This is a guest post by reader John Wood.


Earlier this year my wife and I set out to visit Italy, Prague and Austria. She was keen to see the work of an interior decorator who had worked in Rome and also some of the old buildings in the cities we planned to visit. My aim was to see the modern transport systems that allow people to move in and between cities.


Our journey began when we landed at Malpensa airport in Milan. One of our daughter’s friends is a young professional living and working near the centre of the city. Elena had alerted me to the modern transport plans of Milan. It is in the midst of a transport revolution brought about by an agreed SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Programme) and that was why I was keen to visit; but I hope to write about the SUMP in a later post.

The Start of the Journey – the Airport to the City

This has little to do with the discussion that will follow about tolls and trains, but I will talk about this because of Auckland’s current debate about the best way to move from Auckland airport to the city and vice versa: should it be the 380 to Puhinui and then the train; the ghost light rail from the airport to the City; SkyBus; or some other alternative?

Another reason that I have chosen to talk about this is because Auckland’s Airport’s current planning, where they suggest that daily vehicle movements will increase by over 40,000 per day by 2040, is almost certainly not sustainable as Auckland moves to zero emissions and therefore a different way has to be found.

I am not going to comment on what I think are the merits of the options that Milan has chosen, but rather show what exists for a city of about 1.3 million people and let you form your view.

Malpensa airport is located 50km from the centre of Milan.

The Malpensa Express

This is the train from Malpensa Airport, Milan to Milan city:

This train is perhaps anything but express given that it makes up to 9 stops. The 50 km journey takes about 52 minutes. This does highlight that there needs to be a balance between travel time and the need to stop close to population centres. Without the latter there could be a faster service, but the risk it will be much less patronised.

It may not be immediately obvious from the photo, but one of the aspects that slows this train is the dwell times at stations, caused by negotiating relatively narrow aisles and dismounting/embarking with large bags.

From Malpensa Airport: First transfer is at 6:00 AM, and runs every 20 minutes from 6:30 AM to 10:10 PM, and every 30 minutes from 10:40 PM to 12.30 AM.

The price for a single ticket is 13 euro.

For those looking for a comprehensive dissertation about this train this is a great link.

Malpensa to Milan by Bus

Elena had suggested using the bus from the airport, seemingly the option most favoured by locals. We took the train as it gave us certainty where we had to get off. (I find generally train stations have better signage than bus stations and this is helpful when you don’t know a place.)

The travel time by bus is from 50 – 70 minutes with Service frequency: approx every 20 min during the day with the first departure at 5.05 am and the last departure at 0.10 am.
The trip costs 8 euros.

Italian Road Tolls

As there was a group of eight of us travelling together, and some of the group was older, we had chosen to travel by mini bus for much of our journey in Italy. It is most likely that even for a group of this size it would have been cheaper for us to travel everywhere by train, tram and bus.

In Italy you encounter the ‘autostrade’ the Italian motorway network, which in the main, is subject to tolls. It’s possible to avoid the toll roads, but the network has been designed so as to be the roads of choice for drivers wanting to get just about anywhere important in the country.

Since 1964 all new autostrade construction has been undertaken by private companies with the tolls set to enable them to repay capital costs and to make a profit. Today, almost all the autostrades are owned by two companies; Atlantia and ANAS and tolls are set after reference to the government.

Italy now has 3408kms of autostrade stretching from the borders with France, Switzerland and Austria down to the toe of Italy and on into Sicily.

The cost of these tolls seems to be a significant deterrent to driving. It was very noticeable that although we travelled extensively by van in the northern part of Italy, most of the autostrade was thinly populated with vehicles. It was also very noticeable that much of the traffic was trucks; anecdotally varying from a proportion of one truck to every two cars, to one to one in other areas. I will talk more of alternative forms of travel later.

From time to time posters on GA talk about using the space over Auckland’s motorways. The Autogrill is a very common addition to many autostrade.

Fares for Inter City Trains and Coaches

Train fares in Europe work in a similar fashion to purchasing domestic air fares with Air New Zealand – the sooner you buy them the cheaper they are. The price can also vary with the speed of the journey. Often the cheapest fare is not the quickest.
I have also included coach fares as a comparison.

What is immediately obvious is that for a single traveller in many cases it is cheaper to travel by bus or train than the price of the road toll.

It is also noticeable that it is as quick, or quicker to travel by train as it is by car.

What is not evident by the figures is just how comfortable it is to travel by rail, but more of that next.

The Trains

Here are the Trenitalia trains:

Frecciarossa trains – Turin-Milan-Bologna-Rome-Naples-Salerno Trains reach up to 360km/h

(standard seating shown)

Frecciargento trains – Rome to Venice, Verona, Bari/Lecce, Lamezia Terme/ReggioCalabria. Trains reach up to 250km/h

Frecciabianca trains – Milan to Venice, Udine e Trieste; Genoa and Rome; down to Bari, Lecce on the traditional line. Trains reach up to 200km/h

As I said earlier we didn’t have the opportunity to travel on trains in Italy, but if the ride is as good as the trains we road from Prague to Vienna to Salzburg to Milan with OBB then it would be a great experience.


I have just included a small portion of the train timetable from Milan to Venice. Remember that Milan has a population of 1.3 million and Venice has a population of 270,000. There are over 50 services on this day.

At this time in the morning this is a frequency that any of our suburban lines would be proud of.

Questions for NZ

What might rail travel numbers between Auckland. Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauraunga look like if we priced our roads?
Obviously our narrow gauge track cannot cope with Italian style trains, but what impact would a Queensland type tilt train make to patronage?
Are our train fares priced correctly given the long length of the track assets?

The Train Stations

The timetable above shows that train travel is enormously popular, but it is also immediately obvious when you walk into a city train station. In a previous comment on GA I described the interior of Florence train station as like Britomart on steroids, such was the degree of activity in a station that serves a population of only 383,000, although there are 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.

Pictured- Florence Train Station 8:45pm, Friday night

Final Thoughts

The sceptics will say, you can’t compare NZ with Italy that has a population of 60 million. However there are learnings I believe. The combination of relatively high road tolls and reasonable coach / train fares appears to have resulted in sparsely used roads and well used trains.

