multimodal transport, not be typical lawyer/accountant/governance types. And if Stiassny does upskill in this way, he should then move to AT. The restructure at AT failed miserably by scattering the good talent and maintaining the wrong culture. Hopefully the CEO there will realise soon that he has put his trust in the wrong people. He’s a man with values who could turn things around if he makes this change.

        1. I’m hearing you on culture change and in most every government department too. The heads of many of them remain the same as the previous government so it comes as no surprise they cannot or will not change. But geez, the ministers need to read the riot act to these turkeys or get them the hell out of it. I am worried they have never heard of the 3 year election cycle!

          Unsure about Stiassny, he’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife type of thing as a leader and I don’t know if he has the prerequisite passion and knowledge in this area to change a whole lot.

        2. Remember Governments have a 3 year life span , heads of Government Departments have a 5 year life cycle and are harder to remove

        3. Agreed, the politicians are very much ‘see no evil; hear no evil; speak no evil’ – at the moment. The NZTA and KiwiRail are run like fiefdoms – hanging on for a change of government and more ‘RONS’ and ‘managed decline’ in the case of NZTA and KiwiRail respectively.

          For the Golden L to be opened up for faster passenger rail travel then the freight needs to go ‘off peak’ – to allow passenger to travel during peak times. For this to happen the freight trains need to get much heavier, longer and fewer. For this to happen a major track and bridge upgrade of the existing ‘undersized’, ‘turn of last century’ infrastructure will need to happen.

          Maybe the government wants it but they will need to see through persistent mindset of the fiefdoms.

          We will see what happens from the NZTA Regulatory Review and the Upper North Island Supply Chain strategy formulation due not too far from now.

        4. NZTA have just approved funding a regional rail service that requires a 90 % subsidy, I don’t think they could be accused of not supporting rail, it’s pretty clear they see strategic value in getting a Waikato service up and running.

  4. Its a no-brainer to upgrade the Auckland-Hamilton line as Phase 1 and then extend that to Tauranga as you describe Nick. The financing is available and its a transport service that is sorely needed. Lets hope that the current coalition government just gets on and does it.

    1. For the cost comparison I converted it Malaysian to NZ at the relevant rates seven years ago, then applied the NZ construction cost inflation rate to get the estimate for NZ today.

      Not a perfect method but it does account for a lot of the change.

      Failing that, we could just employ the Malaysian and Chinese companies to build it for us here too. There is no law saying we must throw buckets of money at Fletchers for every big job.

      1. I do wonder about comparitive costs of land acquisition in Malaysia vis-a-vis New Zealand. And land is perhaps the only thing that appreciates faster than construction prices!

        Appreciate we have an existing rail corridor, although if we need to straighten in various places then some land take would be required methinks.

        1. Probably not. As I understand the most common ‘straightening’ is actually to turn an s bend of three tight back-and-forth curves into a single broad curve.

          In that case you’d need to acquire some land to broaden the curve, but would be left with only an odd arc of land in the middle of a railway corner that might not be much use to anyway.

    2. I’d agree that like-for-like costs would be higher here. However, this Malaysian project included double tracking, tunneling and a viaduct, the line to Hamilton is relatively straight and already double tracked.

      The costs will be electrification track improvement and the Whangamarino deviation, which probably already has a positive BCR even just with existing freight movements.

  5. I remember riding the train on an overnight sleeper from Singapore Station to Kuala Lumpur, an amazing train ride through the jungle but certainly one for tourists!

    Connecting a vastly growing City of 250k residents to a City of 1.6m by fast rapid transit is a no brainer in the rest of the world, frustrates me to keep having to use that sentence about pretty much everything in NZ these days…the only thing Green about NZ these days are the trees, fills me with fear when even a Labour/Greens coalition with a NZ first that pushes Regional Growth can’t get these sort of things moving!

    1. Wouldn’t surprise me if this plays out similar to Auckland rail with the last government. The government eventually agrees to fund significant upgrades in its last couple of years in office, the incoming National government dithers around for a while but ultimately agrees that it is necessary and makes some small improvements in what is procured.

    2. Indeed. Im not sure that Kiwirail are yet on the NZTA list of approved funding requestors so while this govt continues with NZTA as the funding authority for rail projects then we can expect no progress with most or all rail projects.
      If govt cannot even get the cheap w2w 3rd main underway during their term then there is little hope for electrification to Pukekohe let alone to Hamilton.
      Nice post NickR.

  6. That tourist train runs from
    Singapore to Bangkok, it’s the Eastern & Oriential Express, the carriages were originally built in Japan for the Silver Star service.

  7. Once the Huntly bypass is completed the railway will be the alternative route passing through the residential towns. I could see seven stops between Papa kura and Hamilton. So would we have express and stopping trains. Probably need passing loops at some of the stations.

    1. Agree, it’s likely that you’d have more than one stopping pattern. I could see a regular all-stops serving the towns along the way, say every hour across the day. Then at peak times you might insert and extra two or three expresses that run Auckland > Hamilton > Tauranga, and vice versa only.

      Would be interesting to see what the peak times is for that sort of intercity express, it’s probably not the same as a commuter peak from Waikato towns to the main centres.

  8. This sort of upgrade, together with investment in regional bus services, would mean people travelling to or from towns would have a far safer transport choice. And a lower carbon one, too.

    Seems to me it would tick a number of boxes for Shane Jones to get right in behind it.

      1. Zippo – the wage comparison is an excellent point. Malaysians earn almost exactly a quarter of our wage, according to your figures, while our population is only one eighth of theirs. Sadly, that means that most of population can afford to buy a car, while only a very small proportion of their population can do the same. So while the city sizes of KL and AKL may be similar (or in reality, more like 7 million…), there is a pool of people 7 times larger than our entire population, which is more likely to take the train.

        I do think there is an ample case for a proper rail service between AKL and the Tron, but I don’t think NickR’s number’s stack up. You’ve got two of the most car-oriented cities in NZ, and you want them to take the train, and the population base for that is tiny. I think you’re pushing shit uphill.

        1. You’d be wrong, how do you think they travel around the country, they don’t fly, many of them don’t own cars, rail is cheap. Like in India rail is dirt cheap it’s how people who can’t afford to fly travel.

        2. Going by the size and busyness of bus stations like in KL, people in Malaysia get around by bus a lot more than by train. Buses are very frequent, well organised, and cheap.

        3. I’m talking about the people who can’t even afford to travel out of the their home town or city. These people exist in NZ as well, but they make up a much higher proportion of the population in poorer countries like Malaysia.

    1. KL population ~1.8 million, Penang population ~1.8 million. distance ~400km
      Auckland population ~1.6 million, Hamilton population ~200,000. distance ~100km

      Hamilton is clearly smaller, but it’s also around 4 times closer to Auckland than Penang is to KL. So the comparison is reasonably equivalent, IMHO.

      1. To be fair the greater KL/klang valley area is more like seven million people.

        But yes, we are talking about smaller cities and towns, but also closer together with populations that are maybe a lot more mobile too.

        1. I think where the greater population kicks in is frequency. Size of population (and income levels vs fuel /car costs) justify that 12 trips a day. And at certain times of the year each slot would be packed. During Chinese New Year, that 3.5hr car trip can take 11hrs, so plenty will take that option then.

          AKL-HAM/TGA would never get near that, but it doesn’t mean that its not viable at a lower frequency.

          The only other point I would make is that in reality, the cost in Malaysia was probably 10-20% cheaper than stated. Large infrastructure projects under the previous government were notorious for being inflated so the various cronies could clip the ticket. Towards the end of their tenure it was to borrow extra from the Chinese to fund deficits, just hiding it in contract costs. Its all being exposed now since they were deposed…

          Incidentally they have just canned the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and High Speed Rail between KL and Singapore (90mins for 400km), as well as deferring the 3rd MRT Line, because of these jubious contracts. The ERL was something like US4bn.

  9. I just wonder what you are going to do when you get to Hamilton or Tauranga (assuming you aren’t staying in the city). Wait an hour for a bus?

      1. Yes but who would fly between Auckland and Hamilton?
        The competing option is driving. And while I would much prefer to be on a train than driving, I get the feeling that it would just be easier to go from point to point in a car than get PT to a train station, get train to Hamilton, then get really bad PT to where I need to go.
        I think that Hamilton isn’t far enough for the benefits of train to outweigh the hassles for many journeys. Not saying that it wont be useful and well used – just not sure it will be worth $1.6 billion compared to other very useful projects.

        1. As an example of other projects: lets assume that LRT on Mt Eden Road would cost the same amount. LRT on Mt Eden road would probably full a train at least every 10 minutes. I think RRR Auckland to Hamilton would be lucky to full a train every hour. So doesn’t LRT have ~6 times the benefit to RRR?

        2. You should consider the net improvement, the marginal gain. For Mt Eden Road, going from a bus every three minutes to an LRV every ten minutes, with about the same people on board… the net gain is fairly small.

          RRR has the potential for step change difference in accessibility and land development.

        3. Most of the flow would be from Hamilton and all the other Waikato/Franklin towns to Auckland in the am and back again in the pm.

        4. The other competing option is taking one of the existing bus services. It’s relatively cheap and not much slower than driving. Any train service needs to have a significant advantage to justify the cost, and this mostly means speed. Speed means separate tracks to freight, grade separation with all roads, and the ability to go very fast where straight, 200+km/h.

        5. At my time of life I would consider the ability to get up and walk around, the presence of a buffet car and, not least, the ready availability of toilets to be very significant advantages. 🙂

        6. If the Auckland-Hamilton service gets established; it should definitely get toilets on its first replacement rolling stock

        7. I think travel time reliability & comfort including less tiresome commute/trip would be a major factor in choosing to travel by train compared to driving or bus in this case.

        8. I agree with you. That is why I booked InterCity Coachlines comfy ‘premium’ seats which more seat pitch and recline, when traveling between Hamilton and Auckland. They are better than the ‘standard’ seats.

        9. Hamilton doesn’t have a ‘really bad’ PT. If fact it has a good PT system – bus and ride sharing (taxi, Super Shuttle and Uber) services that some fining tuning.

          Hamilton would be the centre of train services within the region and to/from Auckland. The rail investment will be beneficial for both freight and passenger services. I am not sure why you think that any rail investment wouldn’t be beneficial.

    1. Walk, taxi, uber, bus, bike, get picked up, hire a car… same things people do at any airport or intercity train station in the world?

      Hamilton already has a frequent outer link style bus by the way, and Tauranga is just about to deploy a pair of them. So not waiting for an hour.

    2. We need to plan for tomorrow rather than today. Have you been to Hamilton recently, there’s lots of City apartments going up and more to follow, certainly going through a mini boom. 90 mins is definitely commutable especially with WiFi, some people are doing that trip in Auckland as we speak.

      As Hamilton grows, you’d like to think their PT options will mature with it…obviously not holding my breath but its nice to dream.

    1. I would hope that any further investment in rail between Hamilton and Auckland will include building a new station in the vicinity of Tristram St.

      1. Well, maybe when every other upgrade on the line between Hamilton and Auckland has happend and new trains are able to travel at a consistent 160km/hr, stations are built at Pokeno and Te Kauwhata, Tuakau etc etc that could be looked at, but at the moment, there is a perfectly useable station available to use.

        1. What, Frankton? It’s serviceable, but pretty far from ideal. A station around Tristram/Bryce St would be a very good idea as a priority. Hamilton’s Britomart.

        2. Hamilton Central Station is directly opposite Hamilton Transport Centre. The old Target build is being refurbished for Waikato Regional Council and hoping the blocked entrance to the Hamilton Central Station will be unblocked during the refurbishment..

          Frankton will always be the main station for Hamilton for regional, inter-regional and long distance passenger train services

        3. A station next to Norris Ward Park would put the train platforms within 200m of Hamilton’s transport centre, and a 10 minute walk to nearly anywhere in the CBD. The Transport Centre is especially important because the Intercity buses stop there.

          To build such a station the following would be required:
          -800m of track duplication
          -Replace the Seddon Rd overbridge
          -Build platform and access from corner of Bryce St & Tristram St
          -Acquire small strip of park land.
          -Minor track work at Frankton Junction.

          The costs of these works should not be very high compared to projects such as the Whangamarino deviation or electrification.

        4. Sounds good. It feels like that parkside location would be cheap and simple, as far as these projects go.

          Ideally you’d design it in a way that it could be duplicated to four tracks and two island platforms, to tie into an eventual second rail tunnel under the CBD and across the river.

          The single track tunnel on the ECMT is bound to be a major constraint.

        5. I think you would be surprised how high the cost would be when there is a mountain of projects necessary to bring the Hamilton-Auckland corridor into the 21st century. Spend the money getting new trains running fast, if there’s anything left over, then consider this project, until then a perfectly useable station exists a kilometre away.

        6. Maybe, but remember we had the same situation in Auckland with the old railway station. Just 1km of town, and only a few hundred users a day.

        7. Hamilton Transport Centre is the main PT hub for InterCity Coachlines, Skip and riding sharing services. Also, the Transport Centre is 5-15 walk to major service apartment and hotel accommodation.

  10. With e-trains going directly to Tauranga, the Hamilton subway becomes more viable (currently OSH could veto its use due to diesel fumes). With line fully electrified a stop in the centre of the city would make sense. These travel times and frequency would make very viable for business travelers.

    1. Then why didn’t OSH close down Britomart because the diesel fumes were worst than a public bar on a busy Friday afternoon in the old days of allowing smoking in them

  11. Watch how far NZ falls behind, will be a great Saturday ‘catch up’ 5-10 years from now.
    No population and a lack of will to accept that NZ is the same size as UK / Japan, goodbye.
    Welcome to viewing the world (the growing developed world) as you sleep. More please – do Taiwan!!!

  12. Under this proposal, Nick, what would be the maximum speed of freight trains given that they are currently restricted to 80 km/h with a realistic maximum for the current wagon design of 90 km/h?

    1. I wouldn’t know where to start on freight speeds sorry. But from what you’ve said the realistic maximum of 90 would be it?

      Note that the Malaysian upgrade does still carry freight on the same lines, they don’t have any extreme track camber or anything like true high speed lines.

      1. Freight can run at higher speeds than 90 but would require substituting the current 3-piece bogies on freight wagons with more complex (and expensive) types. For higher speeds still electric over pneumatic braking would be a consideration.

        Both require considerable capital so let’s assume that the freight train maximum stays at 80. How is the speed differential going to be resolved? Your workings above imply that freight will not be impeding passenger so that suggests that, where required, freight will be sidelined (ie, stopped in a passing loop to allow passenger trains to pass).

        Hamilton-Tauranga is currently single track with passing loops so conversion to double track (mostly) is upside for freight train average speeds but the downside is priority given to 140 km/h passenger trains. Without some sort of modelling and timetable assumptions it’s hard to see what the effect on mean freight speeds would be.

        Auckland-Hamilton is mostly double track already so it looks to be downside for freight trains in this section. The extent would be a function of timetabling.

        While supportive of major investment in rail I would be very concerned if rapid passenger rail were to negatively impact freight rail’s competitiveness in such that it lost market share to road freight when it should be going in the other direction.

        1. Stage 2 of Regional Rapid Rail only proposes one train per hour in each direction on the ECMT. I would hope that this would not have too much of a negative effect on freight movements.
          If there was an increase in freight or passenger movements above this then I would suggest that the Ohinewai-Morrinsville deviation might be a solution.
          Regardless of the Ohinewai-Morrinsville deviation and/or track duplication, the Kaimai Tunnel will remain a bottleneck in the long term. For this reason I suggest that passenger train movements east of Waharoa do not generally increase above 2 per hour, although a few extra peak services could probably be accommodated as in Rapid Regional Rail stage 3.

        2. Double tracking (or at least long passing loops) from Hamilton to Waharoa seems like a pretty feasible proposition.

          A train each way per hour to Tauranga is still only 2 movements per hour though the tunnel. You could add in one extra peak direction departure for a total of three movements, for an hour or two… and have half-hourly trains in the peak direction.

        3. “Double tracking (or at least long passing loops) from Hamilton to Waharoa seems like a pretty feasible proposition.”

          True, but uncosted.

          “A train each way per hour to Tauranga is still only 2 movements per hour though the tunnel”

          Provided you ignore existing and future freight traffic.
          Some simple calculation based on 1 passenger train each way per hour indicates that a freight train entering the 95 km section immediately behind a passenger train will have to go into a loop twice for opposing passenger trains and once for a following passenger train. Assuming standard loops every 10 km that’s an increase in transit time of around 45 minutes vis-a-vis the current situation. Hard to see how it will increase freight speed and reliability as you state at 2.25pm.

          As for the tunnel; it’s currently constrained by the need to clear combustion products. Electric traction would remove that constraint so it would be no more f a bottleneck than an equivalent length of “open air” single track.

        4. The last passing loop on the ECMT cost the princely sum of $500k for 1.3km extension of double track. http://i.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/6549123/500-000-boost-for-busy-East-Coast-line

          This doesn’t seem like a problem as part of a two billion dollar package. At that rate you could double the whole line from Ruakura to the Kaimai west portal for $30m.

          I’m assuming about a 10km stretch of single track through the tunnel is the hard, long term constraint. Can’t see them duplicating that in a hurry. But the rest of the approach seems like relative chicken feed to duplicate.

          With electric traction and double track to both portals, it seems feasible that the tunnel capacity could actually increase to five or maybe six trains an hour, especially at peak where you might be able to schedule two or more successively in the same direction.

        5. According to the link in Nick’s post at 1627, “”Once work on all the passing loops is completed later this year, the line’s capacity will double from two trains an hour (one in each direction) to four trains an hour (two in each direction),” Mr Collett said.”

          So an hourly passenger train would occupy half the line’s current capacity, with the tunnel the continuing primary constraint.

        6. “So an hourly passenger train would occupy half the line’s current capacity, with the tunnel the continuing primary constraint.”

          The extra loop was built to enable additional freight capacity based on freight train speeds and the acceptability of stopping trains to allow an opposing movement.

          It’s clear that for the proposed average and maximum speeds of the passenger trains neither of those constraints is acceptable. On that basis the line as it is at present has a capacity of one train per hour in one direction since transit time is 52 minutes and there is no provision for opposing trains to pass without stopping.

        7. I understand that the intention was for the stations at Waharoa and Morrinsville to be have passing loops. It would be necessary to timetable both passenger trains to arrive at one of these stations at the same time. I agree that this would make running more than 2 passenger trains per hour on the ECMT very difficult without double tracking.

        8. While it is true that the higher unsprung mass of a three piece freight bogie may not make them first choice, the present generation of Chinese sourced container wagons are designed for 100 km/hr operation with 3 pieces. Presently limited to 80 km/hr tho. Interesting that when “24 South” (Ak – Chch in 24 hrs.) was running around 15 – 20 years ago, selected “U” series container wagons were allowed 90 km/hr running specifically for this train.
          Three piece bogies are the standard for North American freight cars. I understand that they run at up to 70 mph in Arizona at least and possibly elsewhere. Not with electronic braking either.

        9. From a US Federal Railroad Administration document:

          “North American freight railroads are generally
          restricted to a maximum operating speed of 80
          mph. While loaded trains are able to run at the
          near maximum speed, empty train speeds are
          controlled by the lateral instability known as
          truck hunting. The three-piece truck, a
          workhorse for the railway industry for over 100
          years, is inherently susceptible to hunting in
          empty car conditions above 45 to 50 mph. This
          speed limitation on trains with any empties may
          cause restricted speed operation.”

          This hunting is a function of the racking or lozenging of the classic 3 piece bogie. I have witnessed alarming hunting on trains on the CSX at speeds of around 100 km/h and I doubt that CSX are unique in this respect. In the extreme bogie/truck hunting can result in derailments.

        10. we ran some freight trains at 90km/h as recently as 2005 or thereabouts. It mainly depended on the entire consist being of certain classes of wagons, locomotives with bogie retension straps etc and it just got a bit to difficult to justify the effort continuing it at the time.

  13. Pleasantly surprised to see my birth country featured here on Greater Auckland!

    Unfortunately I have to say that I don’t think the same construction cost will apply to New Zealand.

    Malaysia relies a lot on cheap foreign labourers from Indonesia/ Bangledesh/ Nepal, and sad to say that they’re often exploited as Malaysia doesn’t really have a strong laws protecting these labourers. I don’t think we even have a minimal wage laws there, or at least one that applies to migrant labourers.

    1. Yes so this could very much be a factor. However it is worth pointing out that labour, and lower skilled labour in particular, is only one part of the cost.

      The costs cited above include the train fleet, the tracks and turnouts, the copper cables, the steel and concrete etc, all of which are priced on the the international market.

      I actually think the bigger difference would be the cost/availability of land (is it all government owned already, can they just expropriate it), and the planning and regulatory environment. Can they pour runoff into the river…

  14. I have done the KL to Butterworth on the train – “higher speed” is what they call it there rather than high speed. I think in regards to costs, NZ would be significant more, as has already been pointed out, we would not allow cheap migrant labourers. However, a train from Britomart to Hamilton in under 1:30 for twice what the OP said still would be a good bargain.

    1. Lets say it had 5000 users a day (which seems high considering the whole population of Hamilton is only 160k). And lets say that number is the same every day (again seems unlikely on weekends and holidays). That is 1.8m trips a year. Our government can borrow at 2.2%. So the interest on $3.2 billion is $80 million per year. Assuming a passenger’s fare covers the running cost, each passenger is getting subsidised by $44 per trip. A commuter would be getting $440 a week in subsidies.
      I’m not necessarily anti subsidies – but isn’t this going to create some perverse outcomes?

      1. Sure, but wait until you find out about the subsidies on the RoNS….

        Seriously tho, factor in some other factors suck as improved speed and reliability for freight, decongestion effects for SH1 (5,000 fewer cars a day on the motorway at Papakura?), and/or agglomeration effects of more productive economies.

        Also consider the fact that infrastructure shapes development and demand as much as the other way around. What if we can grow Hamliton, or more specifically Huntly, Mercer, Te Kauwhata etc into more affordable yet more productive towns, as opposed to spending it growing greenfields sprawl around Auckland.

        If you are worried about subsidy, last thing I heard was that the transport infrastructure (i.e. roads and motorway extension) required for the likes of Millwater is pushing a quarter million dollars per housing unit!

        Indeed it could create perverse outcomes, if you target it wrong. But it could also create virtuous outcomes if you plan it right.

        1. I’m not that convinced that growing Huntly, Mercer, Te Kauwhata etc into more affordable yet more productive towns is really much different to Auckland sprawl.
          Alternatively they could build 3200 $500k apartments in the city and give them away!
          I guess a business case would give us more info on whether RRR stacks up…

        2. “…specifically Huntly…”
          Unfortunately Huntly hasn’t had even a train station for almost 20 years.

          Surely Huntly’s off the cards until a service is actually established and the cost of re-establ’shing a station there is justified?

        3. Huntly does have a station, a single platform on the east side of the line. Not spectacular, but it’s there.

        4. Oh c’mon, you know that this “station” (*cough* emergency platform) would not be useable for this “rapid regional rail”. The train would have to reverse into the siding and out again! It would be ridiculous to try and make use of it!

          Huntly would be off of the list to begin with.

        5. Huntly station would be fine. It’s not pretty, but it has a platform on a loop off the mainline. It’s not a siding, it has diamond crossovers at each end so simple for a train to run through in either direciton without backing out.

          It also has a high platform, a shelter, lighting and a footbridge accessing it from both the main street and East Huntly. Functionally it is ready to go, a little investment in cosmetic improvements and a better shelter wouldn’t go a miss though.

        6. I stand corrected. Huntly platform & shelter (more appropriate than “station’) is on a loop as I now better recall.
          And I also now recall that it’s quite a long loop. Its speed is limited to 25km/h and it has to cross the southbound main. So adding this stop would add about another 5 minutes. And the street view on google maps paints a rather unappealing moss/lichen-covered picture. “Would be fine”? “Ready to go”?

          I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being ready to go… …off of the itinerary altogether after a few months! It’s what happened with the overlander….

      2. As Nick said,
        plus:

        Every one who choose to live south of the Auckland southern boundary in Hamilton or those places along the way because of this high speed rail link to Auckland is someone else that Aucklanders don’t have to directly subsidise with roading, wastewater, drinking water, libraries, local roads, rubbish collection you name it.

        So its a win/win – win for Auckland ratepayers and a win of sorts for Waikato Regional Council.

        So whats not to like?

        Seems like a fair trade to me.

      3. Oh and Jimbo, I did some analysis of census data and, making some assumptions around work vs. non-work, there are around 50,000 intercity trips a day between Auckland, Hamilton and the towns in between. So 5,000 would be about a 10% modeshare.

        However, consider we build 10,000 new homes in transit oriented developments along the likes of Pokeno, Mercer, Huntly, etc… generating another 5,000 trips out of that (2,500 return) is not an inconceivable proposition. The ability to shape demand, rather than build road based developments in greenfield areas then respond to the ‘natural’ travel patterns is the key thing.

      4. Jimbo
        I think that your figure assumes 2500 commuters doing a return trip. Perhaps in relation to conditions that apply at the moment that is a large number. But, what if, in time, the road is tolled to recover the emissions cost? What if the train fare is priced, as happens with airline tickets (and with European trains), where tickets become increasingly expensive as they sell out? As road travel becomes more expensive will FIT turn to rail as they do in Europe? Will trips from the Waikato to Auckland airport be by rail?

        It seems clear that the status quo simply cannot prevail where people drive everywhere. Increasing emissions won’t allow that.

        I take you point about subsidising fares, but think that the answer lies in moving people from cars to rail and then it will pay for itself.

  15. This is an exciting prospect for NZ’s situation. At present, the proposal for Auckland-Hamilton (or more precisely, Papakura-Hamilton) is a pretty low-level type of service. The hope is that it will succeed and grow sufficiently to pave the way for something more comprehensive. But this is a gamble. If because of its minimalism it fails to open up a growth market, the result could be a major setback for higher-speed operations in NZ. Unfortunately government aspirations for high-quality Regional Rail do not yet seem to be translated into firm commitments to make it happen.

    Good article Nick R.

    1. Dave B, depressingly, running clapped out slow trains (2 in, 2 out per day) as planned for the trial will probably permanently harm any future for regional rail. There are no positives for the poor peasants who would try to use such a service – none.
      I would love to meet the person who thought this up.

      1. I hate to agree with you.
        I spat my tea out when I saw the the trial will force a transfer at Papakura. I even commented about it on here and I won’t name names but I got some patronising responses form people telling me how people would prefer to then transfer so they can sit in the comfort of an EMU (hahahaha).

        I’ve said it below; I think they need to enact network improvements that benefit railfreight such as the third main and finishing the CRL before looking at a viable Hamilton-Auckland commuter service. It needs to terminate at Britomart and be an express.

        1. I agree, this start up service cannot succeed in it’s own right. However they have said it isn’t a trial, but a start up… i.e. this is just to get going, they’re not trailing the service to prove the case for more investment. So presumably, hopefully, this means the next stage will happen regardless of how well the start up does.

        2. Interestingly the third platform and its loop line at Otahuhu station are being completed in 2019-2020. If the few missing sections of the 3rd main around wifi emu depot were completed then the RRR trains could run right up to Otahuhu with a stop at Puhinui for the airport bus link.

        3. What will happen if it only averages about 20 commuters a day after 6 months?

          Because; the fact it has to transfer at Papakura and is not especially fast will not make it very attractive for anyone to use.

      2. It was the best solution to get the Hamilton/Auckland passenger of the ground. Will the trial be successful, time will tell.

        We need to look at the bigger picture than just Hamilton and Auckland and think nationally with a national regional passenger rail network, to have common rolling stock and payment/ticketing system.

  16. Agreed that these Malaysian trains are impressive – fast, good value, clean, and a great contrast with their predecessors (as you can still see if you travel southwards from KL via Gemas to the northern edge of Singapore).

    But a couple of minor corrections: I’m pretty sure that the trains don’t tilt (the improved alignment means that they they don’t need that complication); and Butterworth is a new station rather than a new line.

    1. Hmm, I’m sure I was told they were tilting trains by a transit colleague in KL, but then again I certainly couldn’t feel any tilting action (not that you usually can anyway).

      From what I understand the new Butterworth station was built on a previously freight-only rail track serving the port area, so it kinda counts as a new passenger spur line.

      1. Re Butterworth, from memory the old station was closer to the ferry terminal. Looking at Google maps, the new station appears to be on or adjacent to the previous passenger alignment, but a bit further away – it’s not on a new spur.

        1. Oh ok, I thought the old station was on the other side of the city on the main line going north to the thai boarder… but perhaps I didn’t actually use Butterworth station back in the day, but rather the closest station to Butterworth on the main line. Maybe I actually got off at Bukut Mertajam or something last time.

        2. Sorry to hog this and labour a point, but Butterworth is the terminus of two main lines, south to KL and north to Thailand. It’s only in recent times that passenger trains have bypassed Butterworth in any numbers because it’s an important traffic objective (including the ferry to Penang), which is why the International Express terminated there before it was truncated at Padang Besar on the Thai border (with poor connections southwards). The direct link bypassing Butterworth is technically a spur rather than a main line.

        3. And Penang Sentral, which looks as if it has been built on or adjacent to the old station site, is a multi-modal transportation terminal adjacent to the ferry dock and beside the non-passenger continuation of the railway line north of Butterworth station, but the station itself was rebuilt on the other side of an elevated four-lane highway.

  17. It is a no brainer – if you build a good train link between Auckland and Hamilton, people will use it. This mean there will be less cars on the road, therefore less chance of crash. There will be less strain on the emergency services/hospital resource – therefore saving money all around. Rail is a win-win.

    One thing really bug me is that every time we change government something always get scrapped and replaced with something adding delay, adding cost. This is why we never get anything done. How can we avoid it since we know that National is a pro road and Labour is a pro rail?

    1. Well NZ could increase its government terms from three yeas to four years (like most nations) so long-term plans and policies can be implemented.

      “How can we avoid it since we know that National is a pro road and Labour is a pro rail?”
      Nope! They’re both about the same as each other overall when it comes to transport.

  18. I hope the new 5 day a week bus service from Hamilton to Pukekohe and return, doesn’t upset the plans
    for a new Waikato train service.

    Only joking !

        1. A popular bus service, even at 2h15 only goes to support the case for improved links as demonstrates demand even for a pretty low quality service. Regardless of this, the latent demand exists, there’s not decent time-reliable transit options at all at present.

  19. Good post thanks.

    The NZ Hamilton to Papakura trial is pretty timid but considering how many agencies are involved & their current setup, it’s no surprise. NZTA, Kiwirail, several city/regional councils, AT & the MoT. In saying that it’s not really an excuse, just need some more momentum on it. Te Kauwhata was not chosen as a destination to start with, but with the recent apparent lack of interest in the Kiwi Build homes there seems a pity. The report does say that “Te Kauwhata (to be further investigated within the five-year period).” It suggests it’s one of the next best condition stations.

      1. It is a bit weedy, but a telephoto lens always exaggerates and this track is in a low-speed environment within station limits. I’d say that it’s not ideal but generally fit for that purpose (except perhaps at the point of derailment!).

      2. The Waikato Regional Council has extended the current Hamilton/Huntly bus service with some services travelling on to Te Kauwhata from 1 Feb 19. Te Kauwhata now has 2 bus services per day between Monday to Friday, Pokeno has 1 bus service per day between Monday to Friday to/from which is additional to the 8 InterCity Coachlines services between Hamilton and Pokeno.

      3. The photo is between Masterton and Solway. The engine was shunting the Wairarapa Connection. The Government as approved the $100 million upgrade of the Wairarapa line.

  20. Given the realignments, earthworks for diversions, electrification etc. that would be all be needed in NZ to acheive a decent track bed, why not push the track gauge out to standard, thus enabling train purchases to be off the shelf as well as run at true HSR speeds?

    I see what the writer is trying to say, but even an average of 110km/h is really only car speed on a highway. To be a game changer regional rail speeds need to be higher, so that even if an end-line metro commute/bus trip is needed the overal travel time will still be competitive.

    Malaysia also does have some std. gauge line, for example the KL rail link.

    1. You are confusing top speed with average speed. Right now google maps is showing 1 hour 53 minutes for the 125km drive on the highway from Auckland to Hamilton, pretty standard with minimal traffic congestion. That’s an average speed of 66km/h.

      So I do think being almost twice as fast as driving would be a game changer.

      As for standard gauge, there is a number of reasons why you wouldn’t want to regauge. Firstly, you’d have to convert the entire line to standard before you could run a single train. Then once you have converted it you can’t run any other train on it, for example freight. Shutting down the freight network ex Auckland seems like a strategic misstep to me! Thirdly, you’d not be able to run passenger trains from your standard gauge line to the rest of the network, e.g. carrying on past Hamilton to Tauranga or Rotorua or Wellington.

      Fourthly, there is no need. Narrow gauge can do up to 160km/h, and just having standard gauge doesn’t get you HSR speeds. It’s building a new HSR line, with curve radii measured in tens of kilometres, that gets you those speeds. If you did standard gauge on the current alignments you’d still be limited to about 160km/h. If you want a line that does 300km/h+ then you are looking at a 20 billion dollar project, not a 2 billion dollar one, and you wouldn’t use any of the existing line at all.

      Yes Malaysia has standard gauge, but only on the metro and suburban lines of the KL area. Those are all separate systems that don’t interline with each other or run on the national system.

      Also there isn’t really any such thing as an off the shelf train. They have modular train elements that they tool up for each order’s requirements, and there are a range of product lines you can run on NZs network. For example, you could go to CRRC and order a narrow gauge version of that Malaysian train set ‘off the shelf’ tomorrow. Or you could buy the equivalent from Hitachi or Kinki.

      1. +1 to what Nick says.

        If you really wanted to (which I can’t see happening in NZ) you could have a network of two gauges with dual-gauge stock and gauge changers at the interface, like the Spanish do. Gauge changing is so quick and easy that a passenger could easily miss it – all it involves is going through a small shed at 10km/h, with none of the bangs and clunks that I expected – but it is complex. And the trains, being marvels of multiplicity – dual-gauge dual-voltage hybrid electro-diesel units – are hardly off the shelf!

        1. Yes it is quite seamless in Spain, but justified there owing to the mixture of Iberian, Std and narrow gauges. However I don’t think we would need to go down that route because given new std. gauge line in the AKL-HAM-TAU triangle, you wouldn’t want to run slower freight movements in that corridor anyway as it defeats the purpose. Unless you did it at night say (11pm to 5am). You could potentially use a new std gauge route for night for 160kp/h freight shuttles between say TAU and Metroport in AKL. Otherwise just maintain the narrow gauge for freight.

        2. I could be wrong but I’m pretty certain that the variable axes rolling stock used in bits of Spain and Russia are on trains that don’t go very fast.

          Many Spaniards have criticised the impact of their HSR in how it’s ended services to smaller regional centres.

        3. Okay so these are fast variable gauge trains.

          But I hardly think that a slowdown to 10km/h through a shed is “so quick and easy that a passenger could easily miss it”.

          And its all a moot point tangent anyway because nobody is going to build standard gauge railways in NZ.

        4. Well we are going to build standard gauge Light Railways.

          But gauge is a distraction. Change is not necessary.

          I have been on the Renfe dual gauge train, it is seemless, but still not necessary here.

        5. Okay “Patrick R” any future urban light rail or metro will be standard gauge.

          I’m talking about railways for interurban travel.

        6. Okay so these are fast variable gauge trains.

          But I hardly think that a slowdown to 10km/h through a shed is “so quick and easy that a passenger could easily miss it”.

          And its all a moot point tangent anyway because nobody is going to build standard gauge rail in NZ.

        7. The gauge changing happens immediately after a station stop, so barely noticeable.

          Agreed that it’s off tangent re NZ, but it shows what can be done (but I don’t know at what cost!).

        8. Okay its purely hypothetical.
          Because a decent & viable Auckland-Hamilton train service only needs to average 100-110 km/h, it doesn’t need to be HSR as the distance between the two centres isn’t all that great.

      2. The thing is, the article is just wrong about the cost of high-speed rail. NZD18m per kilometre isn’t “an order of magnitude cheaper than true high speed rail”. If Wikipedia’s to be believed, the Hannover-Berlin high speed line, for example, was built for around the same price per kilometre, albeit in 1990 money. At that cost, why not go the whole hog?

        1. You might want to compare to something more recent and nearby than a German Line upgrade from 30 years ago.

          The Singapore to KL high speed rail link has been put on hold due to costs rising to 110 billion ringgit for the 350km route. That’s $40b New Zealand, or over $110m a kilometer.

      3. I think that is the point, so much expenditure would be required to bring the existing lines even to 110-140kph capabilitiy, that you may as well build out new HSR lines on alignments that aren’t limited by the earthwork capabilities of the early 20th century.
        Leave the existing lines for freight, and expand the HSR network further as demand increase.
        You probably would struggle to run the narrow gauge at the speeds mentioned anyway unless it can be seperated adequately from freight movements, which would be unlikely, or at least restrict the network capacity.

        1. Sorry but I disagree on this, new HSR lines will cost somewhere between five or ten times as much per kilometre as a higher speed upgrade of the existing track. There is no ‘might as well’ about spending tens of billions of dollars more.

          The Malaysian system doesn’t separate the faster passenger trains from freight movements, except through scheduling. This is the same with the equivalent higher speed trains on the Japanese and Taiwanese narrow gauge main lines, where they still run mixed freight and intensive rapid passenger trains. This is not a new concept, we are not inventing the wheel here.

          This need not restrict network capacity particularly, even the single track ECMT can run 96 trains a day in theory, and parts of the NIMT several hundred… although it would take a lot of coordination and active management for sure.

        2. I think you seriously underestimate the state of our current track condition with respect to being able to upgrade them at reasonable cost to the higher speeds (140kph) mentioned in the article.

          And look at the crashes and delays they have already had between ETS and cargo in Malaysia, despite running cargo largely at night.
          All experience from the rest of the world says if you are going to invest in these passenger rail systems you seperate it from freight movements. The Japanese run very little freight.

          I would continue O&G exploration, ringfence the $500m/yr in taxation/royalties from that and use to fund the capital infrastructure spend, and do it properly.

        3. I didn’t realise we got royalties from O & G exploration, I thought it was only from the actual extraction of the product. This is something that will continue for a number of years so we can keep the royalties coming no problem.

        4. I can guarantee that our tracks are in better condition that the Malaysian ones before they upgraded them.

          What don’t you agree with, that NZD$1.6b isn’t enough to upgrade the tracks from Papakura to Hamilton for 140km/h running?

          Even if we did have $500m a year for entirely new high speed line lines, that would only fund about five or six kilometres a year. It would take about sixty years to build the RRR network as HSR that way. I wouldn’t call that doing it properly.

        5. “…that you may as well build out new HSR lines…”

          Yah. If you’re prepared to spend about ten times the money….

    2. NZ does not need standard gauge, there is no benefit in such an expensive money drain. The existing Cape gauge is more than enough for NZ’s requirements.
      It’s not going to happen

    3. Any argument that whilst we should eventually provide a fast intercity rail system into Auckland, but on a new Standard gauge that would allow top speeds of about 250kph rather then the about 160kph on an upgrade to the existing tracks between Auckland and Hamilton, is simply a classic rear gaurd delaying tactic of the National Party/ roading interests to preserve complete car travel dominance on this route and beyond for as long as possible. They know the costs are prohibitive. A similar argument was mounted by The Real Mathew (remember him?) for Dominion Road Light Rail, agreeing there was a future need but it would need to be elevated, knowing the extra costs and opposition of effected landowners would kill it.

      1. I prefer to attribute this to ignorance rather than malice, as the saying goes.

        The idea that if we are going to do anything at all, we ‘might as well’ do something ‘proper’ is quite prevalent… unfortunately it’s also divorced from reality.

        A programme of investment over ten years or so to upgrade tracks, build small deviations, buy new fleet, expand depots, build or upgrade stations, modify signalling, upgrade level crossings… that is a perfectly practical and reasonably affordable for NZ to do. With investment in the low billions spread over a decade, with each step of investment generating marginal gains, that is entirely realistic.

        Going all in on a brand new high speed rail line, with investment in one package costing several tens of billions, is not practical.

        Unfortunately a lot of people don’t understand the difference.

        1. Another thought, if we were to build a section of new purpose built high speed line for our narrow gauge trains, say some sort of parallel express line from Pokeno to Ngaruawahia, are we certain that the 160km/h rule of thumb limit for upgraded tracks still applies?

          The QR tilt trains have done well over 200km/h in test conditions, so they are perfectly capable of it. Perhaps the real limit is on track alignment rather than wheel gauge.

  21. Unless you’re heading for really high speeds (which I can’t see ever happening here), it’s a bit of a myth that a broader gauge is needed for higher speeds – for instance, the fastest trains in Australia are on Queensland’s 1067mm-gauge track (like ours).

    It’s also a bit of a myth that narrow-gauge trains can’t be bought off the shelf, given the large narrow-gauge networks in South Africa, Japan, Queensland, Western Australia, and the many such lines in Europe. But anyway the main difference is in the bogies, which can be swapped: for example, our S/SA/AD/SE/SW cars all started on 1435mm gauge, and well-nigh identical carriages have run on Ireland’s 1600mm gauge

      1. Since three of Australia’s states use the same cape gauge that NZ does and yet two fo those three have much better railways.

        P.S. He also mentioned Japan and South Africa.

  22. “At that rate you could double the whole line from Ruakura to the Kaimai west portal for $30m.”

    But why would you use that rate? A passing loop is generally sited such that it avoids the need for any significant civil works such as bridges, embankments or cuttings. Extending a passing loop has the option of choosing the more cost-favourable end to extend. Double track offers no such choices. In additional the double track involves double OHLE as well. Even double track will have to be augmented with loops or fitted with bi-directional signalling and frequent crossovers to permit the 2 freights per hour in each direction referred to in the link. The appropriate rate to use is thus the cost of duplicating, electrifying and signalling the western line in Auckland.

    1. The Western line is signalled for 12tph and being in an urban area has a lot more bridges etc, the cost would be somewhere between what Nick suggests and the Western line costs.

      1. “as a lot more bridges”

        True, but the bridge over the Waikato is going to be very expensive. I am guessing that it would be left as single track.

        The Western line is signalled for 12 tph and it has ETCs but it is not signalled for 140 km/h trains. That is going to require some changes to signalling practice to allow sufficient braking distance.

        1. It may signalled for 12tph now but signalling will eventually become unnecessary when we move to ETCS level 2 then level 3. Higher tph rates through CRL will likely see the ETCS upgraded to level 2 in the near(ish) future

        2. Nick’s proposal doesn’t have trains running any faster than they currently do between Hamilton and Tauranga so there wouldn’t need to be an upgrade of signals for 140km running on this section.

        3. It’s hard to know exactly what Nick’s proposal is. On the one hand we have:

          “All up, using the Malaysian upgrade as a guide this programme would cost about two billon dollars. That is a very significant chunk of money, but it would buy not only a regional rapid rail system with frequent electric passenger trains running at fast average speeds between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga”

          and on the other hand we have:
          “but a regular electrified main like with average speeds of 80km/h or so”.

          You are suggesting that it is the latter and state that trains would run no faster than at present. Current maximum speed is 80 km/h on this line so how is a service that averages 80 km/h and which necessarily involves crossing opposing services by means of passing loops and negotiating 3 junctions en route going to achieve this average without exceeding 80 km/h?

    2. Sorry that’s crazy. The unit cost rate of duplicating the east coast line within the rail corridor across flat farmland will be no way near the cost of duplicating the western line through urban Auckland. The 60km of Ruakura to Waharoa has a total of four rail bridges, a dozen level crossings, (mostly farm driveways), no tunnels, no major cuttings or embankments, and two road over bridges, both of which is already wide enough for double track.

      1. “Sorry that’s crazy”

        No need to apologise.

        60 km of track duplication for $30M? You stated that electrification alone is $2.5 M/km. Let’s assume that if two tracks were done simultaneously the marginal cost of the second track is $1.5M/km; that’s $90M for electrification alone with nothing for the track, additional turnouts, civils, bidirectional signals etc.

        1. Yes I am talking about duplication and electrification separately.

          The electrification figure of $2.5m a km is for double track actually, so already over spec’d for the single track ECMT.

  23. Yes, common in Europe. Two examples (albeit slightly out of date):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail_in_Italy#/media/File:Italy_TAV.png
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSL_4#/media/File:Hslbenelux.png

    I think the issue is, given the state of our infrastructure, what is the cost of building from scratch, rather than sinking money to try and rectify the current poor alignments and other issues that no amount of money will ever fix, for ultimately very marginal benefit.

  24. In terms of our regional connectivity, can I point out something we can do now, although of course it should be seen as complementary to any rail investment.

    One thing I now notice much more as I come back to NZ on breaks, is how poor our intercity bus service is in terms of its operating frequencies, quite apart from the time it takes. If there are only one or two buses a day, people will travel by car if they travel at all; increasing service frequency (hourly buses Hamilton to Papakura, perhaps?) could help create and build a market.

    This would probably have to be organised at a national level, given the number of separate regional councils which would be involved. Anyway, I’m not sure if this has been raised before, but would welcome thoughts, and am not trying to be O/T.

    1. Ross, I completely agree. There are large areas of towns in NZ with only one bus per week. That’s not access. That doesn’t even provide many of the things we take to be basic rights in a modern society. It doesn’t allow these often fertile or appealing areas to provide young workers from nearby areas with employment (unless they take their lives in their hands by combining the highest crash risk for age, vehicle value, road type). Similarly, they can’t attract the tourists who’d prefer not to drive on our rural roads. It’s stifling education, community development, local economies.

      I am working on some posts on this idea with another commenter. Would love to see your ideas if you care to send them in.

      1. Heidi, I disagree with you. You know what the problem is, the car is king and public transport is for down and outs. Also, you now that our 6 major and 12 regional cities are separated by large area of rural landscape, which makes public transport in the regions more of a challenge,

        I happy to work with you on what you are proposing.

        1. Which bit do you disagree with, then? We’re not rushing with them – plenty of other stuff we’re both working on, and they’ll cover various aspects. Some of the posts would be on a topic you’d probably be able to help with, thanks.

        2. Which regional town/s has one bus service per week. Are you referring to bus services provided by local district/regional councils?

          InterCity inter-regional and long distance bus, coach and scenic coach services operate from Kaitaia to Invercargill with 140 daily services including inter-islander ferry services to 500 odd small communities, towns, provincial cities and the 6 major cities, so most communities have at least 1 bus service per day.

          I am not sure if you know, that InterCity has a very good national bus/ferry pass, that is valid for 12 months from 1 travel journey, that recharge by travel hour used, that is reloaded, can be used on Cook Strait ferry services (InterIslander) and can be used by any PC and/or mobile device?

          I happy to discuss this with you.

        3. Details like that would be great, Kris. But see this map:

          https://www.intercity.co.nz/travel-info/route-map/

          Hokianga is not an Intercity destination. And see this page about Kaikohe:

          https://www.intercity.co.nz/cheap-north-island-buses/bus-kaikohe-to-auckland/

          Kaikohe is not an Intercity destination.

          I advised Intercity of this over a month ago. Seems the company doesn’t have an effective communications team. Is this something you could also discuss with me for the blog?

        4. My once a week reference was Omapere to Kerikeri. Omapere’s only bus. Twice a week for a few months of summer.

        5. Jezza – Mangakino to Taupo bus service is currently operates every second Wednesday and is funded by the Waikato Regional Council (WRC)

          The WRC also funds the 3 times a week Mangakino/Tokaroa/Mangakino bus services.

          Both services are operated under WRC ‘Busit’ brand.

          Under the WRC Public Transport 2018-2028 Plan, the Council is looking at bus service/s from Taumarunui to Turangi and Taupo and improving the Taupo/Mangakino and Tokaroa/Mangakino bus services. This is part of the WRC plan to operate regional rail services from Hamilton to Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui.

        6. Heidi – The Northland Regional Council funding of the Omapere to Kerikeri bus service would be based on demand hence its current timetable. The combined population of Omapere and Opononi is 414 people according to the 2013 census

        7. I’m pretty sure the DHB also funds the Mangakino services. I don’t think who funds them is that relevant to this conversation, it is more a question of whether there is sufficient bus services outside of the main and regional centres in NZ.

        8. Heidi – InterCity pulled the Kawakawa to Kaikohe service that was operate by Ritchies and has been replaced by Northland Regional Council funded once a day/daily Kaikoura to Paihia and Kerikeri service. This service connects at Kawakawa with Intercity services between Kawakawa and Auckland. For bus services to and from Kaikoura – https://buslink.co.nz/wp-content/themes/buslink/downloads/Mid-North-Link-Timetables-for-2017.pdf

          The Northland Regional Council also funds the Hokianga to Kekriri twice a week bus serives – https://buslink.co.nz/wp-content/themes/buslink/downloads/Hokianga-Link-Timetable-2018.pdf

          For further bus services in the Northland region – https://buslink.co.nz/

        9. ? Kris? Intercity shows Hokianga on its map and lists Kaikohe as a destination on its list of destinations.

          I was kind of hoping you might know someone there who could fix up their website and check all the other destinations on the list and the map.

          Since customer feedback didn’t work.

        10. Heidi – InterCity Coachlines did operate on any bus/coach services to Hokianga, as this operated by Fullers/Great Sight (A InterCity Group brand) sighting tour as ‘Giants and Glowworms’ tour which operates Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

          For further information concerning this tour – https://www.dolphincruises.co.nz/bay-of-islands-tours/hokianga-tane-mahuta/

          This tour can be booked through InterCity reservation system.

          With regards to Kaikohe, the destination is still in InterCity reservation system but the service has has been deleted. As mentioned, the service may have been deleted since Northland Regional Council is funding bus services to/from Kaikohe.

        11. Do you think Intercity need to add this information to their website, or to take Hokianga off their map? Ditto with the Kaikohe information – should they add a reference to the Mid North Link to their website, or remove Kaikohe as a listed destination on their website?

          Thanks for linking it all. This might be of interest to other readers. I had found most of it last month, although for the Hokianga Link bus (to Kerikeri) I understood it was once a week, twice in summer: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/hokianga

          If it’s now twice a week all year, that’s good to know, thanks.

          The tourist bus ‘Giants and Glowworms’ was way too expensive to consider for a long weekend holiday in Omapere that I was considering for my family. So the hotel there has missed out on our custom. And I doubt locals would ever consider it for transport.

          Which is why I think some serious planning and funding of regional bus services is a good idea. And I still don’t understand what part of what I said you disagreed with. 🙂

        12. Heidi – I do agree with you, there are small rural/semi rural communities and towns in NZ with only one bus per week or no bus services but is due to funding by district and/or regional councils who are pressured by ratepayers, who don’t want to fund public transport, as they see the car is king and that public transport is unnecessary expenditure to cater for the down and out in their communities. This is seen in Raglan where the locals want more frequent bus services between Raglan and Hamilton, yet the more car fixated rate payers in Hamilton city are not happy to more PT levies to the Waikato Regional Council. As you know, there are alot of Hamilton ratepayers not happy about subsidising the Hamilton/Auckland trail train services, as they see it a waste of money and is more convent and ‘quicker’ to use a car between Hamilton and Auckland, as seen by some of the comments on GA site.

          Car fixate regional rate payers don’t see that PT is a basic right in a modern society nor the don’t care that young workers from nearby communities who want to use PT for employment or is stifling education, community development, local economies.

          The problem is PT has a bad image and needs to be promote in a positive image for rural, semi urban and urban living. That is why the promotion of a national regional passenger rail network inter-connecting with local regional PT modes and InterCity inter-regional and long distance bus network enhances community living, increase local economy through work and tourism and is environmental friendly as climate change has a greater effect on rural and urban life styles.

          I believe a fully integrate local, regional, inter-regional and long distance public transport network using train, bus and ferry modes will help to double NZ’s population more evenly compared to what we have at the moment with our current population concentration in 6 major locations.

    2. Ross Clark – There are up to 14 daily between Hamilton and Auckland city operated by InterCity Coachlines and Skip Travel. Except for the 4 express Hamilton to Auckland InterCity and 1 Skip Travel service that travel via Auckland airport, the rest pass through Manukau City. There is 3 daily services operated by InterCity between Hamilton and Papakura. InterCity and Skip Travel bus/coach services are not funded by NZTA, as there deemed to inter-regional services and do not qualify for NZTA urban transport funding.

      Waikato Regional Council does get NZTA funding for one a day/5 day a week bus service under its ‘Busit’ brand between Hamilton and Pukekohe despite Pukekohe comes under Auckland Council jurisdiction.

      There is a belief by people in Auckland, that Pokeno is being part of Auckland, in fact Pokeno comes under the Waikato Regional Council, Pokeno has up to 8 daily InterCity services between Pokeno, Manukau City and Auckland city and 3 dally InterCity services between Pokeno and Papakura. These services are no funded by NZTA, as they cross the boundary between Auckland Council and Waikato Regional Council.

      1. If theres 14 coach services: There’s definitely room for competition from a rail service, even if it doesn’t stop at Manukau or the airport.

        1. Out of the 14 InterCity bus services ex Hamilton 10 are ‘pass’ through services from other departure locations. as Hamilton is a major InterCity hub. There are 4 InterCity Hamilton/Auckland/Hamilton ‘express’ bus services.

          There is additional 3 Hamilton/Auckland/Whangarei/Auckland/Hamilton Skip bus services which means Hamilton is serviced with up to 17 daily services to/from Auckland.

  25. We don’t need to post about Malaysian rapid rail to tell what is need for NZ as we all know what is needed. What is needed, is to get a lobby group together to push for the re-establishment of a national regional passenger rail network similar to what has operating up to the early 1980’s, that can be integrated with local regional bus services.

    The green environmental friendly rolling stock and integrated ticketing/payment technology and existing rail infrastructure is available to make it happen. The regional passenger rail network would be a central government, regional/district council, Kiwirail. private business partnership but it would be more a PPP type of partnership.

    The current proposed Auckland/Hamilton/Tauranga passenger rail services, the proposed Wellington/Palmerston North passenger rail upgrade and the current Wellington/Wairarapa rail service is the beginning of a national regional passenger rail network.

    If there is anybody who supports or is keen on the re-establishment of a national regional passenger rail network, please let me know.

    1. The last thing we need is a return to the pre-1980’s regional passenger network with once a day services that generally took longer than a car or bus trip.

      The Malaysian line is much closer to the RRR proposal than anything that has existed in NZ previously.

      1. Jezza, I am suprise by your comment considering you are a PT supporter. I said, ‘similar’ not like. RRR is not going to happen due to the country’s topography and our current small sparsely placed population but we can have higher speed regional passenger rail network if the tracks and infrastructure is upgraded and speed restricting kinks are eliminated. As mentioned, the rail infrastructure is already in place.

        1. “we can have higher speed regional passenger rail network if the tracks and infrastructure is upgraded and speed restricting kinks are eliminated”

          That is exactly what the RRR plan is. Upgrade existing tracks and infrastructure for higher speed running, combined with new fit for purpose trains and new and upgraded stations.

        2. There is a difference between a higher speed and high speed. What is your definition of RRR and/or high speed?

          If you are referring to high speed, are you referring to International Union of Railways – Category III – Existing tracks specially upgraded for high speeds, allowing a maximum running speed of at least 200 km/h (124 mph), but with some sections having a lower allowable speed (for example due to topographic constraints or passage through urban areas?

        3. Yes obviously. RRR is not a proposal for HSR. I take it you haven’t read the report or the post on it then? Link is at the top of this page.

          RRR is higher speed, upgraded existing narrow gauge tracks. Like the Malaysian example. Maximum of 160km/h in line with similar cape gauge systems in Queensland, Taiwan and Japan.

        4. Why is RRR not going to happen because of the countries topography? The proposal is between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, which is mostly flat except for the Kaimai’s which already have a tunnel.

          The money that would need to be spent to make say Wellington to New Plymouth, Wellington to Napier or Christchurch to Dunedin competitive with a bus or car journey would be significant. It’s hard to justify this when instead you could put the money into subsidising a more frequent bus service than is currently operating on these routes.

        5. It depends on your definition of high speed and/or RRR?

          I think there is misunderstanding of the definition of high speed/RRR

          What is you definition of high speed/RRR?

        6. There shouldn’t be any confusion the GA RRR proposal is quite clear with it’s maximum speeds – 160kmh using tilt trains to also help with average speeds.

        7. Jezza – Thanks for Patrick telling me what GA RRR is.

          Whilst the report is great in theory and I support the concept but I think we need to look at the report more realistically, as what is proposed is more like National’s gold plated 4 lane highly engineered RoNS – expensive.

          The question I ask, why do we need to have tilt trains that travel at 160kph when a speed of 100/120kphs using upgraded track would be economical than going for a gold plated International Union of Railways – Category III of track upgrade,

          Wouldn’t it be most cost effective to use the hydrogen power Alstrom Coradia iLint rolling stock that has a top speed of 140kphs with a range of 600-800kms be more cost effective, as these train sets can be used in other parts of NZ on a national regional passenger network?

          We need to stop have inward thinking that Auckland is the centre of NZ and that Hamilton and Tauranga are satellite ‘towns’ of Auckland.

          The Alstrom Coradia iLint rolling stock can be used to link the regional rail network with Hastings and Napier and New Plymouth, Christchurch, Dunedin and possibility Invercarill and Auckland to New Plymouth.

          We need to look outside the square instead of Auckland tinted glasses.

        8. Whether the top speed in service is 160km/h or 140km/h probably doesn’t matter, its the track upgrades to allow higher average speeds to be maintained that matters. Malaysia and Japan don’t run more than 140km/h on their narrow gauge lines. Queensland and Taiwan does 160. so be it.

          Tilt trains are intended to keep the speed up through various curves to cut down on the need for deviations and major track realignment. So the opposite of gold plating.

          A single supplier semi-test unit running on hydrogen feels like a bad move for running trains to local towns and centres, not least because you need to install hydrogen fueling systems at any depot you want to run from, and find a way to distribute high pressure hydrogen around the country.

          RRR proposes electro-diesel hybrids specifically so they can run to regional cities and destinations on diesel power, i.e. they can be refueled just about anywhere on the network.

          If you read the RRR report, it’s not Auckland focused, if anything it is Hamilton and Waikato focused.

          The reason for targeting the Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga corridor (and spurs to Rotorua, Cambridge and the King Country) is the simple fact that half the national population lives along a 200km long corridor with a couple of branches. It where rapid rail will work best, and serve the greatest population for the least cost. By comparison Christchurch to Dunedin is half as long again, but has a quarter the people living in the area.

        9. Nick R – The Alstrom Coradia iLint is more greener to operated then EDMU’s, as it is not using fossil fuel for non-electrified track and it has the range capability of 600-800kms on a tank of hydrogen. Operating a fleet of hydrogen train sets will give flexibility of the fleet, as the main depot would be in Hamilton and a small refueling port at Tauranga and Auckland.and possibility Taumarunui (if the regional rail is extended under the Waikato Regional Council 10 years Transport Plan is adopted) for overnight stabling.

          Using Alstrom Coradia iLint train sets can speed up the introduction of regional passenger train services in Waikato/Bay of Plenty, as they can operate on existing track at a lower speed and have the flexibility of operating around track upgrades.

          Kiwirail is look at the possibility of using hydrogen powered locomotives for freight and possible long distance passenger trains.

          When the GA RRR was prepared in 2017, new technology is now available and shouldn’t be ruled out.

          By the way, I totally support electrification between Papakura/ Pukekohe to Hamilton and Tauranga and between Palmerston North and Waikanae.

          Cambridge could be out for question due to cost. Kiwirail has said to relay the track from Hautapu to Cambridge is approximately $10-12 million due to 10 rail/roads crossing on the route.They believe it would be expensive to operate on 1-3 return train services per day, especially if the Waikato Regional Council is looking at high frequency bus services between Cambridge, Hamilton City, The Base and Huntly.

        10. Even with the most favourable following wind, implementation of RRR will be some years away, by which time rolling stock design etc will have moved on. So isn’t it getting just a little ahead of ourselves to specify not merely the type of rolling stock but the specific model?

          Hydrogen is yet to be proven in squadron rail service, and no-one here will want to be a pioneer. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to make sure that someone else is the first (or last!) user of any particular technology.

        11. Mike M – I won’t be using the 2 early morning passenger train services between Hamilton and Papakura after 2020. Since I travel between Hamilton and Auckland usually after 10am it will be the InterCity to Skycity for me instead of a train change at Papakura. The same will happen on the return journey. If I do want to travel at 6-7am, I can take the 1 stop Skip Travel bus service between Hamilton and Auckland city on one bus,

          I am still not sure if the proposed Hamilton/Papakura train services are going to be economically variable under the proposed timetable. That is why the Alstrom Coradia iLint concept is is more durable, as it can operate on existing track but the powers to be know better than the customers using the service. Just look at the shambolic mess the GWRC has create with their dysfunctional multi hub rapid bus network they introduced in July 2018.

        12. This perhaps telling, they’ll spend $100m on a motorway interchange for Cambridge, but $10m for a rail line is considered outlandish.

          I’m not sure why you would even consider a Cambridge branch for 1 to 3 services a day. That’s crazy. RRR proposed hourly all day, and half hourly at peak.

          The fixation on hydrogen is strange, either diesel or electrification is a known, proven and effective solution. If not electrification then diesel power, that can go anywhere.

        13. Oh and by the way, almost all hydrogen production is fossil fuel. It’s extracted from natural gas far more cheaply that electrolysis, which has large energy losses.

        14. Nick R – What is the carbon foot print of operating a EDMU under under diesel operation as oppose to operating a Hydrogen powered MU.

          I an not sure what you not happy about hydrogen being used reduce carbon omissions.

        15. The carbon footprint of an expensive train we don’t buy because there is only one supplier in the world with an uproven product, for which we don’t have the infrastructure to support it’s strange fuel option, or the skills and facilities to maintain… is quite high. Its equal to all the trips that keep running by car because we haven’t given them an alternative.

          Conversely, the carbon footprint of a diesel, or electro-diesel, trainset that we can buy in a competitive market tender from a range of suppliers, that we can afford to buy in bulk, and that we can fuel, maintain and actually run…. that small, negative actually when it replaces thousands of long distance car trips each day.

          I’m not happy about an hydrogen test vehicle (and yes, with one model only a couple years old it is very much a technology test bed) because its far too risky to actually procure, run and maintain.

          I would ask why you are so averse to reducing carbon footprint through conventional electric or diesel technologies that we know works, that we can actually buy, deploy, operate and maintain.

        16. Nick R – I am not sure why you think that I am adverse to greener technology. The Chinese along with a number of other countries have or developing hydrogen powered train technology. I would have more faith in Alstrom hydrogen train technology,

          There is no reason why Alstrom can supply and maintain the trainsets and their infrastructure under a PPP, especially under a national regional passenger network that would operate under standardised rolling stock and payment ticketing system.

          The Coradia iLint are already in regular passenger service on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line in Lower Saxony, Germany.

          By the way, I do support EBMU/EDMU operation for regional rail, if an EDMU operates on bio fuels.

    2. Of course I’m in favour of regional rail being reintroduced. Especially with the potential for tourism.

      But it needs to be done in stages where the benefits of one improvement justify the next one. I think the third main needs to be built ASAP because even though it will most benefit freight, it would make a Auckland-Hamilton service much easier.

      I know this will be unpopular with some Aucklanders (with Diesel phobia); but I think that one the CRL is finished; the ventilation fans in Britomart can be recommissioned so Britomart can be the terminus for the Auckland end of this service.

      If regular services between Frankton Junction and Britomart are well-patronised: Theres a justification to re-establish a Hamilton Station under Hamilton again.
      And once rail’s established in the Waikato again; it can have its own local commuter rail into Hamilton from the North Waikato, King Country, Tauranga, etc. Rotorua Station could be reestablished.

      Likewise: Gradual Improvement to the NAL to to help move railfreight more efficiently (especially if Marsden B goes ahead) could make an Auckland-Whangarei service viable.

      There needs to be a planned & integrated build-up of rail infrastructure over a decade or two and people need to be patient.

      1. I agree with you. Both Waikato Regional and Bay of Plenty Regional Councils are keen on regional rail. Unfortunately, Auckland Council is currently not keen on the idea, as they see little benefit to their ratepayers to fund inter-regional between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

        Like with the greater Wellington region, the Waikato Region is becoming ready of regional passenger rail, as Hamilton and Tauranga become satellite cities of Auckland. The Waikato Regional Council 10 year regional public transport plan is focus on using regional rail with inter-connecting regional bus services.

        1. They need to do that to get enough platform space and add extra escalators for the CRL. Remember that when the CRL is operational all the passengers currently using the five platforms at Brtiomart (four in routine use) will be condensed onto just two. Those two need to be bigger.

          Two terminal tracks for intercity is probably ok for quite a while, it would let you run twenty minute departures comfortably, having a third would be useful for a spare but not needed routinely.

        2. Hi david.
          Losing a platform’s no big issue. Once the CRL is finished; the capacity at Britomart will have increased considerably. Four incoming lines each at maximum frequency of 20 minutes will effectively become 2 lines and will be easily handled by the two through platforms with plenty of spare capacity and resilience for delays. In fact; once it’s justified by demand after a few years it they could probably increase the service frequencies to 15 minutes and then 12 minutes and still have plenty of capacity.
          I don’t expect that using the two spare platforms for more long distance services (and recommissioning the big ventilation fans) and pushing them through the two incoming tracks near the Strand should cause any problems for many years. When that bridge needs to be crossed; building a dedicated Long distance terminus could be justified.

          The service(s) I’m proposing would initially only be peak morning and evening services (although a regular 60-40 minute frequent DMU service to just Pukekohe could run throughout the day, especially if a station at Drury is also reestablished). Once those become established they can both extend to Mercer and beyond into the Waikato and have their number of services increased. Likewise a similar service could use the Western line towards Helensville and into Northland. The improvements will be incremental; for example once Huntly’s the next station on the line, 5-10 million can be organised to fund a proper station with side platforms on the mainline (instead of the stupid loop) or improving track alignments and sleeper beds to allow faster transits which would also benefit the considerable amount of freight movements on the corridors.

          Of course it might not please some of the less reasonable people wanting a service to Hamilton out of the box who would have to wait even more years. But it is entirely feasible and would have an end result which IMO is a far better outcome that merely talking/arguing about it and running sure-to-fail services on the system as it is.

