It’s the first Friday of level 2 and we’re allowed back in pubs and bars again. But before you head out for a drink with friends, here’s out weekly roundup.


CRL Closure of Mt Eden Station and Porters Ave

City Rail Link have announced new dates for the closure of the Mt Eden Station and Porters Ave level crossing for vehicles. The station was originally meant to close on Queens Birthday weekend but it has been delayed due to the Covid-19 impacts.

Porters Avenue will close permanently to vehicle traffic on Friday, 29 May, and the station will close on Saturday, 11 July, until CRL is completed in 2024.

The closures were delayed by the recent Covid-19 lockdown, which stopped work on all New Zealand’s construction sites.

The Porters Ave level crossing is being closed permanently and replaced with a pedestrian bridge.

On the reason for the closure of the station.

Mr Burtenshaw says the decision to close Mt Eden Station for four years was not made lightly.

“Our priority is safety and if the station remains open there is a risk to workers and the public walking through what will be a live and complex construction site. Building a temporary station was also investigated but there was not enough room inside our construction zone.”

Western Line trains in both directions will continue to run on a single line through the construction zone but will not stop at Mt Eden. Auckland Transport (AT) says single line running will have little impact on rail timetables, and a free bus service will also be introduced for people who use the station.

With the station closing for 4½ years, Auckland Transport are introducing a new bus service linking Kingsland to Newmarket and looks particularly useful for people going from Mt Eden to Newmarket. Importantly the service will run every 15 minutes during the day, although that means off-peak, it will run more frequently than the trains it’s replacing. They say the service will be free if you use a HOP card too.


Wellington Regional Train Study

Wellington wants a fleet of new regional trains to serve the areas outside of the electrified network up the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. They’ve now got funding for a business case.

Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils have secured $5m in funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to pursue a detailed business case, and commence procurement for regional trains which if delivered would prevent passengers from being packed like sardines within the next five years.

Waka Kotahi is fully funding the project which will enable the councils to complete a detailed business case, and undertake the procurement of the new trains which are expected to cost approximately $300m and bring greater capacity and frequency to a creaking inter-regional network.

Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council Daran Ponter says this is “Thunderbirds are go!” for getting regional passenger rail moving again.

…..

“We’ve long championed electric or dual mode fleets to replace older diesel trains to lower carbon emissions and this funding brings us a step closer to that reality. Investing in a modern rail fleet also enables us to use the trains across the whole network, bringing extra capacity to Kapiti passengers and encouraging more people to make the shift from cars to public transport,” says Cr Gaylor.

Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils will now continue detailed investigations, including market assessments to better understand options, risks and costs, in a fast changing technology environment before completing the detail business case and undertaking the procurement process for new trains.

Given the desires to also run more trains between Auckland and Hamilton, the trial service of which is now slated to start in November, perhaps scope should be expanded to be about providing an interregional design that works for both services – with differences only to deal with the different power supplies each would operate under.


Four-day week

The Prime Minister has suggested that businesses consider whether a four-day week could work for them. This seems mainly focused on trying to get people to boost domestic tourism to help the country recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Despite what many would think, it can be useful for forcing companies to address existing productivity issues and companies that have implemented it have found it boosts productivity. Now is the perfect time for many businesses to consider that as already they’ve been forced to rethink how they work.

But at a larger scale, I wonder if government encouragement of the idea supporting the idea and consideration of more formally backing it should also take into account the transport impacts it would have, particularly if those days off were spread throughout the week. Taking a lot of traffic off the roads could have significant benefits to congestion and emissions. It could also help us avoid significant costs stemming from expensive road upgrades while with public transport, providing for peak capacities is where an oversized proportion of the budget is spent.

And it’s not just four-day weeks that could go into this. How about we look to encourage schools and businesses to stagger start times etc.


Italian Perspective

Sometimes it’s easy to look at our transport history and wonder why it seems so hard to fix. But we’re not alone. I’ve been really enjoying a series of tweet threads from italian Marco Chitti documenting some of the history and changes to get better transport. They’re worth clicking through to read in full.

This thread covers the story of Bologna in Italy which seems to have faced many of the same challenges we have in improving transport

In more recent developments, the city has approved a new sustainable transport plan, which includes something I don’t know why we don’t set, or even talk about more – modeshift goals.

This one highlights how improving service is the key to driving more usage

This one covers how some disused branch lines were reinstated for use

How a semi high-speed lines linking Bologna to Naples evolved over time. This kind of reminds me of the kind of thinking we’ve suggested with our Regional Rapid Rail and more recently the Greens proposal.

And one on Italy’s building of a true high speed line

Agencies and politicians love to talk about innovation which these days invariably seems to mean an app or whatever is the latest fad that tech companies have dreamed up. But sometimes simple existing technologies can offer innovative solutions

Finally, also from Italy, this looks like it’s not that far off being basically covered scooters.

