Te Huia, new train service between Auckland and Hamilton is now tentatively due to start in November, having been delayed by COVID-19. Though given the state of the Auckland rail network right now, I wonder if it would be better to wait till the work to fix it has been completed before launching. The service has always been considered a start-up to get things rolling, but it certainly won’t be rolling fast with an end to end journey time estimated at about 2.5 hours – they expect to be able to shave about 18 minutes off that (down to 134 minutes) once future investment in Auckland allows services to run express from Papakura through to Britomart.

The Rotokauri Transport Hub under construction

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has said a number of times about a longer term aim to replace this start up service with a faster, more attractive service – in much the same way as our Regional Rapid Rail proposal from 2017 which Labour adopted.

Yesterday we got the first indications of what has been happening in this space with the release of the Hamilton to Auckland Intercity Connectivity Interim Indicative Business Case. This word salad of a name is not really a business case but more just a fancy way of saying it’s a bit of a high-level look at the options for a faster rail connection between the two cities with a focus also on supporting future urban growth along the corridor.

There are three key problems the project this plan is trying to address along with the relative weightings given to them.

  • Problem 1: The amount of time taken to travel between Hamilton and Auckland (by any mode) is limiting the individual and combined economic performance including productivity of the two metropolitan areas and impacting on social wellbeing (50%).
  • Problem 2: The approach taken to land use and transport planning across the metropolitan areas has not provided sufficient focus on improving inter-city connectivity (30%).
  • Problem 3: The car dependent and relatively low density of urban development within the Auckland and Hamilton metropolitan areas combined with a road-vehicle dependent corridor between the two economies is hampering our ability to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, transport accidents, injuries or fatalities and improve health (20%).

The plan took a high-level look at other mode options for addressing these problems, including investing in more motorway upgrades, inter-city buses even flying but had substantial issues with them.

A long list of potential rail services and improvements were drawn up, all of which assume investments such as four tracks and level crossing removal from Pukekohe through to Wiri and a new underground station in Hamilton city centre near the bus interchange. This list was then whittled down to a shortlist of four scenarios. Each of these assume there will be just five stops on the route, Britomart, Puhinui, Southern Auckland (this isn’t defined but the report seems to favour Drury rather than Papakura), Northern Hamilton and Hamilton CBD. This assumption is tied to the idea that there would also be a local service serving the communities between Hamilton and Pukekohe along with regular express services from Pukekohe to Britomart. The shortlisted scenarios are effectively each a progression of the one before it and are:

Scenario A – Electrified and 110km/h

Electrify to Hamilton with a maximum speed along the route of 110km/h. This option is expected to cost about $2.2 billion and would see a total Britomart to Hamilton City journey time of just under two hours (113 minutes).

Scenario B – Electrified and realigned up to 160km/h

This goes a step further by including some corridor improvements to enable speeds of up to 160km/h. This is expected to cost about $5 billion and would reduce the end to end travel time to an estimated 88 minutes, or just under 1½ hours. This would put it at about the same speed as driving off-peak.

Scenario C – New dedicated 160km/h corridor

Using the same 160km/h top speeds, this takes the step of delivering it via an entirely new corridor. They estimate it would shave an extra 9-minutes off the journey for time of 79 minutes. but a completely new corridor comes with a hefty price tag of $12.2 billion

Scenario D – New dedicated 250km/h corridor

This scenario looks at what if we built that new corridor in Scenario C with standard gauge tracks with trains capable of up to 250km/h. At $13.6 billion this doesn’t cost all that much more than C but would save an additional 10 minutes on the journey for a total time of just 69 minutes. One of the issues with this however is that standard gauge track would only be between Southern Auckland and Hamilton so users would still have to transfer to an express service to get through Auckland.

The report then covers of a high-level look at the benefits of these scenarios

I find the report has taken an odd approach to assessing the potential use of these options. For example stating:

Initial ridership forecasts are based on a static land use forecast; i.e. not allowing for the effect of introducing a new rail service on land use patterns.


These forecasts were based on origin destination patterns from the Auckland and Waikato strategic models and reflect the impact different journey times have on diverting riders from the motorway choice to each specific rail scenario.

While they do look at land use change separately, this seems to be a flaw in the case as the models will almost certainly be calibrated based on current conditions but the very presence of such a service is likely to change origin-destination patterns. In short, models tend to work okay for doing more of the same but usually fail badly when it comes to transformational change.

It also seems odd to ignore land use change given that is one of the driving forces behind the study. Issues with the assumptions in the models is almost certainly responsible for this graph which is meant to represent how many people will change from driving the route to using the train in 2051. To me it seems highly unrealistic that saving 9-minutes will result in about 350% more usage.

However, one thing I do like is they’ve estimated how many passengers in total will be required to achieve a BCR of 1. This type of approach is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time as it allows others, such as planners, to ensure there is enough provision in their plans to enable those needed levels of usage.

The report gives no clear preference to what option is taken but given the costs associated, Scenario B does seem to be favoured and to me that makes the most sense.

