Canberra is not a city we would normally look to for transport but that’s changing following the opening of their first modern light rail line just over two weeks ago. It’s an interesting and useful example because Canberra is not large city (only around 400k people), nor one known for its density or public transport (as of the begining of the year Canberra’s network was carrying fewer than 20m trips). The line is useful for us as it provides another nearby reference point for Auckland’s own plans to build light rail but may also help influence discussions in some of our other cities, especially Wellington and Christchurch.

There are 13 stations over the 12km route which runs at grade in the median of roads from Gungahlin in the north through to the city. These roads are quite large generally having previously had a wide grass median – in Auckland they would most closely resemble Ti Irirangi Dr. Along the route there are numerous intersections with side streets that the light rail vehicles need to pass through but like is proposed here, they have signalling priority over road traffic and as such takes 24 minutes end to end. That’s an average of 30km/h which may not seem that fast but to put it in perspective, is about the same distance from Britomart to Onehunga via Dominion Rd and SH20 as planned for Auckland and takes only a minute longer than our existing heavy rail trains do to get there, despite them only stopping at four stations along the way. That helps to give greater confidence to the estimated travel times for Auckland’s light rail, and that they won’t be slow, despite what some have claimed.

Canberra is using CAF built Urbos 3 vehicles which are 33m long and can carry over 200 passengers along with a handful of bikes. Again, this is similar to what is proposed in Auckland (although we plan to eventually combine two of them to run as 66m trains). Services on the line have also started out strong and put our rail network to shame at times with them running every six minutes at peak times – although the peaks, especially the afternoon peak, are a bit short. That’s something I imagine will only improve over time though.

One thing that is notable about the project is the cost. It was built under a PPP model and it came in under its budget of AU$707 million (NZ $747m), which itself was already lower than earlier estimates. I’m sure there are some aspects of the route that have helped keep costs down, such as having those existing medians and not appearing to need any bridges or tunnels. That might also be why it appears as an outsider to have been delivered fairly quickly with construction starting in mid-2016 and finishing in mid-2018 with the rest of the time being taking up by testing.

As well as being under budget, it seems the project is also seeing more development than expected. This is something I think we’re almost certain to see here as we’re already seeing strong growth occurring close to the rapid transit network.

But Mr Barr said the government’s expectations had been “exceeded” in terms of the transformation of the Northbourne corridor.

“We have obviously anticipated that the publicly owned, the government held, sites would transform but the rate at which the private sector have responded has probably exceeded our expectations. We thought it would happen eventually but it’s happened a bit quicker than we thought,” he said.

A second stage to Canberra’s light rail plans will see the line extended south to Woden, almost doubling its length, with a key decision being how it gets around Parliament House. They are hoping to deliver this by 2025.

Further lines and extensions are expected the other potential future lines are shown on the map below. They say they are aiming to deliver about two stages each decade and the connection to the airport the likely third stage.

Along with light rail, Canberra has also revamped its bus network using similar principles as Auckland has with a core of frequent connecting bus routes (shown below) supported a number of lower frequency routes.

Canberra’s light rail line is the second modern light rail system to open in Australia recently with the line on the Gold Coast opening in 2014 and being extended in 2017. The line is now carrying over 10 million trips annually. Sydney is due to start running the first part of its new light rail line later this year. When will Auckland join the light rail club and start building our line?

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  1. You might also want to check out the light rail line opened recently in Newcastle NSW, another city slightly smaller than Chch or Wgtn

  2. Good information and comparison to what could be a similar situation to Auckland, thanks for the research.
    I wonder when we’ll hear an update from NZTA about light rail?

      1. hahaha, probably. Thats what they are stalling for. Ive heard light rail has been dropped by LGWM and they now want the trackless chinese things instead.

    1. The 30km/h average speed is actually pretty fast. It’s slightly faster than the Western Line.

      In Auckland that would mean 25 minutes from Aotea to Mangere Bridge and Lincoln Road.

      If you went north you could get to Constellation in 25 mins, and Takapuna in 16 mins…. Botany to Aotea in 36 mins, if you followed the route of the 70 bus.

      Dreams are free!

      1. Average speed for the Western Line (BMT-SWN 27.3Km, 52min-54min) is 31.5Km/h (54min is inbound timing which includes additional recovery-time over-and-above outbound running time).

        Note that this line is artificially slow due to: a) the Newmarket-reversal, b) inherited geographical constraints, c) AT’s still-sluggish station-dwell times. Let’s see how it performs once the CRL is open.

        1. That’s not artificial, that’s the reality of what actually happens, not least our geography! Our new lines will unfortunately need to operate in the same less-than-ideal reality too.

  3. I’d love to see an update after the first 3 years, or so, showing the development along the route. Great that the private development sector has responded quickly. I wonder how that sits in the general property development sector for Canberra.

    1. Interestingly, the residential development has preceded the opening. There is already heaps of low-to-medium rise along the corridor.

      1. Interesting indeed. Now let me think of some satirical comment about Auckland.

        Don’t they have rich old people in heritage wooden villas, or coveted views over there?

        1. Plenty of coveted views, there’s a hight restriction on buildings. Doesn’t stop the insane number of apartment blocks/mixed use retail/dining under construction that’s basically lining the entire corridor

  4. ‘When will Auckland join the light rail club and start building our line?’
    Wasn’t there supposed to be a final business case ready for March-April? It’s been a year now since the big $28bn transport investment announcements so has there been any progress with the promised light rail?

    1. Yep, a year down the line and the only thing Mr Twyford can tell us is ‘money doesn’t grow on Tree’s’.

      Why 2 of the biggest roles in Cabinet are given to 1 person is beyond me.

      1. Combining them made sense, but not if he was constrained to still include new roads and greenfields development.

        1. “if he was constrained to still include new roads and greenfields development.”

          Everything I have ever read about Phil Twyford suggests that he is only slightly less pro-sprawl than Demographia. For example, he was quite keen on getting rid of the rural/urban boundary but since the Housing Stocktake report was rather more keen on that than I think Twyford would have expected, we haven’t heard much about this. Demographia, of course, would stick to its guns a bit more.

          This is not to say that I think Twyford’s inane contributions are motorway/road obsessed (he seems entirely happy with train enabled sprawl) but just that his thinking is the complete opposite of transformational and has never looked like anything else.

          The point is any constraints in this sense are more likely to be endogenous (consequences of how Twyford thinks) rather than exogenous impositions on him.

          Of course, Twyford’s career should have been over years before he became any kind of minister but that’s a separate discussion.

      2. I heard that he will be announcing light rail soon. He has decided light rail will cost too much in Auckland so he is going to build it in Wanaka instead to provide better access to the empty Kiwibuild houses they put there.

        1. It seemed to work in the USA. Except they called in Quantitative Easing and didn’t even bother printing the banknotes.

        2. While I’m not an expert, and this is off-topic, I understand one monetary policy measure the US did which actually worked reasonably well was forcing banks to re-capitalise, i.e. shareholders tip in more money. This provided a capital buffer they the banks could use to foreclose poorly-performing loans and start lending again, which in turn supported economic activity. In contrast, European banks were not forced to re-capitalise, which is why “zombie banks” and “zombie firms” continue to act as a drag on the European economy. The banks don’t want to call-in the loans because doing so would require them to write-down their already thin capital assets. Basically, the financial equivalent of “eyes wide shut”.

      3. I’ve also wondered whether giving housing plus transport portfolios to one person risks over-loading them.

        Here’s an alternative idea for integrating transport / housing portfolios that would reduce the load: Give the portfolios to separate people, but ensure an associate role is given to the holder of the other portfolio.

        In current context, that might be:
        — Housing: Phil Twyford as Minister with Julie-Anne as Associate; and
        — Transport: Julie-Anne as Minister with Phil Twyford as Associate.

        Just an idea.

        1. The downside is it takes the Minister of Transport out of cabinet, which means they often miss being in the critical funding debates.

          I can definitely see it as an option after 2020 if the election follows current polling and we end up with a Labour/Green coalition.

        2. I agree, although wonder how large of downside it is given that the transport portfolio in New Zealand is mainly self-funded via NLTF.

    2. I understand NZTA’s Chair Michael Stiassny was opposed to Auckland’s Light Rail (due to its cost) and that’s why he got the chop. Maybe now NZTA will get onboard?