Share this

49 comments

  1. The 4 1/2 year closure of the Mt Eden station is needed because they need one year for construction and 3 1/2 years for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling.

    1. 4.5 years does seem like a rather generous time frame. Channelling my inner journalist here by using weird comparative examples. In that same time frame a couple could potentially birth 6 (single births) children.

      1. Six babies in a row with no break? No… just, No. Shall we discuss:

        Sex the day after giving birth? Whether an egg could be just hanging around waiting for fertilisation? The hormones present? The history of men trying to shape women’s reproduction…

        Please, delight us with a different analogy.

        1. Thanks Heidi, but I feel like years of playing Agricola make me far more qualified than most on the subject of procreation.

        2. Ah. Board game skills do trump all. I humbly retract my comment, as quite ill-informed in comparison. Chuckle.

        1. This is my preferred measurement for the passage of time now. For all occasions.

          “How far away are you?”
          “I’m 1/19,710th of the way through a human gestational period away”
          “Oh cool, I’ll have a cold one waiting for you”

    2. If you take the trouble to see how much activity is due to take place on the Mt Eden site, it’s quite easy to justify. All the dirt is coming out there for a start. The tunneling machine is going to set up and launched. Twice!

  2. I caught the train from Florence to Sienna to see the horse race you get out of the station and ride the esculator up the hill to the town. From memory it’s covered and multi staged with shops at each flight.

    1. i remember that. Although I remember it being more like a shopping mall.

      What interested me more was Perugia, which has this odd “MiniMetro” which was basically a people mover like you’d find at any large airport but functioning as proper public transport and almost rapid transit. It must’ve cost them a packet but I can’t deny that it seemed popular with the locals. It really demonstrated to me that municipalities can have their own best fit for unique transit needs.

    2. And then there is the major tourist attraction of Cinque Terre. The five coastal towns are only serviced by rail. They are still over flowing with tourists.

  3. That business case by Wellingon and Horizons should defineitely be forced to consider Auckland-Hamilton and Tauranga too. It would be a massive benefit to be able to have identical carriages across the country just with different power units. We could also set up some sort of servicing centre for them in Taumaranui or some other central north island town.

    1. Funnily enough, from the Lower North Island longer distance rolling stock business case:
      “In addition, value for money may be gained from joint procurement of a replacement fleet with other regions and/or the ability the use a new Wellington fleet to run trials in other parts of the country. This aspect is outside of the scope of this business case, but it is important to note that the Government has proposed new longer-distance rail passenger services for the Upper North Island (Hamilton-Auckland and possibly beyond) and made allowance for them (as new interregional commuter rail services ) in the Transitional Rail funding section of the GPS. Economies of scale may be gained from procuring a single fleet that can operate across the different geographies.”

      If it’s to happen then it needs to be pushed by central government rather than the regional councils. Its taken long enough to get two regional councils on the same page (years…). Concerned that including other regional councils without the government driving it will just be a recipe for further delay.
      Slight concerns that the government taking it over fully would mean starting from scratch like Auckland LR (since Twiford drank the PPP kool-aid that national left lying about the place).

    1. We don’t even do them in this country. Protracted business cases are only for things the old dinosaurs at NZTA don’t like. If there is a big motorway or interchange they want to build, they fly through.

      Auckland is simultaneously widening the Northern, Northwestern and Southern Motorways… but the desperately needed third main goes wanting for another business case.

    2. The Business Case may be an imported art form but it’s been refined here to become an elaborate dance form. Themes are Perseverence, Frustration, The Passing of Time, and Subjugation.

      1. Shane Jones approved a PGF-funded business case for reopening the Gisborne railway. It came back positive and recommended reopening. Shane Jones then said no.

        A pointless exercise except to employ consultants, nothing more.

    3. AT also loves them for projects they want to endlessly postpone, they required one be done before finally agreeing to close the tiny lane running across Freyberg Squareto vehicles – the whole process meaning it took years and much additional cost, including designing the square around cars driving through it and retractable bollards.

  4. “Slovenian railway operator Slovenske železnice (SŽ) has ordered another 26 Flirt trains to be supplied by Stadler Rail. The current deal costs 150 million Euros. These trains will be entered into service since October 2021.”

    So that’s approx 5.8 million euros each and these are top of the line Swiss trains. The $5 million being blown on a “business case” would go a long way towards buying a train which will still be useful long after the study is forgotten.

  5. I agree that 4.5 years seems a long time but it is a complex project, made more complicated by the need to keep the western line functioning at all times, albeit with a reduction to a single line through most of the Mount Eden construction site for most of that period. Some 4 years ago I saw drawings of the 8 stages involved in progressively replacing the existing two lines and island platform with 4 lines (2 at a much lower level) and the new double station – although I not seen the latest version as the design has evolved, the basic principles were set out. Effectively the tracks will need to be rejigged every 6 months or so on average, along with the overhead power supply. Although the track work will probably be completed well before the station, the intention is to open the new station on the same day as the CRL tunnel and the other 2 stations.

