This is a post by Heidi O’Callahan and Greater Auckland reader Paul Callister.

Would you take public transport to another city or small town? Can you imagine regional New Zealand having attractive alternatives to driving?

Greater Auckland’s main focus is on urban planning issues within our city. But Auckland is a node in the national transport networks. Auckland’s economy, transport, culture, and environmental footprint, are all intricately linked with those of the rest of the country.

New Zealand should develop and invest in a comprehensive national public transport network of rail, bus, ferry and van, linking with cycleways and walkways. It would use advanced information and communications technology to combine public and private transport providers. In this post, we discuss the environmental benefits.

The Government Policy Statement on Transport includes an Environment Goal:

reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adverse effects on the local environment and public health

Climate Crisis

The Zero Carbon Bill, released this month, could be in force later this year. The legislation will require 3-yearly emissions budgets. The initial budget – to be set by the end of 2021 – is the most important. Our children will have the brightest possible future if we adopt some urgency around making radical changes to our short-term emissions. The more quickly we can adapt our infrastructure for a low-carbon lifestyle, the quicker we can avoid paying tens of billions of dollars in carbon abatement costs. In turn, this saving allows further investment in sustainable planning.

In considering how an emissions budget may realistically be met, the Commission and the Minister must include consideration of the following… identification of key opportunities for emissions reductions and removals in New Zealand…

Let’s avoid stale mindsets limiting what’s “realistic”. We won’t reduce our emissions by following the same practices of recent years. We need to discuss a national public transport network, not in terms of what has been normal, but in terms of the key opportunity it offers.

The emissions calculator from Enviro-Mark Solutions below compares the different modes for an example trip; travel from Auckland to New Plymouth:

Travel by long distance coach (13 kg) contributes far less to climate change than taking the trip by either driving (76 kg) or flying (73 kg). An improved national public transport network could allow people to “modeshift” in two ways:

  • from flying to public transport, and
  • from driving to public transport.

Modeshift from Flying

Emissions from NZ domestic aviation have been up and down since 1990; presumably the economy and more modern technology have played their part. Currently, the domestic aviation emissions (892.6 kt CO2e) make up 1.2% of NZ’s gross carbon emissions. Do our domestic flights contribute 1.2% towards everything we need and do and value? Or is this highly-polluting activity mainly benefitting a small group in society?

These emissions are increasing significantly at present – jumping 9.3% and 7.7% in the last two years (see inventories).

Some people see a solution in electrification of short-haul aviation, which would require substantial extra electricity generation capacity. Others are looking to biofuel technology, which has technical issues to resolve, or significant arable land requirements. But even if low-emissions aviation technology becomes viable, our existing fleet isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. According to Prof Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield University:

No other industry has spent so much money on improving its performance. But all the benefits that have been made are being offset by growth in air traffic.

Over the next 10 years, which is the critical timeframe for optimising future outcomes, the available mechanism for reducing emissions from aviation is simply to reduce our flying. As the calculator above shows, travel that can be shifted from flying to long distance bus will involve a drop in emissions in the order of 80%.

NZ emissions from international aviation have risen considerably since 1990:

Those from global flights have risen significantly from 1332.9 kt CO2-e in 1990, to 3702.7 kt CO2-e in 2017, the last available figure.

These emissions could also be reduced if an improved national public transport network allows people to replace international travel with national travel; something we will discuss in a later post.

Modeshift from Driving

Carbon emissions from driving is often used as a measure of an activity’s impact (Credit: Andy Clarke, via twitter):

The post Acting Like Adults discusses reducing our road transport carbon emissions in line with our overall climate commitments. The current focus should be on reducing our annual travel from 49 billion to 28 billion vehicle km travelled by 2030, a drop of 43%, which requires Addressing Climate Change through the Transport Budget.

As with domestic aviation, electric vehicles and biofuels might offer relief in the long term, but emissions need to reduce now, not in 20 or so years when the fleet has changed substantially.

Currently, our big challenge is to tackle the steep upward trend in vehicle km travelled (MoT data):

The easiest place to make fast change is in cities, where urban planners have plenty of options for providing better mobility and access.

However, according to the NZTA’s current definition, rural roads account for 58% of our nation’s travel; urban roads 42%. The following chart uses this NZTA data, but note the caveat below. Also, the MoT and the NZTA use different estimation methods, which accounts for the different totals in the charts above and below.

This increase in vehicle kilometres travelled is from road building, and created a 6% increase in road transport carbon emissions in 2017, a worryingly higher rate of increase after the already-unacceptable rise of 2.5% the previous year.

In rural areas, the widened roads are like a sponge for more travel, but the newly generated traffic takes decades to reach equilibrium. The effect of roads built recently and under construction now will last long into the future.

Caveat: NZTA are improving the way they split vehicle km travelled into different road types at present, which is great. For now, it pays to note that NZTA have counted urban motorways as rural roads. A more accurate estimate might be arrived at by shifting that travel into the urban tally. The 2017/18 data (only, for now) is detailed enough to be able to do this, and the shift turns these figures around, to 42% rural, 58% urban. Rural travel is still significant.

If we concentrate on modeshift in the cities only, urban travel will need to reduce by 75% by 2030:

One outcome of such significant behaviour change would be that young people in the city wouldn’t bother learning to drive, and existing drivers might not retain sufficient skills to feel confident on rural roads. They will need public transport to other areas.

In any scenario that involves reducing our travel sufficiently nationwide (by 43% by 2030), a national public transport network will be required to maintain (or preferably improve) levels of access.

Other Environmental Benefits

If we can switch our travel from (many) private cars to (space efficient) buses, our road building and widening programmes can be slashed to just the work needed to improve safety.

The benefits for the local environment of not doing these huge projects would be huge.

This road construction through the countryside is dividing and destroying ecosystems, ruining soil and waterways, and contributing to biodiversity loss. Having fewer vehicles on our roads benefits the environment, too. As the recent Environment Aotearoa report notes:

Vehicle emissions contribute to poor air quality. Abrasion of road surfaces, tyres, and brake pads release small particles, including heavy metals into the environment. Petroleum spills and leaks contaminate land, soil, and water.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Chair, Sir Robert Watson said this month:

The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide… The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.

Nelson and Canterbury have declared a climate emergency, and parliament might follow, which lends weight to marshalling resources to opportunities such as this. By rights, there should be an ecological emergency declared at the same time.

However, the benefits of investing in a national public transport network reach far further than what we’ve touched on here about the environment. Further posts will explore other aspects. We welcome discussion.

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262 comments

  1. I take from this one person flying produces similar carbon to one person driving. So 5 people flying to England and back is like having 5 cars drive to England and back. Correct?

    1. Flying turboprops have half the emissions of jets. Its not clear whether this carbon calculator is sophisticated enough to take this into account.

      1. Head of Airnz claims they will be flying electric planes on domestic routes ‘within a decade’. Clearly NZ will be one of the last places to have any sort of alternative for international jet travel….

        1. Post a link to that comment. Who is developing these alternatives to fuelled aircraft? It’s not Boeing, it’s not Airbus, so who is it?

        2. Norway’s plan is for electrification by 2040, they have the money to invest in such a future, we don’t. This is also over 20 years away which is a realistic timeframe. In the meantime the Norwegian govt are investing around 100 billion NZD on the state highway network over the next 10 years.

        1. That is the problem with reducing emissions. For the airline demand is elastic but for the individual consumer supply is perfectly inelastic. If you drive your car to Europe you will add to emissions but if you occupy an empty seat on a plane you are not going to have a measurable effect. Yes yes if everybody did the same thing things would change but that just isn’t going to happen unless we get a global dictator who happens to be a greenie tyrant.

        2. Agree at the individual level. However, there is a big gap between the current level of flights and no flights. If 5 % less people flew between Wellington and Auckland there would probably be one less flight put on. That doesn’t require a greenie dictator.

        3. Which proves the point. You need to force other people to do what you think rather than what they want.

        4. Everything that could bring about a change from the status quo is ‘forcing’ even if it’s actually simply requiring people to pay for their resource use and pollution? What about the people today who feel forced to choose the subsidised option because it’s cheaper?

        5. At least you didn’t say “They don’t get to choose”. I have no problem with a carbon tax. But I have a problem when people say that 1 in 20 people shouldn’t be making their trip. We don’t know what value that trip has to them or how much worse off they will be if they can’t make it. But I think part of the reason Green Parties do so badly in elections is most people don’t want to be told that their choices are wrong. I think it was Fred Hayek who said the road to totalitarianism always starts with some well meaning people thinking everyone would be better off if good people like themselves made decisions for others.

        6. I never said force. This could be achieved by a carbon tax for example or making the alternatives better. An electric tilt train running between Auckland and Wellington in say 6 – 7 hours won’t get everyone away from flying but it would certainly get some people.

        7. At least you didn’t say “They don’t get to choose”.

          Well I for one would like more options so I get to have an alternative choice to flying or driving. I don’t like traveling long distance by bus, my Dad is happy to, and the sporadic nature of the current train timetable puts me off using it.

  2. You say “As the calculator above shows, travel that can be shifted from flying to driving will involve a drop in emissions in the order of 80%.” But want I think you meant was that taking a bus rather than a plane results in an 80% drop in emissions. As the calculator you used actually says flying is a low emissions mode of travelling compared to driving. At least if there is just one person in the car and the car is not electric. However one thing this doesn’t show is that flying turboprops have half the emissions of jets. And Ferries are really high emitters in terms of energy used per person travelled (according to the book “time to eat the dog?”) Flying from Nelson to Wellington in a turboprop plane seems like its the low emissions option.

    1. I don’t think it shows “flying is a low emissions mode … compared to driving”, rather that both are high-emissions modes, with driving surprisingly exceeding flying when a car has only a single occupant. As soon as there is more than one person in the car, the car is 50% better than flying; 66% better if 3 occupants, etc.

      1. I doubt it. Imagine how bad the bus would be if it only had 1 passenger.
        The only conclusion is the table as calculated is wrong.

        1. Working backwards from carbon emissions for each vehicle type, the calculator seems to assume 10 people on the bus, which seems conservative to me. All the long distance bus travel I’ve done has been on a bus closer to capacity, but for a network of regular services, this is a reasonably assumption, I think.

          So I believe what Ashley has suggested is correct. For a family of four going on a holiday, it will still be slightly better to take a bus, but there’s not a lot in it. If they’re in a gas-guzzling car, of course that’s different.

        2. It must be more than 10. If it were 10 then the figure would 130kg CO2 if there was one person on the bus, which seems way too low compared with 76kg CO2 for a car.

        3. For a family of four, taking the bus is a really stupid idea. Where do I even start? It is expensive. You absolutely Can’t Be Late, which is a PITA with kids. Then you’re a sitting duck if you hit bad weather, whereas with a car you can often change your plans to still do something.

          Also of note: in Europe the train is often much more expensive than flying. Not by a percentage but by a factor. eg. 3 times as expensive. 4 times. A bus would be cheaper but also impractically slow. Even in Europe the best option for a family of four is to drive.

        4. . . .If you don’t mind the 10x greater risk of road travel (or whatever the actual figure is). Many thousands of people every year discover the painful reality of this (millions, globally). Yet most don’t give it a second thought until too late. Hop in the car, she’ll be right. † † †

        5. That is an interesting observation, but AFAIK almost nobody cares. As you very vividly showed in your comment about that train tunnel diversion.

          Also compare the number of people with fear of flying vs. fear of driving.

          Looking forward to Heidi’s post…

        6. Dave B road tolls per capita in Europe are a lot less than what we have in NZ, for several decades NZ govts have failed to invest in our state highway network, most of our state highways should be divided roads by now, they are not, barely any of it is, and people continue to die. Driver education is generally of a higher standard as well, plus many european countries have zero tolerance, we still allow drivers to have a drink or two then drive.

        7. In Europe the cost of traveling on long-distance public transport for a family is often not more expensive than going by car. That’s because most railway companies have special deals for families. In Switzerland, for example, children under 16 travel free with their parents for an annual cost of $50 per child.

        8. Switzerland has a heavily subsidised public transport network, Swiss people pay a lot more tax than kiwis, most kiwis don’t want to be taxed like Europeans.

          Just for kicks I worked out the price of travelling with my family of 5 for a couple of weeks away this summer using rail (I live in Norway) . We are travelling from Western Norway to Oslo, Goteborg, Kobenhavn, Billund and back to home via Oslo. It’s over 9200 NOK using an interrail pass, plus the cost of the tickets in Norway to Goteborg, which is another 4500 NOK return. Interrail isn’t usable in the country which you live in, so I have to by tickets for the domestic legs of the trip. Another few thousand for taxis and public transport at our destinations, for a family of 5 it’s going to cost approx 17000 NOK.

          If I use my car, I will use estimate two tanks of diesel, 2000 NOK, 2000 NOK parking, 340 NOK in road tolls between where I live and Goteborg, 230 NOK for the Oresund Bridge (bridge between Sweden and Denmark) and 3200 NOK for the Hirtshals Larvik ferry to get back to Norway from Denmark, and a final 209 NOK in tolls from Larvik to home.

          So please tell me how it’s going to be cheaper to use public transport for my summer holiday than using my car? It’s going to be twice as expensive.

          The huge bonus for me in using my car is we can go whenever we want, stop whenever we want, if we see something to look at on the way we can, we can change our plans on the fly (we almost never end up doing exactly what we planned) no lugging luggage on an off trains, we all get to sit together, often on trains unless you pay extra for seat reservations you don’t get to sit together on crowded routes.

        9. “So please tell me how it’s going to be cheaper to use public transport for my summer holiday than using my car? It’s going to be twice as expensive.”

          Catch the ferry, my girlfriend and I are doing Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallin for under £150 each in October. It’s also two nights of accommodation as two are overnight ferries.

        10. I don’t live in Oslo, so I have to get there first, it’s also not possible to catch a ferry to Billund. Plus there are 5 of us, not 2, on the Oslo Kiel or Oslo Copenhagen feries that’s two cabins. Not cheaper than my car. I also can’t see how you can go Oslo Stockholm on a ferry, there isn’t one.

        11. Masterchief, currently it makes financial sense for your to take the car. So this is the question: how do we make it easier for people to take the lower-carbon option?

          Not by saying that of course it’s the better option because it’s cheaper. But by making sure you’re paying for the cost of all the externalities your driving currently imposes on the rest of society and the world. If driving is more expensive, in line with its cost, and public transport cheaper, in line with the savings in public health and local environment cleanup costs, that will tip the balance for many people.

          Price is a big part of it. Convenience is the other. What this post is about is saying that we don’t yet have convenience throughout NZ, so that needs to be established.

        12. Master Chief. Yes, making transport cheaper for families is partly a political decision. In part it’s also a long-term commercial decision to normalize public transport for children. That still does not detract from the fact that in many European countries, it is cheap to go by public transport as a family. I don’t know about Norway or the UK. I’ve never been to Norway and only used trains/buses in the UK when traveling alone.

          Yes, public transport is subsidised in Switzerland and much of Europe. Many people do pay higher taxes in Switzerland. I paid considerably lower taxes than in New Zealand when I lived there, because working part-time I earned so little that I barely crossed the tax threshold. So for low income earners it’s not too bad.
          The huge bonus of traveling by public transport in Switzerland is that I can hop on and off as I want to (most people use day passes), walk a bit without worrying where my car is parked. I can change my plans whenever I want to. The InterCity trains have playgrounds on board. And there is a food and drink shop at nearly every station.

        13. Heidi even in countries with great public transport it’s still easier and more likely than not cheaper to use a personal car for a longer distance or regional trip. To expect NZ to come up with regional rail that’s both timely, efficient and cheap enough to replace the car on trips from say Auckland to Tauranga is a laugh, it’s not going to happen in the 40 or so years I’ve got left and probably won’t happen in my childrens lives either. There simply aren’t enough kiwis to make regional rail viable, the subsidy to make it work would be too high.

          Besides I’m backing hydrogen to take over from fossil fuels, I expect to buy a hydrogen powered vehicle within the next 10 years. Then I’ll be carbon neutral and still happily behind the wheel going where I want to go, when I want to go without the struggle of dealing with trains, luggage and whatnot.

        14. Master Chief, I’m not sure how old you might be with your “40 years left”, but you are presumably not of the upcoming generation that is significantly less-fixated on cars than its seniors. The damage that over-dependence on cars has done to many aspects of society seems to concern this generation far more than it ever did the baby boomers. There is growing awareness of the desirability of reducing car-use among the young and I suspect that as this generation comes to prominence we will see policies change to favour this. Those who allowed themselves to become car-dependent in their youth are now those with the least ability to conceive of managing without one. To those not so entrapped it is much less of a big deal.

          Did you know that Norway has significantly fewer cars per capita than New Zealand, for a similar population and similar topography? Why? Well I am sure you know at least one reason. Because Norway has better public transport including regional rail. And that is in spite of a decades-long road-building and road-tunneling splurge by Statens vegvesen. We may be about to witness a resurgence in rail-investment in both countries.

        15. DaveB regional rail in Norway is pretty abysmal, naturally it’s significantly better than NZ but there are large parts of the country where rail is not present nor is it planned. Most of the West Coast has no rail, cities like Ålesund, Molde, Kristiansund, no rail, there also no rail above Narvik. I would put cars per capita lower than NZ due to several reasons, cars are significantly more expensive than in NZ, a lot more people live in apartments, many of them without parking spaces, car ownership is simply more expensive. That said in the last 12 years since I’ve been living here car ownership has been on the rise, more families especially in newer suburbs which are not well connected to public transport are buying a second vehicle.

        16. @ Master Chief
          The fact you say that the people in Switzerland are much heavier taxed than in NZ is simply not true. All cantons have a different tax, and taxes have to be paid on a federal, cantonal and municipal level. For example, residents of the canton Schwyz are subject to a maximum personal income tax rate of 22% (covering the federal, cantonal and municipal level).

          This is definitely not higher than NZ

    2. The Cook Strait ferry is a tricky calculation. These are effectively freight ferries so most of the emissions will be related to the trains and trucks on them. Then it depends if you have your car with you. Walk on passengers must be a relatively small addition to any emissions.

  3. Is this correct – “As the calculator above shows, travel that can be shifted from flying to driving will involve a drop in emissions in the order of 80%.” ?

    The calculator seems to show that a single person driving to New Plymouth creates *more* emissions that a person flying.

    Did you mean to say changing from the plane to the bus, rather than to driving?

    1. Trains from Auckland to our provincial cities are a bit stuffed. The only viable corridor at moment is Hamilton and we are working on that. Tauranga is out because of the Kaimai tunnel. Roturua branch is derelict. Northland is to long and windy and falling apart. I often think of high powered EMU’s running on the electrified section between Hamilton and Palmerston North that could just eat up the grade. A long distance version of our CAF EMU’s which have being built plenty of power to negotiate the CRL might work. Surely one could run up the spiral at 80 kms / hour.

        1. Curve speed up the spiral is 45Km/h. Over the 3.45Km length of it that is 4.6 minutes. or only 2.3 minutes more than if the limit was say twice that.

          The problem is that much of the central section of the NIMT is speed-limited to 56-60Km/h, or where higher speeds are permissible the stretches are not long enough to be of benefit before the next slow-curve. If it was a highway, a fortune would be spent in curve-easements and realignments to fix this.

          The other thing is, railway curve-speeds in NZ are “one size fits all”. They are conservatively set for heavy freight consists with top-heavy locomotives, and yet passenger trains such as modern railcars ought to be able to negotiate them significantly faster. But risk-aversion tends to deter consideration of this.

        1. Paranoia about tunnel safety since Pike River. The real risks are no greater than before, and they are an order of magnitude lower than the risks of travelling by road. But the railway is traditionally a much softer target for safety enforcement than road.

          Passenger trains are allowed through long tunnels but numerous safety requirements must now be fulfilled, mainly concerning fire-prevention, evacuation capability and diesel-fume hazards. The rationale is that although the likelihood of incident in a rail tunnel is very small, the potential consequences are high. Therefore rail is obliged to err on the side of safety, even if the financial or operational consequences are major.

          Ends up with the ridiculous situation of passengers being bussed around tunnels and the train running through empty, because some safety-requirement on the train hasn’t been box-ticked. This was the case for the Tranz Alpine at Otira a few years ago. And there was a wake-up call when a bus (fortunately not one of the rail replacements) crashed and almost went into the Otira Gorge. https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/75552844/

          But that was ok, because hey, it was “just a road accident”. No need to panic or do anything drastic like making meaningful changes to prevent it ever happening again. That sort of response is only for rail.

        2. Given these risks have been mitigated on trains running through the Otira and Rimutaka tunnels I would assume they can be mitigated in the Kaimai tunnel.

          Is it just a case of there being no existing passenger services therefore Kiwirail (understandably) hasn’t bothered doing the work to mitigate this risk.

        3. Jezza. Yes, I think that is the case. But the lack of mitigation then becomes a ‘factor’ against resuming passenger services. Chicken+egg.

        4. Not just passenger rail suffers in this area, many private sidings have been closed over the years because shunting was considered a dangerous activity, resulting in extra trucks on the roads instead.

  4. Heidi is it still the case that NZTA define any road with a speed limit over 70kph as rural? Which is clearly misleading. And would explain why ‘rural’ is such a big proportion…

    This is important because it is obviously easier to add alternatives to driving to urban areas and achieve real modeshift than the countryside.

    1. I believe so. I want to have a really good look at it once they’ve gone back through the last few years’ data and broken it down into more categories.

      I’m hoping the shift we made of urban State Highway travel from the “rural” category to “urban” estimates it reasonably well.

    2. Ah so much that can so easily be fixed. Rural emissions can be substantially reduced without altering farming methods or any other changes. Just set the countries max road speed limit to 70kph. Will do wonders for our road toll too.

      1. One way of lessening rural emissions is for Fonterra, the country’s largest road transport operator, to switch its tankers to diesel. They have already changed Waikato and Bay of Plenty tankers to biogas.
        I imagine Fonterra would get a pretty good deal with a mass order of battery-driven tankers.
        I could see one of the power companies, e.g. Genesis or Trustpower setting up special charge stations if they had a long-term contract. They could throw in a deal for the farmers who own Fonterra to have a cut rate when they charge up their vehicles, including farm machinery.

        1. I have tried to search about these Biogas powered tankers no reference on Google. There is a bio gas plant at the Tirau dairy factory but it seems as though the gas produced is burnt in the plants boiler to raise steam for process heat. I would be pleased to here about bio gas powered tankers if you know something about them.

  5. As I have stated before here I am indifferent to NZ’s actions in regards to climate change – our action or inaction will have no effect. However, I am concerned about the local environment and improving options for people here in NZ. The issue for NZ has always been our low population that makes building a rail network a difficult proposition. A 12 hour train ride between AK and Wellington is never going to be a realistic option for travel beyond a few tourists. I think the better option for NZ is to invest in research and development that will transition us and the rest of the world to a reduce emission economy. Internal combustion engines will die not because of regulation but because it is cheaper and better to use something else.

    1. Hi Adrian, this is challenging approach to hold as every person in the world could downplay the effectiveness of taking action personally. Then collectively we end up doing nothing. I use percapita C02 generation as both a way to position why New Zealanders should act personally and together.
      Using Wikipedia as a source NZ is the 162nd worst (of 209) generator of C02 from fossil fuels in 2017 at 7.8 t/C02/cap/an. 163% of the global average and most of this is from transport. Getting back to the global average of 4.9 would be a great start and getting well below that would be better.
      PerCap measures have been wonderfully useful in driving so many advances in human health and wellness world wide over the last 70 years. It is time we used the same tool to drive the health and wellness of the whole planet.

      1. it need not take twelve hours between Auckland and Wellington, the record was closer to eight hours, set in the 1960s. Thatd be a lot more appealing than a budget bus and may lure some away from flying.

      2. I understand your point regarding per capital but that isn’t quite right. In the health example, take the reduction in diseases per capita over the last 70 years. The general public did very little to achieve that. Rather research and development into vaccines have almost eradicated polio in most countries. Same for such things as antibiotics and other medical improvements. That’s why I advocate for research and development into these areas rather than campaigns to guilt and scare people.

        1. Actually the biggest gains to reducing disease were not in medicine but in the provision of better public health infrastructure and social services.
          Providing safe water, and safe sewage and rubbish disposal, better housing and ensuring people had access to enough and better food. Declining life expectancy in the US, inspite of massive advances in medicine is symptomatic of their government failure to provide properly for it’s people to access these basics.

        2. Research doesn’t just happen. Businesses need the economic incentives (e.g. fair carbon price) and policy certainty in place to help justify the investment

    2. That would be true if we were the only country even thinking of doing something about our emissions, but that is not the case.

      Not sure where you are getting 12 hours from. The Northern Explorer takes 10h 40m, while the Silver Fern railcars did the trip in 8 hours in the 1970s.

      1. The Silver Fern was closer to 11 hours, not 8. But it made about 20 or so stops along the way.

        The current timetable of 10hrs 40 minutes is back to the old Overlander and Northerner times, after the horrible era of heat restrictions with almost 12 hour schedule. But, that 10hrs 40 minutes includes very few stops, so the timetable has a lot of redundant time built in. That’s why 200 often arrives at the Strand 20 minutes early. If they changed their timetable methodology they could probably get the schedule down to 10 hours.

    3. Would it need to compete Auckland to Wellington? What would be wrong if it ‘only’ competed Hamilton-Auckland , central north island- anywhere, Hamilton-Palmerston North, and Palmerston North- Wellington?

  6. “Some people see a solution in electrification of short-haul aviation, which would require substantial extra electricity generation capacity.” Sorry, no it wouldn’t.

    This old myth is usually applied to EVs.. but even if every vehicle in NZ were converted to fully electric, the additional generation capacity required is only about 15%. So, if that happens, say over 15 years, it’s 1% a year.. which is easily achieved. Indeed, generation capacity has grown at faster rates for many more years in the past. The bigger challenge with EVs comes at local network level, but there too solutions exist. Even the “do nothing” solution is perfectly manageable, though lower cost solutions exist, typically involving staggered charging patterns, which could be achieved in a number of ways.

    As for electric planes, the total energy requirement for all NZ aircraft movements is a fraction of that of road vehicles.

    Electrifying (short-medium haul) aircraft *is* a realistic and very acceptable solution to substantially reducing or eliminating GHG emissions associated with regional travel. I haven’t done the maths, but given NZ’s geography and dispersed population, and given that either electric aircraft or electrification of land based transport would both take 10+ years (for different reasons), electric aircraft could well represent a more attractive option than upgrading land based transport infrastructure.

    The reality is of course we will have both. Goods via electric train and truck as well as planes, depending on their value / urgency. Likewise electric trains, buses, cars as well as planes for people.

    Auckland’s ferries and ultimately the Interislander will be electric as well.

    1. Unfortunately, the rate of increase in both driving and flying negate any improvements in technology. Nationally, the only thing that seems to lower these rates is lower economic activity, which gets us into the big questions about GDP and better measures of economic health.

      I agree that realistically, we’ll have a combination of modes, and that electric short haul aviation will become a realistic option.

      What I think is important to realise is that while we’re trashing the environment like this, our economic base is under threat. We might see a big reduction in travel in the future on the back of inequity or poverty. But it’d be far better to seek an alternative to that, to ensure we can all remain mobile, with good access, by investing in the low-carbon options now. If we stop subsidising driving and flying, and put that money into a national public transport network, there will be real gains in equity, livelihood and a sustainable economy.

      1. “Unfortunately, the rate of increase in both driving and flying negate any improvements in technology”

        You mean, gasp!, there is induced demand in transport. The more you provide it the faster its used up by additional trips?

        No! Please No! It cannot be.

        All Transport planners say that this not a real issue. Induced Demand Simply Doesn’t exist. Ever.

        It is like the Square root of -1 – both are totally imaginary concepts with no practical use.

        And until it is acknowledged as real then there is no problem that is seen to be solved.

        And “which gets us into the big questions about GDP and better measures of economic health”

        One of the often used economic indicators of current and predicted GDP is the ANZ Truckometer – their Heavy and Light traffic indexes supposedly closely follow present and 6 months from now economic activity respectively.

        So it seems we are a very long way from weaning ourselves off the notion that the more we “move stuff around” (both people and goods) parts of the country – the better off as a nation we are.

        I am sure that in the future people will look back at this behaviour and shake their heads sadly, like we would do now for the images of Industrial Revolution cities with their polluted skies with coal burning smoke stacks everywhere and unsafe drinking water. Or Victorian age “health care” in which getting sick for any reason was dangerous bordering on life-threatening and going to a hospital was likely your death sentence.

        So there will be a better way for sure. Its plotting the path to go from here to a better way – that’s the challenges. It won’t be the shortest path either.

        But we will need a complete sea change in our transport thinking in order to do so.

        1. ‘But we will need a complete sea change in our transport thinking in order to do so.’
          Well that’s never going to happen, is it?
          Also not sure about people looking back from the future and shaking heads sadly. This assumes there will be people or a future to look back from.

    2. Fullers Auckland has recently received 3 new ferries, electric wasn’t looked at. The Interislander is going to tender for 2 new ferries to replace the current fleet, electrification isn’t being looked at, although LNG propulsion might be on the agenda, but we would have to built the infrastructure to support it, which we don’t have and would have to import the LNG.

      1. I wonder if the Cook Strait is more challenging than the conditions the current electric ferries of that size were designed for. Seems a wasted opportunity, doesn’t it? The air quality in Picton in December and January when I was there was awful due to the fumes of the various vessels, even those not berthed right in the centre. I wonder if they could at least have the ferries working off electricity when in port.

        1. The new Cook Strait ferries will be approx 200m long and around 35,000 tons, there are no electric ferries anywhere near this size. The largest electric ferries in service today run between Helsingborg, Sweden and Helsingör, Denmark, they a lot smaller than what is needed on the Cook Strait.

          The new ferries should have extensive pollution controls on board, most new vessels today are fitted with exhaust scrubbers.

      2. The issue with exhaust emissions is easily solved. Exhaust scrubber solutions exist that effectively remove solid particulates, CO2, NOX and other pollutants.
        The cost of a few $10ks seems a stretch too far on the capital cost of new ferry and the govt arent interested in forcing the issue

      3. I was thinking LNG as well. I wonder if we could make our own I see there is a railway in the states which is running their Locomotives on LNG. The other alternatives would be methanol although it might make us a hostage to Methanix although I suppose if there was a tank on the wharf either at Wellington or Picton it could be filled by sea from whoever comes up with the cheapest price.
        Here is the link for the LNG locos. https://www.railwayage.com/mechanical/locomotives/fec-rolls-out-lng/

  7. How about improving virtual meetings to avoid much of the need for long distance travel?

    We could have had a 300kph railway for less than the cost of the Waikato Expressway and other motorway money could probably have built cheaper railways. It makes sense that a 2 track railway is cheaper than a 4 lane road.

    1. Just as a quick comparison the UK’s HS2 is going to be more than £56 Billion. That’s London to Manchester, and they already start with older high speed rail infrastructure. I can’t imagine what the cost of High Speed rail would be from Auckand to Wellington. and time wise thats the only real alternative to flying.
      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-46586603

    2. I did a quick review of various HSR schemes and came up with whole-of-system costs in the range of NZD $100m to $200m per kilometre.

      A very direct line between Auckland wellington (via Hamilton and Palmerston North) would be 520km, or $50b to $100b. It would get you from end to end in 1h45m tho.

      But I think a better line would be more of a grand tour via Hamilton, Tauranga, , Rotorua, Taupo, Napier, Hastings, and Palmerston North. Some services could stop at Cambridge, Matamata, Te Puke, Dannevirk etc on the way. That increases the line to 700km, about $70b to $140b, and about 2h30 minutes Auckland to Wellington, but the value is it picks up all the places on the way and puts roughly 2/3rds of New Zealand’s population on one line. Auckland to Hamilton in 23 mins. Auckland to Tauranga in 41 mins.

      But cost of true HSR is throughly insane, hence the fact we looked at the RRR upgrade path instead.

        1. 170km/h would be a stretch, more like 140. But if you get average speeds up around 100km/h you can still achieve auckland to tauranga in 2h15.

        2. I think I read they did a special speed run and got up over 200. But anyway, from my research and calculations the most important thing is maintaining a relatively high average speed through curves, rather than hitting a very high top speed for a few seconds on the occasional straight section. Maybe one day we’d build a purpose designed high speed bypass line (say Ohinewai to Morrinsville direct) where cruising at a sustained 160+ would be desirable. But mostly it’s about a multitude of small works and exacting maintenance to allow curve speeds to be raised 30 or 40km/h for passenger trains.

      1. I agree a regional rapid rail service should be developed between Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo-Napier-Wellington. This would be a very popular and well-used route if provided.

        This could be developed using the existing rail network which could be significantly upgraded for much cheaper than building a separate new high speed rail – something a country this size can’t realistically afford anyway.

        If the North Auckland Line ends up getting significantly upgraded in conjunction with building a line to Northport at Marsden Point, this could be developed with electrification of the route between Whangarei to Tauranga, along with fully double tracking the line between Auckland and Tauranga (with the exception of through the Kaimai tunnel). This would provide the necessary capacity and speed and address the issue with the Kaimai tunnel to allow an initial decent regional rail passenger service out of Auckland to Whangarei and Tauranga.

        The next stage would be to build a line from Te Puke (ECMT) to Rotorua and Taupo. The last stage would be to build from Taupo to Napier.

        Consideration could also be made to electrify the whole route from Tauranga to Napier to Wellington. It could be powered by renewable energy produced by the many new geothermal power stations which have been developed in the Taupo region in recent years.

        Once established this route would link Auckland with most of the main centres and ports in the North Island and could be used for both freight and passenger, and would be pro-active Government investment in core transport infrastructure which supports the Government’s target of reducing carbon emissions and providing a sustainable transport mode to serve the country well into the foreseeable future.

        1. Okay.
          In you other post; you also expressed a desire for electrification. I have to ask you exactly why.

          New Zealand’s mainline rail network is all cape gauge, and that has a theoretical top speed of ~160km. Not only is Diesel traction easily capable of reaching that speed, but none of the NZ rail network’s alignments have a top speed above 120km (most of it doesn’t come close).
          Electrification is horrendously expensive to install and needs ongoing maintenance spending. Electrification’s advantages of high acceleration and handling of steeper grades would not be felt on networks with such low traffic, geographically separate stations and not especially challenging grades
          Without meaning to be rude; I can only guess that your strong advocacy for electrification is due to not having done much research into this.

          I also have to question exactly why you want an expensive rail line between Tauranga and Rotorua through Te Puke when the two centres are already connected by rail. Albeit not very directly, but not much less directly than by roading.

          I also have to question why you want a network to Taupo to then connect to Napier (and then run to Wellington). Why would this make it any more popular than using the NIMT? If you had a rail connection to Taupo with regular services; anyone wanting to get there from Wellington (without transferring to a coach at National Park) could transfer at Frankton Junction.

        2. Electrification isn’t horrendously expensive, it’s about NZ$1m per km. You could electrify the ECMT and the rest of the NIMT for about what they spent on taking the traffic lights off SH20 at Kirkbride Road.

        3. Yah.
          According to the same guy who thinks that they could use Manukau harbour as a major port with the same amount of dredging as Waitemata harbour.

          Even by your reckoning; Electrification between Mercer and Hamilton would be about $100 million. Hamilton to Tauranga would be about another $100 million. The hypothetical electrification between Hamilton and Rotorua would be in excess of $100 million.
          And for something that would in no way be needed for a long time (if ever).

        4. I should add:
          The electrification element of project DART was $500 million. The ‘s entire Auckland network would be less than 200km of tracks. So that cost of more than $2.5 million per km.

          Extending this electrification southward to Pukekohe, about 36.5 km’s of tracks, has been costed for 94.3 million. Also more than 2.5 million per km.

          Anyone would think that there’s more to Nick R being caught out talking twaddle again 😉

        5. You are very confident in your own knowledge Daniel, yet so quick to assume nobody else has any. Perhaps you should consider that you man not if fact know everything before accusing others of twaddle.

          Anyway, at that rate Pukekohe to Te Rapa would be $81m, Frankton to Mt Maunganui $108m, and Palmerston North to Waikanae $80m. So about $270m to finish electrifying the core of the main trunks of the North Island.

          It’s quite incorrect to say the electrification component of project DART was $500m. Project DART didn’t include electrification per se, it was primarily around double tracking but included numerous new and modified bridges and structures that were designed to allow easy electrification. In an urban environment preparing the multitude of bridges, underpasses and structures for the required clearance is far more expensive than the electrification itself. Electrification in Auckland was not signed off or funded when the first six DART contracts were let.

          When electrification subsequently did happen, the power supply and overhead line was installed by a consortium led by Hawkins Infrastructure under an $80m contract covering 196 single track-kilometres. The actual adding of electric traction supply to the network was a mere $408,000 per track-kilometre.

          You’re not wrong on the costing of the Pukekohe project, but you are wrong on the scope. That includes not just electrification, but also constructing two new stations, rebuilding several bridges (including the southern motorway at Drury), and the third tranche of EMUs to run on it.

          The main factor to consider is that on the rural trunk lines there are far, far few structures and bridges to modify for clearance, and all of the recent ones on the Waikato expressway are already designed for electrification clearances. For example, on the 67km from Mercer to Te Rapa there are only three bridges over the NIMT, two of which require no modification.