  5. I don’t think it’s been very popular in Canberra – especially with businesses along the route. The officials have claimed more people are using PT because if it – but in fact that is just because they are counting trip numbers and they have changed the bus routes to make it necessary to transfer a lot more – So although the rail journey looks quite quick the overall journey will be longer unless you are near a station.

    1. This is political spin by the opposition; both boardings and journeys are up (read past the headline):

      Also businesses along the route, meaning retailers, always complain during construction because it is necessarily disruptive, that is always temporary and soon forgotten. But also always amplified by political opponents. As is the case here for both CRL and LR. Again, read past the headlines.

  6. Which makes you wonder why Christchurch didn’t/hasn’t made the most of the opportunity presented to them by the earthquake…
    Rolleston – city – Kaiapoi.
    Oh that’s right, RoNS…
    Oh and we need to replace the cathedral…

    1. The opportunity is still very much there as far as I know. The old railway station was demolished but I don’t think anything new has been built there.

      I think this is a better bet than LR in Christchurch to start with as the basic track infrastructure is there, although it would need some improvements on the Northern line as it is single track.

        1. That’s unfortunate, although I guess it was private property anyway so still would have needed to have been purchased.

          Looks like you have done quite a bit of work on this. Do you know what potential there is for a central station on the existing rail network?

        2. I don’t know if we can ever have a true “central station” – the tracks just aren’t in quite the right place. I suspect we may end up with a network that has a couple of big “transfer stations” where people will transfer between heavy rail servicing the suburbs/exurbs and light rail servicing the urban corridors and central city. Maybe at Riccarton for example, or Papanui, possibly Addington.

        3. Agree – it will never be truly central. However, the same applies to Wellington and their rail network is still very successful. Also with the rebuild bringing the core of the CBD south of Cathedral Square rather than north it is closer than it used to be.

          My question was more around whether there is scope for a station on the existing network in the vicinity of the existing network in the Vicinity of the lower end of Montreal, Colombo or Manchester Streets for a relatively cheap station to get things started?

          Your suggested pattern using LR on Riccarton Rd certainly has merit, however with the low frequencies likely involved in a start-up rail network transfers would be an issue. I think the best bet is getting trains as close as possible to the CBD.

    2. I don’t understand the obsession with a cathedral in Christchurch. I am not religious but as far as I can tell there were two cathedrals in Christchurch, both were destroyed by an act of God so apparently He doesn’t actually want one.

      1. Maybe God is OK with the new ‘Cardboard Cathedral’. “Church” is less about the building and more about the body of believers who meet within it.

        1. if the religious folk want a cathdral they should pay for it themselves. And start paying taxes like every other business.

  7. With interest rates low by historical standards and an internationally low level of government debt, rather than growing money trees we could perhaps borrow the money at low sovereign rates and build LR. But wait, the minister of finance signed a fiscal stability pact with the greens to prove their financial prudence and to clearly delineate themselves from the spendthrift Clark/Cullen government that managed to run balanced budgets and set up a sovereign wealth fund. I suspect the pact will be seen as a tragic own goal in retrospect.

    One also has to question the per kilometer cost of the proposed LR project in comparison to overseas projects. Seemed reasonable at $1.5 billion, and stacked up in terms of distance and cost, but now seems to be quoted at over $3 billion.

      1. PPP as it has been practiced in may instances here and overseas can often mean paying far more for the asset over the life of the PPP than simply borrowing and building it.

  8. The latest information from the Light Rail Office is that everything is on hold pending a report requested by cabinet from Treasury and the Ministry of Transport into the funding and procurement aspects of the project (probably code for how to do it as a PPP). This was due by end of March but when I spoke to Phil Twyford at the AMETI sod turning a couple of weeks ago he told me that cabinet is still waiting for it. Following that I spoke to the Head of Light Rail who confirmed that their business case is more or less complete – subject to the Treasury/MOT recommendations – so it should emerge very soon after the cabinet report has been processed.

  9. Matt, I don’t think it’s fair to cite the present Onehunga HR service as a generic example of how HR speeds might compare with on-street LR.

    Britomart-Onehunga HR (12.9Km, 4 intermediate stops, 22min-23min¹, AvSpd=35Km/h) is notably slow for HR, for inherited geographical reasons.

    It would be fairer to cite Britomart-Sylvia Park (13.5Km, 4 intermediate stops, 17min²-19min³, AvSpd=47Km/h).

    And keep in mind that both of these examples are currently slugged with AT’s still-inefficient station-dwell routine which is not an innate weakness of the heavy-rail mode.

    Neither may it be fair to compare Canberra LR (“roads are quite large generally”) with proposed Dominion Rd LR (14m Kerb-kerb for much of it).

    Not trying to push HR or knock LR here. Merely trying to flag comparisons that seem to be misleading.

    ¹ 23min Onehunga_dep ->Britomart_arr timing includes a minute of recovery-time into Britomart, on top of actual running-time.
    ² 17min is Britomart_dep -> Sylvia Pk_arr timing. The public timetable shows the dep->dep time of 18min which includes the dwell at Sylvia Pk.
    ³ 19min Sylvia Pk_dep -> Britomart_arr timing. This includes 1-2 mins of recovery time on top of actual running time.

    1. I hardly think it is fair to pick the fastest, most widely spaced sub-section of one line either. The Canberra is end to end, these are the end to end times for Auckland:
      West 31 km/h
      South 38 km/h
      East 41 km/h
      Onehunga 34 km/h.

      Also I don’t see what the width of Dominion Road has to do with the running speed of the LRT, that just tells you how much space is left for traffic and other uses either side of the LRT lanes. The lanes themselves are still the same. It means less space for driving and parking on Dominion of course.

      1. If the light rail is being run by replacement buses in Dominion Road will the buses be able to travel on the track part of the road or will they have to travel on the car lane? Just wondering.
        Yesterday I took the replacement bus from Middlemore to Sylvia park but the bus wouldn’t stop at Sylvia Park so went to Panmure and caught the train back to Sylvia park. Their working on the new line into Otahuhu station. Not that I blame them for not wanting to negotiate the car park at Sylvia Park what a nightmare I don’t think I would go there if it wasn’t for the train. One thing the replacement buses come up on the indicator boards at the rail replacement bus stops now. Really good leads to less confusion than there used to be. So well done who ever was responsible.

      2. I picked Britomart-Sylvia Park because it is a similar distance to Britomart-Onehunga, with the same number of stops (given that most Onehunga trains skip several stops). It is not significantly more “widely-spaced” given that the actual No of stops is the same. And it is faster because it is not constrained by tight curve-restrictions such as at Vector Arena and Penrose. In other words it is a more normal situation for heavy rail.

        The Onehunga, Southern and Western Lines all suffer from inherited geographical constraints which are not the fault of the HR mode.

        1. And if you ran those light rail vehicles on the same route between Britomart and Onehunga the time would also be similar. The point is not to debate modes but to point out that these aren’t ‘slow’ like some claim.

          The other point is that it’s only an extra 10km from there to the airport with only a few stations. When AT claimed it would take about 45 minutes from city to airport, some rubbished it. Experiences from Canberra and other places show they were about right.

        2. Personally I wouldn’t assume that any new rail line is free of those constraints. Quite the opposite, we can probably assume that any new transit line retrofitted to Auckland has the same or worse tight curve-restrictions and geographical constraints to deal with.

          Somewhere around average or worst is what we can expect for the next line in Auckland, not best case.

      3. Out of interest, the calcs I have done before for the impact if the CRL on travel times suggests the Western might improve to 36km/h. An improvement but still slow

        1. Western Line average speed might even be slower with the CRL, Matt. Although the journey time will decrease, so will the distance. If the current trend towards conservative timetabling continues, then average speeds may be lower than now. I suspect a greater amount of dwell time will be allowed for the CRL stops in anticipation of high usage. The cross-city section will not be like open-country suburban HR. However it will be faster than any alternative PT over the corridor, except maybe taxi.

          But your point about mode-debate is valid. HR or LR vehicles can perform similarly in equivalent circumstances. To me the question mark hangs over how LR will perform in the kind of street-environments it is being proposed for in parts of Auckland, and in particular, what restrictions may be slapped on it once a few inevitable incidents occur. It is disproportionate concern over safety that slows HR down (and makes it so expensive). I don’t think we can afford to be dismissive over this impacting LR also.