    1. As time marches on, construction projects in western countries take longer and longer. The Chinese would build the whole CRL in year or two.

  6. Its time the country unified to 25 kV AC for any new infrastructure.

    Projects like the CRL should be working 24/7/365 and use multiple TBM’s.

    Post budget I was hoping for a list of shovel ready projects getting underway, but instead we have fletchers laying people off, etc. Why isn’t Marsden rail happening? Dom Rd LRT? The start to NAL improvements? Gisborne rail? Pukekohe electrification?

    1. Fletcher Building is laying people off, they are a different company to Fletcher Construction, who would work on these sorts of projects.

      Which new infrastructure is being built with something other than 25kV AC?

        1. I can’t see any specific reference to any plans to extend electrification in Wellington. I think it is highly unlikely electrification will be extended to either Masterton or Palmerston North anytime soon, much more likely bi-modes will be purchased.

        2. Bi mode is preferred option and what is being pitched to the government. Various options (including electrification) were considered in the Lower North Island longer distance rolling stock business case (by Stantec for GWRC, published Dec 2019).
          I’m guessing highly likely to be approved unless change in government, as additional stabling for enhanced Manawatu service was funded back in January.

    2. The start to NAL improvements? Happening now

      Gisborne rail? So far down the list as to be off the list

      Dom Rd LRT? Ask Phil Twyford

      Pukekohe electrification? 2020 was mentioned. Somewhere.

      Marsden Point? Dunno Business case limbo?

  7. Also good to see they will be keeping the Porter’s Ave crossing open for pedestrians and cycles 24/7, until the overbridge is completed (eta late 2021)

    I’m about to start a new job in the area, and am also looking for a flat. So I think I will focus my flat-hunt along route 64, to make the most of the free rides 🙂

  8. Why does a rail replacement bus service wander around so much with bus stops along the way? If it is a rail replacement it should only have Newmarket, Mt Eden Rd and Kingsland as stops.

    1. Interesting article in the Summer edition of NZ Railfan magazine.
      In Railscene News (page 17) it mentions Kiwirails ‘wishlist’ for locos:
      “Approx 55 high-power, approx 35 medium power diesel-electrics, and
      some very-high-power straight electrics to haul peak hour commuter trains in both Auckland and Wellington”
      Expresses after all ?

      1. Wierd, surely they would just use EMU’s for the express services? What carriages would the electric locomotives pull?

        1. Maybe they could haul broken down Emu’s out of the CRL ?

          Being serious, I don’t know, but I’m waiting for the autumn edition
          of the magazine !

      2. I’m sure we could get some nice asbestos free and reliable locos from South Korea or Japan.

        Anywhere but China will do.

    2. I think it would so not so many people wouldn’t have to transfer back to the train if they were heading to Newmarket for example. Also would take a slight load off the slightly reduced or lumpy train frequency at peak.
      It also is apart of a fill in for the current Outerlink bus service route that would be altered so as to not be an unreliable loop. See:
      https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/11/11/at-finally-looking-to-fixing-the-outer-link/
      The existing route is liked by those that travel between the Mt Eden suburb and Newmarket.

  9. While I don’t agree that GWRC’s business case should have to consider national rolling stock issues, I think there would be merit in having all passenger rolling stock in NZ procured and owned by a national rolling stock leasing organisation (rosco) possibly a subsidiary of NZTA, similar to Norske Tog, the Norwegian state owned rosco. Norske Tog (https://www.norsketog.no/en/ ) was set up in 2016 as part of the Norwegian rail industry restructuring to both lower the cost of entry for new companies competing for passenger rail operations contracts and in recognition that Norway’s climatic and geographical conditions place constraints on train specifications. Thus it made sense for a small, albeit wealthy , country to have one body responsible for buying and ordering trains – similar issues which apply in NZ

  10. https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/auckland-top-stories/300019131/auckland-rail-upgrade-hoped-to-spur-network-as-tired-sleepers-and-track-wear-out

    It looks like the entire Eastern line track was basically worn out by the middle of last year as Kiwirail have been replacing km’s of it ever since. Another 12 km this weekend. No wonder the third main is not happening, it’s taking all their resources just to bring the existing track up to standard. The legacy of years of neglect and asset stripping from the 1990s. I stumbled on this gem which I’d forgotten about which sums up the asset strip, leave a hollow shell approach of those years.