          So indeed, at scale on the rural trunk lines $1m is a very accurate cost estimate to electrify, it’s twice the cost per-km of just adding the traction equipment, and a little under half the cost of a full conversion of a diesel trunk line to twin track electric commuter train operation.

        6. “at that rate Pukekohe to Te Rapa would be $81m, Frankton to Mt Maunganui $108m, and Palmerston North to Waikanae $80m. So about $270m to finish electrifying the core of the main trunks of the North Island.”
          I am long beyond taking anything you claim at face value (and amazes why anyone else doesn’t). You have not provided a single source for any of your claims.

          I have the numbers of what past electrifications have cost and they have come in at over 2.5 million per kilometer. Why would that be any cheaper now?
          I would expect Pukekohe to Te Rapa to be at the very least $250 million. Especially accounting for some of the tricky work sites along that section of the NIMT.

          “It’s quite incorrect to say the electrification component of project DART was $500m.”
          So the MoT is incorrect?
          https://www.transport.govt.nz/rail/metro-rail/

          “AUCKLAND ELECTRIFICATION PROJECT
          The Government is investing $500 million to electrify Auckland’s rail network from Swanson to Papakura , complemented with a state-of-the-art signalling and train control system. The project is called the Auckland Electrification Project (AEP).”

          Hmm I wonder whom do I believe? The MoT or Nick R?

          “Project DART didn’t include electrification per se, it was primarily around double tracking but included numerous new and modified bridges and structures that were designed to allow easy electrification.”
          Project DART in its entirety was 1.7 billion. The electrification was merely 500 million of that.

          “That includes not just electrification, but also constructing two new stations, rebuilding several bridges (including the southern motorway at Drury), and the third tranche of EMUs to run on it.”
          No. Pukekohe station’s renovation had already commenced before the funding for the electrification was even announced.

          “So indeed, at scale on the rural trunk lines $1m is a very accurate cost estimate to electrify”
          It is hilarious how you continue with these easily disprovable claims.

          I should add; a decade ago when the GWRC extended electrification from Paraparaumu to Waikanae, the ~9km cost 90 million dollars, about $10 milllion per kilometer. Yes it’s a shorter distance, thus less efficient and different power supply system than what a network in the Waikato would have, but this was single track and not exactly difficult access.

          And at the end of the day; there is NO point whatsoever in electrifying beyond Pukekohe (even electrifying to Pukekohe’s debatable).
          Anyone with any common sense can see that money would be better invested in installing the third main and easing some curves between Papakura and Te Rapa. Not only would this benefit the freight movements but it would also allow the old silver ferns to provide a credible service between Auckland and Hamilton.
          When that service gets established: they can be replaced with new DMU’s.
          If there’s a point where there’s enough traffic to justify electrification; EMU’s can be purchased for this service (and to serve Hamilton itself) and the DMU’s can then be used to provide services to other not-yet electrified destinations on the network such as Morrinsville.

        7. Sorry I misread the following:
          “That includes not just electrification, but also constructing two new stations, rebuilding several bridges (including the southern motorway at Drury), and the third tranche of EMUs to run on it.”
          Obviously that doesn’t include Pukekohe station.

          But in any case; I’m not taking what Nick R claims at face value. I want this evidence and sources I somehow never see from him.

        8. A lot of the cost variation comes down to what bridges need to be replaced. Pukekohe is very expensive because of the Southern Motorway as you have identified. Urban areas are generally a bit more expensive as there are more bridges.

          I don’t really know much about bridges between Pukekohe and Hamilton, but there are very few between Hamilton and the Kaimai tunnel.

          I don’t think electrification between Pukekohe and Tauranga is the top priority at the moment but it will happen one day.

        9. The AEP was a $500m project but from the wiki on AEP the actual physical electrification was just $80m.
          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland_railway_electrification
          2010, Electrification contract awarded
          14 January: KiwiRail announces that it has awarded the contract for electrification to a consortium (HILOR) of Hawkins Infrastructure, a division of New Zealand company Hawkins Construction, and Laing O’Rourke Australia, for NZ$80 million.

          Looks like NickR was right.

        10. If we can’t decide whether to electrify or if it is to difficult why don’t we just scrap the idea and get on with the alternative technologies we just seem to be wasting time. I would like to have seen the battery hybrids EMU’s instead of electrification to Pukekohe. Also Bi Modal RRR passenger trains. For freight I have mentioned LNG power or even methanol powered would be possible. And who knows despite its complexities and efficiencies hydrogen might be part of the future. And of course there is even Bio Gas or Bio Deisel for that matter.
          At the risk of being told that I am weird or a dumb ass by Patrick.R I am thinking there is a conspiracy theory to stop any alternative technology being used. It was particularly noticeable at the last election when we all ready to go with the battery electric hybrid EMU’s to suddenly hear the promises from both National and Labour spring out of the woodwork to electrify the Papakura to Pukekohe section of our railway. Almost 2 years later absolutely nothing has happened. The EMU’s in question without their batteries are due to arrive very soon so they have maintained the status quo and the planet hasn’t got a chance.

        11. Daniel: In response, there are places on New Zealand’s rail network where trains could realistically operate at speeds of up to 160km/hr with the right rolling stock and if the track were to be significantly rebuilt / upgraded and maintained to a much higher standard than at present. The Silver Fern railcars have achieved speeds of in excess of 140km/hr in the past (unofficial of course!), so it is possible.

          Much of the present limits on NZ’s rail network is due to the poor state of the track, along with all the curves which the tracks were built with to reduce construction costs. In 2019 many lines could be sped up with some basic curve easing and grade reduction, together with grade separating more level crossings. It is done on an ongoing basis for State Highways, why should it be any different for the State railway network?

          Yes electrification is expensive to build and maintain – but so are roads. In 2019 as the country has to face decisions around climate change and seeking to reduce carbon emissions, as well as providing more sustainable transport modes and fuel sources, electrification of trunk lines should indeed be seriously considered. Electrification would definitely be beneficial between Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga with the tunnels on this section and the considerable amount of traffic which rail could carry on this route if a line gets built to NorthPort at Marsden Point.

          If a high capacity, fast trunk route were to be developed between Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo-Napier-Wellington, it would generate so much traffic and use which would fully justify electrifying it.

          It is trying to get politicians to change their mindset that spending the billions currently spent on roads, on a rail project like this, will actually create more benefits than currently get assessed in cost-benefit analysis. A fast service which links places where lots of people live and want to go along a relatively direct route will make it very popular and people will want it, just as they want roads at present. Until you build it and can see the benefits, people tend to only want what they current know and can use.

          And this is the reason why this needs to be built via Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and Napier. These are places people want to go, these are places where there is large population centres, these are big tourist destinations, these are popular holiday destinations. It is also the main (road) freight routes and where considerable amounts of forestry traffic travel between (Taupo to Rotorua and Tauranga, and to Napier). Rail is ideally suited for carrying forestry traffic, yet there is no rail line into Taupo! This needs to change.

        12. Here’s another source to pour water on more of Nick R’s tall claims:
          https://infrastructurepipeline.org/project/papakura-to-pukekohe-rail-electrification/

          “Auckland Transport’s 2012 report into extending the electrification of Auckland rail network indicated the Benefit Cost Ratio of electrifying the line between Papakura and Pukekohe to be 0.9 at a cost of NZ$94.3 million.”

          I think it’s pretty clear that the cost of the station at Drury etc is not part of this NZ$94.3 million and part of the $202M NZD quoted to the left.

        13. By Jezza: “I don’t think electrification between Pukekohe and Tauranga is the top priority at the moment but it will happen one day.”

          That’s pretty much my view. If anything it’s a long term target that should be aimed for; enough traffic on that section of the NIMT to justify electrification.

        14. By “MikeP”:
          “Looks like NickR was right.”

          Oh okay. Wikipedia. Edited by any old idiot.
          Let’s look more at this Wikipedia article’s source shall we?
          http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/3367763/An-electrifying-start
          So basically the article says that it was 80 million dollars to merely put the masts up. Nothing in there about other essential such as installing the transformers, connecting it all to the national grid, etc.

          So as per usual: Nick R was not right.

          P.S. Are you the same guy that leapt to his defence on that Auckland harbour bridge debate?

        15. @Royce: You could just go with Diesel rail traction, which has a far lower carbon footprint than hauling goods by truck or passengers by car and even bus.
          DMU’s or Diesel railcars don’t have the problem with dual redundancy and are versatile. They’re ideal for establishing new services and to a point that can then justify upgrading to electrification. And they’re a long established technology with a high degree of reliability, serviceability and low procurement cost. Why not just stick with them?

        16. @Robin:
          I agree with what you’ve said about the poor state of NZ’s tracks being a cause for the lower top speeds and that’s it’s been the result of a slanted funding that favoured roads and neglected rail. And yes this could be improved with not only some long neglected maintenance and some curve easements.
          Such a project would take about 5 years of trackwork costing probably over a billion to remedy the decades of neglect. And even with that; you’d be lucky to get any sections of the NZ mainline where trains could operate at 160km/h. To be honest with you; if enough sections could get a top speed of 120km/h it would be competitive with transit by automobile anyway.

          There would be no benefit with electrification in terms of operating the trains and only negligible environmental benefits given that the climate footprint of Diesel rail traction is not actually very high anyway. Despite what some people may try and claim; it would not only be horrendously expensive to install but its maintenance costs would add to unprofitability of the services. After all: Money doesn’t grow on trees and wasting it in such a way is counter-productive to initiating real environmental change.

          You also don’t seem to fathom the sort of horrific expense (in the billions) a railway line between Napier and Taupo would have. You’d be building that through some very difficult railway country. And it’s not like there’s any especially large amount of transit to little old Taupo from Napier anyway.
          Such a line would not likely be much if any quicker than the existing rail link between Auckland and Napier anyway via the NIMT and PNGL. Oh and BTW there already are two rail links between Napier and Wellington. Neither see any passenger services (because they’re no longer competitive with roading and cheap flights) and one of them, the Wairarapa line, has unfortunately seen so little traffic in the last couple of decades that it’s almost mothballed.
          All you’d have is a connection for a hypothetical holiday route for someone wanting to visit (from Auckland) Tauranga then Rotorua then Napier (and then presumably Wellington). A pretty tiny niche market.

          Now a line to Taupo is something I’d sentimentally like to see (even if I’m skeptical about its profitability) mainly because it could potentially haul so much product from the forestry and dairy industries. Although a passenger line to Taupo would also be petty great. To be honest with you; this alone is more in the realm of dreams and hypotheticals than realities even without any electrification let alone any ultra-expensive link on to Napier.
          At the moment; they can’t even get a tourist service from Auckland to already-connected Tauranga off of the ground.

        17. Yah
          “Daniel Eyre”
          Oh okay. Wikipedia. Edited by any old idiot.
          You could always edit the wiki since you seem to be an expert on the real electrification costs.
          Don’t forget to provide your evidence and references.
          Defence leaping on harbour bridge is not my idea of fun either.

        18. @MikeP:
          I don’t need to edit anything. The source quoted sets it straight, and that’s what any competent enquiry will look at.

        19. @Daniel Eyre: Your comments about there not being much freight traffic between Napier and Taupo to justify a railway, clearly indicate you don’t know this area. If ever you drive on the Napier Taupo Road you will encounter more trucks than you can shake a stick at. It is the main freight route between Auckland and Hawke’s Bay. There are a considerable amount of logging trucks heading to the large mill at Whirinaki and to the Napier Port. This video clip filmed on the roadside on the Napier Taupo Road recently provides a good indication of the amount of large trucks travelling every day on this road:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O6ZYo5Q_yQ

          As for building a railway line between Napier and Taupo, this has been seriously looked into before by the old New Zealand Railways. I had a neighbour who retired to Taupo and used to work for NZR and I remember him telling me about the various routes they had looked into for a line to Taupo over the years. In 1973 they were very seriously looking into a line between Paengaroa (ECMT) through to Rotorua and onward to Taupo. In 1980 they investigated a line from Kinleith through Atiamuri and Wairakei to Taupo. Also in 1980 a line from somewhere near Tutira on the Napier-Gisborne line through to Taupo. Between 1983 and 1985 they also looked into a line from Murupara to Taupo, but by then the Fourth Labour Government had begun its corporatisation program and all such projects were shelved.

          Building a railway line between Napier and Taupo is certainly do-able and the cost would not be dissimilar to the amounts that have been spent on improving the Napier Taupo Road with massive realignments carried out during the 1960s and again in the 1980s and 1990s.