        2. This last point about the overkill safety systems imposed on HR is indeed one of the primary reasons Auckland’s HR system is still no faster than what it was when it had the diesel train fleet running.

          The ETCS system is the biggest problem as it pretty much cancels out the gains made with the electric trains in the areas of the journey where they can go faster than the diesel trains, by slowing the trains down excessively approaching curves, turnouts or red signals even after the signal has changed to proceed.

          Also the slow computer system on the trains for operating the doors which increases the dwell time at each station.

          The CAF-built electric trains also have appalling adhesion and braking in wet and icy conditions, meaning the drivers have to drive slower in these conditions to counter the bad wheelslip problem that these trains have that the diesel train fleet did not have, so as not to slide past the platforms or red signals.

          The CAF design of Auckland’s HR trains relies heavily on an ABS type system to control the train’s wheelslipping and braking in the wet, which is quite scary for the train drivers with hoping it will work in time each time. Hence drivers have to drive slower and brake much earlier when it is wet.

          So this is likely why additional catch up time is built into the timetables, along with helping the operator to achieve on time performance targets for performancebonuses.

    2. The point was about the time taken to get between Britomart and Onehunga, the Eastern line has nothing to do with it.

      I agree our dwell times are pathetic, but even if these were brought up to Wellington standard it would only make a difference of 1:20, which would be more than used up if the service actually stopped at all the stations along the route.

      Dominion Rd is only part of the route, part of it will be off-street allowing 80 – 100kmh running, something the Canberra route doesn’t have as far as I’m aware.

      1. So we won’t be using the CAF Urbos 3 then as they have maximum 70km/hr maximum speed.
        What 100km/hr light rail trams will we be using?

        1. Wouldn’t make any sense to buy CAF Urbos when a significant chunk of our network will be off-street.

          We could probably look to Dallas or Seattle, which both have LR systems with speeds of 100kmh or a little over.

        2. Top speed of the vehicle is not a big contributor to journey time, stop spacing, route directness, grade separation, and intersection priority matter much more. There are trade-offs all along. Average 30kph including stops on a good direct route like Queen/Dom with the number of stations proposed is both realistic and desirable.

          I think 45m vehicles would be better future proofing. Will be able to run them as singles for longer, and when doubled will have serious capacity. Should be looked at, anyway. I don’t see 90m stops as a problem, little different to 66m anyway….

        3. Patrick – agree, I recall Matt doing a post on this a while ago, which is why I put 80 – 100kmh in my comment above.

          I’d put good money on speeds of at least 80kmh on the off-street sections though.

        4. CAF can build the Urbos to run at over 100km/h if they are specified that way (the Urbos TT for example) as can pretty much any product line from any supplier.

          Top speed isn’t very important for urban rail anyway, they spend very little time at top speed.

        5. I only mentioned CAF Urbos 3 since they seem a good fit for Auckland LR and AT already has a good relationship with CAF. Sure we could specify non standard specs such as 100kh running but even if could be done then I’d bet price would get much more expensive. All Urbos 3 specs have 70kh limit so it may be something to do with design and safety. Higher speed versions use HR axles or are for LR-HR interoperability. Not sure we would need that.
          The govt could demonstrate true commitment to Auckland LR and get some standard Urbos 3 sets ordered. They seem to take 2 years or so to manufacture and should have a few rails in ground by time sets get here.

        6. There is not really any such thing as a standard spec. They are modular systems for each product family, but they set up the production line for each order separately to whatever is required, and priced according to what is requried. Even if we specified the exact same spec as Canberra there wouldn’t be any saving, we would have needed to undertake joint procurement with Canberra for that sort of thing.

        7. Are there any benefits of having both CAF LR and CAF HR for Auckland?

        8. Well we already have established relationships with them and so surely that gives confidence in how they’ll act on any issues that might arise, which would surely help.

        9. The greatest benefit would come from procuring the right vehicle and system from whomever supplies the best fit for the line. Those efficiencies would probably outweigh the gains of having two the two from the same supplier.

        10. You wouldn’t want CAF supplying light rail vehicles if you had any idea of much they try to avoid doing maintenance or fixing issues after they have secured the contract and supplied the vehicles.

          The current CAF HR train fleet is seeing corners cut everywhere – literally. Look at how faded and worn the seats are on the corners, and how hard and flat they have become compared to how much more comfortable the seats were in the diesel train fleet which were much older.

          Or how dirty and graffiti covered the trains are on both the inside and outside, on some trains you can barely see out the windows.

          The paint can be seen peeling on the outside panels on the first trains supplied. They have been like this for more than 3 years. If you bought a new car, bus or truck and the paint all started peeling off it after just 2 years, you would be demanding it be repaired straight away or getting your money back. You certainly wouldn’t want to be buying more vehicles from the same company!

          Or the tiny electronic destination signs which are hard to read on the outside when the train is moving and approaching from the distance.

          Or the crap announcement system inside the trains which has gone from being too quiet to hear, to unbareably loud with far too many unnecessary announcements.

          The headlights are so poor the train drivers can’t see the track ahead. But because they meet minimum requirements, CAF won’t improve them.

          Or the biggest issue of them all, how slow the CAF computer system is for the train to release and open the doors, and the same again to get moving after the train manager has closed the doors and given the proceed signal to the driver.

          The other thing which really slows the trains down is the AT-specified ETCS system.

          You will note with all the hype when the new electric trains were supplied, no mention was made about them being faster. That is because they are not due to the computer systems on them, which the diesel train fleet did not have, which have slowed them down.

          Buyer beware!

        11. You make some pretty strong claims about CAF and Auckland’s train fleet. The obvious question is if they are true then how do you explain that CAF is still in business?

          Also a number of statements in your rant have nothing to do with CAF:

          ‘Or how dirty and graffiti covered the trains are on both the inside and outside, on some trains you can barely see out the windows’.

          ‘far too many unnecessary announcements.’

          This makes it hard to take the rest of your allegations about CAF seriously.

        12. Jizza: The points raised are not claims, they are facts which are there for all to see.

          Have you not seen how many trains have been scratched into with graffiti all over the windows, panelwork and backs of seats which has been there for years now?

          Some of your statements are incorrect, CAF are responsible for organising cleaning the outside of the trains and removing
          / repairing graffiti damage.

          If more people were aware of these issues mentioned, perhaps they would think again about purchasing from CAF.

        13. If the owner of the system is unhappy with the maintenance contractor there are pretty straightforward ways to address that.

          As far as we have heard and observed CAF and the trains they built have been absolutely fantastic, and certainly much more trouble-free than Wellington’s new EMUs were to start with. So much so AT have gone back and ordered a second tranche which are being built now.

          I would be very happy to have CAF at the top of the list for any new rail vehicles. Along with, of course, other major suppliers.

          Note CAF Light Rail Vehicles currently operate successfully in Sydney, Canberra, and Newcastle in Australia.

        14. I’ve seen the graffiti on Auckland trains and have ridden on numerous train systems around the western world. While not spotless, I’d say ours are definitely in the cleaner half of what I’ve seen.

          I stand corrected regarding who does the work, but AT are ultimately responsible for enforcing CAF’s compliance with their contract. CAF wouldn’t still be in business if they were routinely breaching contracts with suppliers.

          I have ridden on CAF trains on the Santiago Metro and they have very fast dwell times. I don’t believe for one minute that CAF’s systems are responsible for our slow dwell times, I think it’s much more likely how AT choose to use them.

        15. I believe the seats are “hard and flat” due to fire resistance requirements for operation in the CRL tunnels and maybe the noticeable wear on the corners of the seats is due to the much heavier loads being carried now

        16. Zelen, you complain too much. Who cares if there are scratches on the paint. The trains are to move people, not to look at in a museum. The seats are worn because they are used. Soon half will be taken and we, more of us will stand for our journey. ETCS slows us here, speeds us there. Doors are slow, but no person is dying at them as before. You are incorrect of who does cleaning – it is depot drivers and controllers running the wash plant. It is a cleaning contractor running inside cleaners. It is a graffiti contractor removing paint. You forget so soon how things were just a few years ago.

        17. If people don’t complain, things don’t get improved. The issues are there for all to see – or not see in the case of the headlights..

          It wasn’t scratches on the paintwork I mentioned, it is large amounts of paint peeling off the panelwork on some of the first trains after such a short period of time. This is a defect.

          There is however lots of tagging scratched into the panels and windows. I am sure many people don’t like this but most probably don’t complain because no one listens, such as has been highlighted recently by a few prominent people and in the media with the way AT operates.

          Standards, presentation and image say a lot about a company.

          The seats started wearing quite soon after the trains entered service. The seats used in the diesel trains had been in service for much longer with a lot more use over a longer period and did not have the wear that the seats in the EMUs have.

          And you think removing seats and making more people stand will be considered an improvement??! The complaints will really increase.

          The ETCS does not make the trains go faster, it seriously inhibits how fast the trains could potentially go on most of the network. The faster take off speed from standstill and higher maximum speed of the EMUs is offset by how overly restrictive the ETCS is, meaning there has been no real improvement in timetables from the days of when it was run with the diesel fleet. In wet conditions, even the faster speeds of the EMUs are lost to a degree due to the terrible wheelslip these EMUs have both accelerating and braking, which the diesel train fleet did not have, meaning the drivers have to accelerate slower and start braking much earlier.

          The door system on the EMUs is definitely slower than the system the diesel train fleet had, hence the dwell time increase. No one was killed by the door system the diesel fleet had, where are you getting this from?? If anything the system with the Train Manager controlling the doors was safer, and faster – much more so than the system would be if driver only operation gets brought in. This will likely slow the dwell times down even more with the poor low res camera system with its dirt covered cameras which go with the rest of the dirty trains which don’t get cleaned properly.

          I haven’t forgotten how things were not so long ago when the diesel trains were running. It wasn’t perfect but the diesel trains had a number of better features / benefits over the current EMUs. These EMUs have come with some benefits but with a lot of downsides which, disappointingly, are not going to be addressed with next batch of trains being ordered either. So much for progress.

        18. Green, I don’t use the trains much, but I like them when I do. I thought the new trains have been part of the growth in ridership?

  10. I think Christchurch really needs something like this too, with an interchange station to the Rolleston – Rangiora train service to create some sort of network.

    1. One possible network might be Rolleston-Rangiora heavy rail combined with light rail down Riccarton Rd (Christchurch’s busiest bus route and most dense residential area). Two simple lines would then connect the central city to the fast growing greenfields spines to the north and southwest, central hospital, Hagley Park, Riccarton and University. But even Christchurch’s wide roads are nothing like Canberra’s 100m corridors. Riccarton Rd is 22m, so the cross-section would be more like Dominion Road.

      1. If the Christchurch heavy rail lines could be economically re-gauged to standard gauge it would be possible to run light rail rolling stock on them quite cheaply. That would have the advantage that they could then leave the heavy rail alignment in the city centre and connect via some street running LRT track to access the city better. This is how much of the original Manchester LRT system was done, which was quite successful and cost effective.

  11. Interesting to see thatCanberra have the line to the airport as a dead end. If anything we have learned from a previous post on GA is that dead end airport lines fail. It would make more sense (I checked geographically!) to make the Fyshwick and Airport lines a joint loop with, double train flow back to the city.

    1. I don’t think there is any suggestion that dead end lines fail. Almost all rail lines are dead ends, and indeed the few true loop lines are often converted to have an end.

      What fails are express trains to airports, ones that only serve a single station at the airport from a downtown. Even the worlds largest airports near the greatest cities of the world struggle to support airport express trains.

      So for Canberra a line to the airport via Fyshwick and the intermediate suburbs would be fine, because it’s those intermediate suburbs that would support most of the patronage.

    2. There’s plenty of dead end airport lines that I can think of that haven’t failed, name a few that have.

  12. A large difference with the Canberra light rail is the 70km/hr operating speed which I don’t think would be possible on narrow Dominion Rd with its 50km/h limit.
    Acceleration/deceleration rates vary (our trains are really slow compared to overseas metros), but assuming 1.3m/s2 and 1km between stations, the time between stations is 66s for 70km/h and 83s for 50km/h. For the 12km journey this is a difference of 3.26 minutes or 25%..

    1. I don’t think the whole route is 70kmh, from memory Northbourne Ave is a 50kmh zone. Also Auckland’s LR is not going to run entirely on Dominion Rd, there will be sections parallel to the motorway network that we can set a top speed of 80 – 100kmh.

  13. The Canberra trams acheive the 30kph average by travelling at 70kph along most of the 12km line.

    The Auckland trams, if built, will travel at either 30kph or 50kph north of Hillsborough Rd, depending upon whether or not they are in an uncontrolled pedestrian space. The average speed will be less than 20kph for north of Hillsborough Rd.

    The extent of uncontrolled pedestrian space remains to be seen. To fence off Dominion Rd or to not fence off Dominion Rd? That is the question.

    Could be a moot point though. Ministry documents obtined under FOIA reveal a preference for bendy buses. They’ve already got Wellington, and are going hell for leather after Auckland.

    1. And the Auckland Light Rail will do about the same, by doing 80km/h, or more, on most of it’s 22km length.

      We don’t fence of Dominion Road for cars, or for buses. Those both do 50kph in the kerbisde lane two inches from the footpath.

      Why would we suddenly do that for LRT between the traffic lanes away from the footpath?

      1. I was impressed by the 30 km/h service speed: Most French trams running on-street achieve an 18-21 km/h average.

        So I decided to waste some time cyber-jogging in Canberra:

        Half of the station spacings are above 900 m (one is 2.2 km!). The smallest gap is 600 m.

        Dominion Rd is going to be a bit slower than Canberra.

        1. Dominion Road is only 4.5km long though, it’s only one fifth of the first line from Britomart to the Airport. The majority of that line will have broad station spacings, many of them over 2km apart.

      2. “And the Auckland Light Rail will do about the same, by doing 80km/h, or more, on most of it’s 22km length”

        No Nick, it won’t be 80kph on most of the route. As I wrote, it will be a mix of 30kph and 50kph north of Hillsborough Rd.

        “Why would we suddenly do that for LRT between the traffic lanes away from the footpath?”

        Because in NZ the maximum permissible speed for rail vehicles in uncontrolled pedestrian space is 30kph. If you want a higher speed, you have to control pedestrian access, and that means fences with designated crossing locations.

        That’s why the entire Christchurch tram network is 30kph, as is Wynyard, despite road vehicles being allowed to do 50kph on the same corridors.

        1. 1. Most of the proposed route is not on road so even if limited to 50km/h, most of the route will be able to travel faster
          2. Wynyard already has a 30km/h speed limit.

        2. Indeed Geoff, and the 8km of route north of Hillsborough Road (well Denbigh Ave actually) is less than half the route. The majority will be 80km/h+ running alongside SH20 and SH20A. The line is 22km long, and 14 is most of 22.

          You’re claim about permissible speeds certainly doesn’t apply to LRT, there is nothing in the railways act making that a law. It may be some internal rule Kiwirail uses for their mainline network, which likewise won’t apply to LRT… but clearly Kiwirail don’t believe that even if it is their policy. Almost all of the Auckland rail network is an uncontrolled pedestrian environment by your definition, they sure don’t limit the top speed to 30kmh. By all means if you have a piece of legislation or a policy document that shows unfenced rail of any kind is limited to 30km/h I’d love to see it.

          FYI both central Christchurch and Wynyard have permanent 30km/h speed limits on all streets for all vehicles. Road vehicles are absolutely not allowed to do 50km/h in either case.

        3. Nick, the entire national rail network is controlled. Pedestrians are not allowed on any part of it outside designated crossing points.

          You are incorrect about the railways act. It requires all hazards to be identified, and risk mitigated/eliminated. In the case of onroad rail lines, including the Wynyard and Christchurch trams, and trains along the main street of Kawakawa, speeds needed to be limited to that deemed necessary to accomodate the likelihood of pedestrians crossing or standing on the tracks.

          The Dominion Road proposal is a safety nightmare that isn’t going to get past the regulators without 30kph or fencing being imposed.

          Two traffic lanes to cross, where do pedestrians stand after crossing one lane, and waiting for the second lane to clear? On the tracks.

          Where will pedestrians who trip on the raised trackbed end up lying? On the tracks.

          Like it or not, it’s either going to be 30kph or fences.

        4. Committment to safety is all through the act Matt. Have a read.

          If you think they are going to let 66m rail vehicles barrel through an uncontrolled pedestrian environment that traps people on tracks between moving lanes of vehicles, and also has a trip hazard that turfs you onto the ground in front of those moving rail vehicles, think again.

          The rail safety case for Dominion Rd will amongst other things need to demonstrate that people can safely stand in the middle of the road after crossing one lane of traffic, and finding the second lane blocked. It will also need to demonstrate how the raised trackbed will not be a trip hazard.

          It will come down to acknowledgement that these points cannot be mitigated and therefore the speed of rail vehicles will be limited to 30kph (as was the case for the safety cases in Kawakawa, Wynyard and Christchurch), or fences will go up to keep people away from these hazards.

        5. I have had a read and there’s nothing in there about uncontrolled pedestrian environments or anything else that would suggest light rail would be an issue. In fact in some cases light rail is explicitly excluded from provisions in the act.
          So unless you can provide a specific section, it seems like another case of you making things up.

          Also, even if it were a problem, you seem to forget the govt can always change the act.

        6. Funny. I have to say rail fans who are so obsessive in their lust for some trains that they hate on other types of train are among the funniest goons on the planet… too much Thomas the Tank Engine when young?

          Hey Geoff, take a trip to Melbourne watch people and LRVs co-exist all day long without a single fence between them… or, if that’s too frightening, here’s something I prepared earlier:

        7. Patrick, do you happen to know the max allowable speed of Melbourne’s trams in those pedestrian-dense areas? I’ll be surprised if it is any more than 30Km/h, which is what Geoff is indicating will need to apply along parts of Dominion Road (unless fenced). I don’t think “excessive lust” is the reason behind the point he is trying to make .

        8. Dave – it depends on what you define as pedestrian dense. If you are thinking the town centres along Dominion Rd then I think it is highly likely they will be 30kmh for all vehicles once LR opens.

          However, these are relatively short stretches of road and will likely be where the stations are located anyway, so the impact on overall speeds will be miminal.

        9. That image at top of post has on left a yellow sign with 15 below a tram figure. Would that be a speed limit sign for LR vehicles in what looks like a road shared with pedestrians?

        10. Jezza, agree, except if any of centres along dominion are designated shared with pedestrians area then legislation has the light rail speed limit set to 10km/hr. That will be same for lower Queen St shared road.

        11. Shared space speed limit is 10kph IIRC.

          As I say in the post, the LRVs are slow up Bourke St, as they should be. But faster elsewhere, though Melbourne’s system has very little separation or priority. Dom Rd will be better and faster than any Melbourne on street running because it will not be in mixed traffic, and will have intersection priority. Melbourne is not a role model for everything by any means. Dom Rd will be more like Gold Coast conditions where the centre lanes are LR only.

        12. Nick, Matt, Patrick. None of you appear to understand how rail safety cases work. They are not just fixed rules that are applied to all. In faact there are no two safety cases in New Zealand out of the 200 or so that exist, that are the same.

          There is no rule that states “30kph or fences”. But 30kph or fences will end up being the only viable outcomes when the safety case is formulated. Just why do you think all on-road rail vehicles everywhere else in NZ are limited to 30kph on streets where road vehicles are allowed to do 50kph, despite no explicit rule stating as such?

          A safety case must demonstrate that the license holder understands all the safety risks in their operation.

          A safety case must provide assurance that the license holder has the ability to manage those risks.

          A safety case must outline the license holder’s efforts to proactively identify and manage all safety risks.

          As with all other on-road rail operations in NZ, the presence of pedestrians on the tracks will be identified as a safety risk.

          The trip hazard posed by the proposed raised tracks will be identified as a safety hazard.

          The light rail vehicles will not be permitted to operate until those safety hazards are mitigated.

          IMO that mitigation will either be 30kph or fences.

        13. Oh and Patrick, as for your comment that the government can change legislation to avoid the requirement for safety risk to be mitigated, I can only say there is no place for people like you in transport planning in 2019.

        14. Bogle – if they manage to successfully make parts of Dominion Rd a shared space I could tolerate the trams doing 10kmh through the town centres!

        15. Geoff, there will be no fences on the street sections. None in the design, none in the review, none in the risk audit. None in Canberra, none in Melbourne, none in Sydney, none in the Gold Coast, none in Newcastle. None at Wynyard, none in Christchurch. They all simply go the speed limit of the street they run in.

          You seem to assume this will be part of the National Rail System and be licenced and operated like Kiwirail’s mainline railway. It won’t, it’ll have nothing to do with Kiwirail or a heavy rail standard.

          The NZTA will issue a rail operators licence to either itself, or a special purpose vehicle set up to run the LRT. The licencing terms and the safety case that go with it will be designed and assessed for the specific line, it’s operations and its physical context. What happens on the main trunk or with an old tourist steamer lumbering down the main drag in Kawakawa is irrelevant to an urban transit system in central Auckland.

          For example: the stopping distance of a freight train going at line speed by Kiwirail’s standard can be up to 750m. The stopping distance of an LRV doing 50km/h is 60m (less that it’s own length). What it considered safe or not for a mainline railway is irrelevant for light rail in a road corridor.

          Jezza, that would work out just fine. The LRVs would be stopping in those town centres so will be slowing to a stop there regardless. Having each station block as a shared space would have no impact on running time.

        16. “You seem to assume this will be part of the National Rail System and be licenced”

          Nick, the Railways Act applies to:

          [The Railways Act 2005 (the Railways Act) requires that a licence must be held by a rail operator, being any person or organisation wishing to operate a rail vehicle, such as a locomotive, railcar, tram, light rail vehicle, hi-rail vehicle, maintenance vehicle, shunting tractor or similar, a monorail (single rail), or an access provider, being any person or organisation that controls the use of a railway line by rail operators]

          Which is why every network operator, museum railway and tram operation, even the little Wynyard tramway, must all meet the requirement of the Act, including having a safety case.


          [An essential element of the safety case as required by the Railways Act is that it describes the management systems that a rail participant has in place to identify and assess the risks arising from its rail activities and its ability to develop and implement risk control measures.

          The safety risks arising and details of the measures to be in place to mitigate those risks must also be described.]

          My question for you Nick would be if not 30kph or fences, what risk/hazard mitigation measures do you think will come about that enable pedestrians to cross Dominion Rd without having to stop and stand on the tracks, and what risk/hazard mitigation measures do you think will come about to prevent pedestrians tripping on the raised light rail track table?

        17. Well aware of that Geoff, which is exactly what I wrote directly above. The railways act has nothing to do with the national rail system standard, or Kiwirail. NZTA issues the licences and reviews the safety case for rail that falls under the act.

          Like I said above: “The NZTA will issue a rail operators licence to either itself, or a special purpose vehicle set up to run the LRT. The licencing terms and the safety case that go with it will be designed and assessed for the specific line, it’s operations and its physical context. ”

          As for your strawman furphies: there is no problem with pedestrians crossing the street or the light rail lanes, or standing on them. In fact it is a safety feature and a benefit of the system.
          The main risk avoidance and mitigation strategy is the fact that LRT can stop in 60m, and sightlines on Dominion Road extend to over a thousand metres. Pair that with signalised formal crossings at each intersection, and the signalised crossing at each station, then you have a Dominion Road that is far easier, and far safer, for pedestrians to cross.

          Indeed if a person trips onto the light rail tracks they’ll be far safer than if they trip onto the roadway, given that there will only be one vehicle every five or so minutes with huge sightlines in front of it and the ability to stop in a short distance, as opposed to the constant stream of cars that need to be dodged to cross the current traffic lanes.

        18. Geoff: “Oh and Patrick, as for your comment that the government can change legislation to avoid the requirement for safety risk to be mitigated, I can only say there is no place for people like you in transport planning in 2019.”

          Not too long ago you were hooting about knowing the law well enough to shake off a speeding ticket when you were doing 100 in a zone signed 70 on the basis that the sign should have been removed at that time of day. You’d overlooked the fact, of course, that the road is probably one of the 87% of roads that has a too-high speed limit anyway, and that any other road user could legitimately have expected cars to be travelling at 70, since the sign was up. So your actions were hardly safety conscious.

          You also claimed that the A4E zoning was bad transport planning when in fact such zoning schemes are very successful – and very successful, especially, for road safety!

          So while others here are quite right in claiming that the safety aspects of rail and road are addressed inequitably, your gripe seems to be more the status quo should be retained:

          – good transport planning for cars seems to irritate you. Is that because it is a change?
          – new transport initiatives like light rail seem to irritate you too. Is that because it is a change?

          Light Rail needs to be implemented as safe as possibly. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that it will get people out of cars, and it is much safer than those cars. So it is a huge improvement.

        19. “Not too long ago you were hooting about knowing the law well enough to shake off a speeding ticket when you were doing 100 in a zone signed 70 on the basis that the sign should have been removed at that time of day”

          I wrote that I was travelling at 98kph in a legal 100kph zone. There is nothing wrong with that in any way, shape , or form.

          Your belief that 70kph is the safe speed is misguided. It is a motorway, engineered for 160kph and with 100kph authorised.

          “You also claimed that the A4E zoning was bad transport planning”

          Correct, it intentionally obstructs access, lengthens journeys and increases air pollution, by A) Causing traffic to double back the same way they came in, and B) Causing vehicles to have to drive in and out and in and out and in and out of the CBD for multiple destinations that would otherwise be more easily and quickly completed with one entry and one exit. Though I’m not too worried about it, the city isn’t going to be divided into separate areas, the concept will be watered down when reality sinks in. The city would cease to function if fully implemented, especially for emergency access and deliveries.

          “good transport planning for cars seems to irritate you. Is that because it is a change?”

          I’m not sure what you are referencing? What transport planning for cars?

          “new transport initiatives like light rail seem to irritate you too. Is that because it is a change?”

          I believe each transport mode should be considered unbiasedly and the appropriate mode used where it is the best option. I fully support isthmus light rail, in particular the four lines proposed in 2015, and I would go further and build a fifth line out to St Heliers.

          Long distance rail lines are the domain of heavy rail.

          The mode bias that has gripped GA to the point where they no longer support any new heavy rail lines in Auckland post-CRL and believe that light rail and buses are the only modes that should be built from now on is something I reject fully. Standard gauge light rail to the midway point of the SH16 commuter belt then narrow gauge heavy rail from the midway point to the end at Helensville could only be proposed by a complete idiot.

        20. Nick, I didn’t say it has anything to do with KiwiRail. I didn’t mention them. Well aware the license is issued by NZTA.

          It isn’t a point of conjecture. There are already on-road rail lines in New Zealand, and every single one of them has had to mitigate pedestrian risk through limiting speed because there was no practical way to remove pedestrians from the environment due to each example wanting to maintain the ability of pedestrians to cross the street.

          Dominion Rd isn’t going to be treated any differently. The idea that somehow EMU-sized rail vehicles running at 50kph are going to be treated less strictly than a small steam locomotive travelling at 10kph at MOTAT is hardly realistic is it?

        21. “Indeed if a person trips onto the light rail tracks they’ll be far safer than if they trip onto the roadway, given that there will only be one vehicle every five or so minutes with huge sightlines in front of it and the ability to stop in a short distance, as opposed to the constant stream of cars that need to be dodged to cross the current traffic lanes.”

          Your argument boils down to “roads are more dangerous so the risks and hazards of light rail are acceptable”. That’s a fail if you produce a rail safety case with that attitude.

          The rail safety case review isn’t going to consider what’s acceptable or unacceptable for road vehicles, nor allow different standards for road safety to compromise rail safety.

          “The NZTA will issue a rail operators licence to either itself, or a special purpose vehicle set up to run the LRT”

          The NZTA can’t issue one to itself. The rail safety case for light rail will be prepared by Auckland Transport.

        22. Yes Geoff, a state of the art integrated system that uses modern LRVs with induction wheel brakes and magnetic emergency track brakes, should certainly have a different safety evaluation to an antique locomotive maintained on a shoestring museum track by a group of volunteers.

          Ok we’ll see, how bout a gentleman’s wager on it?
          Say a thousand guineas? That’s about two grand.

          If LRT is built with either a 30km/h maximum speed on all street sections, or fencing along the length of Dominion Road, I’ll pay you.

          If it is built with trains that do up to the speed limit of the traffic lanes next to them, and no fences sealing off the footpath, like every other light rail system in Australaisa, you pay me.


        23. Geoff – “the railways act. It requires all hazards to be identified, and risk mitigated/eliminated.”

          They’ve certainly got a long way to go with level crossing removal then haven’t they … Certainly not mitigated or eliminated IMO.

        24. Nick, that’s not a bad bet. I’ll tell you what, we’ll base the bet on the money owed to me by GA for the numerous examples of unauthorised use of my photography on this blog, say two grand, and take it from there.

          You win, you keep the $2k.

          I win, you pay the $2k.


        25. We’ll you’d have to make that bet with GA, I don’t have anything to do with what images they post or otherwise.

          So between you and me, two thousand dollars right? Do we have a deal?

  14. This is a great comparison, not forgetting that Canberra was planned city, which was planned to have trams, hence the wide roads with wide verges, just ready and waiting for the tram network which they have been planning for nearly 100 years. It’s not wonder it was built quickly and under budget.

    How about comparing Auckland to Edinburgh, it’s a much better comparison IMO. Similar topography, fitting a tram into an existing city, with all the issues that come with it, including being overdue with horrendous cost blow outs and significant public opposition.

    1. A quick point: while Canberra was a planned city, it is not a planned city.

      The difference being what was originally planned is not what is built. Absolutely they had a huge ceremonial median in Northbourne Ave to work with, but the streets around Gungahlin are nothing to do with the old plan.

      ALso all cities are planned, but most are just planned iteratively in small chunks. The fact Auckland is like that didn’t stop up comprehensively masterplanning a huge motorway system, so it’s clearly not a barrier to progress.

    2. That was an appallingly run construction project, yet even so the result is proving so successful that they’re now extending it… construction disruption of any project, even mismanaged ones, doesn’t define its value once built. If that were the case nothing would ever happen.

      Also I suggest you go and look at Edinburgh before you try to claim it is similar to AKL. Hilarious.

      1. Maybe you should go to Edinburgh and see for yourself, I’m there 3-4 times per year, their tram is surprisingly similar to what is planned for Auckland, similar length, similar number of stops, runs through city streets as grade. It’s far more applicable to Auckland than Canberra could ever be.

        1. They are far more similar than Auckland and Canberra are. If you’ve been to all three you’d be able to see that.

        2. Yes of course Auckland is famous for its medieval castles, Georgian row houses, Victorian railways, and narrow cobbled lanes…

          Funny how even the thought of Light Rail in Auckland sends a small number of people into dizzying irrationality…

        3. You’re just being obtuse, Edinburgh is seaside city with plenty of hills, Auckland is also a seaside city with plenty of hills, Canberra is built in the middle if desert and is dead flat. It doesn’t matter what the style of buildings are in either location, it’s the geography that matters.

        4. Just had a look at the wiki about Edinburgh trams and what an interesting read. I can just see the Auckland Light rail project having similar construction issues with final cost probably twice original estimates.
          I see they went with CAF Urbos 3 47metre tram sets on standard gauge, they ordered 27 sets but with network reach cutbacks they only needed 17. An opportunity here for AT to purchase their 10 spare sets 🙂

        5. We could put one near each of 10 intended stations and use it as a PR information booth until we put them to use. 🙂

        6. Imagine that, buying 10 second hand newish tram sets before rails were actually in the ground. That would be true commitment to Auckland LR.

        7. Sorry got that slightly wrong…
          ‘The trams are bi-directional, 42.8 metres
          long and with low-floor access to meet UK Rail Vehicle Access Regulations for disabled people. Each tram has a capacity of 250, allowing for 78 seated and 170 standing passengers and 2 wheelchairs’

      2. Also I wouldn’t call the extension to Newhaven an extension, it was supposed to be built to Newhaven all along but they canned the last 4km due to cost. I’d say they are finishing phase 1.