    “In December 1996, Tranz Rail sold the DFT class to the General American Transportation Corporation (GATX, an American locomotive and rolling stock leasing company) for $131.5 million. It then leased the locomotives back for a period of 12 years. The lease ended on 19 December 2008 with ownership of the locomotives going to Tranz Rail’s successor, KiwiRail, which paid a further $36.6m to buy the locomotives back.”

  11. “And it’s not just four-day weeks that could go into this. How about we look to encourage schools and businesses to stagger start times etc.”

    Matt L, this is a great thought. In many parts of Europe shops do not open until 10am and so shoppers and staff miss the office peak hour. In Vienna there is a maximum 55 hours that shops can open with them not being permitted to open on Sundays. I can’t remember from our time in Vienna the impact that had on traffic movement because car mode share is too low there to start with.

    Imagine Auckland without shopping traffic on a Sunday. Would it truly be safe for cyclists to reclaim the roads? (I am not currently a cyclist, but would be if the roads were safer.)

  12. Moving to a shorter working week might be fine for those who have office work or billable hours where they can cram more into one day, etc. Closing shops will just mean less money for retail workers and costs aren’t going to drop just to help them make ends meet.

    The solution to NZ’s productivity issues post-Covid19 is not going to be returning everyone to the early 1990s where there was minimal weekend trading and high unemployment was accepted as normal. We have to see beyond the world of the white collared professionals who can work from home and civil servants who have had seven weeks at 100% pay regardless of output. The broader workforce has not been so lucky and we need to remember that.

    1. NZ’s productivity problem has nothing to do with weekend shopping, it’s all about infrastructure, training, low investment and the reliance on cheap, imported labour only makes things worse. Incomes are going to fall in a recession anyway, the four day week is one way of keeping people connected to the workforce, the “mini job” concept as used in Germany.

  13. BW
    The hard times of the nineties were a fall out of the stock market crash of 1987 and the reforms such as the Employment Contracts Act which restrained wages; and the slashing of benefits. It is a very long bow to say that weekend trading mopped up unemployment and pulled us out of that.

    I do work in the labour market and so I hope I get it. Jobs are being eliminated at the moment because of a relentless drive to the bottom. The government wants cheaper petrol and the likes of Gull realise they might maximise return by having no staff. The Warehouse has long operated on a model of having less staff that has forced the closure of other retailers. Air bnb, where there is lower operating costs has put real pressure on the accommodation industry in places like Hanmer. Countdown are shedding staff at point of sale. Air NZ has automated check in. We have Kiwis saying currently, I will only holiday in NZ if I can do it at budget prices. It’s a way larger issue than whether shops just trade on Sundays.

    Much of NZs labour market shortage in the last few years has been for less skilled jobs: wait staff and tourist workers in Auckland and Queenstown amongst other places; jobs that could have been easily done by Kiwis if they were available, included in that not working on a Sunday.

    Can I suggest that elongated hours by the chain stores has probably been at the demise of the smaller operator who may not want to work extensive hours, Habits are built and the smaller operator suffers.

    I agree with you about the 4 day week. The jury is still out. I watched when unlimited sick leave was all the rage and HR departments told anyone who wanted to listen that it would ensure people were more connected to the business and hence productivity improvements. How many unlimited sick leave schemes survive today?

    I agree with you that there were a number of sectors of our economy who did not cover themselves in glory during this lockdown; among those, some of the well paid groups in our community who showed a great reluctance to work and yet at the same time putting their hand out to government as somehow being an extraordinary case for support.

    On the other hand the super market workers, industries supplying them, farmers, meat processing workers and all those keeping the country going do deserve our lasting thanks as you say.

    It was a real shame that at the time they were largely not recognised by the media and the focus was on some individuals who had placed themselves at harm, somewhere in the world, sometimes against advice, and suddenly it became someone else’s problem.

    There needs to be a close analysis of the status quo as NZ moves forward that considers all aspects. It seems that climate issues need to be first on that list. If the climate deteriorates there won’t be water and food in many places and job loses will follow. Will NZs efforts to reduce carbon make much difference, no, but it has to start somewhere.

    I

    1. “The hard times of the nineties were a fall out of the stock market crash of 1987 and the reforms such as the Employment Contracts Act which restrained wages; and the slashing of benefits.”

      Well actually it goes back further than that. The “Hard times of the nineties” was the end result of Britain joining the EEC back in 1974 and NZ failing to diversify, find new markets, find new economic activity etc. The Muldoon era was NZ spending its cash reserves to soften the blow (but utterly fail to adapt to the new world) and Rogernomics was a rationalisation of the new times with the stockmarket boom a false cover for how bad the NZ economy was doing in reality.
      By 1988; the consequences couldn’t be hidden anymore. Although Rogernomics and ruthless Ruth Richardson’s ineptitude certainly exacerbated things.

      The stabilising and beginning of a recovery in the mid-late ’90s was something inevitable eventually as NZ found new markets in the world and new goods & services to vend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *