For some time our rail network has suffered from a short-term approach to investment and development. The investment that has taken place has generally done so on an adhoc basis without clear thought put into long term development and how rail can play a larger role in New Zealand’s transport picture.

To address this the government. One key aspect of this is the NZ Rail Legislation Bill currently going through parliament that will create in legislation a new planning and funding framework, and which we discussed a few months ago. The other key aspect is the Draft New Zealand Rail Plan, that the Ministry of Transport are currently consulting on, which in short is meant to lay out the government’s 10-year vision and priorities for the rail network.

Note: Consultation was extended to 5pm on 11 May and can be completed via an online survey.

Here’s the what the Ministry say about the plan.

The draft New Zealand Rail Plan (the draft Rail Plan) outlines the Government’s long-term vision and priorities for New Zealand’s national rail network. It is a product of the recommendations of the Future of Rail review which is a cross-agency project led by the Ministry of Transport (the Ministry), working alongside KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and the Treasury. Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council were engaged in relation to their metropolitan rail networks. The Government has agreed to key recommendations from the review, incorporating them into the draft Rail Plan.

The Future of Rail review sought to identify the role rail can play in New Zealand’s transport system and put in place a sustainable approach to funding rail over the longer-term. A key part of this is considering how to better integrate rail into the overall planning and funding approach for the land transport system, so rail is maintained alongside other transport modes.

Previous investment in New Zealand’s rail network has lacked a long-term view about rail’s role in the transport system, and has resulted in a continued focus on short-term investment decision making. We need a new approach to planning and funding rail that supports it to play its role in the transport system.

This is a significant programme of change for the land transport system and will be implemented over the next two years, with the intention that it come into effect in line with the next National Land Transport Programme (NLTP). It will also inform funding decisions in the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) 2021 and future Budget decisions.

Similar to the Government Policy Statement a well as both Regional and National land transport programmes, as part of the changes Kiwirail will be required to create a 3-year investment programme but with a 10-year forecast. The regional rail priorities from the Auckland and Wellington metro networks will feed into this.

The plan should be incredibly useful to for us to have but my biggest issue with it is that while it talks about creating a long-term vision for the rail network, it doesn’t really show any vision. It talks about the need to improve the reliability, resilience and capacity of the rail network, listing a large number of projects needed to achieve those goals, which in itself is interesting, but never really articulates an actual vision for rail.

For example, for freight the plan talks about how freight tonnage across NZ is expected to increase by 55% by 2042 but only really says that rail need to play it’s part in that, as well as noting that on average moving a tonne of freight by rail has a 66% reduction in carbon emissions vs using trucks. In the section on measuring the benefits of investment it only says that the investment is anticipated to deliver “increased resilience and reliability of the rail network to enable rail to retain its share of the freight market“. Simply maintaining market share doesn’t seem very aspirational or visionary and still means a 55% increase in road freight is required.

The same issue plays out with the two metro networks where there’s plenty of talk about providing for growth but the plan never really says what the end state we should be aiming for is. About the most that is mentioned is that modelling for ATAP suggests Auckland will reach 46 million rail trips by 2028 and if current trends continue, Wellington will reach 20 million trips by 2030.

As a comparison, Waka Kotahi NZTA’s 10-year view – called Arataki, gives a much better picture of what is happening and how it relates five step change priorities of: transform urban mobility, improve urban form, Significantly reduce harms, tackle climate change, and support regional development.

While I think the plan lacks a clearly articulated vision for the rail network, the most interesting part of it are the lists of projects for freight as well as the Auckland and Wellington networks. These are broken into three categories, investments that improve reliability and resilience, those that improve capacity for growth and future opportunities that may be needed – although some projects clearly straddle both the reliability and capacity categories.

The projects for the two metro projects are below and there’s a little bit more about some of them in the document itself. There’s nothing too surprising in the lists given they are generally referenced in other documents but helpful to have them laid out.

The freight version is below.

You can also watch a summary presentation on the plan below.

The Green Party plans

Given we’re discussing future vision with the rail network, it’s also worth covering the recent announcement by the Green Party to push for $9 billion investment in rail infrastructure as part of the response to COVID-19. The plan appears to have a lot of similarities to our Regional Rapid Rail plan from 2017 but takes the idea further and spreads it across much of the country.

The proposal would mean significant intercity rail investment over ten years to roll out fast, electric passenger services connecting key provincial centres with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Over time this would see fast electric trains for passenger and freight connecting:

  • Auckland to Hamilton, Tauranga and eventually Whangarei
  • Wellington with Masterton, Palmerston North and eventually Whanganui
  • Christchurch with Rangiora in the North, Ashburton in the south and eventually Timaru.

Green Party Co-leader and Climate Change spokesperson James Shaw said today:

“The large intercity rail project proposed will provide meaningful work whilst driving us towards a sustainable, green, zero carbon future.

“Building rail creates more jobs than building motorways and helps us tackle climate change at the same time.

With Green Party Transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter saying:

“That’s why we’re proposing a nation-wide intercity rapid rail programme that would bring our provincial centres and biggest cities closer together through fast, electric passenger rail. This will create real alternatives to driving or flying for people who want to travel around the country for work, to see their family and friends, or for domestic tourism.

Their proposal is to roll this idea out in two stages.

Stage one

  • A major programme of work to electrify the rail lines between these centres
  • Targeted improvements to the existing track to allow travel speeds to increase up to 110km/h.

Stage two

  • Building new higher-speed track to support “tilt-trains” capable of achieving speeds of 160km/h
  • By-passes to create faster, more direct routes (e.g. around Whangamarino wetland north of Hamilton).

They’ve also put out this map.

The plan looks pretty good although I think there’s probably a good middle ground between what we have now and large-scale electrification like proposed. In particular the potential to use dual-mode trains like are becoming increasingly common overseas – increasingly that second mode is becoming batteries too. That would mean services could start to be provided sooner and cheaper. I also wonder, if they’re talking about restoring trains to Rotorua, why not also the likes of Cambridge

This plan is not without its challenges but it at least lays out a goal for the network and one that is backed by some ambition.

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  1. Does the talk of 3rd/4th main actually include an extra track along the Eastern Line to Britomart that freight trains and hopefully express and Regional trains could use? Or is that just a pipedream because it requires a new tunnel at GI

    1. No it doesn’t. But adding a 3rd to the section of the Eastern line south of the tunnel, and manning increased traffic on the existing double line to the port would solve the major part of this issue. Or even a couple of substantial sections of third track to enable freighters to maintain momentum or intercities to overtake would help a great deal.

      There are places where this is obvious and easy. A third at GI and Panmure stations would be great, for example. But from Westhaven to GI, or the tunnel, would be transformative for capacity and reliability of the whole network.

      Flying the Westfield junction too, as mentioned below is probably due, to unlock that conflict point. Surely the nation’s busiest rail junction?

      1. A third main to GI wouldn’t be that hard. Panmure is already future proofed for a third main and there is a lot of what looks to be land that an old track used to run on right along the eastern side of the current two rail network.

  2. “why not also the likes of Cambridge” – Cambridge is one of the rail schemes mentioned in Hamilton city’s COVID-19 applications at an estimated cost of $150m – see

    160kph was first reached on rail in 1903. Over a century later it seems a very unambitious target if there’s to be any hope of competing with airlines and cars.

    1. and its not just top speed reached its the average speed across the whole trip. If you look at the tilt trains in Queensland the speed across their whole trip is far from impressive. Some of that will be due to stops but equally they must be going pretty slow on some parts of the trip. The good thing about bringing back a night train between Auckland and Wellington the distance is perfect for the relatively slow travel achievable right now in NZ.

    2. 140 to 160 km/h is about the practical maximum that can be achieved by upgrading New Zealand’s existing rail network given the geometry of the alignments, the track gauge, level crossings and signal system, mixed freight operation etc. This is the case in Queensland and the main lines of Taiwan and Japan, which share the same track gauge and conditions as New Zeland.

      It’s therefore a very sensible limit to aim for, it’s achievable at a reasonable cost.

      Going faster than 160km/h means building entirely brand new lines with higher standards, wider gauge and incompatible trains. That is infeasible, it would represent ten times the cost to start from scratch. The greens $9b national rail upgrade would become $90b.

      Paulc is right, it is the average speed that counts. The Japanese and Taiwanese main lines only have top speed of 140km/h, but they average around 110km/h end to end.

      At that speed NZ could have a Auckland to Hamilton train in 1 hour 15 mins, or Palmerston North to Wellington in the same time. That almost twice as fast as the current tourist train manages.

      1. Another bit of history. In July 1892, a New Zealand steam train set the world speed record for a narrow-gauge railway. One hundred and thirty-eight years later, the once-daily Capital Connection train that covers the same route between Wellington and Palmerston North goes no faster. That is an indication of the lack of progress in rail. Meanwhile along much of the same route – in fact at the moment right next to an area of single track between Waikanae and Otaki – expressway construction has been going on. That bit could have been easily double tracked at the same time.

      2. The 23 year old Queensland tilt trains can maintain 160km/h in service, and have been run up to 210km/h in test.
        Auckland-Hamilton in 1h15min is not very aspirational and similar to what can be done in a car door to door off peak. I think we should be aiming for 50min trips (160km/h average) to make it closer to a preferred travel choice.
        We need quad tracking for at least Papakura-Newmarket to enable passing and speed to be maintained.

        1. That average includes the stops, junctions, getting through the suburban lines and everything else. It would require plenty of time at 160kmh top speed to achieve.

          To average 160kmh you would need to be going 250km/h+ at top speed.

          The Korean KTX from Seoul to Busan is a true high speed train based on the TGV, it does over 300kmh top… but ‘only’ averages 180kmh on the route. You’re asking for a new high speed line costing tens of billions of dollars just to get to Hamilton.

        2. If we build a tunnel under the Bombays then we could get the total distance by rail down to about 130km. Using tilt trains we could probably do this in 1h10m stopping at Puhinui and Pokeno or add in a few more minute to stop at Panmure and Papakura. The drive is 124km and it won’t get much shorter no matter what we do. Even at 3 am it’s going to take you 1h30m to drive leaving anywhen from 5am-6pm you need to allow over 2h.

        3. +1 sailorboy. Tunnel under Bombay’s should be done regardless of RRR as it would also speed up freight.

  3. The Green’s plan seems a massive step up from the government’s Draft NZ Rail Plan.

    On dual mode trains: “That would mean services could start to be provided sooner and cheaper.”

    Same can said of a night train. It can start before the track has been upgraded, and then just improve from there. And meanwhile it builds ridership and thus public support for more investment. This is a relatively easy-to-implement step, and should be part of any plan for the network to finally receive the investment it needs.

    1. The government’s rail plan is one of those vision-free things that seem characteristic of pretty much everything that spews forth from KiwiRail management and the Ministry of Transport. It’s predicated on business as usual; fails to take any serious account of climate change impacts; and doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility of a restricted-cars/trucks/aeroplanes environment that’s the likely future of transport in New Zealand.

    2. But the Greens Plan will fail because of the high cost of relocating Hamilton, Morrinsville, Matamata and Te Awamutu. What if those people don’t want to shift?

    3. Heidi, how do you see the overnight train being run? As in who would run it, and under what operating model?

      The previous overnight train was cancelled in 2004 because management realised the locomotives and drivers would generate six times as much revenue if they were used on freight trains than on that overnight passenger train.

      KiwiRail hasn’t changed their view on that, and for as long as they are required to be a commercial business, they won’t.

      The overnight train you want will have to generate revenue similar to a freight train, and there’s only three ways to achieve that.

      1) Seek a large subsidy from government/councils to create a freight train level income (as per the proposed Hamilton trains and existing Capital Connection).

      2) Charge very high fares that only affluent tourists can afford (as per the now cancelled Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and Tranz Apine).

      3) Establish a new passenger train company dedicated to that purpose, fully independent of KiwiRail and with no reliance on them for locomotives, drivers and maintenance.

      The first option is not sustainable, as it won’t survive a change of government (which is why the Hamilton trains will stop running eventually).

      The second option has already failed.

      The third option was tried from 2001 to 2004, but lacked any government funding for initial capital.

      I think the third option, with the new entity owned by the government (as per Air NZ), with start-up capital, is the way to go.

      The problem is nobody is thinking of this issue when they propose new passenger services. It’s always blindly accepted that KiwiRail’s high cost approach is somehow the only way of doing things. That needs to change. There needs to be lobbying for a new system before lobbying for new services.

      1. Why does the lobbying for a new system need to come first? Surely we could do both at the same time. Lobby for a new service run by the new operator. People won’t understand changing the system on it’s own, by bundling the two together you explain the benefit of the change in systems.

        Also, a lot of us are talking about the change in systems. Heidi posts talk about a national public transport network which would be a change in systems, a lot of posts and commenters talk about splitting Kiwirail into separate track maintenance and vehicle operation bodies, which is a change in systems.

        Of course, Kiwirail could also just be instructed that they must run these services.

      2. I see these as collaborative initiatives. Ideas are put forward but no one person has all the expertise on the various aspects of making a new venture successful. Clearly within this group there are lots of experts who know how New Zealand railways currently operate and how they could be better run. I see the night train idea as still evolving and it might involve new models of ownership. When the idea was first put up there was a campaign initiated to get various organisations signed up to say they would use the service for some or all of their travel between Auckland and Wellington. That was gaining some good momentum but has been overtaken by the covid crisis. In the short term we can at least put in submissions to the rail plan. Maybe there is also a case for setting up a group to better work out a plan that can be put to government?

      3. Yes good points. The vision is easy. The economics isn’t.
        Also here’s a problem. If fast rail is to be a new alternative to flying, then rapid rail around the golden triangle doesn’t address that, as not much flying occurs between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. In which case I don’t really see the point of the service. It serves little commuting purpose. If you want rail as a genuine alternative to flying then it needs to become high speed across much of the country – and no chance in hell of that being anywhere near financially feasible.

        1. The overnight train is not fast rail. The main investment is probably the trains. And it does potentially replace some flying between Auckland/Hamilton and Palmerston North/Wellington. Wikipedia tells us that there were 142,000 passenger movements through Tauranga Airport in 2004 rising to 293,00 in 2016 (latest data provided). It does not say how many were going to and from Auckland but it is probably quite a few of them. A fast train is likely to reduce some of that flying and certainly some car trips.

        2. Commuting is only 20% of travel, substituting driving is the point, much less flying, tho AKL-Tauranga and AKL-Rotorua, are certainly flown.

          AKL-ham is about avoiding congestion, esp on akl SH1. But also about choice for those don’t want to have to. Who don’t want the stress, who want to get other things done en route.

        3. Klk
          I see a train across the Golden Triangle as attracting very little commuting demand. Don’t you?
          I can imagine very few people living in Tauranga and commuting to Hamilton, and vice versa. Sure there might be business trips, but again it’s going to be very limited in number.
          I see *some* potential for an Auckland- Hamilton fast train, but I am still skeptical. I think it would be contingent on major growth in some of the centers between Hamilton and Souyh Auckland – and I think such potential is dubious.
          Of course there might be a bit of ‘chicken and egg’ at work. Ie. Put the high speed train in and watch Huntly and Te Kauwhata boom…maybe

        4. About 12,000 people a day cross the Kaimais and even without rail improvements journey times in 2001 were comparable with road. That’d need at least 12 trains a day.

        5. Zen Man, you said “ If you want rail as a genuine alternative to flying then it needs to become high speed across much of the country ”.
          You are right for Auckland to Wellington flights, even true high speed rail wouldn’t compete with that. but that’s not the market.

          How many flights leaving Huntly, Matamata or morrinsville each day. How many from Hamilton to Tauranga?

          And as someone whose taken his share of flights from Auckland to tauranga, it’s inconvenient and the planes are poorly timed. You can easily end up there two hours before you need to be.

        6. A high speed Wellington-Auckland line would cut the time to under 3 hours. High speed trains around the world have the major share of the market for that length of journey.

      4. The main reason trains stopped running in the early 2000s was life expired rolling stock. The carriages dated from the late 1930s/early 40s.

        1. Since then trains of ex BR Mk2 coaches have been imported and many are now rusting at Taumarunui. Refurbish some as sleepers.

        2. Or better yet, construct more of the very successful NZ designed and built, AK class carriages.

      1. Correction – *It is getting close to the national public transport network regional and inter-regional rail plan*

  4. What I like about the Green Party’s plan is that it sets out a very clear, sustainable, future-proof vision.

    Logically it would be rolled out in stages, so there’s scope for a continuous programme of works – track upgrades, civil works, electrification over 30+ years. This gives Kiwirail and its contractors and suppliers the opportunity to build up an NZ skills base with sufficient scale, delivering resiliency and, I would think, substantial efficiency gains.

    I don’t think it’s overkill to go for complete electrification. On the contrary, it’s simple and robust: forget battery and dual-mode vehicles, for reliability, low maintenance, low cost, you’d go for proven technology, “off-the-shelf” any day. Use what works everywhere else, don’t try to stitch together some kind of NZ special that maybe saves a bit of infrastructure capex upfront, but costs in opex running overly complicated technology for the next 50 years. Not while you can borrow at next to nothing. Keep it simple!

    I don’t think it’s overkill either. Take a look at SH1 south of AK or north of CH for an anecdotal indication of demand. Or the population projections of e.g. AK + HN + TA 3 m by early 2040s.. 4 m by 2050s.

    While we’re thinking about 2050, forget decarbonising by 66% by using diesel locos, or dual-mode locos, we will need 100% by then which means 100% electric locos. Lower cost to buy, lower maintenance, what’s not to like.

  5. The Ministry rail plan reads like so many ‘vision & strategy’ documents from the public and private sector written by managers who lack vision and think strategy is created by reordering a list of current projects with their boss’s pet project at the top of the list.
    This is easily solved my asking them first to finish this sentence; “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where ….” Apologies to MLK.

    1. Ministry of Transport’s vision of the future is always exactly the same as now but just a little bit more of all the current conventional things.

      They then push very hard for policy to make this the case.

      Barely a glance, and certainly not forward.

      1. About 4-5 years ago the MoT put out some work on the future of travel. It came up with four broad options based on if future had high or low costs of energy and if we would have higher or lower demand for face to face contact. At this high-level, three of the scenarios resulted in a reduction of driving over time and one a significant increase.
        I recall being at a MoT workshop about it with a large number of others and we were and at some point we were asked what scenario was most likely. What was noticeable was that pretty much all the MoT people chose the one with lots more driving while very few of the non-MoT people did – with the rest of us spread around the other three options.

  6. A really important near term aim must be closing the upper a north Island electrification gap. With overhead line to Pukekohe now funded, the next step must be to continue this on to Te Rapa at Hamilton ~80km (with associated line work).

    This would make for uninterrupted 25Kv AC overhead line from Swanson to Palmerston North, creating a viable electrified section of the core of the network for the first time.

    A proper AKL-HAM passenger service could then operate using Britomart, with new faster 160kph sets as in Green plan.

    AKL-Wgtn passenger services, with a loco change at Palmy could also be electric and use Britomart.

    Same for Akl-Palmy freight. KR are building a big hub at Palmy so it’s a natural point to change.

    Of course electrification should also continue from there south to Waikanae and east to Mt Maungnui, but my point here is that adding this one section creates a real step change in possibilities along with the other core moves like 4th main, flying Westfield junction, more passing loops.

    1. Yes! The only problem with this bit of Think Big, was that it didn’t think big enough; stoping at Hamilton and Palmy made it too minor to be viable. Now that Auckland is wired up it cray to be pushing so many stinky diesels under those wires.

      That open air car on the Overlander has a pretty view but fully unbreathable air from the foul loco up front. With wires above too.

      1. “The only problem with this bit of Think Big, was that it didn’t think big enough; stoping at Hamilton and Palmy made it too minor to be viable.”

        Please elaborate.
        Because I fail to see how ceasing the electrification at Te Rapa had any effect on viability. All that happens is a locomotive change; hardly a big deal.
        The point of the electrification was that south of Waipa and North of the Manawatu; increased topological gradients increased the fuel consumption and thus decreased the efficiency of the older diesel locomotives. As the gradients, and thus fuel consumption, per km north of Te Rapa and South of Palmerston North are more manageable; electrification wasn’t even worth considering.

        However; in hindsight the electrification was a bit of a white elephant because the volume traffic along the corridor declined from the ’80s anyway.

      2. Thi absolutely needs to happen ASAP. The Auckland voltage should be extended right through to the Frankton Yards too so that the Auckland- Hamilton service can run on a single power mode.

    2. Can use dual voltage locomotive to operate freight and passenger trains services from Auckland to Wellington.

    3. Not convinced about more electrification, as that adds cost and inflexibility. One of the things KiwiRail has done to curb its costs with the COVID-19 tonnage loss is shut down the electrification. Everything is diesel-hauled presently, as its cheaper.

        1. Yes it would. Running under electric traction is more expensive than running with diesel traction.

      1. Only because of the half-arse way NZ and Kiwirail goes about doing things. I’m under the wires here in the UK and really ever see a diesel on the line.

        1. Doesn’t look like the UK has anything to crow about either. Italy has a similar sized network with over 70% electrified.

          “About 40% of UK rail routes are electrified, one of the lowest percentages in Europe. “

  7. Seems to me we’re living in exciting times. Even the Ministry’s plan is a step up over what we’ve had over the last twenty years or more.

    The Green’s plan has me hugging my knees in delight. Agree about it needing the overnight train.

    1. Unfortunately the Greens don’t really have much influence in government. They could change this by being open to supporting either a National or a Labour government, but this seems to be unfathomable for their supporters.

      1. This is great idea in theory, but the National Party would have to enter the 21st century first to be any kind of viable partner for any Green Party.

        Though it could happen, a good drubbing at the next election may make for a rethink on their hard core anti-environment positions.

        But then again it would probably leave them with a rump of rural seats, very few or even no list MPs, and reversion to a cows, cars, and pollution party like the Aussie Nats is probs just as likely. Who knows?

        But my point is your comment suggests you think only the Greens have to change to be able to work with National. I’m saying that’s simply not possible with the Nats as they currently are.

        1. Labour hasn’t entered the 21st century in regards to the environment either, yet the Greens are happy to support them.

          The Greens need to open their eyes and see that both National and Labour are very similar to each other and very different to the Greens. If they were willing to play them off against each other they would likely achieve a lot more for the environment.

          For some reason they think the red team is OK but not the blue team. We’ve had MMP for 25 years now, it’s not about who you support but what you can achieve.

          At the moment they support a government that is proposing a record spend on roading, but because they are red it’s OK.

        2. For the health of NZ politics we desperately need

          – National to step up. Despite claims by some, they’re not serving our rural people, who agree with city-dwellers on important matters like water pollution. They’re serving but a tiny minority: corporate interests, and that must change if National is to be useful in NZ’s democracy.

          – Labour to step up. We’ve seen how effective the leadership is when advised by scientists using evidence-based action plans during this Covid situation. Jacinda could have been an effective leader on transport and land use planning, too. She wasn’t because these sectors themselves are not scientific in their approach, and filter information through their own political lens way before it gets to the Labour party politicos. Labour’s own blindness to car dependency, climate change and sprawl is preventing them making the sweeping changes they need to make to these sectors, and probably prevents them from working well with the Greens.

          – The Greens to step up. The small faction that thinks it has a monopoly on understanding what left social policy involves needs to realise they don’t, and be open to evidence (such as how the major changes needed in transport reform do indeed meet the needs of minorities and disadvantaged groups better than the status quo.)

          – NZF to step up. They could be useful as a party that just gets ahead and does things if they could mature from matey partisan interests into being an equally bold but evidence-backed party. Or else just get out of the way.

        3. How about play the reality in front of us, this Green plan is wonderful, they are part of a government, they were instrumental in getting Project Dart and AKL electrification going under the previous Lab led govt. They can have an effect here and get an otherwise dreary and typically visionless MoT plan greatly improved.

          Fantasies of blue-green or whatever may come true another day, but for now this where we are. A lot better for rail than were we were.

        4. The Greens have achieved very little in 21 years in parliament and three years in government.

          Nothing has happened on water quality yet, urban cycleway investment has gone backwards, and most of the small improvements in rail have been driven by NZ First as much as anything.

          Not sure where you get the idea that the Greens were instrumental in DART and electrification, Clark sidelined them United Future in 2002 because of Corngate and again in 2005 as they didn’t give her a route to power.

          Their biggest achievement so far has been the Zero Carbon Act, which they negotiated support with both National and Labour.

          We don’t need to wait for Blue-Green to actually happen, all that’s needed is for it to be on the table in 2020. That would give the Greens a lot more leverage with Labour in the next coalition negotiations.

        5. Jezza, if you think the Greens have been ineffectual in a Labour-led coalition, then just wait till they have to serve with National.

          You may well be right about Labour, but its the lesser of two evils.

        6. So the Greens have not achieved enough as minor coalition partners with sometimes sympathetic bigger partners. Your answer to this apparent failure of democracy is for them (as it is entirely their fault) to abandoned every one of their principles and all of their voters to try to get a coalition with the anti-environment party?! GeNiuS bRaIN…

        7. Do we do April Folls at both ends of the month now? The Greens should work with a party fundamentally opposed to any action against environmental damage?

          The greens have forced Labour into at least some environmental that they wouldn’y have taken otherwise because Labour know they can’t win without the greens.

        8. ‘if you think the Greens have been ineffectual in a Labour-led coalition, then just wait till they have to serve with National.’

          KLK – that’s my point, they don’t have to but they could choose to if National met some key bottom lines, and they might find Labour suddenly becomes a lot more friendly if they are also negotiating with National.

          Urbanista – they’ve already abandoned most of their principles to Labour and NZ First anyway.

          You all appear to be missing the point about the power of having options in negotiation. At the moment the Greens have none and it has really shown in the last three years.

          I’d prefer Labour/Greens but given there is stuff all difference between National and Labour anyway, I’d rather the Greens actually extracted some decent concessions on freshwater and cycling out of whoever is in government.

        9. As practical as that sounds, the reality is voters of both parties would kill the idea in its tracks.

          It would be chicken and egg stuff: any non-negotiables put forward by the Greens would raise the ire of those in blue but regardless, probably wouldn’t get past a member vote with the Greens. It would never get off the ground on both sides.

          If you want pressure on the Greens, then a new Blue-Green party might do it, but I fear it would just be swallowed up by National and given some token wins, just like you accuse Labour of doing to the Greens.

        10. “We don’t need to wait for Blue-Green to actually happen, all that’s needed is for it to be on the table in 2020. That would give the Greens a lot more leverage with Labour in the next coalition negotiations.”


          And also putting it on the table changes the value equation for National too…currently no votes in ‘green’ policies as those voters won’t move over. If those votes were on the table, National’s position on the issues might be shifted.

          And then once National’s position shifted, Labour would have to shift more…

        11. “If those votes were on the table” What votes?

          National would have to agree to policies over and above what Labour would agree to. That will never happen. If it did, any new “votes” would be cancelled out by departures from National in disgust. It wouldn’t be worth it. Meanwhile, the Greens would see a protest votes go to Labour too and might miss the 5% threshold.

          The winner would be Labour and it knows this, which is why it treats the Greens the way it does. The Greens needs enough grassroots votes of its own so it plays sole Kingmaker (for Labour).

        12. “to abandoned every one of their principles and all of their voters to try to get a coalition with the anti-environment party?”

          It’s anti-environment because the Greens are not involved.

          The Greens do a great disservice to their voters and to the enviornment by intentionally choosing to sit in opposition and do nothing rather than work with the government that New Zealanders vote into power. It also shows complete disrespect for MMP.

          I stopped voting for the Greens because of the above. I will never vote for them again for as long as they choose to sit in opposition half the time. It’s a waste of a vote.

        13. Its not all about the environment. Social policies also run counter to National. You might get some environmental wins but at the espense of say, benefits?

          National will never concede as much environmental ground as Labour so its pointless. If not, why doesnt National just run environmental policies that would woo these Green-blue voters instead?

        14. KLK – I agree it would never get the approval of the Green membership and probably wouldn’t be popular with Green voters in general. This is all based on the misconception that Labour is left and National is right, when in reality they are both in the centre.

          I disagree that National wouldn’t offer significant concessions though, never underestimate the determination of politicians to be in power. Loosing some votes to the right isn’t really an issue for them as those will likely just end up with ACT anyway.

          National and Labour don’t differ much on welfare anyway, John Key was the 1st PM in 20 years to increase benefits.

        15. Greens just need a bigger share of the vote. I can see that happening in this election. Didn’t you see the big numbers at the climate marches, particularly from younger voters or people about to be able to vote? There has been a big awareness and shift to a greener way of life generally if you ask me so as long as young would be voters actually vote this should happen.

  8. I wonder how much consultation was done with Kiwirail or other actual rail industry experts?
    Because I frankly think that electrification between Papakura and Hamilton is a long-term goal.

    1. I know that bypassing the single track section at Whangamarino (near Te Kauwhata) and, I assume, duplicating the single track bridge at Ngarauwahia, is high on KR’s plans.

      For any passenger service to actually work between Ham and AKL electrification is necessary to get access to Britomart (post CRL when centre platforms become available), so there’s a likely timeline for you (new city centre Ham station too- exciting!).

      KR are an SOE, under the last govt they had to tow the govt line that electrification is dead. That is not the case any longer, thankfully. They are currently rehabilitating their existing electric locos.

      As I said above closing that gap in the electrification between Akl and the core of the NIMT starting at Te Rapa is of significant value because it makes a viable functional part of the network for the first time.

      Running the two fleets of locos would make sense at last, and investing in electric passenger sets, not having to rely on loco hauled wagons becomes viable too. Then extending the electric coverage via further extensions, and dual mode train sets, etc etc, and we’re in a whole new world.

      1. You can use hydrogen powered ‘regional’ trains like the Alstrom Coradia iLint train sets on the following routes:

        – Auckland to Whangarei
        – Auckland to Hamilton, CambridgeTauranga and Whakatane
        – Hamilton to Palmerston North
        – Hamilton to New Plymouth
        – Hamilton to Rotorua
        – Palmerston North to New Plymouth
        – Palmerston North to Hastings and Napier
        – Wellington to Hastings and Napier via Masteron and Woodville
        – Christchurch to Picton
        – Christchurch to Greymouth to Westport and Hokitika
        – Hokitika to Westport
        – Christchurch to Dunedin to Invercargill

        The Coradia iLint has a range up to 800kms on a tank of hydrogen.

      2. Electrifying Pukekohe-Frankton simply has to be done.
        Those plans look interesting. If tourism does bounce back in NZ at some stage then both Rotorua and Taupo need to be part of the rail network (and would benefit freight too).
        Christchurch does need to start having an urban rail network now while it still can. Christchurch is forecast to be the size that Auckland is today within decades so the lesson is protect rail corridors and get services running.

      1. Yes and I answered that. Electrifying, which of necessity involves line upgrade, the last gap between akl-ham, fits both KR and Greens plans.

        KR, as befits its logistics company focus is less (but not anti) on the carbon and other pollution agenda of the Greens. Happy to comply with its owners’ wishes re electric traction, but is more focussed on the line upgrades that go with it, I understand.

  9. I can’t help but notice that this draft plan seems to be focused on Auckland and Wellington.
    So still nothing about reopening to Gisborne?
    Or anything whatsoever for the entire South Island?

    1. Auckland and Wellington is where the constraints are as they are the only places with the fully trifecta of Freight, Metro, and Intercity traffic. So bringing those areas up to a standard to enable both more reliable running of all those services plus allow the growth that’s actually already pressing, is well, pressing.

      I agree though that this dealing with the urgent first tends to feed the already successful and not the barren lands, but it’s clearly the right thing to do on two grounds: 1. return on investment and 2. it’s really one big interconnected network, bringing the busy cores unto standard is actually necessary to enable improvements everywhere else.

      Gisborne is a sad story. Jones turned up with cash to reopen the line there but local interests centred on the port and trucking said go away. Wairoa leapt at it, so they go the investment in a logging yard and more instead. When the logging trade resumes Wairoa will be the winner, and the road from the to Napier will be less deadly and cost much less to maintain. I fear Gissy will suffer. Loggers have the option of trucking to Gissy port or Wairoa railhead… that later is likely to allow more round trips per truck.

      1. Another thing: How much freight traffic is used by the Dunedin network these days?
        Because they do have some passenger operations from that Taieri gorge railway operation, and those may have potential for something more extensive. Dunedin’s current mayor seems keen on increasing rail for Dunedin.

        1. They did have passenger operations, they have been mothballed as a result of the demise of cruise ships.

  10. Still waiting for things like improved dwell time and more efficient ETCS to improve line speed.

    We have waited so many years hoping it will be sorted very soon. But the reality so far is nothing has happened.

    People managing the operation doesn’t seem to care about faster train and user experience.

    They are forcing the passengers to suffers every day for years. The early adopters with high hopes eventually lost patience and get back to their cars.

    1. My understanding is that ETCS is limited by the track condition and level crossings, so improving track condition and removing the level crossings will improve the total line speed of services.

      Although the experience of Sarawia street level crossing might suggest that this will be a big piece of work.

  11. Now that there is a proven hydrogen train that Alstom in Germany is using I see no reason why NZ shouldn’t commission hydrogen/electric dual mode trains. It may make electrification on some routes redundant. It obviously makes sense to electrify between Pukekohe and Hamilton but once that is done hydrogen could be used to reach out to other centres like Tauranga and beyond. Saving a lot in electrification and getting routes up and running much faster and being green at the same time. They could always be electrified sometime in the future but it might not even be required.

    1. The Alstom Coradia iLint hydrogen train sets would be suit the re-establishment of regional and inter-regional passenger trains services across the 14 regional that have national rail track connectivity.

      1. The Coradia Lint hydrogen train is a standard gauge vehicle built to the European structure gauge which is larger than the NZ narrow gauge equivalent. Considerable redesign would have to be done to make a NZ version, and I suspect that this would mean compromises on either the space available for hydrogen tanks or the passenger capacity.

        1. All trains are custom made, the power plant doesn’t matter and in the case of those trains the fuel cell is on the roof so it’s irrelevant really. There is no reason why it couldn’t be narrow gauge.

  12. I’m disappointed in the draft rail plan.

    I did a search through the PDF and saw nothing that indicated that Christchurch would be getting some form of commuter rail.

    In order to remain competitive and to provide balance across the country, investing in infrastructure that supports growth in Christchurch is fairly important, it’s the biggest city in the south island and should provide a hub for economic activity. I can’t see how this would occur without the public transport infrastructure htat is provided in Auckland and Wellington. Also some of the air quality in Christchurch is appalling, so reducing SOV and diesel bus emissions must figure somewhere.

    1. The national rail plan is based is about freight to what Kiwirail wants, plus the 3 scenic passenger train services and and the Wellington and Auckland regional passenger train networks. lessor extent Auckland (Papakura) to Hamilton band aid passenger train services and possible inter-regional passenger train service from Auckland to Hamilton and Tauranga.

      The plan does not factor in the re-establishment of regional and inter-regional passenger train services for the other 10 regions in NZ that have rail connectivity.

  13. The future of regional air services is also very much under threat. And one can see intense lobbying for both ratepayer and taxpayer support for such services. Those lobbying, mayors, business people and the tourist industry have strong voices. With scarce resources there is a danger that much of the long term investment needed for regional rail – and regional bus networks – will be diverted to keeping regional air services running

    1. The way Air NZ is planning, regional air services are going to be sparse until trans Tasman is opened up but it will not be the same as prior to lock down. Already Air NZ is hinting that Whangarei, Omarau and Hokiktia could not be part of the new regional domestic turbo prop network.

      1. All these destinations could be served with new or extended intercity style rail passenger services, eg Auckland-Bay of Islands, Dunedin-Christchurch (using Dunedin Railways’ train), and extend the Tranz Alpine service to Hokitika (with a smaller train, reusing some of the current carriages for the new Bay of Islands service once the NAL is upgraded).

  14. Not surprising really, it is the Ministry of TRANSPORT and turkeys can’t be relied on to vote for Christmas.*
    Let’s start with a name change – The Ministry of Helping People get around.
    *NB: figure of speech, I’m not calling MOT people turkeys.

  15. Would lower and narrower trains have a lower centre of gravity and thus be able to run faster? If so, why don’t we have them?

    1. Any narrower and you can only have three seats across, which would have a significant dent in capacity. I doubt trains are higher than they need to be.

      1. There isn’t a technology problem, only a political will problem. This has long been the case. But looking at both current investments and esp Greens plan, that’s changing.

        1. It’s not all a political problem, it’s mostly attributed to the gauge of track we use. Smaller gauge track means smaller diameter wheels and therefore lower speed with similar safe rotation of wheels. Yes gauge track is a choice made years ago but retrofitting tracks would be expensive and would end up with several different gauge tracks. That’s why 160kmh is the max we can run on narrow gauge tracks safety.

        2. Chris N – It is nothing to do with the gauge. Japan Taiwan, Queensland and western Australia has the same rail gauge as NZ.

        3. New Zealand is NEVER going to have “genuine high speed trains”.

          A service that averaged ~120km/h would be more than sufficient for NZ.

  16. The Auckland units are 2.76 m wide, on a track less than half as wide, 1.067m. They are 3.99 m high. Almost every person is under 2m high, so they’re almost twice as high as they need to be. Their lowest floor height is 0.75 m. Yes a narrower train would have fewer seats per coach, but why not longer, faster trains?

    1. The Auckland EMU’s are built to fit the network’s loading gauge. This “lowest floor height is 0.75 m” would be the lowest step, the actual floor height above the running gear would be more like 1m.
      So that leaves only 3m between the floor and the top of the unit, and there’s bound to be space required within the roof of each unit for the air conditioning and other Electrical systems.
      That’s why when people step inside an AM unit; they don’t look up and say “ooh there’s enough room for another person above us”.

      I don;t know what the point you’re trying to make is. So I’m going to guess that you think that thinner trains would somehow be able to run faster. If that’s your point; I’m sorry but you’re wrong.

        1. You should take your idea to every single manufacturer of trains in the world. They all have clearly missed this and you will make millions telling them to make the trains thinner and lower to go faster.

        2. But that’s not going to make a difference. Because what limits the speed of trains in NZ has nothing to do with the trains themselves.
          It’s because of the network itself with its tracks and their cambers and the station locations, etc.

        3. Yes, the tracks are narrower, but cants of up to 7% are much greater than the more usual 3% elsewhere in the world and station loops can be modified for higher speeds at relatively low cost and over a period Turnouts are built elsewhere for much higher speeds.

        4. That photo is rather conveniently of the centre low-floor carriage of an EMU. There is not much point of lowering the roof on just the centre carriage of a train.

        5. @John Lawson
          Much of the speed restriction in NZ is due to the rails, how they’re welded together, the sleepers they rest upon, how they’re attached to the sleepers, and the bed the sleepers sit upon, and its general condition.

