Every week we see a heap of articles about transport. We will cover some of them but a lot we don’t. So I thought it might be a good idea to cover some of these in case you missed them. Let me know what you think as I may make this a regular post.

Train Derailment cause

Yesterday it was reported why a train derailed in the Britomart Tunnel last year, ultimately resulting in days of disruption, has been released.

A broken piece of track has been found to have caused a train derailment in Auckland’s Britomart in May last year.

It caused cancellations, delays and the train station had to be closed overnight.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission released its findings into the May 9, 2018 incident on Thursday.

It found that a “fractured and broken section on rail” caused the front half of the Auckland Transport train to derail.

The track met required specifications but a machining defect was believed to have reduced the track’s resistance to fatigue and fracture.

The commission said the train was carrying about 130 passengers at the time of the derailment.

“It stopped just short of a concrete wall diving two platforms.

“Nobody was injured, but there was moderate damage to the train and the track.”

I think I can see what’s wrong

One thing interesting in the report is it mentions how often tracks are checked in Auckland.

  • Within Britomart at least there are visual inspections conducted once a week by someone walking the tracks when trains aren’t running
  • There are also weekly inspections from the driving cabs of trains
  • Every 12 weeks the Auckland network is inspected using ultrasonic testing equipment on a specialised hi-rail vehicle.

In addition the report notes one of the actions since undertaken as

7.3.2. An independent wheel/rail interface working group has been established to resolve any potential rail wear issues within the Auckland passenger network.

I suspect this is related to a lot of the maintenance and disruption the network is currently experiencing


Trains Shut Down

While we’re on the topic of trains, services were disrupted yesterday after a bomb scare in Wellington.

Commuters in both Auckland and Wellington should expect delays and cancellations to train services this afternoon and during evening rush hour, after services were shut down during a threat to the National Train Control Centre.

Nothing untoward was found, police said, following a search of the Wellington Railway Station, which houses the control centre, and services are running again. But passengers should expect delays.

This is not the first, or even second time the entire Auckland network has been shut down due to issues in Wellington, for example back in 2012 a power failure shut the network here down – not long after it had been moved from Auckland to Wellington.

Shifting control of Auckland’s trains back to Auckland is already on the agenda and is expected to be delivered sometime between now and 2023 at a cost of almost $24 million.


Electric vehicle sales surge

Electric vehicles are getting more popular.

New motor industry figures show a total of 605 electric and plug-in hybrids vehicles were sold in September.

The numbers were boosted by the first significant numbers of the base model Tesla reaching the country, with 329 sales making it the third-best selling passenger-SUV segment.

Interestingly those numbers different from the Ministry of Transport’s who say 1008 new EVs were registered in September, significantly up on the previous record of 648 set in June. Overall numbers remain small though with total EVs put at just over 17,000 compared to a total vehicle fleet that is somewhere over 3.2 million.


Paying people to scrap old cars

Newsroom reports

After considering a range of options for lowering carbon emissions from our ageing vehicle fleet, the Government settled on a planned electric car feebate scheme and new emissions standard. But it is also still investigating a vehicle scrappage programme to encourage people to surrender old cars.

The age of cars and other light vehicles owned and driven by New Zealanders is high compared to other countries, and continuing to rise.

The average age of our light passenger vehicle fleet increased from 11.7 years in 2000 to 14.4 years in 2017. By comparison, the average age of cars and light vehicles in the United States was 11.6 years for cars and light trucks in 2016, and 10.1 years in Australia. In Canada in 2014 it was 9.3 years and in Europe just 7.4 years.

Getting old cars off the road would be beneficial for safety and as well as likely helping in reducing emissions so a scheme of some form seems like a good idea.


Finally a useful Hackathon

The NZTA have run a number of hackathons in recent years but it finally looks like there could be a useful one coming up.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are calling for volunteers to take part in a hackathon using the potential of technology to respond to public transport disruptions.