  15. Funny. I have to say rail fans who are so obsessive in their lust for some trains that they hate on other types of train are among the funniest goons on the planet… too much Thomas the Tank Engine when young?

    Hey Geoff, take a trip to Melbourne watch people and LRVs co-exist all day long without a single fence between them… or, if that’s too frightening, here’s something I prepared earlier:

  16. From what I can tell, they have stations near the signals, like in Melbourne. Unless the tram stations are right at the intersection, then the Dominion Rd trams won’t be moving very quickly. They will have to stop at stations and then stop at intersections.

    I’m sure the trams will make up time along the motorway sections, but you can’t wave magic wands and make there be no delays at intersections without creating other problems.

    1. AT have made it clear with their LR plans for Dominion Rd that the trams will have signal priority, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

    2. The LRT stations will mostly be at intersections so they can connect to the crosstown buses.

      The signal priority system is actually something of a magic wand and one reason for using LRT over buses.

      With one large LRT vehicle every five or six minutes, you can modify one signal cycle to give the LRT a green wave through and intersection to the station without stopping… then you have about two signal cycles after without and LRT going through the intersection to prioritise the other movements to catch up again.

      With a comparatively small bus every minute or two for the same capacity, you can’t do that because you’d be modifying every signal cycle and never have the opportunity to catch up the other phase.

      So yeah, near-perfect signal priority that doesn’t screw over traffic/bus and pedestrian phases is a feature of the LRT plan.

    3. I’m aware of the mention of signal priority, but there are constraints that priority systems can’t override. And it creates other problems.

      Nick, in theory it all sounds nice. But in practice it can be a different picture depending on how it is implemented.

      You make a very good point regarding bus vs tram arrival rates. It is much easier to accommodate fewer requests in order to minimise overall disruption. The traffic system probably won’t cope with too many requests.

      If the stops are right near the signals, it won’t be as big a problem. The further the stop from the intersection, the more difficult the coordination in requesting priority and the delays caused to the side roads and time to the next request.

      The main issue is how they manage pedestrians crossing Dominion. Long crossing, means long time required. You can’t cut that time short. So worst case, the request is too late and the vehicle has to sit for 20-30s waiting for a pedestrian to cross. Now imagine that at all 20-30 intersections along the way. Won’t happen most the time, but it is possible. So maybe they will use stagger crossings to shorten that potential delay to passengers.

      The other issue it allowing the phasing to catch up. If you prioritise one phase, you may have to skip a few phases to get to that phase. Then you resume the normal sequence, but you can’t go back to the skipped phases. They have to wait for their turn in the sequence again. This happens at traffic lights near rail level crossings. If the priority calls are only every few cycles, then it probably won’t be a problem.

      Hopefully they just don’t arrive in opposite directions slightly apart to make two separate priority calls.

      1. Ari there will be contiguous pedestrian crossing. Peds will cross with the traffic direction, in parallel. Remember LR doesn’t turn. They will only run north-south, until they reach SH20. I don’t see how pedestrians crossing at intersections are an issue at all?

        Your whole comment is, it has to be implemented well. Err yes, let’s aim for competence shall we? It is a whole new system which is an advantage.

      2. Yes that is the theory for Auckland, and it’s in practice elsewhere. Won’t be 100% perfect but it could easily be 90%+.

        Just FYI, there are only five signalised intersections on Dominion Road proper, plus two signalised midblock crossings, over 4.5km. The stations sit at existing intersections generally, so you’d only add two or three to the list with the rail. It’s not such a huge task.

        The Gold Coast line has 31 signalised intersections or crossings in a little over 5km through Surfers Paradise, and has what is described as ‘green wave’ priority. Some video here:

        1. Oh another point, the LRT would be running along Dominion Road on the main direction of travel at every intersection, so for traffic it just calls ahead, or extends, the primary phase anyway where traffic can still go ahead, traffic can make all left turns, and/or parallel pedestrian phases can run.

        2. Wasn’t there a plan to have the LR lines at some of the major intersections on Dom trenched under the intersection?

        3. They’re doing it at K Road to get under the ridge. Don’t think anyone has seriously considered it elsewhere, it would amount to three or four mini versions of the new Lynn trench project just to give cross traffic a bit more green time.

        4. Also it really isn’t the point. It clearly troubles rail buffs but surface Light Rail is conceptually different to Metro, Intercity, or freight rail systems. This difference is principally around the access and separation balance. LR trades off speed at critical points for very high accessibility and integration with the built environment.

          Elevation or tunneling is not only very expensive, they are also extremely disruptive to the places they serve; elevated permanently so. Additionally they literally take the service further away from the destination and users. Obviously this has advantages too. Both types of systems have their place.

          Surface Light Rail in Queen St offers unrivalled access for users to the densest attractors in the country, opens another whole high capacity transit line into the city, with what is (cf CRL now) relatively little and temporary disruption.

          The only permanent disruption is it will replace vehicle traffic there. This isn’t a bug but a feature. This is the very point. Same on Dominion Rd. The restriction to through-routed traffic on Dom is part of the point. This will improve, up value, and stimulate investment there.

          In summary; the two criticisms we see here: 1. It’s not a train completely away from people, and 2. It’ll reduce traffic, are both features, advantages. Both are bring advantages unachievably with other systems, or at least not achievable as well on this route.

          This is too, please note, a horses for courses argument. Not a religious one. No one system is always best in all circumstances.

  17. In reply to comments about the risks of on-street trams:

    1. Speed limits in Melbourne: to the best of my knowledge the tram is simply a vehicle like any other and obeys the posted speed limits.

    2. (Geoff) ‘Pedstrian trip hazard … ’ I don’t understand the comment. I trust no-one is suggesting that Dominion Rd would have open ballasted track. There is no trip hazard with embedded on-street track. The top of the rail is exactly level with the surrounding paving. The groove beside the rail is about 40mm wide. Melbourne has hundreds of kilometres of this sort of track, and I’m not aware of anyone ever calling it a trip hazard (though the groove is a hazard to cyclists who cross at too fine an angle).

    3. (Geoff) ‘The Dominion Road proposal is a safety nightmare.’ Again, Melbourne has many kilometres of on-street tram lines that run down the middle of four-lane streets in old strip shopping centres exactly like Dominion Road. Obviously there are accidents from time to time, but no more than on any street with similar traffic loads. No-one ever calls this set-up a safety nightmare. From the pedestrian’s point of view the tram is simply a vehicle like any other. Indeed, a traffic-free central tram line with one vehicle passing every few minutes will be much safer for your jaywalking pedestrian than using the same space for traffic lanes with one vehicle passing every few seconds. Do I detect a bit of fear of the unfamiliar here?

    Geoff on safety cases: You’re describing this scenario:
    – It’s fine for buses to run at 50kph in the kerbside lane inches away from a crowded footpath. That’s an acceptable risk because, because – because why, exactly? Maybe because we’re used to it and it would be a bother to do something about it.
    – On the other hand, according to the ‘safety case’ it’s not fine for trams to run at 50kph in the middle of the road. That’s an unacceptable risk because a jaywalker might get ‘caught’ between the tracks.

    This is absurd, isn’t it? The same jaywalker, today, will get caught on the median line between two stream of traffic. Using the median lanes for the tram and excluding other traffic makes it MUCH SAFER for the jaywalker.

    If ‘that’s just how rail safety cases work’ – insanely risk-averse attitudes lead to absurd results which PREVENT a safety-improving change – maybe the system needs to change. A good start would be recognising that on-street tramways are their own thing, and their risks need be be assessed by standards appropriate to the road traffic system, not by standards inherited from heavy rail.

    1. “to the best of my knowledge the tram is simply a vehicle like any other and obeys the posted speed limits”

      In Australia yes. In New Zealand no.

      “no trip hazard with embedded on-street track”

      The Dominion Rd tracks are planned to be on a raised table some 30cm higher than the traffic lanes, to prevent road vehicles driving on or across the tracks. Pedestrians will need to step up onto this table, and once there will not have anywhere to stand safely in the event of a light rail vehicle wanting to get past. Trip hazard + no safety refuge.

      “Again, Melbourne has many kilometres of on-street tram lines”

      Different country, different rules. There are several kilometres of on-street tram lines in NZ as well, and they are all 30kph for trams even where road vehicles are allowed to do 50kph. Trams are governed by rail safety legislation in NZ, not road rules.