          The Government should re-establish the former Ministry of Works and Development to get major projects like this underway. NZ previously had a constant program of major Government infrastructure projects on the go helping to develop the country from the time of the MOW being established up until the Labour Government got rid of the MOW in the late 1980s. The country is now experiencing the outcome of not keeping such a development program ongoing and is now crying out for major infrastructure projects to be carried out – both transport and housing.

          Re-establishing the Ministry of Works and Development would be a good Government-led regional development initiative – something NZ First should look into. The MOW could also build Kiwibuild houses.

          Build a railway to Taupo and build a few more houses down here in Taupo – plenty of room for growth here and strategically well-located in a great place in the centre of the North Island for distribution centres. Perhaps The Warehouse should even consider moving its proposed one new distribution centre to Taupo with the major restructure it is about to undertake?

        20. Hi Taupo.

          I can’t find any source for your claims about consideration for a line between Napier and Taupo. But I do believe there’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying (from your tone), so can you recommend anywhere you know where I can get more information on it?

  8. Doesn’t that flyover want to make you cry. The devastation wrought in the pursuit of a few minutes time saved is criminal. This must stop. How much less impact would four iron rails have made?

  9. Wow, the flyover is an eye opener. Can’t believe how much destruction is need to create a motorway just for few minutes saving and shifting the bottleneck north. Could have been done better i.e. less destructive option. Sigh…..

    1. Once construction is finished, the grass regrown, trees planted it all looks a lot neeter. Look at the mess made when wind farms are installed, a year later when the grass has grown back it all looks nice and clean again.

      1. Yeah, doesn’t really matter about the destruction to wildlife, ruining of soils and pollution etc etc because it looks ‘neat’.

        1. What part of the Waikato Expressway went through virgin forest, it was all farmland and some swap, displacing a few cows and sheep and a taniwha isn’t a massive problem.

        2. The swamp had a taniwha in it which dollars managed to resolve, I know nothing about soil carbon, but wouldn’t the release of soil carbon be carbon neutral?

        3. The stuff through the back of Huntly and small parts to the south of Hamilton were through virgin bush.

          Removing swamps in not carbon neutral as you are reducing the capacity of the earth to naturally sequester carbon.

        4. The release of soil carbon has been a massive contributor to climate change, and continues to be. It is not carbon neutral. NZ is signatory to the 4 per 1000 initiative to increase soil carbon. Our forestry and road building practices make a mockery of these humble attempts. In many cases, such as dealing with virgin forest, or where water washes the skeleton of the soil away, the damage is irreversible.

    1. As the gradual improvements in Auckland’s public transport shows, there will be step changes along the way, but also a whole lot of small incremental improvements.

      The important thing is to develop the policy, stop the subsidies to the polluting modes, and start making the changes.

      1. You’re trying to run before you can walk on this. The NZ rail network is at least a decade’s worth of continual investment/improvement before this should even be on the cards.

        Especially given that NZ governments only have the short (too short IMO) term of three years and that with the unicameral system, incoming governments can scrap plans willy nilly.

        1. So what do you think we can do to get our transport carbon emissions down by 43% by 2030 when every indication is that they are going to rise by a few percent each year?

        2. NZ can make major investments in improving public transport and the construction of residential areas that lessen automobile dependency. There should also be a move away from dairying in places utterly unsuitable for it (*cough* Canterbury).

          But the sort of options you’ve outlined in your article would take a lot longer than a decade to be realistically implemented. Maybe by 2040….

        3. Sorry I should probably add that New Zealand should stop importing so many second hand Japanese cars.
          I’ve been long skeptical about whether New Zealand can really afford its level of automobile dependency and have felt that automobiles are just too cheap.

        4. Heidi, would it be possible to make a carbon charge part of the the initial registration when a vehicle is added to the NZ fleet related to an emission estimate for it’s first years operation according to the manufacturers spec.
          Then annual registration (or maybe at WOF time) costs of a vehicle would carry a charge related to the emissions it produced during the last year of it’s operation.
          Later the WOF /COF would carry an emissions test and be used as the basis for the emissions charge for the subsequent year.

  10. Apparently there were 70 million new cars made in the world last year but only 2 million were electric so it will be some time before significant numbers end up in New Zealand. I think electric buses are about the only viable option for us to reduce emissions for personal travel. Probably for long distance buses they will have to be Hybrids in the near future. Intercity bus leaving the Manukau bus station seem well patronised. I see destinations to Tauranga, Roturua, Gisborne, Napier,New Plymouth and Wellington. I am not sure if it would be possible or desirable to bring these buses into the public transport network but if you want to influence travel choice probably the easiest way is subsidies the price the customer sees. And as we have talked about in the past the facilities at the various stops around the country needs to be improved.

  11. Good post Heidi. It highlights that the way we are “developing” is still at odds with what we now know we must do in moving forward. We are still developing for the past, not the future.

    We have a nationwide publicly owned rail network, that has no passenger trains for the public to use. We have a government that would appear to have policy that would want to change that, yet to date we have not seen any move to make it happen.

    What we need is the establishment of a new transport entity, let’s call it “Regional Express”, akin to a land-based version of Air New Zealand, that would operate a national network of trains and coaches. It would endeavour to be as financially sustainable as possible, but not required to make a profit. This was actually the case until 1990, when NZ Rail ran a national network of trains and buses, with a single fare structure across modes and an integrated timetable that showed both trains and buses.

    At the very least, the government could require passenger service operators to belong to a kind of “star alliance” network, in which timetables and bookings can be integrated. A single point of reference, say a website and printed book, that includes all bus and train timetables nationwide. When you put all that exists into one place, we do actually have a fairly extensive network already.

    1. Thanks, Geoff. Yes, I agree that integrated information is key. That would be the lowest hanging fruit. We don’t have particularly good frequency, but there are services to some unexpected places. I found the other day, for example, a daily service from downtown Auckland to Kuaotunu.

      1. Wait, are you serious? That’s awesome, I love Kuatounu – specifically the pizza place down by the park 😀 That’s been the cornerstone of my pointless drives to the Coromandel for years 😀

        1. Yeah, I was stoked to find that one, and want to plan a holiday! Here it is: https://www.go-kiwi.co.nz/

          Not cheap, and only a van; but with a little government policy to level the playing field… Interesting that there are 3 seats left today. All sold out tomorrow.

      2. Yes, there are many small private operators to some far flung places. You can catch a bus to Murupara even. And here in Taumarunui, a trial bus service is about to start out to Ohura. But how would anyone know? Information is so fragmented, and has been ever since the government of the day divested itself of trains and buses.

        1. Geoff – Thats what Naked Bus tried to do.

          I do believe there should a national reservation system that integrates all regional (not urban train services), inter-regional and long distance passenger rail services, small and large local (not city urban services), regional, inter-regional and long distance and scenic bus/coach services, local and interisland ferry services and 2nd/3rd level regional air services and sightseeing touring services covering North, South and Stewart Islands. I have been working on the concept until I gave up a couple of years ago after nearly 12 years working and promoting the concept.

          InterCity Group is the closest to the concept, as their reservation system integrates InterCity Coachlines services, Great Sights, Great Sights Fullers, Skip, Grayline, Interislander ferries and the TranzAlpine train.

    2. Yeah it was good back in the day. A friend was telling me that in the 1960’s they would take a train then a bus from Dunedin to Lumsden. One trip they made when they got to Gore they found that because it was the Easter break the bus had being replaced by a steam train. I wish I could say I had traveled on the Waimea Plains railway the best I can do is the Christchurch to Greymouth railcar. But yes it was integrated travel.

    3. I agree with you entirely Geoff. What you describe amounts to what we have at the local level with public transport under PTOM. A central authority coordinates an network, timetables, fares and ticketing, and procures operators to run the various services that make up that network. The operators make profit in a business sense selling transport services to the authority, but the network overall is not required to make a commercial profit.

      Is there any reason why our national transport agency couldn’t do at a national level what our regional councils and unitary authorities do at a local level?

    4. Never going to happen. To much apathy, self interest and protection of their patch and seat inventory by respective transport operators.

      Anyway there is already fully integrated bus, train (TranzAlpine train), interisland ferry and sightseeing passenger travel network from Kaitaia to Invercargill servicing 500 odd destinations throughout the country, offering 150 odd daily services that can be booked through one reservation system.

      What is missing, is the re-introduction of the regional rail network the operates alongside of the current long distance scenic passenger train services.

        1. I don’t now as InterCity Group the operates owns InterCity Coachlines, Skip, Great Sights, Grayline Great Sights Fullers Bay of Islands and Awesome NZ brands is privately owned by Ritchies, Tranzit and SBL (Suburban Bus Lines) Nelson, so they are not oblige to release overall passenger numbers carried.

          I do know the numbers is good most regional, inter-regional and long distance bus/coaches, very good loadings on Great Sights, Grayline Great Sights Fullers Bay of Islands and Awesome NZ sightseeing tour services. There are some regional and Inter-regional services that InterCity Coachlines lose money on. According to Skip drivers, passenger numbers on Skip services but slowing improving considering Skip only started early March 2019.

  12. I’ve just had a car-free long weekend in National Park, traveled there and back by train from Auckland. Had accommodation within walking distance of the train station and used local tourist operators to get to and from mountain bike tracks and the Tongariro Crossing. The difference in having a holiday where the journey to your destination becomes part of the holiday rather than a tedious necessity (not to mention holiday traffic) is immense. We need better inter city rail services. Even without building new tracks we could provide regular, reliable travel options for people.

    1. I’ve taken the bus to Ohakune before. If all goes to plan it is all good. But if the weather goes sour, you’re stuck.

      I’ve been in National Park as well. That time we had a weekend of zero visibility due to snow. If that happens there’s nothing to do over there. That time we came by car, so on Sunday we left early and drove to Taupo — where it just happened to be still sunny. That would have been impossible by bus.

      Downside: driving is tedious. No argument there. But many consider taking the bus also tedious, more so than driving because it is slow and not very comfortable.

      1. Yeah I agree on the point that current intercity public transport options are limited. However, for very little investment we could increase the reliability and frequency of intercity train journeys in NZ (currently tourist orientated travel only). We have plenty of rolling stock currently sitting unused (even if they are diesel and not electric as would be optimal). This is the first step in the RRR proposed by Greater Auckland prior to the last election. To decarbonise intercity travel electric trains are one of the few viable options.

      2. I guess the provision of a really good network so you can change plans and dodge the clouds or rain will take a while… 🙂 I agree with Ed; holidays by train or bus are uplifting for me. Sometimes getting stuck playing cards and reading books, or exploring misty small towns is far more of a holiday than rushing off in the car to where the sunshine’s better. If you haven’t read “The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton, I recommend it.

        1. National Park is a truly bleak place on a grey winters day, if someone told me it was sunny in Taupo I’d probably head there as well.

        1. Some South American buses are extremely variable. Many are indeed comfortable and very professionally operated. Some are old bone-shakers that get you there. . . but only just.
          But some are downright scary. A driver on-stimulants, screeching around curves such that you jam against the side of the bus and feel as if the wheels on the other side are about to lift-off, on a twisty mountain road with 1000m drops over-the-edge, knowing that any margin-for-error has completely evaporated. . .

      3. Downside: driving is tedious. No argument there.

        To some driving is actually enjoyable. Just got back from a 3500 km road trip to do the Alps to Ocean and St James cycle trails.Had a fantastic time not once found the driving tedious. In fact added at the last minute a deviation via the West Coast (which added 2 days)

    2. This coming week I am doing a 3 day road trip from Hamilton to New Plymouth, Palmerston North and back to Hamilton using InterCity.

  13. OK real talk: Why can’t I catch a train to Taupo.

    I know this has been an oft-mooted line and I also know the NIMT goes down the other side of the Lake, but what I want is a bonerfied train right into the middle of town ala Kawakawa. You’d have to think a train from Central Taupo back to the NIMT and towards National Park would be a viable proposition on its own right so maybe there is an opportunity to revisit this.

    1. Rail to Taupo would most likely be via Rotorua or Tokoroa.
      It should be built of course and RRR should be rolled out ASAP

      1. I would have thought destination regional rapid rail would fit in with the Govt’s targeting of premium tourists in the rail sector. I maintain it is critically important for any rail to Taupo to got right into the town centre itself because reasons.

        “Dear Shane, I wrote you but you still ain’t callin’…”

    2. Well such a railway would cost hundred of millions (very possibly billions) to construct, whether it comes via Tokoroa or Rotorua.
      There would need to be some sort of regular freight movements to justify it. Of course there potentially is with the extensive forestry operations in the South Waikato/Taupo & other possible ventures. But whether it’s lucrative enough to give an acceptable enough BCR is another matter.

      It is a nice dream however, being able to take a train from Auckland for a weekend in Taupo. And it’s a shame that no such line was built in the 19th century or early 20th century.

    3. Rail to Taupo is very much needed and would be viable if built.

      The easiest route with the greatest number of potential traffic sources would be an extension of the Kinleith line east to the Waipa mill at Rotorua and then continuing onward south to Taupo via the Fonterra dairy factory at Reporoa to a freight terminus at the Taupo mill on Centennial Drive. An extension could be made from here to a more central passenger terminus with the Taupo township either alongside Tauhara Road next to the sports fields:

      https://www.google.com/maps/@-38.6796737,176.0893242,3a,37.5y,81.2h,91.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sW1OtJj0TLQ4LItcl1rKnhA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      Or alternatively running the line right into the heart of Taupo down the middle of Rifle Range Road with its very wide corridor which could be rebuilt into a boulevard with the line running down the middle, to a passenger terminal alongside the Kaimanawa Reserve next to the Taupo Fire Station:

      https://www.google.com/maps/@-38.6930082,176.0766139,3a,75y,62.04h,88.64t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sHAuIWkdYFH0V1ZaPRwy1wQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      This route links the Kinleith mill, Waipa mill, Taupo mill, Reporoa dairy factory as well as Taupo and Rotorua together with the Port of Tauranga and Auckland. It also connects multiple large plantation pine forests in the Rotorua and Taupo districts. The forestry traffic alone this line could carry would ultimately pay for the line in the long term. The line could also be used to carry general freight between Auckland-Hamilton-Rotorua-Taupo where a large freight hub could be established on SH1 at Taupo where freight could be transferred between rail and road to/from Hawke’s Bay.

      Having both a rail freight and passenger service between Auckland and Taupo would help reduce the growing amount of traffic on the busiest section of SH1 between Auckland and Taupo, which has been in the news a bit lately with the number of fatal accidents in the Atiamuri area.

      A passenger service along this route would also run via Matamata where the very popular Hobbiton tourist attraction is located, as well as linking the large tourist centres of Rotorua and Taupo with Auckland which is the main entry / exit point for tourists into the country. A rail service to Taupo would be very popular for weekends away (as would a service between Auckland and Mt Maunganui).

      This is a regional development infrastructure project Shane Jones should seriously look into.

      1. I agree Taupo should be linked to the rail network and would be perfect for weekends away by train. I recall reading an article in the Listener magazine in the late 1990s proclaiming Taupo being New Zealand’s dirty weekend away capital!

        Another route to consider linking Taupo to the rail network would be from Tauranga with a new line south from Te Puke through to Rotorua and Taupo, as part of a new regional rapid rail route between Whangarei-Auckland-Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo and possibly onward at a later stage to Napier to link with Wellington.

        This route if built to the maximum speed possible on New Zealand’s 3’6” gauge track, could be used for both freight and passenger services linking all these centres and ports.

        If the route between Auckland and Tauranga were to be double tracked and electrified, along with curve and grade easing, this might make travel times between Auckland and Taupo via Tauranga comparable with the route via Kinleith, enabling the major population centre of Tauranga to be served as part of the route.

        That said, there might be an issue with establishing a rail route through Rotorua from Te Puke to Taupo with the way Rotorua has developed and the urban area has spread, particularly to the east of the city. A tunnel might be needed under the hill range to the south of the city between Lynmore and the Waipa mill?

        1. Are you aware that there’s already a mothballed alignment to Rotorua (and which can connect to Tauranga)?
          Rotorua had an ideally located station. But it closed to services in the 80’s and then was removed in the 1990’s. As I understand it; the land the station occupied is owned by the Ngai Tuhoe iwi/tribe and they decided to use it for building a massive shopping complex.
          Attempts to run tourist services didn’t last long given the totally rubbish replacement platform and its location.

          I don’t understand why you want to build another rail connection to Kinleith given that this old alignment still exists.

          If a connection between Taupo and Rotorua is ever needed; surely it would be better to just continue with the existing alignment and continue it southward.

        2. The existing Rotorua Branch line is not a realistic option as part of a new fast trunk route for regional rapid rail or commercially viable freight services.

          The Rotorua Branch line over the Mamaku ranges was very slow and steep which limited the size of freight trains which could operate on it and it didn’t link to the large Waipa mill or forests to the south of Rotorua. The line also has no easy way of being extended south from the railhead at Koutu at Rotorua, onwards to Taupo due to the way Rotorua’s urban area has expanded to the south of the city from the former railhead. A new corridor would have to be established which would be difficult to establish (would not be popular with the community) and expensive.

          There would be similar issues, although not to the same extent with bringing a line in from Te Puke to Rotorua with the urban development to the east of the city, as already mentioned.

          I never said anything about wanting to build a line from Kinleith? I just made mention that with a high standard line built to the maximum speed possible on NZ’s gauge between Te Puke-Rotorua-Taupo, the travel time would be comparable with an extension of the Kinleith line to Taupo via Rotorua, which was proposed by someone else. There would be greater advantages with being able to serve more people with a line running via Tauranga with Tauranga being a popular destination in itself and now being the fifth largest city in New Zealand.

          I can see that the extension of the Kinleith line would be the easiest if simply seeking to link Rotorua and Taupo and all the major mills, forests and dairy factory in this region along one line. Having one main line as opposed to a short steep branch line with no major industry on it, will make the line viable with much greater sources of traffic.

          If a new trunk line route were to be established between Te Puke-Rotorua-Taupo-Napier as part of a new regional rapid rail route between Whangarei-Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga-Napier-Welllington, this would make more sense as it links more large population centres and ports along one relatively direct route.

        3. Well if the existing line as slow and limited (which I’ll concede you’re correct about: it was); why would a line to Rotorua from Tauranga via Te Puke be any better?
          Could that existing old corridor merely be improved for far less money?

          The old corridor more or less still exists, a bit of it has been built over with a major road and some tacky large warehouse retail (a mitre 10 I believe).
          Surely this corridor could be grade-separated to minimise its former impact?
          For all its impact with the level-crossings; the old Rotorua station location was ideal for where the tourists want to go. And its near-central location was good even for the suburbs to the south (Rotorua’s not that big nor hard to get about). I can’t help but feel that a new, temporary for a decade or two, terminus short of the old one (such as the side of Ranolf St) is the most logical choice. Besides; it was originally intended for the railroad to continue beyond Rotorua alongside the alignment of the main road (Amohau st I think) and then loop a bit and head south. Surely another line station could be built along this alignment for the South of Rotorua?

  14. One thing I thought of the other day would be to build a Website or App which would combine Air travel with Coach or train travel. So you would dial for instance that you wanted to travel from Wellington to Whakatane it would then give you all the different options for example a bus trip or plane to Roturua then bus to Whakatane or perhaps a train to Hamilton then a bus too Whakatane via Roturua. Of course it would display times costs how to interchange as well. If I was fifty years younger I might give it a go but you can use the intellectual property for free if you want.

    1. I had been working on the concept for 12 years and gave up due to apathy, self interest and protection and funding by the various transport operators. I think it was to ambitious for them and they couldn’t get their heads around the concept.

      I did create a website which is still operating as an example the gives bus, ferry and train travel, sightseeing tours and accommodation from Kaitaia to Oban in the Stewart Island.

      1. What’s it called, Kris? (BTW I notice that the Intercity list of stops has been updated with Kaikohe no longer listed. Thanks if you had anything to do with that.) 🙂

        1. Hi Heidi – The site is NZ Bus Travel http://newzealandbustravel.com/

          The site gives bus/ferry/train travel and sightseeing options from Kaitaia to Stewart island, accommodation near bus terminals in major locations and suggested travel journeys, like Auckland to Queenstown, Paihia to Oban, etc.

          The route map of the index page is interactive, so is the route map on the Auckland page – http://newzealandbustravel.com/aucklandbusservices.html

          I think the whole project was to ambitious for NZ being a plane and car fixated country.

        2. Kris, this is a great concept. I will point other people to it. It would be great if it could be developed further.

        3. The concept is good but it needs better promotion and backing by groups such as New Zealand Tourist Board. If we want people to use alternatives to self driving then those options need to be easier to find and a site like yours with all the different operators listed would be an invaluable site.

          I personally found the site hard to use and other than the InterCity search function was no easy way to find out what services were available.
          There has been a shuttle bus running for the last 12 years between Christchurch and Greymouth. The owner retired recently and was unable to sell the operation.
          Atomic Shuttles which isn’t even mentioned on your site operates on the East Coast of the South Island and is under new management has added Greymouth to their services with a connection from Christchurch.

          It would be a shame not to see your site devoloped further.

        4. Heidi, Paul Callister & C Kilgour – Thank you for your positive comments.

          C Kilgour – I am aware of Atomic Shuttles and they were on the NZ Bus Travel site until the previous owners of Atomic Shuttles cancelled the contract of the franchisor operating the Christchurch/Greymouth/Christchurch services. I am aware there are new owners of Atomic Shuttles. There is another operator that operates Greymouth/Christchurch/Greymouth but most of bus travel is from Christchurch to Greymouth.

          I haven’t put much effort into the site since InterCity Group stopped their affiliate programme last year so what income gained from travel reservations has gone. Unfortunately, InterCity Group and the other suppliers on the site are not interest in pursuing the concept.

          The problem is the are 5 proprietary reservation systems within the site and those systems don’t talk to each other. I have found a good travel planning/itinerary building reservation system that can be linked to all separate transport reservation management systems together but there is a cost to do this.

          To upgrade the NZ Bus Travel and Travel NZ ( http://travelnewzealand.co.nz ) sites to do what I want them to do, the cost is estimate to be between $500,000 to $750,000, to build the necessary API (application programming interface) connect the travel planning/itinerary building reservation system with the respect transport reservation management systems and to make the sites HTML 5 and social media compliant but don’t have the money to do it.

          Based on my own travel experiences and what I have learnt over the years, there is differently a need and more so now, to have an integrated travel planning/itinerary building system where a traveler can have a ‘one stop’ shop for all transport and appropriate accommodation reservations whether their travel is by bus, train, ferry, regional air and sightseeing touring services.

  15. We would need a pretty spectacularly expensive rail system to be a good alternative to flying.
    And in terms of driving, by the time we built anything a very large percentage of cars will be electric anyway.
    I personally think the long term environmental effects of PT are overstated. Maybe if we had built it 30 years ago…

    1. Except that flying is subsidised. If that was removed, and we subsidised public transport instead, the price differential might shift a lot of people to taking the train. Plenty of people are wanting to make good decisions around the climate crisis, but our current policies insert financial incentives to remain with the status quo.

      1. Not sure how accurate it is, but last time I took a domestic flight I was offered to offset my carbon emmisions for something like $1.

        1. Well, exactly. The carbon offsets are not matched to the damage caused by the emissions at all; the market for carbon credits isn’t realistic because industry and countries aren’t required to offset their emissions.

          If the aviation industry was additionally charged to cover the damage it’s already caused, they’d have to price the tickets higher, too. I suspect the public’s misunderstanding of how damaging flying is for the climate is in part formed by the carbon offset option being so low.

        2. I am surprised that the carbon off set was only $1.00. I believe the time has come to make this charge compulsory and for the govt to invest this in non carbon infrastructure such as the train network.
          I am just leaving Vienna where they have wonderful PT infrastructure because every employer in Austria pays a payroll levy towards it.
          Yes Minister Twyford, money does not grow on trees, but can be collected to add to the nations well being..

      2. So is rail, high speed rail has massive subsidies, what is your point? Flying is also public transport, just because you don’t like it don’t try and change what it is.

        1. So everything is subsided and everything is subsidising everything else? When is a subsidy no longer a subsidy?
          How can a mode be accused of being subsidised if it’s subsidising others?
          Why is it when writing subsidy several times it no longer looks as though it’s spelled correctly?

    2. I don’t know about that. Rail has a few other advantages that partially offset the slower speeds – there’s no rigmorale checking in and sorting luggage, they usually go to the centre of cities so you don’t need an hour taxi to the airport at each end, they service all the smaller cities and towns along the way that planes can’t. Arguably some comfort/safety/aesthetic advantages too. I suspect the price wouldn’t have to drop too much more (or alternatively the price for flying increase) for rail to be the more attractive option for a bunch of people.

      1. Rail is always going to be on the back foot because of time. People don’t have infinite leave. If I want to go to Wellington, I’d have to take two extra days off to get there and back, on top of my time on the ground.

        1. Not at all, it totally depends on why you are making the trip. Overnight Friday night used to get you to your destination, either Wellington or Auckland, first thing in the morning on the ground ready for a full day of sightseeing or catching up with friends. See a concert or rugby game Saturday night and take the day train home Sunday to be home in time for dinner.
          You see less from a plane, can’t walk around as easily, restricted access to food and drink and the airports are not where the action is. Not to mention you don’t have to have checked in for your train as early as you do for a flight or risk not being allowed to board.
          Trains might not suit everyone but when run properly they are a good alternative flying for many people.

        2. Agree – but I’m not sure how many is many. Of the many thousands of people that fly or drive between Wellington and Auckland, how many would rather a 12 hour train trip (or even an 8 hour train trip). Enough to justify any serious investment?

        3. When the overnight train was running between Wellington and Auckland i used it a few times for work trips to Auckland. I took a sleeper from Paraparaumu. Caught it in the late evening and woke up in downtown Auckland. If I was to fly to Auckland for early meetings i would have had to get up about 5am to catch an early flight from Wellington.

        4. I’d be pretty keen on an 8 hour train trip instead of 8 hours behind the wheel. However I’d still rather an hour in a plane than 8 hours in a train, all else being equal.

          However, that’s Auckland to Wellington which is pretty well served by plane with reasonable fares and lots of departures to choose from. But take something like Hamilton to Wellington, six hours by train probably starts to compete with an infrequent and expensive plane, or Hamilton to Palmerston North in four hours, where you have one plane a day.

        5. Nick R: “However I’d still rather an hour in a plane than 8 hours in a train, all else being equal.”

          It’s not just the one hour in the air that you have to account for when travelling by plane. Someone else on here posted a link for the Rome2Rio site so I decided to see how long it said it would take to fly from Auckland to Wellington, around 4 hours including transfers between buses and trains at each end. True still faster than a train but not as big a difference as what you made it out to be.

        6. Actually I posted Rome2Rio. It is probably giving you results for leaving right now late in the evening.

          A fair bit less if you know what you are doing and only have carry on. Personally I do that fairly often, and leave home in suburban auckland an hour before take off. For me the airport is about as close as Britomart. Just over an hour in the air and 25 mins at the other end to get to Wellington central. About 2.5 hours each way for a day trip.

          I totally think rail could be competitive in the 2 to 3 hour mark, I.e Auckland – Hamilton – Tauranga. But when it takes 8 hours it’s hard to see the advantage.

        7. An AKL-WN service would primarily be about all the shorter combinations along the way – WN to PN, Hamilton to PN etc etc. Deutsche Bahn run trains every hour or so from Hamburg to Munich, Hamburg to Zurich and a couple of dozen similar long distances. Not too many people do the entire trip, but thousands are getting on and off at all the intermediate stops. No need for us to be fixated on comparing 8 hour total trip time with the flight time. It’s the network effect that counts, connecting regional centres with each other and with the cities.

      2. For longish distances like Auckland to Wellington it will be much quicker to fly without some pretty significant investment in rail, and that time will be much more important than the other issues for most people.
        For the shorter distances like Auckland to Hamilton it will be quicker and more convenient to drive (at most times).

        1. Maybe Auckland to Napier / New Plymouth is an in between distance where the hassles of flying and driving make rail a good option. Probably not going to save the planet though…

        2. The thing is, Jimbo, not everyone drives. Are we going to continue to provide just for those who do?

        3. don’t get me wrong I’m not against investment in regional PT. Im just saying I highly doubt it would have much of an environmental affect. They could easily spend five or ten billion and only get a few thousand cars off the road. For 10 billion you could outright buy 100000 EVs or 200000 PEVs or highly subsidise 500000 EV/PEV. Now that would make a proper dent in our emissions.

        4. Wow, privileged much. My friend has epilepsy. Will never, ever be able to drive. Many elderly people are too blind to drive. Many people are too disabled to drive. About 15% of us are too young to drive.

        5. Master Chief says: “But everyone can who wants to. In NZ far more of us do than don’t.”

          Speak for yourself, I can drive and I do drive long distances to get to where I want to go because paying for four adult seats and a child on a plane or even a bus ends up being expensive. Add in either driving to the airport and storing the vehicle or paying expensive shuttle fees.

          Every trip we make I look at the alternatives, can we make this trip by public transport and how much will it cost. We have turned down a number of invites to family events because the cost was too high and driving would take to long because I refuse to drive the length of the country without breaking the trip up into more manageable sections both for myself driving and my children so they are not sitting for long lengths of time without being able to get up and move around.

        6. C Kilgour thanks for proving my point, you can drive and do when you want to.

          It’s a fair call some people are physically unable to drive, they are not the majority of us, they are a tiny minority and have other ways of getting around, my last neighbour in NZ had MS, he went everywhere he needed to go in a taxi.

        7. Master Chief says:
          C Kilgour thanks for proving my point, you can drive and do when you want to.

          You missed my point. I drive because that is the only option. There are times I would rather not drive.

          Yesterday I saw the same car transporter run red lights twice. As in enter the intersection after the lights had already changed to red. Another truck tried to change lanes into my car and the driver wondered why I was heavy handed on the horn to get him not to when I had nowhere to go and my children on board.
          When we go overseas as a family we travel by train where ever possible. We used to have trains in New Zealand which I remember using. That was when the population was a lot smaller than it is now. Everything we did yesterday was within walking distance of a train station and we live walking distance from a train station. Only thing is there are no passenger trains at all between the two towns.
          New Zealand roads are becoming more congested and drivers more impatient and dangerous. People only love their cars because they don’t see any vaiable alternative.

        8. Sailor Boy and I bet more of them don’t dive because they are too young or are too old, try again. Most of the too old more than likely had a license and the too young will get a license.

        9. And when they’re too young or old to drive, are you suggesting they are too young or old to want to travel places? This isn’t a popularity contest about driving. It is about providing access for our population so they can participate.

        10. Obviously rail can’t compete Wellington-Auckland time wise. And that would put off most business travellers (for whom time is crucial).

          But if there’s still plenty of people willing to drive ~8 hours between Wellington and Auckland during their holiday or for a road trip (which there definitely is); then there’s still a market for an 8 hour train journey.

        11. Jimbo. There has been the massive investment in upgrading the road between Hamilton and Auckland, but driving it will continue to require total concentration. And you require a place to store your vehicle at both ends of your journey. If this is going to be provided on purely commercial terms expect the charges to fully reflect land, and facility provision in our largest cities.
          A comfortable train trip, that allows alternative use of your time, and frees you of the expense and hassles of parking is a nice alternative to have.

  16. “42% rural, 58% urban”

    My question is why divide all roads into only two categories? Motorways and the majority of state highways don’t fit comfortably under the heading of either rural or urban roads.
    Rural being those that are often without any road markings and come under the funding of district councils. Urban being those within a towns boundaries and have a speed limit less than 70km/hr.
    Yes more options for travelling between towns would be great. Bring back trains, I remember using them pre owning a car and would do so again if they were well run. The number of self drivers travelling from Christchurch to Dunedin for special events causes large congestion issues for any small town on SH1.

  17. I wish there was night sleeper train again AKLWgtn. This scenic daytime every other day with day staggered returns is next to useless for anything but touristy sight seeing. Tried it for a business trip, took 3 days, 2 on train, for 2 hour meeting in Wgtn.
    Couldn’t find a direct express coach, they meandered around to pull in various centres.
    Only option left now is domestic air travel.
    Should I plant a new bush in my garden each time I fly to offset my carbon contribution, would a tomato plant do or a row of radishes?

  18. Over the decades we have had many family holidays by train. Picton-Christchurch, Christchurch-Dunedin, Invercargill-Dunedin-Christchurch, Wellington-Hamilton-Tauranga, Tauranga-Hamilton-Ohakune-Wellington. Wellington-Otorohanga, Wellington-Ohakune (overnight) for skiing, etc etc. It was all quite feasible, and provided everything worked, it was better for young children hours and hours stuck in a car. Of course, much of this is not possible now.

    And here’s the converse. I have never been to Northland and I have never been to New Plymouth. Why? Principally because there has never been a rail service to either of those areas since I have been in New Zealand. I don’t want to drive there. I am not that fussed about going by bus. So to date I haven’t bothered going at all. But as soon as a rail service gets reintroduced (provided it is not priced only for rich tourists) then I will go. Regional rail would make a difference for me.

    1. Me too. In mid 1990s my family would train it to Tauranga where we had a weekend apartment. I remember the train was quite comfy and seemed fast. It ceased operating near end 1990s and we had to drive. Having witnessed road carnage on road to Katikati we sold apartment and gave up driving to Tauranga. We waited about 4 years in hope the train would resume but it never did. Bummer

    2. InterCity operates daily bus services from Wellington to New Plymouth. I suggest you try it.

      This coming weekend I am doing a 3 day road trip from Hamilton to New Plymouth (as I haven’t been there), Palmerston North and back to Hamilton traveling with InterCity.

    3. One of my aunts used to quite frequently take the train between Wellington and New Plymouth in blue streak railcars back in the 70’s.
      According to her; it got respectable patronage, but the ministry of Transport at the time couldn’t justify replacing its ageing rolling stock by the end of the 70’s.
      Although the trip took something like 7 hours (maybe 8). These days you can drive the trip in 5 hours or less.

  19. I am very enthusiastic about good train travel. I am currrently between Vienna and SAlzburg and am obviously able to use the net. It has been a full train. The seat is 19 euros for a 3 hour trip. I didn’t have to spend a fortune going to the airport and we will arrive near the city centre.
    If we had chosen to drive we would have had to pay motorway tolls and a petrol price higher than NZ.
    When we considered options to travel it seemed that for journeys of up to 4 hours in Europe train was cheaper than flying and bus even cheaper. Prague to Vienna was 14 euros.
    It seems that a good rail ntwork between Whangerei, Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua and Taupo makes practical sense aspart of a carbon reduction strategy.
    I also like the Italian model of road tolls. It seems eminently fair that if you use the roads that you pay for them. And the more you use the more you pay. Yes we do pay taxes for our roads, but the figures suggest that we only pay about half their cost.
    The govts seeming fear of increasing the tax of anything is placing real limitations on policy development.

    1. It’s cheap because its state run and massively subsidised. In many European countries it’s not cheap, it’s £25 for the Heathrow Express to Paddington one way. Last month I paid £66 for a one way London Waterloo to Southampton Central ticket and another £47 for the Southampton Central to Heathrow Rail/Bus connection. It was cheaper to catch a taxi from Liverpool to Manchester Airport than take the Liverpool to Manchester Airport train when I last made the trip in March.

      Different countries, different prices. I see NZ being much closer to the UK price levels then the Austrian.

      I’m with you on road tolls, so long as those toll are used to maintain and upgrade the facility you are being tolled to use. If you want to drive on a really good tolled highway network go to Croatia, in the decade of so after the Balkan wars ended Croatia built an incredible highway network, drivers are tolled from the moment they enter until they exit, this network is now mostly completed and investment has turned to rail.

      1. +1, intercity fares in the UK are obscene. My partner and I recently missed our 6am train from Liverpool to London and looked at buying tickets for the next one. Was £180 for the two of us, so we decided to rsk it with the (technically) invalid ticket instead. The train was empty, maybe 100 people total of a train with 1800 capacity. If New Zealand does reintrduce passenger services, we must not use a franchise system.

        1. For England get a rail pass before you leave New Zealand it works out much cheaper. In Europe just buy point to point tickets.

        2. The new Cook Strait ferries will be approx 200m long and around 35,000 tons, there are no electric ferries anywhere near this size. The largest electric ferries in service today run between Helsingborg, Sweden and Helsingör, Denmark, they a lot smaller than what is needed on the Cook Strait.

          The new ferries should have extensive pollution controls on board, most new vessels today are fitted with exhaust scrubbers.

        3. Did you have the two person rail pass that would have saved you both one third of the fares in UK?

        4. Yes, it was still £180, because we were booking 30 minutes before departure, despite the fact that 1,000 people culd have got on the train and had seats to spare.

      2. MC, why do you make the comment about Auckland prices being like England?
        I suspect that you see a world where everyone is still going to drive everywhere, but it won’t happen. Read the Productivity Commmission report about how we don’t have enough electricity, or transmission lines.
        And then think, can we still afford to build more roads and manage climate change costs, and mounting superannuation?
        For me part of that just transition is for motorists to start to pay the true cost of roads. If we are driving less to reduce emissions then it makes sense to develop alternatives to driving. It is infinitely more fair for wealth to be transferred from those who are most likely to afford it, than a feebate scheme where aside from anything else the results are questionable.

        1. There are now hydrogen powered and even solar power trains. Even Diesel trains can operate on bio fuels.

        2. They always reference to “England” because apparently, it’s the only country in the world and whatever happens there is the final word on any policy initiative. I would have thought Australia or China or extremely sucessful countries like Austria would be better examples to follow in 2019 but no, it’s always “the old country”.

        3. I reference the UK because I’m there multiple times per year and use the trains a lot. I reference Norway and scandinavia because I live in Norway.

        4. have you been to India or China? It doesn’t matter what a small country like NZ does, there are more new cars being put on the roads in both these countries everyday than we put on the road every year. Indians who used to buy a scooter are now buying a car, ditto for the Chinese, it’s also not going to be long before Africans motorise in increasing numbers, like it or not the car isn’t going away anytime soon.

        5. It matters what everyone does. Every community can be broken into smaller fractions till you get to a size that you can claim ‘doesn’t matter’.

          This is a bankrupt argument.

          Anyway the obvious question after your facile observation (we live in a small country), is what can we do to influence bigger ones.? And obviously the answers are:
          1. Get our own house in order
          2. Lead by example
          3. Favour faster transitioning nations over stinkier ones in trade etc

          Also anyone who refuses to see the opportunities in being ahead of the competition in building a post carbon economy is simply looking the wrong way; backwards.

      3. The UK, (London excepted) has a bastard mix of privately owned transport companies providing government, (both central and local) subsidised, nominally competing, services on the publicly owned , roads and railway lines. Remarkably similar to our pre latest iteration of our own Public Transport Operating Model. The outcomes are an ongoing spectacular reduction of urban bus services, the highest fares in Europe and the greatest subsidy per passenger journey in Europe.
        Reminiscent of the period when in Auckland used a similar regime and subsidies being paid were increasing at the time journeys were decreasing. One absurdity, in the UK, is that many of the train operating companies have substantial government ownership. but not the UK government, but other the governments of other, largely European governments.

        1. Yes, it’s complete madness what has happened in the UK. Having worked for British Rail in the 1970s-80s and witnessed the massive turnaround a few motivated and competent managers / chairmen were able to make from a once-inefficient and crumbling state-owned monolith to an innovative and forward-looking company (still state-owned) , the loss of that organization to privatization was tragic. Today, many have forgotten or never knew how state-owned British Rail smartened itself up in the 1980’s to become a proud company offering huge value-for-money (the least subsidized railway in Europe), and poised to expand enthusiastically into the 1990’s. Until privatization under John Major’s idiotic Conservative government in 1997 kicked it in the guts.

          It annoys me greatly to hear people today equating the name British Rail solely with the torpid version of it that existed prior to 1980, and maliciously ignorant of the transformation that followed. Had BR been allowed to continue on that upward trajectory, and had the £ billions that were squandered on the privatization-fiasco been spent instead on tracks and trains, Britain would now be the envy of the world.
          Some names to revere from that era: Sir Peter Parker, Sir Bob Reid, Chris Green, John Prideaux, Ron Cotton. They fought for the railway they believed in, lobbied rail’s case before indifferent governments, inspired staff who worked under them, and above all, brought the railway to the people of Britain.

          The upsurge in rail usage that has occurred since then has been in spite of privatization, not because of it. A pox on privatization!

  20. Long haul flights will likely only go ‘electric’ if manmade hydrocarbons are used. The energy density of hydrocarbons are hard to beat – certainly not current battery technology. The process goes something like this: –

    a) Capture CO2 from the air using renewable electricity.
    b) Combine CO2 with Oxygen and Hydrogen (O & H perhaps cracked from water using electricity, or directly as water) into the same hydrocarbons in aviation fuel.

    In effect the hydrocarbon is a store of the electricity which can be generated by renewable sources. The release of CO2 when the jet fuel is used is effectively renewable as it did not come from fossil fuels.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2620-carbon-dioxide-turned-into-hydrocarbon-fuel/

    https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/scientists-make-gas-air.html

    1. You make an important point that too many others gloss-over. CO2 that is generated from carbon already present in the eco-system, is far less of a problem than CO2 generated by extraction and burning of fossil fuels. The former adds no additional carbon to the eco-system. The latter definitely does.

      If we can create hydrocarbon fuels by extracting carbon already in the atmosphere, then releasing it back into the atmosphere becomes carbon-neutral. But we must be wary of the negative side-effects that inevitably accompany such processes at large scale.

  21. I am a New Zealander based in the UK, who every time he comes home, finds it painfully difficult to get round the country. Not because of Intercity’s coaches, which are OK, but because their frequency is rotten. As a result I wrote to both the Minister and the Bus & Coach Assocation and got fairly non-committal replies from both of them, with the Minister pointing out that long-distance public transport is excluded from the PTOM.

    What we do need is a national policy for the supply of inter-regional public transport. This would do at a national level what regional councils do at a local level – come to a view as to how much intercity service is required and – critically in my view – at what sort of service frequencies. The Government could then negotiate with the coach operators to provide more in the way of services.

    Apart from Hamilton-Auckland, and maybe not even then, I am not sure of any real justification for interregional rail, but that is a separate discussion.

    1. “Apart from Hamilton-Auckland, and maybe not even then, I am not sure of any real justification for interregional rail”

      Not even Auckland-Tauranga?

    2. I see too many trying to justify having no regional rail at all on the basis that our rail gauge is too narrow, our population too small, and out terrain to challenging to support a comprehensive high speed passenger rail network. That Wellington can continue to support regional rail to both Palmerston North and Masterton in spite of serious under investment shows the benifit of some regional rail. Obviously a Hamilton to Auckland link would be capable of maintaining at least the same frequency as Masterton to Wellingon, probably much more. Once this is established a Hamilton to Tauraranga extension seems obvious. Also Christchurch Rangiora and perhaps Ashburton. We need to do the small stuff around our main cities now.

      1. To be honest;
        I think that ultimately a dedicated Auckland-Tauranga Express should be aimed more for than extending any Waikato commuter service.

        1. The very large London to Reading commuter capacity is very largely provided by trains originating from locations well beyond Reading

        2. Well a Tauranga to Auckland Train, or a Cambridge to Auckland Train, or a Te Kuiti train to Auckland should all be Hamilton to Auckland commuter trains. Any future through train from Hamilton to Auckland once the extra main lines are in place will be a limited stop service once it gets beyond Pukekohe.

        3. But why?
          Why not just save time and go straight to/from Tauranga? Why does it have to waste time stopping in Hamilton? Maybe it can also stop in Bellevue and a couple of other places once it’s on the other side of the tunnel….

        4. The line goes through Hamilton, so stopping there costs only two or three minutes of time, but it means the same train can carry auckland to Hamilton, auckland to tauranaga, and Hamilton to tauranga passengers. Having three markets instead of one means more passengers for the trip and better utilization. I.e it would be better to have one train an hour that links all three places, that three direct lines that each only run once every three hours.

  22. Ashburton is the same distance from Christchurch as Masterton is from Wellington, same size population and no pesky hill in the way.

    I can’t see why (other than lack of pollitical will) there isn’t passenger trains from Christchurch to Rangiora, Ashburton, and Lyttleton.
    Christchurch did at one stage have a well used urban passenger train service with three lines and plenty of train stations. Pretty much all evidence of the train stations has been removed as has any evidence of where the trams used to run.

    1. The pesky hill is one of the reasons that the train is successful, the cars have to drive over it, while the train gets to go straight under it.

      There is also more employment density in central Wellington than central Christchurch, along with a dramatic climate difference between Masterton and Wellington. This makes a long commute more appealing than in other cities of it’s size.

      I think there will be trains between Christchurch and Ashburton one day, but I think we need to start with the basics of a Chch metro rail network first.

      1. “I think we need to start with the basics of a Chch metro rail network first.”

        I couldn’t disagree more.

        Given that the railway already passes through commuter towns for Christchurch; Kaiapoi, Rangiora, Rolleston and Ashburton, for me it’s a no brainer that rail for Christchurch should begin with commuter services form these places.
        The biggest issue is getting a better terminus location than the previously failed Moorhouse avenue location.

        A rail system for Christchurch itself would best be some sort of light rail system that’s separate-from but interchanges with this mainline-using commuter system. That would take a couple of decade’s worth of continued dedicated investment, but it would eventually solve a lot of Christchurch’s problems.

        1. Sorry, I should have clarified by metro I was thinking using the existing rail lines within the bounds of the current metro bus system. In other words trains to Rolleston and Rangiora.

          I think Moorhouse Ave would be more viable now than it has in the past as the core of the CBD has moved south as a result of the quakes.

    2. Christchurch has itself to blame for its lack of rail.

      And especially about a decade or so ago; when an opportunity to build a new & more central Christchurch terminus and get soon-to-be-surplus rolling stock from Auckland went begging, not least because rail advocates in Christchurch were uncompromisingly fixated on some totally unrealistic tram-rain scheme.

  23. OK, although I wasn’t really commenting on regional rail, can I point out:

    * I work for a transport agency in the UK, so I have some idea of what works in a rail context, and why.

    * the problem in New Zealand with regional rail is that most of the NZ network is single-tracked – that really impacts on how well a network can work – and that is before the issues with our track geometry, and what that does to limit top speeds.

    * What we need for a national transport service is a higher frequency of service between the main centres, with coaches – I’m not exactly sure that mode is the issue here.

    1. It is always possible to duplicate a single track rail line, we add lanes to roads all the time.

      The current running time for an Intercity bus between Auckland and Tauranga is 3:45, even our track as it is today could probably support a train faster than that. There is plenty of scope with narrow gauge to run trains significantly quicker than this.

    2. FYI Auckland to Hamilton is entirely double tracked, except for a stretch of a few km near and one bridge in Ngaruawahia township. Hamilton to Tauranga is single track with some pasing loops, but with the flatland terrain it wouldn’t be especially hard to invert that to being double tracked except a series of pinch points (not least the kaimai tunnel). Some years back they extended a passing loop by 1.3km for $500k, so the cost of doubling convenient sections is clearly not huge if you avoid bridge and tunnel work.

      1. Yeah there’s enormous opportunity to increase the capacity of the East Coast Main cheaply with more passing loops or entire sections of doubling..

        Right up to bypassing Hamilton entirely by running a direct line from Morrinsville to Ohinewai… also pretty flat easy terrain. Certainly that should be looked at as an option when the single track bridge over the Waikato starts to become under more pressure. It may offer better value, depending on the growth of AKL-TAU traffic…

        1. Another option for increasing capacity between Auckland and Tauranga would be to build a new more direct route from Pokeno to the western portal of the Kaimai tunnel using the half completed Pokeno-Paeroa deviation via Paeroa and Te Aroha.

          The terrain along this route is mostly flat and by building a second shorter, more direct route, it would be serving different towns which could potentially be developed as future satellite suburbs of Auckland, much like the towns along the NIMT in the northern Waikato are becoming now.

          The formation work of the Pokeno-Paeroa deviation was built for a double track line. You can see the culverts and formation beside the SH2 deviation at Mangatawhiri. If you look on the satellite on Google Maps you can follow most of the formation route all the way from Kellyville on the NIMT, through to Paeroa, and the old Thames Branch (former ECMT) route from Paeroa to Te Aroha.

      2. Nick R: The NIMT between Auckland and Hamilton is not “entirely” double tracked. It is mostly double tracked. There is a section of single track through the Whangamarino Swamp, as well as the single track bridge over the Waikato River and Ngaruawahia you mention.

        The rail bridge at Ngaruawahia has long been a pinch point and has been subject to a lot of problems, such as with the local Maori kids walking along the tracks on it and using the bridge for jumping into the river, with kids getting hit and killed by trains in the process:

        https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/90650060/swimmer-jumps-off-moving-train-on-ngaruawahia-bridge

        Note all the tagging and graffiti on the bridge too.

        This bridge has also been the site of a couple of impressive derailments over the years where containers have ended up on top of the girders. Most of the original girder bridge has since been replaced following these derailments.

        With all the on-going issues at this bridge, perhaps consideration should be made for the NIMT to bypass Ngaruawahia?

        1. Thats exactly what I said, entirely double tracked except for one stretch of a few km and the bridge at ngaruawahia.

          Neither is a huge issue to fix in comparison to the works they’re doing on the waikato expressway.

        2. Oh sorry, just noticed the typo. Should read “except for a stretch of a few km near Mercer and one bridge in Ngaruawahia township.”

        3. I’m not sure bypassing a town because it has issues with anti-social behavior is the best approach. If anything regular passenger rail would have the potential to rejuvenate Ngaruawahia.

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