          Modifying the railway network, even the cambers on chords, costs a lot of money in works.

        6. There is no point lowering the roof anywhere on a passenger train. All the weight is under the floor. It’s a daft idea anyway that would achieve nothing. It’s not derailing that limits cornering speed for passenger trains, its the inertia forces acting on the passengers. You’d be thrown out of your seat and across the aisle well before it derailed due to lateral g forces lifting the wheels off the track.

  17. Auckland-Hamilton is under 140km, so a high speed line should cost around $. Last year a World Bank report said “The Chinese HSR network has been built at an average cost of $17 million to $21 million per km—about two-thirds of the cost in other countries”

    Even at $30m/km, 130km would cost $3.9bn, which is less than the $5bn proposed for new road spending and about the same as the cost of the Waikato Expressway.

    1. Be wary of outliers when benchmarking international infrastructure costs. They vary wildly depending on topography, geology, the size of a country, the size of its networks, the type of movement and trade it is associated with, the level of unionisation…the list of factors goes on.

      If you want an introduction, try here:

        1. No one is proposing High Speed, but higher speed. So costs of HSR and the gauge are both non-issues. It’s very clear in both documents referred to in the article.

        2. Using China figures is the outlier. They build at massive scale with suppressed Labour and production costs and little concern for environmental impacts or property rights.

          Look at California high speed rail as another comparison, that project is costing NZ$260m per km. Ten times what you cite.

    2. High speed trains are not in NZs future. We can’t afford them, and lack the passenger numbers to justify them.

      Even 160kph would be very expensive. Increasing track speed from 100 to 120 doubles the maintenance cost, so imagine what 160 would do. And where does the extra revenue come from to pay for it, given the trains that will use them don’t generate revenue?

      I’ll never get why people want high speed trains in NZ when regular speed trains have little demand and high cost.

      1. Geoff there will never be passenger numbers if there are no services. There are 2.2m people in the AKL-Ham-Tau triangle, many many more than needed to support good frequent services between these cities if provided. the plan is to invest in the network so it’s possible. The future can be different to the present, if we choose, and act accordingly.

        1. 2015 traffic counts at Bombay were 19,388. They’d fill a lot of trains. They don’t use the current train because it takes longer, costs more and only runs 3 days a week.

      2. “I’ll never get why people want high speed trains in NZ when regular speed trains have little demand and high cost.”

        We don’t have regular speed inter-regional trains. We have a sightseeing tour of the rail network.

        1. Exactly, nobody is talking about high speed trains. The greens plan is little more than getting regular speed trains.

  18. What I haven’t seen any comment on is that the Westfield to Avondale line is back on the table, in the main list of Future Opportunities, not on the Green’s pipe dream list.

    1. This is likely to be tied in with the plan to build a branch line to Marsden Point and the proposal to shift the Ports of Auckland to NorthPort.

      1. It’s a pretty useless route, an out dated plan, with much more freight on the NAL a more contemporary solution to bypassing the core of the Metro system will be necessary.

    1. Because of stability issues.

      If the cape gauge used by NZ was ever possibly for speeds over 160km/h: That’s that the Japanese, whose mainlines shares this gauge, would’ve developed instead of developing the Skinkansen on standard gauge..

    2. It’s to do with the wheel daimeter, track camber, curve radius and hunting oscillation of harmonic movement. In short it’s more stable when you are doing 300kmh+.

      It’s irrelevant anyway. To do those speeds you need to build completely new track with curve radii measured in kilometers, and you need new lines to separate the high speed traffic from regular freight and passenger trains. So you’d have to build a whole new line regardless.

  19. The draft New Zealand Rail Plan certainly lacks much vision or any real moves towards making significant improvements to the rail system, let alone expansion. No real mention or prioritisation of trying to speed up the existing network with projects like grade and curve easing – such improvements are made all the time to the State Highway network, but not for the rail network. Greater priority towards level crossing removal needs to be made too.

    The Greens’ proposal is certainly a lot better than what the MOT, KiwiRail and AT have come up with in the draft plan.

    Good to see Whakatane included in the Greens’ proposal, but surprised Taupo is not included? Taupo needs to be included for both passenger services and the considerable amount of forestry traffic in this region, such as with a line between Te Puke, Rotorua and Taupo.

    1. Yes agree lacks any vision. Quite like the Green Party one but agree with Matt’s comments on that.

      Yes Taupo does seem a bit sadly missed but I guess is one of the more expensive ones to do but still worth it.

  20. We have the left getting hysterical over people standing on the street outside Burger Fuel.

    I suggest that if there’s to be any future for public transport, people need to chill the hell out and back off the scaremongering.

    1. What on earth makes you think that is the left? Everyone I’ve seen commenting on it is a National voter.

      1. I saw a guy in LinkedIn call The NZ Herald a “leftist mouthpiece”. People are really confused.

  21. My suggestion once a reasonably service can be provided is to give everyone some free long-distance tickets on a regular basis. For instance, everyone in Christchurch could get free Tranz Alpine and/or Coastal Pacific tickets every year. For Dunedin residents they could get an annual ticket to Middlemarch. Subsidising services sometimes helps the better off, but providing free tickets that could be used for day trips or longer holidays would spread the benefits of investment in the network.

    1. There’s that favourite word of those on the left. Free.

      Is that something that comes at no cost to the taxpayer?

  22. In recognition of climate change and to encourage mode shift a €7bn support package for Air France is to be made conditional on limiting competition with rail services. This means that Air France would not be allowed to carry domestic passengers on flights lasting less than 2 h 30 min on routes where there is a clear rail alternative.

  23. You should take your idea to every single manufacturer of trains in the world. They all have clearly missed this and you will make millions telling them to make the trains thinner and lower to go faster.

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