It will be the Transport Agency’s fourth hackathon, but the first in collaboration with Auckland Transport. A hackathon is a 48-hour digital innovation event where people with diverse backgrounds and skills come together to brainstorm and collectively develop technology solutions.

The hackathon, with a “Green Light” theme, will be held in Auckland over the weekend of 15-17 November and participants will be challenged to reimagine the public transport experience in the face of planned and unplanned disruption.

The Transport Agency’s Chief Information Officer, Derek Lyons says they’ll be looking for real world customer-centric responses to situations that can affect anyone at any time.

When public transport works well it can be fantastic but when things go wrong, it can be a nightmare of not moving and little to no information e.g. do you get off and try a different service (if that’s possible), do you wait it out or do you give up although and try and find another way to your destination. It will be interesting to see what comes out if this one.

If you’re interested, register for it here.


New trains for Wellington regional services?

A business case has been prepared for buying new trains for the Capital Connection in Wellington and I believe for the Wairarapa services too. What’s interesting is a press release confirms that the preferred option is for dual mode multiple units, in other words trains that can run on both electricity when under the wires and diesel outside of that. This is something that we also need for future Auckland to Hamilton (and beyond) services too and I wonder if we as a country should be looking at options for a ‘regional dual mode’ train design with just the electrics different so they can work on the respective networks.


Why wouldn’t we want it too

A tweet out of Sydney showing a before and after of George St got me thinking:

To me, the question isn’t why we’d want this for Queen St and Dominion Rd, the question is why wouldn’t we want it.

As we’ve heard before, it appears the NZ Super Fund are apparently looking at some sort of grade separated line with a tunnel under Queen St. What the above images show is that there is also huge amenity value in having light rail on the surface in places as you can deliver street outcomes you simply wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Perhaps in the future we will need a second ‘CRL’ and grade separated option but that doesn’t diminish the need for light rail across the isthmus.

Ultimately the discussion is not Light Rail vs Heavy Rail, it’s Light Rail and pedestrians v a huge number of buses and cars.

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66 comments

  1. I take a keen interest in electric cars, family members own a couple, and personally I think the future does not bode well for them and their existence feel good factor that does not bear thinking about if one really thinks they are for the better.

    Replacement batteries plus a small component for labour to replace it for the existing Nissan Leaf are a write off inducing $33000 Australian, that’s after you’ve paid the ridiculously high $60000 plus for one of these things new. Even used the cost equals end of days for yours if it happens to you! The particular story from where this comes also mentions this chap never got anywhere near the range claimed by Nissan and he bought the car new.

    https://youtu.be/L_zdtaJeYmw

    John Cadogan btw has a degree in mechanical engineering and been a reporter for the past 25 years – reporting on the car industry, automotive consumer issues, and reviewing cars, in print, online, and on radio and TV. He is not one beholden to sponsors and gives quite accurate information in an off beat manner.

    With normal use the battery life is about 7 to 10 years, then with the power source replacement cost so uneconomic the car is a throw away. And this after almost a decade of making the Leaf, where economies of scale and far more science and lessons learnt should mean they are getting better and cheaper at making them.

    Of course there is plenty of information around that details the cost of the precious materials that go into them and the depravity of the mining conditions (use of children) that exist now, much less the huge energy used in manufacturing and the lethal waste that remains of spent batteries at the end of their lives.

    For now and until someone does a major reset of the way humans travel, the internal combustion engine is with us for a very long time to come. E cars or E anything that ain’t hooked up to an overhead are a nice to have fantasy that allows us to wreck the planet in a whole different way!

    And a great little segment this blog post is :). Keep it up!

    1. Just on that ridiculous $33K bill – that’s a Nissan dealer price to replace something that, if they are at all similar to NZ, could only extremely recently be shipped to this country at all. The original Nissan Leaf chemistry was rubbish and the capacity was small to begin with. Throw in a lack of passive cooling and you have a recipe for terrible longevity.

      Here’s the thing though; most generation one products are rubbish. The iPhone was radical, but compared to today’s iPhones, it’s practically unusable. We didn’t give up on iPhones. The 3GS was a significant improvement in a short period of time.