        3. There’s four lines currently coming into Britomart:
          The Western Line
          The Southern Line
          The Eastern Line
          The Onehunga Branch

          When the CRL is completed:
          The western line and Onehunga Branch will combine to become one line
          The Southern line and eastern line will combine to become one line.

          4 lines will become 2 lines.

        4. So what will become of the Parnell station ? or will that be abandoned . Or will they start a run to Waiuku/Glenbrook which I think using the DMU’S

        5. The Parnell station remains. Why do you think that it would be abandoned? It will remain on the combined Western & Onehunga line.

          And yes a service to Waiuku is definable possible. But probably after a station is reestablished at Drury and probably Paerata.

        6. @daniel, the three major line currently run at 10 minute frequencies at peak, not 20 minutes. The plan is to run 5 minute frequenies on the twonew lines pretty much straight after the CRL opens.

          Given that Hamilton has 10 times the population of any town between Aucjkland and Hamilton, surely you would start with an Auckland to Hamilton service running hourly both way all day then add in the intermediate stations as funds become available?

        7. By “Sailor Boy”: Given that Hamilton has 10 times the population of any town between Aucjkland and Hamilton, surely you would start with an Auckland to Hamilton service running hourly both way all day then add in the intermediate stations as funds become available?

          No. Not when you can’t make the train journey attractive competitive between the two centres. Starting with an Auckland to Hamilton service as it stands will not attract enough passengers because the journey simply takes too long and it won’t justify the investment needed to make it competitive by improving the tracks, etc. And as it currently stands; it’s not even going to be to Auckland anyway, rather than be an express to Britomart it’s going to terminate at Papakura and force a transfer! I can’t see the proposed service succeeding and it will surely end up quietly scrapped, I just hope that the resting bad publicity doesn’t set Auckland-Hamilton rail back even more years.
          What’s “surely’ is to begin with the places where the service IS competitive or even preferable to driving and build up a passenger base. When that’s established, it’s justified to then get the funding necessary to extend the southward and keep it competitive by improving the infrastructure, etc. And to repeat this in steps.

          Yeah I got the service frequencies wrong. But as Auckland services don’t really get crowded at peak times like just about every other service; it’s already running inefficiently and at under capacity. I really cannot see it needing 5 minute frequencies for a long time yet.

  26. That’d be a nice ride. From KL population 7 million to the cozy little towns around Penang with 1.5mill, and all of the other people that live in towns along the way. I can see how this’d work quite nicely in NZ which obviously has similar population and construction costs.

    1. It doesn’t require a city of 7 million people to make a train service viable. It just needs enough users to reach a budgeted patronage figure. If a service is attractive and meets people’s needs at an acceptable price then it can achieve this from quite a small population base. Look at the well-used Wellington-Masterton service. There are no cities of 7 million there.
      Stop being such a can’t-do Kiwi.

    2. The Australian state of Queensland has a twice daily rapid regional rail from Brisbane’s Roma St terminus to Rockhampton with a population of 80,000 and over 600km away. It travels at speeds of up to 160km/h on tracks of the same cape gauge as NZ’s standard and a similar loading gauge.

      Can you see how this could work nicely without he sarcasm?

  27. I think one thing that needs to be emphasised is that this impressive rail service REPLACED one already established.

    How about establish that service that something like this could replace first before investing the billions?

        1. I’m saying you need ANY established service. Established meaning that it’s been operating for a few years and gets enough patronage to support itself/justify funding.

        2. You’re still seem to be suggesting that we need a well patronised rail line before we invest in the rail line. That’s cart before horse in my opinion, you can’t get a well patronised line if you don’t invest enough in service levels and performance.

        3. No.
          What I’m saying has from the beginning been in plain English: This impressive rail service (in Malaysia) REPLACED one already established.

        4. So you are saying nothing that hasn’t already been said. We all know it replaced an established service. How is that relevant to any discussion of the Auckland to Hamilton service.

        5. Erm…. ….because it’s all a bit pointless align about a fancy 160km/h if there’s not even an established service to improve upon towards this to begin with?

          Aw yeah…

  28. The more I think about it, the more I think that bringing commuter rail from the Waikato to Auckland would be better achieved by simply extending the existing DMU Pukekohe service southwards into Tuakau, Mercer, etc.
    Albeit have it terminate at Britomart with the fans recommissioned instead of the transfer at Papakura, something I have always maintained is stupid. Maybe once the CRL is finished and there’s three surplus platforms. I know that Pukekohe is in the Auckland region but I just think that it’s both far enough away to justify being the springboard for express commuter services.

    The same could also happen if DMU services were run westward beyond Swanson to Waitakere and gradually extending to Kumeu, Helensville and into Northland….

    1. Extending the DMU service southwards from Pukekohe to Mercer would be fairly straightforward. When the overhead electric reaches Puke then since the DMU stabling and fuelling already exist there the DMU shuttle could start southwards immediately.
      The problem is who pays for it as it’s unlikely AT would since that means AC would be subsidising it’s cost. Would the appropriate Waikato councils be prepared to work with nzta to finance it? And in turn pay AT to operate the service and perhaps extend HOP ticketing? Or would it all just be too complicated?

      1. But does Pukekohe REALLY need electrification?

        The Central government could as an initiative initially fund this service, with the Waikato and Auckland local bodies then chipping-in once it becomes established and its value becomes clear.

        To be honest; I think this could’ve been begun already if the Auckland council hadn’t pursued electrification to Pukekohe.

      2. Both Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and Bay of Plenty Regional Council are keen to established regional passenger train services between Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland but Auckland Council is currently not that keen, as they don’t see why Auckland ratepayers should help to fund inter-regional passenger rail, that has little benefit to Auckland PT users, hence the soon to be introduced Hamilton to Auckland train service terminating at Papakura.

        To extend existing DMU Pukekohe service southwards into Tuakau, Mercer, etc, would mean Auckland Council and WRC would have to apply for funding from NZTA, as the service crosses the Auckland/WRC boundary.

        The same will apply for regional passenger train services from Auckland to Whangarei, as Auckland Council and Northland Regional Council (NRC) would jointly have to apply for NZTA funding, as any services would crosses Auckland Council and NRC boundary.

        Its is similar to the current Capital Connection train service between Wellington and Palmerston North. Currently the service is operated by Kiwirail and does not received NZTA funding, as the service crosses GWRC and Horizons Regional Council boundary. Currently, both Councils are providing subsidies to keep the service operating. GWRC is looking at the possibility of purchasing the existing Capital Connection carriages and operate the service, with GWRC and Horizons Regional Council rate payer and NZTA funding.

        With regional ratepayer and NZTA funding of regional PT services, inter-regional passenger services will be a struggle and would be plagued with different rolling stock as seen in Auckland and Wellington with compatible EMU rolling stock and compatible payment/ticketing systems.

        This is why I am a keen supporter of developing a national regional passenger rail network that operates as a PPP, that has standardised rolling stock and payment/ticketing system, where regional councils can pay for passenger rail services in their region through regional ratepayer and NZTA subsidies, similar to what WRC, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, GWRC and Horizons Regional Council are looking at.

        1. I’m with you that it needs to be national – I believe it should be funded as part of our response to climate change and our unsafe rural roads.

          Why a PPP? Why can’t we fund it ourselves, given the benefits to environment, climate, access, economy, safety? PPP’s simply allow private partners to take profits. Why waste that money?

        2. At least somebody agrees with me. I have no problem with government totally funding it but it could get bogged down in central and regional political bureaucracy as we have seen in other projects. Under PPP there is less risk to the taxpayer.

          The PPP could be a company, that is jointly owned by the government and the EBMU, EDMU and/or Hydrail rolling stock provider to operate the network with Kiwirail contracted to provide the track/signalling infrastructure and train control, the government funding the necessary track/signalling infrastructure upgrades and stabling/maintenance depot and the rolling stock provider providing the rolling stock and its infrastructure and on going, maintenance, driver training, etc.

          The creation of a national regional passenger rail network would need to look at how the current under utilized national rail network would look in the future. I am of the opinion that track/signalling infrastructure and train control is separate from Kiwirail and operates as a separate entity like the old Ontrack and Kiwirail becomes a freight only or freight and long distance scenic passenger train operator and regional rail would be a train operator in its own right on regional passenger train services that inter-connects with local regional bus services.

          I don’t see a national regional passenger rail network having little impact on InterCity Group’s current inter-regional and long distance bus, coach and scenic coach network. InterCity Group already has a working relationship with Kiwirail for Interislander and TranzAlpine services.

        3. Yes national. Wasn’t the government looking into funding options for rail and making rail more on an even footing with roads via NZTA. Wasn’t it a NZ First thing, particularly, re Kiwi Rail sort out etc…doing this all from memory.

        4. National Party is not a fan of public transport and prefer cars and trucks. Look at Steven Joyce revision of the POTM that has totally stuffed up Wellington City bus network and has led to the current national bus driver shortage and how they dragged their feet over funding of the Auckland’s CRL. They only came to the party when Auckland Council said they are going to do it. The 2 National MPs in Hamilton support roads, cars and trucks and are opposed to any passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.

          National just gave enough money to Kiwirail to survive but not to grow.

          NZ First, Greens, United Future, Labour and lessor extend Maori Party and TOP support rail and and more efficient public transport in the cities and regions.

        5. I didn’t mean the National Party. I meant agreeing with you & Heidi on “developing a national regional passenger rail network”.

  29. I understand the National Government agreed to come to the CRL party when their own intensive private polling showed that a growing majority of Aucklanders wanted the CRL.

    No point in going against the flow on this one.

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