NZ has adopted “user pays” for a number of aspects of our society such as parts of our health care and education systems. Is there a good argument that roads should be treated in the same way – if you want to use them you pay for them you do, and if you choose other options you don’t?

There definitely is a romance about rail travel if it is done well.

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  1. “Obviously our narrow gauge track cannot cope with Italian style trains”. Italian tracks weren’t able to either. They largely built new ones. We could choose to build new ones too, rather than build motorways.

    1. Sure our rail track cannot accomodate European style, high speed trains, but more importantly there are no routes on which there are sufficient large populations to provide sufficient patronage to justify the massive required investment.
      Our most obvious underserved passenger rail route is Auckland to Hamilton, and beyond to the Bay of Plenty with perhaps some additional feeders into Hamilton.
      Currently rail is maintained only to the standard to keep freight trains moving at their modest speeds dictated as much by locomotive and wagon speed limitations as by track configuration.
      However for relatively modest amounts of money, compared to the parallel expressway construction, the rail track between Tauranga and Auckland via Hamilton could be upgraded to accomodate Queensland type narrow gauge fast trains as well as providing the rolling stock.
      The impediment seems to be, that any such investment would detract from the business case of the already spent, or committed spend on the expressway. A case of arse about face planning.

      1. I don’t think the population is big enough to warrant intercity express trains., and we would never get the frequency required to get people out of there cars.

        1. Auckland Hamilton have the population to support a fast intercity service at at least hourly peak, two hourly off peak.
          The initial engineering requirements are modest, the third main in South Auckland, full track duplication, track bed strengthening across the swamps, and terminal station and stabling in Hamilton.
          Jeez if Masterton to Wellington and Palmerston to Wellington can maintain passenger rail, then Auckland Hamilton must be a certain goer subject to achieving not very high minimum service levels.
          I an certain the holdup is the massive political influence that the road transport industry has enjoyed. The industry has a reasonable fear that such services would become like the Northern Busway and Auckland suburban rail upgrades and be far too successful for their interests. A significant disruption to the gravy train of the supply of roads, roading materials and road vehicles with all of their associated services.

        2. I agree with Don.
          Regular passenger rail services between Auckland and Hamilton could definitely work if the money to make it viable was invested.

        3. And with the 2 services terminating at Papakura they could possibly turn them around and then run them back to Hamilton as a new intercity commuter service for those that may want to go down to Hamilton for the day and there could be upwards off 4 extra trips per day

        4. @david L
          I have said all along: Terminating this service at Papakura will only serve to make it extremely unpopular (and help kill it off).

          Do you think that the Wairarapa connection would be popular if everyone had to get off and transfer at Upper Hutt?

        5. Daniel – to get the H2A service won’t get to Britomart until they get the line wired and they have intergrated ticketing . But then the otherway is to purchased a number of Hybrid Loco’s so that way they can enter Britomart , or spend upwards of $1million to get the exhaust fans working again .

        6. “or spend upwards of $1million to get the exhaust fans working again”
          And why not recommission the ventilation (and that’s IF it’s really going to cost upwards of 1 million)?

        7. Daniel I think diesel trains are barred from Britomart for two reasons, firstly the ventilation issue. Whether this requires a new installation or just recommissioning I don’t know but I think the former more likely.
          The second reason is the fire load from the diesel tanks requires a fixed fire suppression system as well.
          The money required would in my opinion be better spent elsewhere to get this route up and running.

        8. Well… …if it doesn’t terminate at Britomart; it simply will not attract many passengers.

          DMU’s, and diesel-electric driven push-pull’s and the Overlander used Britomart for how many years again?

        9. The ventilation issue is a red herring. Anything with a fuel tank is now banned from Britomart and all other underground stations. Dual mode are out, you can’t even haul a diesel train using an electric loco if it has the fuel tank. This affects Hamilton central and the CRL stations too.

        10. When the system went Electric KR was offer the chance to use Britomart for their long distance trains and the price was around $630000 .00 but they said no as it was to expensive , so what did they do , they went to a cold wind swept platform at the Strand .

          And you can blame that on the previous truck loving Government .

          John D , KR if you look at youtube have a mixture of both Diesel and electric running on the maintrunk line from Hamilton to Palmy6 Nth as they done have enough electric loco’s for the motive power

        11. @ John D:
          If deisel-electrics are banned from Hamilton central then how do they move trains to Tauranga?

          This law can be changed (back).

        12. Hamilton Central is closed and doesn’t have any public access. This rule change makes reopening it as a passenger station impossible as long as the ECMT is still diesel.

        13. If what made it “impossible” was a regulation/law change; why is it impossible to change the regulation/law again?

        14. Sure it’s not technically impossible to rescind the Health and Safety Act, but it will never happen in reality.

          Same way that they could technically, but not practically, rescind the laws that allow women to vote, or that make nuclear weapons illegal, or homosexuals to marry, or any number of changes for the better.

        15. “Sure it’s not technically impossible to rescind the Health and Safety Act, but it will never happen in reality.”
          And why not? Especially if the laws are found to be impractical.

          “…or any number of changes for the better.”
          What makes you think this Heath and safety law was a change for the better?!

          I’ve any case: I’ve seen plenty of more regressive legislation pass in NZ. There was the entire revert back to British honours and awards thing that John Key did some time around 2009. Or the bulk funding acts of the late 1980s/early 1990s that has since ruined NZ’s secondary education system (and favours those single-sex, stuck in Edwardian era supposedly “elite” schools). Or the employment contracts act. The list could continue.

          “or that make nuclear weapons illegal”
          I wouldn’t hold yer breath on that one…

        16. By all means go fill your boots campaigning to change the law back, let us know how it goes.

          FYI nuclear weapons are illegal in New Zealand and have been since Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act was passed in 87. It’s a corner stone of New Zealand foreign policy that remains in force, despite causing the United States to stop naval visits and sever our status as an ally.

        17. “By all means go fill your boots campaigning to change the law back, let us know how it goes.”
          (*rolls eyes*)

          “FYI nuclear weapons are illegal in New Zealand and blah blah blah…”
          I can only guess you’ve posted that as a means to reassure yourself.

          “causing the United States to… …sever our status as an ally”
          Erm… …actually the USA remains an ally of NZ and the USA wants the relationship to be closer. The USA just wants NZ to drop the nuclear ban.
          And this may well happen in the future. Especially if NZ ever comes under any direct military threat and needs assistance from allies with nuclear powered warships. Or if NZ needs more electricity generation and a nuclear source is posted as possibility. The baby-boomer generation who are the chief body of support the anti-Nuclear ban are dying off.
          And those are objective facts, before you start assuming I’m imposing my opinions or desires into this.

          I’ve given examples of how NZ has regressed in legislation before (and that’s if the nuclear ban is even progressive). I also wouldn’t put a future NZ government regressing on gay marriage if there was votes in it (which before you begin I would not support). NZ is NOT a nation with very progressive mainstream societal values, it’s actually among the more backward developed nations.

          If the changes in WHS legislation is found to be problematic; it could be changed again.

        18. Daniel – why do we need nuclear when we could turn the rockets we have here into a biological weapon by filling the nose cone with cow dung and firing at our suppose enemies and it could keep the Greenies happy by remove effluent from the waterways .

          So we could kill 2 birds with 1 stone remove it from here and fertilize another place .

        19. John D
          It is convenient to blame the Health and Safety Act for a lot of things that are not in it, but are partly a consequence of the Act.
          The Act requires parties to perform systematic hazard identification and the deal to the hazards identified.
          KW has obviously identified that a diesel locomotive stopping to discharge passengers in an underground station has hazards relating to both normal exhaust gases and significant fire hazard of the locomotive fuel.
          The solution they have adopted is not to allow it which is entirely reasonable considering the constraints on existing operations are minimal or non existent.
          Other solutions could well be possible using a combination of high capacity extract fans, enlarged passenger emergency egress provisions, and fixed drencher fire fighting provision. But why?
          The best and cheapest solution is the one they have written into their rules as a way of compliance with the Act, simply ban diesel locomotives from the CRL and not reopen Hamilton Central Station to diesel hauled passenger trains.

        20. @ Don Robertson:
          “significant fire hazard of the locomotive fuel”
          And this is suddenly deemed a risk after all of these decades? Fuel that’s within a sealed tank? That’s never caused an accident anywhere in the world ever?
          And nobody questions this?

        21. Daniel
          NZR’s old twinset diesel railcars had several fires, One at Upper Hutt Railway station and another somewhere between Woodville and Hastings that burnt out the entire articulated set.

        22. Daniel,
          Also in fairness to you and David B Wellington, it does seem absurd that apparently we insist on much greater safety standards for heavy rail over light rail and hugely greater safety standards then over bus and taxi/shuttle services.

        23. Okay Don.

          But did those fires have anything to do with the Diesel fuel?
          And weren’t those railcars used a long time ago? What do they have to do with the current Diesel-electric locomotives?

        24. Daniel
          I think the fires were a result of materials, leaves? in contact with the exhaust of the diesel engine. In the case of the Pahutua? fire I think at least one of the diesel tanks joined in.

        25. It is also a bit more complicated. Fire resistance is a much like earthquake resistance.
          First priority is to personal safety, getting people out alive, but a second priority is infrastructure/ building resistance. The more critical a structure is the more you want it to be resistant to adverse incidents. Britomart is obviously critical infrastructure. An off here shuts almost the entire Auckland suburban rail system down.
          It cannot afford a skycity convention centre fire.
          So limiting both the possible ignition sources and fuel load in a possible fire may well be a prudent balance against the convenience of a relatively, and short duration hazard of using diesel locomotives to establish the Hamilton service.

        26. Diesel-powered units are used every day in enclosed stations all over Europe (Paddington a great example). There has never been any fuel fire.
          Aren’t electric multiple units also at peril of a fire caused by foliage?

        27. Yers thank you MFD for that video where a locomotive crashed into a barrier.
          We can now only guess why on earth you posted it given that it wasn’t fuel in a tank causing the accident.

        28. So Daniel, is a train crashing into a barrier a credible accident in a terminal station?, or one train being in collision with another within the approach junction? Or simply derailing and striking the tunnel wall as has already happened in Britomart?
          If the train is diesel, is rupturing the fuel tank credible?
          Under these circumstances is a fire credible?
          The size of any fire is now dependant on the amount of fuel.
          It matters for naught that the fuel tank did not cause the fire it is just it’s potential supply of fuel that is relevant.
          Best strategy is surely elimination rather then mitigation and remediation surely.

        29. So a freak accident happens in a developing country and that’s enough to enact legislation in NZ despite a long record of operation with no accidents and them spending money on some fancy safety system.


          “One of the crew members and seven of the eight MARC passengers who died were killed not by the collision itself but by a fire started when the exposed diesel fuel tanks on the Amtrak locomotive ruptured.”

          Sealed diesel tanks?

          …and even after measures are taken to improve the integrity of locomotive fuel tanks:

        31. So MFD desperately presents another freak accident on a system without the fancy safety system, essentially repeating something I’ve already shot down.

        32. Daniel, you are entitled to an opinion as everyone is, however your continual arguing for the sake of arguing is beginning to clog up nearly every topic to the point where it’s hard to follow any meaningful comments. Of course it would be easier if people just stopped engaging in these pointless tit for tats with you. We get it, you are intelligent and clearly have way more time on your hands than most, but for the sake of those that wish to come on here for information and evidence based discussion, would really appreciate if you could take your debates about menial things like fuel tanks exploding to personal messaging 🙂

        33. Actually now I think about this:
          I have wasted a lot of time with this thread.

          John D was right: This law is highly unlikely to change. Laws do change but this one isn’t likely to without any sort of public pressure (and nobody really gives a toss) or pressure from some lobby group (fat chance of that).
          While I generally support WHS legislation; I maintain my personal opinion that this is excessive. But I accept that it’s highly unlikely to change, that no party is likely to invest in the fire safety precautions now needed and that only rolling stock with electric motive power will be allowed to stop at any subterranean point in NZ.

          So I guess the best I can hope for is this regional rapid rail is terminating at the Strand. Not ideal, but better than at Papa-bloody-kura.

        34. Or we could just buy some hybrid diesel/electric units, I believe GWRC is looking at this for the Wairarapa and Palmerston North services.

        35. Jezza – I mentioned that earlier in this thread but was put down by someone who said it was too dangerous to use and take into Britomart or elsewhere as there is a mixture of both Diesel and electricity . And if they can run them overseas they should be able to do it here , don’t you think ? .

        36. Ah sorry, didn’t read the thread properly! The question is whether they are banned outright or just if there are not suppression systems in place. If it’s the latter then it would depend on what this would cost.

        37. If we could get these Hamilton trains through to Otahuhu it would be a start. It will be interesting to see if the track changes being made with the installation of the third platform will help or hinder terminating Hamilton trains there. Maybe there will be a siding up by the Westfield platform were trains can be stored between services.

        38. @Jezza:
          If diesel-fuelled rolling stock are banned from subterranean stations in NZ (or at least stations without the required comprehensive fire suppression system); that’s going to include hybrids.
          As much as I hate it; this added cost will effectively prevent any non-electric rolling stock from ever using Britomart as a terminus again.

        39. I agree with david L in that it seems like a uniquely NZ regulation.
          But hey, every nation has at least a few of its own laws that no other country has and which seem eccentric or idiosyncratic.
          Earlier someone mentioned NZ’s Nuclear ban; despite people (in NZ) hailing it as such a “watershed moment”, 35 years on not a single other country has followed suit and none look likely to.

        40. @Royce;
          What needs to be aimed for (as early as possible) as for the Auckland-Hamilton commuter trains to terminate as close to the Auckland CBD as possible to try and capture as many potential passengers as possible.
          Of course, it will also stop en-route at other major interchange stations on Auckland’s suburban rail’s Southern line: Papakura, Otahuhu, Penrose, Newmarket and (in the future) Puhinui. In a way; this is an advantage that this service could have over the Capital connection and Wairarapa connection into Wellington; that services to these stations would be more useful to people commuting from the Waikato than stations such as Porirua, Upper Hutt and Waterloo are to commuters from Horowhenua, Manawatu & Wairarapa. A lot of people who work in Otahuhu/Mt. Wellington might decide to buy/rent a home in Hamilton and use this service to commute.

          As for the ultimate terminus; ideally, it would be Britomart with its great interchange with buses, the suburban trains, taxis and a short walk to the Ferry terminal. But that has next to no chance of happening now, I can’t see anyone forking out the money for both recommissioning the ventilation fans and the now required fire suppression systems.
          So we’d have to settle for the sad old Strand with its rather rubbish current connectivity to other transport modes (and rubbish overall facilities).
          But hey; maybe this could also be a catalyst to further develop the Strand as (ironically once again) the terminus for intercity services to/from Auckland? Perhaps over time; there would be a justification for also investing in a small bus interchange, a taxi stand, more parking, and a proper station building with toilets, waiting room, baggage storage, etc? Of course, it won’t be connected to the suburban trains anytime soon (which sucks) and the magnificent former terminus from the 20th century will be ironically visible over the tracks, but it could nonetheless be a semi blessing in disguise.

        41. Daniel, according to wikipedia, these countries have declared they are completely nuclear free: Austria, Italy, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway (plus Greenland). And these countries have declared they are nuclear weapons free: Finland, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Japan.

          Many cities and zones of countries have also made nuclear free or nuclear weapons free declarations.

          New Zealand’s declaration (and Palau’s before it) was indeed the start of a movement. From now on, with new nuclear power plants clearly being uneconomic and even the ongoing operations of existing plants at threat for economic reasons, we should see the slow decline of the sector.

          Unfortunately, with increasing instability from resource depletion, this might continue to be a reason for keeping the plants in countries wanting to keep a nuclear weapons programme.

          With hope, the clear evidence available today will allow citizens of these countries to put pressure on their governments to walk away from all of it.

        42. Once it gets to Otahuhu then there are four lines to the Strand. And a bus from there to K road might be a good compromise except if you want to catch a ferry or bus to the North Shore. But that’s not a commute you would want to do every day. I expect passengers are more likely to have destinations in the southern area.

        43. @Heidi:
          I am not going to go into this tangent any further than to show how that Wikipedia article you claim to quote is utter ridiculous nonsense.

          Italy for one has a US nuclear weapons arsenal stored within its territory (which it has some access to) via the NATO nuclear weapons sharing.
          Because Italy, along with Norway, Denmark & Iceland are all members of NATO, and being a member of NATO is completely incompatible with being nuclear-free as a condition of a nation joining NATO is a requirement to be able to host warplanes with nuclear armaments and ships both nuclear powered and with nuclear weapons.
          And Palau still allows nuclear-armed and powered ships within its territory.

          And I’m not going to delve any further into this off-topic tangent.

        44. @Royce:
          At the end of the day; the service needs to be as attractive to potential users as possible.
          For people wanting to travel from Hamilton (or other Waikato points of origin) to a destination further north than Otahuhu: Having to transfer to a regular Auckland suburban service (possibly already crowded) that then stops at all stations is not a very attractive proposition. Especially if in a fatigued state at the end of the working day. It’s not so bad if they’re only using it for a final 1-2 station link, but not to have to stand for the rest of the way to the Auckland CBD.

          I do agree that a fair proportion of potential commuters will not necessarily want to alight in the CBD and that plenty would alight for work destinations in South Auckland. But I maintain that it would simply attract more people the further towards the Auckland CBD it can terminate. And the more people the service can attract means the more revenue it generates and thus the more that can be justified on investing in providing further service improvements and numbers of offered services.
          And while it will be a commuter-focussed service; it’s not exclusively for daily work commuters but also for anyone who needs/wants to catch a train from Hamilton and other points north of Hamilton to Auckland.

  2. I don’t think motorway tolling is a good idea. It will divert traffic to local routes.
    I live on Gt North Rd, and whenever the motorway is blocked traffic is diabolical. It is just bad most of the time 🙁
    Also in Brisbane I used the free routes where possible, and they are having problems getting traffic to use the tolled routes. Except for commercial vehicles, including company cars, and people in a hurry. They now wish they had used the funding for PT, eg the Cross-River rail as it would have given a better result.
    Congestion charges are the answer, like Singapore.

      1. Of course that won’t work. Drivers are not silly, they know how much they will be charged for the complete journey. You can’t fool them that way!

        1. Good luck to those brave souls. It’s almost impossible, and very time consuming and wasteful of fuel, to make a decent distance drive in Auckland without getting on the motorway.

        2. That’s very true, but many journey’s on the motorway are not over a great distance.

          It is inevitable if you toll one route and not another some traffic will move off the tolled route until an equilibrium is reached, where the extra congestion is not worth it. In the mean time we have made the motorway a bit less congested and local roads a bit more, not really a great outcome.

        3. Maybe I’m wrong. But I think that while people may moan and curse about having to pay a road toll; they’ll still do just that and get used to it.
          I know it’s not the same country; but people cursed themselves blue over toll roads/bridges in Sydney. Yet they still coughed the toll money up.

        4. I think that even currently if the motorway on ramp lights are running there is a disincentive to get on. For short trips. I don’t think we would be worse off tolling on and/or off ramps at peak times anyway.

    1. I had that concern too, Dave, but this article has me seeing the need for it. We probably need to prevent diversion to the local roads through other methods.

    2. Go to Croatia, since the early 00’s they have built an amazing motorway network, it goes from everywhere to everywhere else, it’s the easiest and best way of getting around the country, cars pass a toll post when they enter the network and when you leave. There have services at regular intervals. It’s mostly 2+2 and 3+3 in some areas. The speed limit is 130kph. Croatians don’t use regional roads because the highways are much better and safer to drive on. If only we could invest in a network like this.

      1. Croatia also has a really good train service, and lots of water taxis – I took the train from Zagreb to Split, no issues, smooth and reliable – and then took water taxis from Split to Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula – all simple and cheap. Avoided the motorways as I don’t have a car as a tourist.

      2. That motorway network in Croatia has been highly controversial. They were seen as populist vanity projects and their benefits in proportion to their costs were highly questioned by economists. And there were allegations galore of corruption in the tendering process.
        About 5 years ago; the Croatian government came very close to leasing the motorways out after it was struggling to pay back the loans it took out to construct them and was struggling to maintain them.

    3. Go to countries like Norway and people just pay, they pay because the alternative routes are often narrow, unsafe and take a lot longer to get from A to B. If I’m going North I haven’t gone through Orewa since the toll road was opened, it’s so much faster.

      1. Yes, it certainly means the design for the alternative routes can be tailored to the locals’ needs rather than being about speed. Multimodal, narrower lanes, slower speeds, with kerbside parking if appropriate, etc.

  3. Congestion charging for the City, Toll Roads for things like Waikato Expressway, those bigger Motorways etc. Fast train to Pokeno, Huntly, The Base and Hamilton..would literally be a no brainer in most other countries!

    1. Which other countries? Most countries with extensive inter city and regional rail all have much larger populations than we do.

        1. I’m referring to the second half of his sentence, we simply don’t have a big enough population to make regional viable. And by viable I mean frequent and affordable, I don’t see the Auckland Hamilton trial working, it’s going to be slow and frequencies aren’t frequent enough.

        2. Can you produce your workings?

          Have you quantified the benefits of regional public transport (safety, reduction in DSI and all the accompanying social costs, access, mental and social health, environmental, emissions reductions, low carbon transport options for future generations, reduction in need for road building and widening)?

          Have you quantified the costs?

          And can you provide a post on the subject?

          Or have you just assumed because that’s the way things are?

        3. @Mike – If we have the population to make it viable to spend many millions on roading upgrades, we have the population to have spent the same money on public transport links instead.

          Inducing additional demand for carbon-intensive transport methods is lunacy when our environment is in such a state. Don’t think that EVs are the answer, best case whole of life scenario is the same carbon footprint as an average ICE vehicle (currently, though that will probably change very soon).

          If the prior govt spent all that money on rail instead of roads, you’d be cheer-leading more investment in rail due to the massive impact it would’ve had – Faster roads with less traffic _and_ faster, well patronised trains. Just imagine what all those billions could have accomplished…

        4. If the population is big enough to have a four lane motorway connecting two centres it is probably big enough to justify a decent rail connection.

          The success or failure of the trial will entirely depend on how success and failure is defined.

        5. I’m not sure the problem is low population (other countries with our population have decent train networks), I think the problem is low density. Low density makes it difficult to provide decent PT and also makes it too easy to drive and park. Not much point in providing inter city rail if there are no connecting services when you get there and require a car anyway.

        6. Does that pass the sniff test Jimbo?

          What if I phrase it like this: ” Not much point in providing inter city airlines if there are no connecting services when you get there and require a car anyway.”

        7. The Waikato expressway isn’t just connecting city to city its also connecting rural areas, areas which would never see rail. Besides once you’ve gotten from A to B how do you get around B? Bus, taxi, I find my car more convenient and I don’t have to worry about conforming to a timetable.

        8. Thanks, you all pretty much answered what I was going to say to Mike.

          Regardless, our population growth for both centres along with our need to massively cuts emissions is the reason that for the required investment vs what we spend on Motorways is why it is a no brainer.

        9. That’s nice for you, Mike, but we’re designing for children, people on medication, an ageing population. To design well we don’t need to improve anything but safety for people who are already catered to. Instead we need to start designing for those who don’t drive. Maybe if you thought things through from the point of view of a non-driver without a chauffeur. An equally important person in society. How should we design the network for this person?

        10. It does — if you catch an airplane it is often for a distance which is too far to drive. Note the size of the parking lots around our airport.

          Whereas if you’re catching the train to Hamilton, you can drive all the way to Hamilton in a couple of hours instead of trying to find parking around the station.

        11. Riccardo in the case of flying the flight time is so much shorter that the obstacle at the other end is worth navigating. But I wouldn’t fly to Hamilton.

        12. Connecting rural areas is a relatively minor role of the expressway and certainly isn’t the reason nearly $3 billion has been sunk into a four lane grade separated route.

          There’s no expressway running across Southland or the Manawatu connecting rural areas.

          I also find my car quite convenient but it doesn’t make me blind to the benefits of a functioning rail network as well.

        13. Heidi I intend to drive until I can’t, hopefully I’ll be driving for a very long time, my nana died two years ago, she stopped driving at 95, and died just short of her 97th birthday.

          Jimbo what other countries with a population similar to our our have decent rail options?

        14. Mike – Ireland and Norway spring immediately to mind. You can catch a train hourly between Dublin and Limerick.

        15. Thanks for that family info, Mike. We’re designing for all the families, though, not just for yours. I’m sure you can understand there are other needs than that of an able driver.

        16. Mike
          Austria has a population of 9 million and great inner city rail. I hope to post about that later.

        17. @Mike;
          I remember Slovakia having passenger rail services much better than those offered in New Zealand (although still not exactly great) and they have a similar population size and not as prosperous an economy. Albeit; they have less national territory, but they are also right in the middle of the Carpathian mountains.

        18. Ireland is a very small country, distances between all points are pretty short, they also had the benefit of being part of the UK when railway building was in full swing. Norway has a good rail network in the south, rail north is pretty sparse, and there is no rail to the west coast. Norway is spending a staggering amount of money on its highway network, and very little on its railways.

        19. Mike
          It is not the matter of a comprehensive rail network of nothing.
          If you have two populations with significant traffic between them, and an existing rail connection, then diverting some of that traffic to an upgraded rail link may be a lot cheaper, and environmentally friendly then providing the same capacity increase by supersizing roads.
          I do hope you are still driving safely into your nineties but surely it is better to provide you good options as well as driving?

        20. @Mike (again):
          How was NZ any less “part of the UK when railway building was in full swing” than Ireland was?
          In case you weren’t aware; NZ had a very comprehensive railway network in proportion to its population. I say had; because since the 1980s much of it has been lost.

        21. Mike – Dublin to Limerick is longer than Auckland to Hamilton and Limerick is smaller than Hamilton. There is also a perfectly good line between AKL and Ham that is double tracked. The only difference is the Irish run passenger trains and we don’t.

          Norway has good passenger rail in the south where a lot of the population is, just as NZ could in the north.

        22. @Jezza:
          “There is also a perfectly good line between AKL and Ham that is double tracked.”
          Erm… …”perfectly good” is a bit of a stretch.

          Many of the curves and alignments could be improved. And there’s no on-line station anymore at Huntly. And the third main needs to be built.

          I wish the government would crack-on and build that third main and ease those chords on the NIMT so a service between Frankton Junction and Britomart in under 2 hours can be ready at about the same time as the CRL services commencing.

        23. Daniel – yes, you’re right probably not the perfect choice of words! My point was more that the big work of building the line has already been done and some relatively small improvements could make this line just as useful as Dublin to Limerick.

          Agree, it is not ready to go yet.

        24. Mike basically people use what ever is provided for. Another thought is a more convenient app like car hire at these lower density towns like say city hop where a train or bus journey takes you to could make a big difference to making things realistically convenient.

        1. The size of NZ is irrelevant as no one is suggesting we need regional trains linking Invercargill and Whangarei. The size of the corridor between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga is what matters and this is not that different to the Limerick to Dublin corridor I mentioned.

        2. @Jezza:
          Surely I’m not the only one who sees some potential in the NAL upgrade, in that a train service between Whangarei and Auckland in ~3 hours could also be possible?

  4. Interesting there used to be a direct Malpensa Milan express train that didn’t stop. I’ve used it a few times. I’ve also driven in Italy a few times, I always through the Italian motorways were poorly maintained and crowded.

    The Milan metro area has a population of 3.5 million, greater Milan has a population of nearly 8 million.

    1. I haven’t been there for 15 years but their trains used to be the classic European state run system: had to queue for ages to get tickets, the person selling the tickets was deliberately horrible and unhelpful, and when you got on the train the corrupt armed ticket inspector would tell you you bought the wrong tickets and demand an extra 20 euro.

      1. Italy is a mess of a country, nothing works properly unless you’re in South Tyrol, but they aren’t Italians they are Austrians stuck inside Italy.

        1. “Italy is a mess of a country”
          That’s a bit of strong call for a nation that’s a G8 economy.
          Sure; Italy has its problems and idiosyncratic issues. Every nation does. If Italy’s a “mess of a country”; what would that make New Zealand?

        2. A tidy country with a small population and small economy?

          The G8 is just a directionless club of industrialised countries that fought each other in WWII.

        3. “Tidy country”?!
          Whether you really believe that or you’re just effecting a pantomime of denial: You make me laugh.

        4. Yes New Zealand is economically and socially ‘tidy’, while Italy is indeed messy in comparison.

          NZ is No.2 in the world for political stability. Italy is No. 82, just after Jamaica.

          NZ is 12th most economically stable in the world, six places ahead of Italy

          NZ is 16th on quality of life index (rule of law, healthcare, safety, etc), Italy is 49th

        5. Hmm wot’s this I see about suicide rates?

          Obesity rates?

          Homelessness rates?

          And I could continue. Yah, such a “tidy country”. Honestly: Trying to run-down Italy as “a mess” then downplaying the shambolic nature of New Zealand is just laughable.
          And also highly ironic given the continual whinging I see on this forum about things wrong with New Zealand….

      2. Hmm I never had any experience like that when I went to Italy.

        I did however experience a few other Kiwis being complete dicks…

      3. No need to queue nowadays. If you know in advance you can buy online it will be much cheaper and you can put the ticket barcode on your apple wallet on your phone for scanning by the conductor on the train.
        If you’re buying on the day of travel use the vending machines at the station, it’s up to you if you want to let the guys who hang out at the stations operate the touchscreen for you for a small payment.

  5. Our motorways are user pays to an extent – they are mostly paid for by fuel tax (except National’s roads of national significance). However they are not privately owned, they do not make a profit or ROI, they use a large amount of public land without question of whether there are better uses, and the environmental and health effects are not really charged. These are effectively subsidies and they cause market distortion.
    I can’t actually see a reason with modern technology not to privatise the entire road network (other than it being political suicide). At the very least expect it to make an ROI like we would with electricity. Yet for some reason we keep hearing the right wing parties (and even some economists) promoting even more subsidies for roads (no fuel tax increases etc). They are happy to throw their ideology out the window when it is them being subsidised…

    1. Jimbo
      I wonder whether paying for roads would be political suicide. Perhaps the starting position would be to take all the existing spending on roads and refund that by means of a tax cut to all tax payers. Revenue would be collected then by some form of user charge. The losers would be the regular users such as trucking companies, but they could pass their extra costs on to consumers who have had a tax cut to pay for this.
      For me, the status quo where politicians want to build more roads in the face of a climate crisis is madness. Heading up to the next election Chris Bishop’s billboards should come with a health warning, “My policies may be injurious to your health.”

        1. Everything’s going to harm that child in many peoples Opinion, but people born into developed countries today will live much longer lives than at any other point in history. Society is much safer now than ever before .
          We live in a constantly evolving ecosystem, we will either adapt or we won’t. But I’m pretty confident the world will continue spinning for billions of years long after humans have disappeared and something else takes over from us.

        2. “But I’m pretty confident the world will continue spinning for billions of years”…
          Yeah. Just like how Venus does….

        3. Mike
          Life expectancy is actually declining in the United States, and is now static in Britain, both countries that we take much of our social political leadership from. The small government movement, and “personal responsibility” advocacy has resulted in these two countries, whose life expectancies were not the best anyway, dropping away.

        4. “But I’m pretty confident the world will continue spinning for billions of years”…
          Yeah. Just like how Venus does

          Hahahaha 🙂

      1. Did you see the backlash after Labour increased the fuel tax by a measly 3c a litre (which is only slightly more than inflation)?

        1. I didn’t see a backlash after the clean car plan & feebate were proposed, in fact the public were strongly in favour. However, the AA and the Motor Industry Association are lobbying against it.

    2. The road network is more than just for moving cars around. It is for accessing property, whether that is on foot, bike, car, public transport or a combination of both.

      I don’t think it would be wise to privatise this access.

      1. Agree. Pricing, however, would have worked as well in the sentence.

        Wondering if it was a typo actually, Jimbo? Were you meaning the entire road network could be priced?

        1. No privatised. Isn’t privatisation the best way of achieving market pricing (assuming if it could be done in a way where it wasn’t a monopoly)?

        2. I’m not convinced. The market is a useful tool but I wouldn’t use it here. There are too many advantages to maintaining public control of these assets, given their enormous effect on public wellbeing. Just because the assets have been misallocated for decades doesn’t mean the public sector can’t clean its act up and start using the assets for our good.

          The problem with privatising them, as I see it, is that most people right now and probably for a few more years yet don’t understand the full costs imposed by the driving mode. Hence any sale price wouldn’t reflect a road use price the buyer could impose on driving that is accurate. There might be a shift in mode as a result of the prices they add, but that will then be locked in stone, and any further pricing would be a windfall to private companies. There’s no advantage in that.

          Privatisation, in short, would follow the same steps as privatisation of many of NZ’s public assets. Too low a price, benefiting a small number of individuals, and imposing ongoing costs on the population for ever after (in this case, costs on the public health, social systems and carbon credit burden that in no way were covered by the original lump sum).

        1. We generally have choice with food and power, although there are a couple of exceptions. The national grid is a monopoly and that is exactly why it has remained in public ownership.

          Local lines companies are a bit of a mess, with some being locally owned and some privatised but they are certainly not a good example of privatising monopoly public assets.

        2. Heidi
          “Are you saying that the IPCC’s advice that we need to reduce emissions by changing everything we do, in every sector, at every level, is wrong? ”

          This is the guts of it. Everything that we do and imagine that we might do may have to change. Does the recently announced increasing rate of CO2 in the atmosphere mean that the window until 2030 lessens? As you have suggested previously NZ needs to seriously look at alternatives to longer range driving such as coach and rail travel. Sure I get that there will be some who don’t want to change, but it may rapidly become, as it was during the oil crisis of the 70’s, you don’t get to decide yourself.

  6. “The sceptics will say, you can’t compare NZ with Italy that has a population of 60 million.”
    I don’t actually agree with that. If you look beyond Italy’s 4 largest metropolitan areas (Milan, Naples, Rome & Turin); there’s some similarities in geography and population spread.
    Cities like Bologna and Florence actually have less than 400,000 people living in them yet have good rail connectivity to satellite towns.

    1. Careful you’re not making an arbitrary distinction on administrative areas, saying Florence has less than 400,000 residents is like saying Wellington has only 200,000 by excluding the Hutt valley and the Kapiti coast.

      Metro Florence has about 1.5m, so the size of Auckland. Metro Bologna has about a million, so not much smaller.

  7. Whether a rail service can be justified or not ‘according to population’, requires consideration of the population that might wish to travel the particular corridor where rail is being advocated, not the much-less-relevant population or population-density of the entire country. You could argue that New Zealand doesn’t have the population to support Auckland’s City Rail Link, but it would be pointless to do so.

    What I find curious with reference to Norway is the number of tiny places in the middle of nowhere with population-densities as sparse as NZ’s, that are being provided with expensive road-tunnels to connect them. Sure, they permit year-round access or eliminate ferry-crossings but the traffic through them must be minimal and the cost-per-user massive. Nice things to have, but how on earth do they justify them? (Mike – are you available to comment?)

    1. It’s Norwegian govt policy to stop urban drift, and to keep the small towns and villages viable. Ferries aren’t cheap to operate, driving around can mean hours added to a trip so they are bridging and tunnelling.

      In NZ we let industry die in our rural regions so people had to move to larger cities. Just driving around NZ you can see the remains of dairy factories and freezing works.

      1. “In NZ we let industry die in our rural regions so people had to move to larger cities. Just driving around NZ you can see the remains of dairy factories and freezing works.”
        Erm, that occurred in every developed nation (Norway no exception), it’s called “economy of scale”. And it was exacerbated by improvements in roads and automobile availability.

      2. Improving roads has generally sped up urban drift in the past, not sure Norway will have much success with that policy.

        1. it does work in Norway and Sweden, both countries effectively stopped urban drift, they kept industry in the regions and people remained. Improving transport infrastructure made it easier to bring in raw materials and transport out finished products. In NZ we just killed it all off.

        2. This article appears to suggest centralisation is happening in Norway just as it has around the rest of the world.

        3. Erm Mike, have you got any source for this claim that Norway and Sweden prevented urban sprawl and preserved local industry by improving its roads?
          Because to be honest: It looks to me like you’ve just drawn this conclusion yourself. In case you didn’t notice: NZ actually has overall very good roads for its population size, population distribution and traffic levels and yet according to you; it’s let industry be “killed off”. So it doesn’t make much sense

          Perhaps the retention of local industry in Sweden and Norway has nothing to do with what you attribute it to? Perhaps it’s due to other reasons?

        4. @Jezza:
          I suspect that Mike here is highly mistaken with his ideas about the retention of regional industry in Norway and Sweden.
          Because developed nations have generally seen an overall decline in industry over the last 30 years. It’s hard for most manufacturers in developed nations with higher-wages and regulations to compete with the rise in industry in China and other developing countries.
          And not only that; before all of this, “economy of scale” saw gradual centralisation of industries from the ’50s, it’s just much more economical to centralise production at one or a few large plants than have lots of small ones scattered all over the place.

          Developed nations have moved more towards economies based upon financial services.

  8. We already price our roads. You pay significantly every time you put petrol in your tank. We collect the revenue at the pump instead of gantries.

    Gantries are less efficient as they don’t collect on every road.

    If you are saying we should have both, charging motorists twice, then you need to explain how politicians are supposed to pull that off without being turfed at the next election.

    As for tilt trains, they would offer very little time advantage on the Auckland-Tauranga route, as the line doesn’t have a lot of curves. The small speed increase possible on curves would remove about 3 minutes from Auckland-Hamilton, and 2 minutes from Hamilton-Tauranga.

  9. The Florence train station pictured is S. M. Novella which is typically used for intercity and Eurostar services. More local lines for services within Florence and nearby towns will probably use Rifredi or Campo di Marte.
    Pricewise it’s going to cost about 50€ for a Venice to Florence train if you buy on the day of travel. Venice to Rome will be about 80€.

    1. Scott
      Yes maybe the prices you quoted, or not.
      I use the trainline Europe site and I see for tomorrow tickets are still available for about 17 euro Florence to Venice depending on what time you wish to travel.

  10. Yes John it will depend on the time you wish to travel and also how many connections you’re prepared to make. For example the cheapest fare I can see at 5pm on the site you mention is about 20€ but requires a change at Prato Centrale (a Florence station) and then at Bologna for a total journey time of about 4 hours. Direct S. M. N. To Santa Lucia on the Frecciarossa at about the same 5 pm timeslot is 2 hours and 57€.
    My point (not well made I agree) is that you can’t really compare Firenze S.M.N. with Britomart. One thing though, is that just like Aucklanders, when Florentines want to get around their city on public transport they take the bus.

    1. Obviously Firenze S.M.N is in a major tourist destination, connects with major metropoleis (Rome, Milan & Turin) and other major cities including major tourist destinations (Venice, Sienna, Pisa, etc.) and that the sort of traffic that no rail terminus in NZ will ever need to cater for thus no NZ rail terminus will ever need to be as big.
      But I don’t think I’m alone in believing that interurban rail in NZ could make a comeback if dedicated investments were made. The basic alignments still exist.

      “when Florentines want to get around their city on public transport they take the bus”
      And the tram…

      1. The point I was making is that Florence train station is so busy (and probably not well made) and it is just with inter city trains. Compare Britomart with one inter city train three times a week.

        Daniel, I agree with you that there seems tremendous scope to expand inter city rail. I believe the need to reduce vehicle emissions will demand that many will use alternatives to a car. Investment in rail is a long life investment. NZ is still using track laid decades ago and poorly maintained for much of that time. It seems reasonable to amortise investment over the life time of the asset and so the billions required suddenly starts to seem more reasonable. For electrified sections it certainly won’t mean on going carbon charges.
        I was enamored of European rail. It is a great way to travel; and while NZ can’t replicate wider gauge speeds, tilt trains might bring speedy train travel to at least the upper North Island.

        1. I think a lot of improvements to NZ’s rail network would be justified if the MoT/Kiwirail are able to attract more freight customers. More freight movements might justify track replacement and with better quality sleepers. It may also justify improvements in alignments.
          At some point; these improvements might allow a passenger service along the same line that can transport passengers within a timeframe competitive enough with driving or short haul flights.

          An example could be the northern Wairarapa line. As I understand it: the line already carries some logging freight from north of Hawkes bay into Wellington. But if it also included other freight such as fertiliser from Ravensdown in Napier to the Wairarapa or produce from the Wineries, ovine industry, etc it could justify some renewal of the line. That could, in turn, make using the line more attractive for the Wairarapa’s own industries.

          At some stage; the line might be in a condition to allow for a competitive passenger service between Wellington and Hawkes bay (or Gisborne if that end of the line is ever reinstated).

  11. The autostrade were actually built by the govt starting from the 50s. In 1998 the then Labour govt privatised and pretty much gifted them to private companies (Benetton being the most eminent) . Since then the quality of the roads definitely increased and the tolls even more.

  12. Italy is a wonderful country with a long history that can inspire everyone to achieve any achievement. You can also have a good rest here, because the variety of entertainment can turn the head of all, without exception, tourists. but the most important thing here is to find your center of inspiration only then a person will be able to relax and enjoy Italy to the fullest.

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