      Locally, there are options for replacing a G1 Nissan Leaf battery. Blue Cars, I believe, have a pilot replacement method that replaces the cells with more improved and denser batteries and significantly improves range (They are crowdfunding to continue this work btw if anyone wants to look into it).

      Meanwhile, Gen 2 Leafs with battery chemistry and range can be had for $40K. The $33K bill in Australia is a bit of a laugh, but it should be patently obvious that a bill that is almost twice the price of a second hand Leaf is not an example you can reliably extrapolate across an entire technology.

      1. Leaf batteries are in separate cells, for example, 24 modules each of 8 cells, that can and are replaced individually, however, this is flawed and false economics. And there is plenty written on that subject. It just makes the bill payable in instalments because the rest are all on the way out too! But it’s not dissimilar to replacing one torch battery and leaving the other 3 better ones there until they fail. And the Leaf in that example was a Series 2 which means it is temperature-controlled.

        Point is though its 2019, where is the advancement? We are shockers at hoping a little man will invent the miracle everlasting ecologically friendly battery one day and the mindless destruction of our planet for GDP will be averted and everything will be good.

        But an even better point, E cars are not the White Knight every hopes they are. They are a marketing exercise hugely reliant on taxpayer welfare to keep the manufacturers in business!

        1. I can tell you for a fact that the Leaf does not have active cooling in the same way other EVs do. In fact, the 2019 Leaf+ with 100KW charging doesn’t have it. Nissan doesn’t think they need it. Yes, the cell chemistry changed in the Gen 1 24kw Leafs, but again, and I want to stress this, this was the first mass-produced electric car. No shit, it had some issues. Absolute reliability in the ICE world is a relatively new development too.

          Where is the advancement? Well I’d say the fact the 40kwh Leaf battery can be fitted to a 30kwh Leaf from 2015 – 2017 is a pretty good improvement for four years? Suggests a pretty decent improvement in density for my mind, considering they aren’t even really market leaders anymore.

          And if you’re worried about EV subsidies, I’ve got news for you about . People are happy to use all sorts of gadgets with lithium ion batteries and throw away cellphones after a year of use, but put a battery in a car and somehow people suddenly care about environment damage from lithium mining and subsidies. Despite, you know, ICE-powered cars having engines made of equally heavily manufactured components and hoovering up government subsidies for massive factories. People forget the bar is pretty low for this kind of thing to begin with.

        2. Calm down Buttwizard, this is about cars not phones but in any case what becomes of the toxic E waste from those? And let’s not start on factories in China putting up suicide nets to cut down suicides in the Apple factory was it, so we can have our annual smart phone must haves to replace their inbuilt obsolescence.

          The battery in the 2019 Leaf models is no advancement, they just packaged the modules and cells more compactly. There’s no new miracle battery there. And as a result of it’s increased capacity it takes that much longer to charge.

          The whole E car thing is NOT going to save the world, but arguably may cause many other problems.

        3. @Waspman – You sound as if you have no faith in the commercialisation of aluminium-ion batteries. This is a very exciting technology that has substantially lower environmental impact and uses the third most abundant earth element. There’s many developments in this area of research.

          Also, and this may be nitpicking, replacing lithium batteries on a module by module basis isn’t necessarily a futile effort. Lithium tech needs to ensure that the charge level of each cell in a battery is balanced. If one module needs to be replaced, then that may well be due to poor intermodule connections (think contact or cable resistance) or poor physical layout resulting in more localised heating compared to the other modules, or an issue with the balance charging (which is most likely due to the battery monitoring circuit on the pack being faulty – These are $0.50 chips in volume). Only by analysing a large number of “failures” can any valuable conclusion be reached. Regarding cell monitoring “More advanced and complex BMS are capable of transferring excessive energy between cells. Each cell is equipped with a micro controller, which communicates to the main BMS controller. The controller monitors individual cells and decides which cell needs be corrected.” -ref: Battery cell balance of electric vehicles under fast-DC charging, https://www.researchgate.net/journal/1751-4088_International_Journal_of_Electric_and_Hybrid_Vehicles

          I think that you shouldn’t be so quick to write off electric vehicles, especially since there is much life still left in “dead” leaf batteries.

        4. Jon K. Your link didn’t tell me anything, it’s all scholarly articles that I cannot access.

          But this is 2019, mass production of E-cars is starting to get underway and it’s based on Li-Ion with all its inherent issues I have mentioned and this does not address the larger issue facing mankind and may create other problems..

          But for starters, the Al Ion battery exists but its potential is purely theoretical and if it were a go I am fairly confident both Nissan and Tesla or even Boeing would use it but they don’t. Is the reason because of this for example;

          “Scientific American reports that the Al-ion battery’s energy density is a quarter of the typical Li-ion battery’s. Additionally, as Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai admits, his team’s prototype “produces about half the voltage of a typical lithium battery.” He remains optimistic, however: “improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density.”

          Until those improvements materialize, the battery will probably not be making an appearance in electric cars…”.

          As I said we bury our heads in the sand pretending a little man is going to invent a miracle battery and we can carry on as never before. And just maybe they might, one day, get close. But this is here and now.

        5. One lithium ion battery can be very different to another. There’s a reason the world is moving to NMC811, and other compositions are being worked through. The lithium ion battery in your Tesla Model 3 is very different to the lithium ion battery in your 1990s Sony Camcorder, much in the same way that a top line gaming processor is still made of silicon like the old 386s were. Same, but very very different. And there’s a high chance that lithium will be involved for a while yet; currently doping with cobalt is extremely effective but there’s a bit to move away from that and make better use of things like graphene and silicon to further improve things.

        6. Waspman – You need to find more up to date articles about Aluminium-Ion batteries. Also, try some that talk about the science too. 🙂

          Science: Aluminium Ion batteries atom for atom, produce three times as many electrons as lithium based technology. This is an intrinsic and non-theoretical aspect.

          Google aluminium ion battery energy density: 1300 (practical), 6000/8000 (theoretical) W·h/kg
          Google lithium ion battery energy density: 100–265 W·h/kg (0.36–0.875 MJ/kg)

          Aluminium is the carriage that I’d hitch my horse to – There’s so much happening in the way of exciting new developments. I’d put money on the tech appearing in EVs next year or early 2021.

        7. The issue is keeping the auto industry alive and the E car is that attempt.

          The auto industry is such a monster (84,000,000 vehicles manufactured in 2017 according to Forbes) that its political, cultural and just about every aspect of it runs deep into the fabric of society yet it knows the writing is on the wall for fossil fuel power. But the alternatives simply aren’t there. To manufacture an E car is expensive not the least because of the battery (picture 84 000,000 batteries p.a. as per an E car) and most people will not buy one or cannot afford one. And the auto industry does not care about spent E waste. So we are strung along on the promise/cheques in the mail that some miracle battery in the offing.

          Yet as it stands you can buy a brand new reliable ICE car for a little over $15000 and maintained will give you years, as in 20 plus open ended, of trouble free service. Or an E car that’s a throw away after 10 years or less starting at 60k. Hence the pressure is ramping up for buyer subsidies and yes, maybe, a clean alternative battery source may be found. But easily maybe not.

          The future, if we are serious, is some form of ride sharing and public transport that is light years from the crap we have now, powered by sustainable power sources, as per our EMU’s power. But until then the fantasy that we can have our cake and eat it too, E cars will persist because the auto industries future depends on it.

        8. Waspman you’re right, this isn’t about phones. And no one gave a shit about the huge amount of lithium we went through in mobile phone batteries when most mobile phone users were in an annual upgrade cycle. It’s hard to see this a lot of this talking points as anything but cynical.

          As for electric cars being ‘throwaways’ – in no case is an ‘E car’ a throw-away after ten years. That’s simply absurd. Like any electronic devices, batteries age and lose capacity. That doesn’t mean it’s a total write-off. Modern EVs are generally sold with 160,000km/8 year warranties which cover down to 70% SOH. The car isn’t unusable, it’s can’t go as far as it used to. Good lord. You know what other kind of machines wear and become less efficient? internal combustion engines. And yes, you can transplant sick cells out with healthier cells to improve a battery pack’s performance, much in the same way you can fit new filters or carbon blast or whatever else an ICE engine might need doing from time to time.

          If you’re going to argue every single point against everyone here then you could try getting something right.

    2. Surely all of the resource arguments against EVs (mining, exploitation etc) apply equally to ICE vehicles? Oil and steel aren’t known for their human rights and environmental friendliness.
      Not having battery EVs wouldn’t make much difference to the battery extractive industries due to the proliferation of consumer electronics.

      The real environmental solution for NZ is less cars imported and less cars on our roads.

      1. Exactly. That argument doesn’t wash. However, it is true we need both fewer cars and better cars. Especially the former. The planet can’t take 2 billion of any kind of car.

        EVs, and especially e-bikes and scooters, will kill not only ICE cars, but also the oil industry (yay). Any other thinking is simply presentism: an inability to understand how change happens.

        As for Waspo’s concerns; the first cell phones were horribly expensive and damn near useless; nek minnit!

        1. Note, btw, that as ICE sales are on a cyclical plunge, but not so EVs. This is the beginning of the substitution. Small base; big trend. It’s on. Now, let’s also get on with reducing our need for any kind of car in cities, as the industry deals with both contraction and tech change (gonna be a lot of biz fails and mergers in big auto).

    3. A Nissan dealership in Aus. wanted to charge a family $49000 to replace the diesel fuel system in their SUV, so in a similar ball park. After considerable bad publicity, they are now doing it for free. I expect when word gets out these prices will drop when people stop buying the Leaf. BTW, the most effective way of recycling battery packs from electric vehicles, which still have 80% of their capacity is to use them for home solar energy storage.

        1. Yes and Nissan is off the list. He says the partnership with Renault has damaged Nissan. Or in his words the Renault technology has metastasised into Nissan.

  2. Hi Matt, great post. Just wanted to say thanks for all the great content you post here all the time. I don’t live in Akl since 2 years not but still come back to have a read. Keep it up

  3. Tell me more about the Hackathon, someone… What sort of disciplines usually take part?

    Also, is it judged somehow by accessibility-focused judges to ensure solutions are not only suitable for “smart cities” but for real people of all ages and mobility levels. And who don’t necessarily have access to a mobile phone.

  4. We should be looking at a quad mode design for our passenger rail fleet with all electric, electric battery hybrids, diesel electric dual modes and straight diesel
    Just choose the appropriate combination for the particular service. Even the straight diesel would have a small battery to allow for energy recovery from braking. A flexible design with the option to insert the appropriate motive source.

  5. I’ve read a bit of that report into the train derailment. It does give a sense of security that the driver followed procedures and did everything right, and that there seems to be a couple of layers of ongoing checks of the system.

    All the same, it wasn’t a tragedy only because the train was going slowly, and it came from such a small defect.

    Is there any other system that could be installed at points to pick up something like this?

    1. It’s a very slow section of track anyway and really the only checks that can be made are visual. But looking at the damage it was a clean break that would have been hard to predict.

      There is a huge amount of wear and stress through those points in that part of the tunnel simply through the number of trains that pass each way over them every day.

    2. My guess is they bought the tracks from the same country the Waterview steel came from. But at least at Waterview they were able to still design for plastic failure by pairing the weak steel with under-strength concrete.

      1. The report is at https://taic.org.nz/inquiry/ro-2018-101. Looks like the steel is from China but TAIC says there’s nothing wrong with it (which “complied with the rail specifications”). The problem was the machining of the steel, which looks like it was done by a different company. That, and it looks like and kiwi rail oly asked for (and got) a 1 year guarantee!

        1. So the report basically says nothing to see here, move along please.
          If I understand it the rail met the specification so does that mean the specification doesn’t say that rails shouldn’t break when trains travel on them? As for no evidence of a wider quality issue, well what the hell does that mean? Are they going to what and see if it happens seven times then conclude there is a wider issue?

        2. So at one end of the points an electric circuit indicates correct placement. At the other end of the points there’s a lot of stress in the steel due to the movement of the tracks, and this is where the break happened.

          Is there no system (electrical, optical, whatever) that can be installed to check there’s nothing wrong at that end of the points? (I realise there are points all over the world and on much higher speed trains than ours. What systems do they use in Japan or German, for example?)

        3. Train detection in the Auckland metro area is by axle counters rather than track circuits but that being said turnouts typically are not circuited anyway. The status of the turnout is detected by limit switches in the actuator mechanism.
          Typically this sort of problem is detected by ultrasonic inspection but better still is not installing a structural element with known or detectable stress raisers where it is subject to cyclical tensile loads.

  6. The Auckland Control Centre saga has been ongoing for about 10 years.

    Apparently there is already a panel at Westfield, but nobody to staff it

    1. The KiwiRail head office in Stanley St has had a TC desk set up since ~2012 from memory. Looked like it’d be good for gaming with all those screens!

      Not sure on the exact year… Memory isn’t what it used to be.

  7. “What the above images show is that there is also huge amenity value in having light rail on the surface ”

    Looking at the image the addition of the tram line added little in the way of “amenity”, what made the difference was the removal of what appears to be about 6 lanes of traffic. A similar visual result could have been achieved by removing 4 of those 6 traffic lanes, and an even nicer results if you turned the area into a park.

    The big question is however, where have all those buses gone, were all those buses previously simply copies of each other following the same limited number of routes as the new tram line or have these buses simply been moved off to another location?

    1. Err… the buses are replaced by the big electric thing in the pic, obviously. Some (fewer than before) of these buses now run more frequently in the suburbs to connect to the LR line, expanding its catchment, and running much more efficiently cos they aren’t stuck in city centre traffic.

      Because the capacity of each LRV is so much greater than a bus the amenity of the street is at a higher level for people as there are fewer of them, and no cars. Also, they are lovely.

      So amenity (car-lessness) + (greatly) improved access.

      So sure. Could just keep the cars out. That would immediately improve Queen St. But better to keep them out AND vastly improve access. Do it with busses now, while we wait for LR to get sorted.

      1. I just checked the bus routes that I used to take, it seems it’s no longer is able to take me to my destination and it simply drives down different roads and requires me to walk a greater distance to get to my destination.

        So yes removing my hold bus routes has improved the “amenity”, however this has resulted in making other roads worse and my access is actually worse.

        “Also, they are lovely”
        I don’t disagree that they are much nicer than a bunch of noisy old buses (except for their insistent bell ringing), however I think some trees and fountains would be much nicer. Maybe while we’re at it we can let people who drive cars worth more the $200k drive down the road as they look rather cool as well.

        Anyway, I’m not disputing that trams have higher capacity than conventional buses, simply that trams in themselves add little to the amenity value of the area unless you’re talking about some historic tram that is there as a tourist attraction and runs every 30mins like the one at MOTAT or that used to do the laps around Wynyard Quarter.

        1. Would being able to sit without inhaling Diesel fumes and being able to hear the conversation you’re having rather than hearing multiple heavy engines running count as amenity?

        2. I agree Richard. If the LR ran under George Street and in its place were some nice trees, seats, etc, I would personally consider that even better; the street would be nicer and the tram faster. I imagine this is what the super fund are proposing on queen street (mainly due to the speed aspect), I doubt anyone wants cars there any more.
          Same with Dominion Road – imagine if the LR was underground and above it was a linear park stretching from the city all the way to Mt Roskill. That would be a very nice amenity.

        3. “Same with Dominion Road – imagine if the LR was underground and above it was a linear park stretching from the city all the way to Mt Roskill. That would be a very nice amenity.”

          That would be awesome, it may cost several billions and my preference would be for the stations to be open air sunken stations but well worth the money in my City Skylines virtual Auckland. Maybe not worth the money in real life however.

        4. I keep hearing the ‘several billions’ argument. Does it really cost that much extra to dig a trench?

        5. Yes, there is a lot of extra cost in even a trench, let alone a tunnel. You only need look at the work on Albert Street for the CRL which is basically a trench with a lid and fill back on top.

          You have to rebuild all the pipes, sewers, gas, power lines etc out of the way, and add in new drainage to.
          There’s the cost of excavation, and moving and disposing of the soil or rock you are going though. This is a very expensive part, surprisingly. A trench 10m wide and 6m deep is 60,000 cubic metres of spoil to move. Add in the stations and other bits and is huge, for example a a 5km trench would need around twenty thousand truck loads to clear out!
          You then have to build the structure of the trench, which amounts to a pair of very long and large retaining walls and the means to stabilise them (piles, rock anchors, soil nails etc). If these walls are going to have vehicles effectively driving along the top of them they need to be some serious structure.

          A trench will also need more land, as you have to have emergency egress paths within the trench alongside your tracks, and you need width for the trench structure itself. So the likelyhood of land acquisition is high, unless you have a very wide road to start with.

          An open trench could easily be five times the cost of being at the surface.

          In fact in some cases a shallow trench can be more expensive that a deep bore tunnel, with a long length of bore you can go under the services, although if you still want lots of stations that’s a moot point because deep stations are extremely costly (like a quarter billion to a billion each).

        6. Worth asking the question, given the stupidly high cost of the Lincoln Road station on the NW busway proposal, which was also hundreds of millions of dollars for some reason.

        7. “I keep hearing the ‘several billions’ argument. Does it really cost that much extra to dig a trench?”

          If we’re talking the length of Dominion Rd that is some 3km so yes.

          If we take the CRL as an example, I think its costing them about $200 million for some 200m of cut and cover tunnel. So $3 billion to put 3km of tram line underground probably isn’t too far off the mark. This would also have the benefit of reducing the amount of congestion the tram line would cause and improve the journey times for those on the tram.

        8. Putting the entire CC2M share of the $6b project cost into a 3km tunnel that doesn’t connect with Mangere seems like a tad isthmus-centric for my liking.

          The reality is that we can accommodate trams and cars on Dominion Road, it just can’t be a two lane each way road AND have car parking AND run rapid transit. Golly, it seems like we could either have a transport network that runs along the surface to the other end of the city, or we could have a tunnel that goes a fraction of the distance.

        9. “Putting the entire CC2M share of the $6b project cost into a 3km tunnel that doesn’t connect with Mangere seems like a tad isthmus-centric for my liking.”

          I thought we were talking about the fantastical world of a computer game with unlimited money. I don’t think anyone is realistically proposing to putting the entire Dominion Rd tram line underground.

        10. So a million dollars a metre then? I tell you what give me a pick axe and a spade and some concrete and I’ll do a metre for half that!
          I think the CRL was a bit more challenging. And the cover needs to take cars on top. Let’s say it cost $2 billion to cut and cover dominion or $1 billion to do surface (because most of the costs still exist – removing services, laying tracks, etc) – then I think the extra billion would be worthwhile because it would be awesome and quick.

        11. You guys are funny; are you seriously questioning whether underground rail costs more to construct than surface rail…? lol.

          It’ll be like the difference between doing a little section, like the length of the CRL, or doing the whole route. For a similar sum. FFS.

          And yes cost always matters, there’s no free money.

          Given that it would improve Queen St, like George St, for to be cleared of traffic, why on earth would the city spend the whole budget on tunnelling there, and sacrifice the rest of the route?! Or risk killing the whole project by making the whole thing so expensive by insisting on tunnelling all of it?

        12. “the amount of congestion the tram line would cause”

          Trams causing congestion?

          I’m xpecting less congestion. You’ve got all the buses gone, then factor in mode shift from cars.