      “It’s fine for buses to run at 50kph in the kerbside lane inches away from a crowded footpath. That’s an acceptable risk because, because – because why, exactly?”

      Buses are not governed by rail safety legislation. That’s why buses in Christchurch do 50kph and trams do 30kph. Rail rules are significantly stricter than road rules in this country.

      1. 15cm higher Geoff, this is what is known in engineering circles as a ‘kerb’. You might have seen one, in fact Dominion Road already has these ‘kerbs’ right along both sides. Crazy I know, but the dirty little secret of Auckland is that it has built these trip hazards on practically every street and road in the region!!

      2. Still not quite sure whether you’re just describing facts about the regulatory regime for readers’ benefit (fair enough), or implying that you think the situation you describe is fine and dandy.

        You describe facts. I comment: but that leads to obviously absurd results, doesn’t it? By comparison with the vastly greater risks that we accept every minute of every day from road traffic.

        No-one is suggesting that the safety case procedure should be abandoned. We’re suggesting that the risks should be assessed in a common-sense way having regard to community standards as shown by the risks that the community accepts from every other road vehicle. If the current regulatory system prevents that, well that’s stupid, isn’t it? So we should work to change the regulatory system.

        By the way, ‘mitigating’ risk doesn’t mean ‘removing’ it. If you look at any risk management manual or official standard, you’ll find somewhere a reference to ‘as far as reasonably practical’. That wording accepts that risk management is about trading off mitigation efforts against other goals, having regard to community standards. If all risks had to be *removed*, no aeroplane could ever fly, because it’s impossible to build an aeroplane strong enough to withstand crashing into the ground. Et cetera.

        1. Julian some background might help you understand.

          For some inexplicable reason, Geoff has an ideological belief that all heavy rail is always good, and all light rail is always bad.

          So whenever anything related to light rail is mentioned he comments to the effect that light rail won’t work, is unwanted, is no good, is illegal, unsafe or whatever. He likes to come up with all sorts of spurious reasons like this one that a light rail line can’t pass a safety case when running in the middle of the street, unless it has a 30km/h speed limit and fencing off the footpath.

          Unfortunately I fear your very reasonable and measured response will fall on deaf ears because it doesn’t fit with his peculiar ideology.

        2. Nick, I have been supporting light rail for Auckland (and a number of other towns and cities in New Zealand) for years, long before this blog came along.

          I fully support light rail down Dominion Rd. And the other three of the four proposed routes. It should also be going to St Heliers and Howick. Probably fair to say I want more light rail in Auckland than you do.

          So, nice try with framing me as anti-light rail, but it ain’t going to stick.

          I don’t support applying the incorrect mode to a route after studies have already shown which mode is best, and certainly don’t support the stance that you have adopted which is that heavy rail no longer has a place in Auckland when developing new routes. Light Rail is not a substitute for heavy rail.

          The Nor-west line alongside SH16 is already half built. In fact the Kumeu to Helensville/Kaukapakapa section is more direct than the road. So, if the other half of the SH16 commuter belt, the bit from the city to Kumeu is to be built, it should be compatible.

          The Greater Auckland region doesn’t end at Kumeu, even if Greater Auckland does.

      3. Geoff – buses in the Christchurch CBD do 30kmh, just as the trams do. The road speed limit in the CBD is 30kmh.

    2. insanely risk-averse attitudes lead to absurd results

      I fear this is what is afflicting heavy rail and causing it to be far more restrictive and costly than it used to be.

      A popular view (and one held by many legislators), is that rail-safety is paramount and non-negotiable; hence it would be preferable to have no trains at all rather than trains with slacker safety standards! And of course this would be fine and dandy if rail was not in direct competition with road, where safety standards are an order of magnitude lower.
      Any train not run, or any train run over-restrictively, or any rail project not built because of onerous rail-safety requirements, . . . and the traffic simply defaults to the less-safe roads instead.

      Relaxing of rail safety standards is not remotely politically-acceptable at the present juncture, even if this would make a lot of sense in the total transport picture. And given that light rail in-the-street will inevitably come into conflict with other road users (as it does everywhere it operates), will this risk require stringent mitigation as a “rail risk”, or a will it be tacitly tolerated as a “road risk”? The difference is huge.
      I do not know which way the cat will jump on this, but I think it is risky (pardon the pun) to assume that a 66m, 100-tonne-laden LRV will be treated as ‘just another road vehicle’ – especially once a few cars get crunched or pedestrians bowled.

      We are in an era where 100%-safety / zero-harm is the expectation for pretty-much everything except roads. I believe (hope!) that roads will become part of this and that restrictions which up-to-now have been staved-off as ‘draconian’ will increasingly start to bite. Indeed they will have to, unless our absurd societal blind-spot for road ‘un-safety’ is to remain. The emphasis will increasingly be on separation between fast or heavy motor vehicles, and pedestrians or active modes. We must be prepared for this to impact light rail also. The logical outcome of this is segregated corridors for hazardous things like rapid transit, and very low speeds where different users must mix.

      I believe we are already seeing this trend overseas. Trams in residential streets like much of Dominion Road are commonly not doing 50Km/h now (sorry, no examples to give). And even 30Km/h may be too fast, in view of Wellington’s experience of pedestrians getting hit by buses at this speed.

      1. In a risk assessment an on-street tram should be regarded as a road vehicle because it runs on a road and its risks relate to other road users. The fact that its wheels are made of steel, not rubber, makes no difference to the risks involved.

        The 66 metre length is irrelevant – if it hits you, the bit that hits you is the front, not the side. It can’t stab you with its tail like a stingray.

        The 100 tonne weight is relevant in a collision with other vehicles. More weight makes the outcome more serious (force equals mass times acceleration); on the other hand, lower frequency, compared with the buses it replaces, makes the collision less likely.

        The 100 tonne weight is not relevant to the risk to pedestrians – being run down by a 15 tonne bus, a 40 tonne truck or a 100 tonne tram will all kill you just as dead, so the exact weight doesn’t matter. Again, the fact that it runs less frequently than the buses it replaces reduces the risk.

        Its braking performance is relevant, but that can be just as good as a bus.

        1. I get your sentiment Julian, but the reality is that rail safety is held to a much higher standard than road safety, and with harsher penalties for breaches. Rail managers can go to prison when people get hurt. The rules are not going to be relaxed.

          Something as simple as trains going through tunnels is now an issue in NZ. Passenger trains must have fire suppression systems installed. Yet buses can run through tunnels without fire suppression.

          If you buy a tiny little motorised jigger and build a length of track in your back yard to run it on, you need a rail license and safety case. However, if you take the jigger off the track and run it up and down your driveway, you don’t need anything.

          That’s the way it is.

  18. Safety rules evolve as a response to undesirable experiences, so are inherently reactive. Technological advances can often happen faster then the evolution of these appropriate rules and operating regimes because those very rules reflect the limitations of the operating characteristics of the established technology . This can mean that existing rules are not appropriate for new technologies and societal changes. The advent of extra light powered vehicles such as Lime scooters is a classic case of technology moving faster then the provision of both appropriate facilities and appropriate rules. Lime scooters, and access to, and rules for, roadways, cycleways, cycle lanes and footpaths is a case in point. So it appears for some people, the reintroduction of light rail on our city streets. The current regulatory rules may well be appropriate for rail vehicles with their historically abysmal braking performance running on virtually unmodified road carriageways. But they are no longer appropriate for modern light rail vehicles running on purpose designed ways, especially when there is so much international experience available. There is no rational case to preserve clearly inappropriate existing New Zealand rules as sacrosanct. In short Geoff, it is much more important that we a flexible enough to examine what works overseas, and to adopt of that basis, an appropriate design and regulatory environment for new technologies as they arise. As a country we have had no difficulty in adopting standards from other countries in Electrical equipment for instance.

    1. Count yourself lucky that a horse rider waving a red-flag ahead of the train is not required, such is the mentality …

  19. Sydney Metro is average 10+km/h faster and also requires no human drivers.

    Would be a far superior Airport to North-Shore via City option for Auckland. Keep LR in parts of inner city where appropriate, but it’s never going to be capable of integrating the whole city like a metro would.

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