          Now take away the parking, no more holding up the whole of Dom Rd while someone looks around for a park at balmoral, heaven forbid they actually find an available park and parallel park into it.

          And on peak, no more buses forcing their way into the general traffic lane to get around the cars parked in the bus lane

        13. The reports from Sydney are 10% less traffic in the CBD since the line was completed and the streets reinstated to their final form. Turns out that removing road lanes actually reduces traffic, who knew? (sarc).

        14. I hope they’re monitoring the air quality, noise levels, equitable access, safety and other outcomes well. That would be useful for NZ because in Australia they don’t have blue skin, eyes on antennae, three legs nor are otherwise ‘other’… so it might even be vaguely applicable here. :/

          Really, how many international examples do we need?

        15. “Trams causing congestion? I’m xpecting less congestion.”

          The above was in response to my comment on the Dominion Rd tram line.

          Based on the design it will increase congestion for a number of reasons:
          It will likely result in banning most right turns resulting in people needing to loop around increasing congestion and CO2 emissions on other roads.
          As the tram will likely have priority it will stuff up the signal phasing resulting in more congestion.
          The road itself will become more congested as each time the tram stops it will block all the traffic
          The capacity of Dominion Rd will be reduced directing traffic onto other roads both making them more congested and increasing CO2 emissions.
          And as an added bonus the tram will get stuck in the same congestion its causing.

          It does however remove a number of buses, and any roads that have vehicle access removed will naturally be less congested and most likely used to create bogus statistics.

          The fictional underground option avoids these issues, except for the fact we were talking about turning Dominion Rd into a large park.

    2. This replaces two very busy bus corridors and a bunch of smaller ones that used to converge on George St.

      So about half of the buses have been directly replaced by the new rail lines (there are two patterns), while the other half still have some suburban coverage but connect to the rail at a new interchange stations at Kensington and Randwick.

  8. Rail only checked every 12 weeks… , it was every night on the UK tube, though I think they were hoping to reduce that once track replacement works had completed to allow later running timetables

  9. Since NZ Super Fund have partnered-up with a Canadian group it’s not surprising they’re talking about tunnels. Most Canadian light rail systems have a metro element to them, they tend to run underground in city centres and are as much light metro as tram.

  10. Matt: Thanks for this post, and please keep it going. As a regular user of Auckland
    PT I’m interested in whats happening now and in the coming months, rather than
    whats planned for 30 years ahead. (Hint: I won’t be here !)

    I sure wish AT had a batch of those DMMU arriving in the next few months – that sort of versatility would be extremely useful in Auckland.

  11. Dual-mode trains for Auckland-Hamilton services represent a bet that noone’s going to electrify Papakura – Te Rapa in the foreseeable future. I’m not sure I’d take that bet.

  12. It’s particularly exciting that the Capital Connection may finally get some off-peak services. Those of us not travelling for business won’t have to be at the station at 6am finally. Won’t get my hopes up too much until the “up to” three return trips becomes a reality though.

    I assume they’ll get the extra two off-peak trips from Palmy to Wellington in by giving the Palmy and Levin peak service trains one off-peak service each from Palmy.

  13. I got caught out with that train control problem last thursday when I boarded at Ellersile on my way to Manurea and I thought I hadgot on a London underground unit , as it was so overcrowded and they were only running a 3car train . The train that I was on departed Ellersile at 16.20hrs and everyone seemed to be happy considring the delays

  14. Something I noted in the media this week was the discussion of shifting Auckland port activities to Marsden included the construction of the Avondale Southdown line, and a 3rd track on the western line, sometime prior to 2034.
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/116258409/auckland-port-move-study-favours-10b-plan-to-shift-hub-to-northport-at-marsden-point
    https://www.transport.govt.nz/multi-modal/keystrategiesandplans/upper-north-island-supply-chain-strategy/

    From the PT point of view this potentially would allow some express passenger services on the western line, and an Avondale-Onehunga-Southdown passenger rail service.
    Some residents of suburban Onehunga could be quite surprised to learn of the rail corridor winding past houses

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