Based on this work, cabinet has agreed for the project to be developed with greater detail, presumably a full business case. As part of that work I hope there is also greater consideration for improvements in technology and the ability to stage this to bring down the sticker shock. At a high-level this could look something like:

  1. Build/upgrade stations, signalling and get the network to 110km/h (where it isn’t). The cost of the wires makes up a significant chunk of the cost and overseas battery EMUs (BEMUs) are becoming an increasingly attractive option for bridging gaps in wires. A number of suppliers now coming producing them, such as this from Alstom which is capable of 160km/h under battery power and has a battery range of 120km. This step would include buying a fleet of them to start with. Of note, Wellington are also looking to buy potentially BEMUs to service Palmerston North and the Wairarapa, this could be done as a common design to bring costs down.
  2. Start working on the improvements and realignments needed to get speeds up to 160km/h.
  3. Progressively start to extend electrification. One of the ways overseas that the costs of electrification have been brought down is by delivering it as a constant stream of work rather than a series of individual projects with breaks between them. Going for BEMUs gives us the ability to do this. They also mean the trains could potentially travel off-wire past Hamilton for little extra cost.
  4. Start to look at larger scale realignments as suggested in Scenario C. The two main ones would likely be Drury to Pokeno and Taupiri to Hamilton

I also hope the next stage of this investigation includes what potential benefits there are to freight services from electrifying and realigning parts the network. As well it should also mention about the possibility of it being pre-requisite for other goals such as eventually extending higher speed services to Tauranga. There is no timeframe for when this next stage will be completed.

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  1. A staged implementation of option B make sense. Getting it up and running with electrification and new rolling stock is a good start. Every new alignment can leave the older alignment for freight and slowly we can work our way towards 4 mains to Hamilton.

    1. Look B makes sence as it would be great temporary fix but I’d think it would be smart investment to build in standard gauge to Hamilton having the higher speeds and it opens the door to extensions later. Look our railways outside of the city’s are sub-par so if we’re going to need to build new ones and why not in a gauge that is much more effective at carrying freight and people. While the price tag if hefty it might make more sense to build it closer to 2050 when our population has 2mil or 2.5 and Hamilton is 300k

  2. Am I reading this right? I surely must have missed something, but it appears to me the modelling for scenario B suggests you need 14K passengers / day to achieve a BCR of 1.0 but we will have less than 2K by 2051?

    To get a BCR of 1.0 under Scenario C you’d need a train carrying 400 passengers to leave each origin every 20 minutes for 14 hours / day. Madness. The numbers make no sense???

    1. Yep, there is absolutely no point in them progressing to a full business case as there is no way any option will make economic sense. Its either too slow to get meaningful patronage or too expensive. The only purpose of a business case is to give them an excuse not to do it.
      Its the kind of project that only makes sense as part of a bigger goal of decreasing car dependence or enabling sprawl.

      1. I could have told you 2 years ago that this whole thing was a pipe dream. In fact I did tell some government officials that.

    2. I wouldn’t read too much into it. This analysis is nothing close to a normal patronage estimate or cost-benefit assessment.

    3. Yes you are reading it wrong. It is much worse than that. They are only targeting a BCR of 0.6 to make it compatible with CRL. It is the government’s new version of investment. Every dollar paid to largely foreign companies only returns 60 cents of benefits to local people. This means that in order to lose 40 cents on every dollar they only need half the new ridership you have suggested.

        1. No its assuming any benefit that occurs in 40 years isn’t worth anything right now. Or in CRL terms the government will happily throw away a dollar to get 60 cents back now but it isn’t prepared to pay anything to get 60 cents in forty years time.

    4. No it’s saying that they think there would be under 2k passengers from people who were otherwise driving changing to use the train. Yet it’s also saying that if they can get it 9-minutes faster, the train would pull 5.5k people off the road and on to the train. To me, that highlights that the modelling is not right.

      This is all based on growth happening as it is currently expected to without the presence of the train so neither of the figures include people who might use the service as a result of land use i.e. the presence of the train making it viable to live in Hamilton and commute to Auckland

  3. Why such a gold plated and large Rotakauri $30million station building?
    Manurewa, Ellerslie, and Middlemore have simple walkways over the lines. The focus should be on platforms with comfortable seating and shelter.

    1. Rich upper middle class people live in Rotokauri. More of them might shift to Hamilton but still work in Auckland. Good idea to give them a nice station to seal the deal.

    2. Not much use having a station if you can’t access it from both sides.

      I’d say if Ellerslie was constructed from scratch now it would cost at least $30 million, with an overbridge and underpass to the other side of the motorway and two lifts.

    3. The Rotakauri station will also be a major bus interchange for the Orbitor, Nawton and Frankton bus services. The bridge is to connect the park n ride facility, bus and train platforms, access to the Base Mall and eastern city buses, the region’s Northern Connector and the city southern Comet bus services.

  4. So for the cost of rolling out a rapid transit network across most of Auckland, we would instead spend that money on making it easier for people outside of Auckland to super-commute to Auckland?

    1. Not just commuters, there are plenty of other reasons to travel between the cities. Currently around 20,000 to 30,000 people travel between the cities each day, I don’t think many of them are commuters.

      Travel between cities is just as important as travel within cities.

      1. In most first-world countries, cities the size and distance apart of Auckland and Hamilton there trains at least as fast as Scenario A, running every hour or two if not more often. People will move to new subdivisions between Auckland and Hamilton train or no train. At least with the train it will encourage higher building density around stations.

    2. Well, a lot of manufacturing in the North Island occurs in the Waikato and ships products up to Auckland (where manufacturing land is in shorter supply). For instance, APL head office (makes aluminium sections for most of the windows in NZ) is in Hamilton, but much of their product output goes to Auckland. I’m presuming that they’re still going to be shipping by truck to people’s new houses, rather than putting window packages onto a train…

      Let’s face it: there are an awful lot of trucks using that highway, and they don’t need to get to Britomart.

        1. Chuckle. Also:

          Rail + e-cargo bikes are a pretty fine combination – not for every delivery, of course. (We don’t widen roads for every journey but because we haven’t created the modeshift on the bulk of journeys.)

          Cities with effective climate plans are actually facing up to the biggest challenge – reducing our reliance on stuff, and on moving it around, as the centrespiece of the economy. A circular economy doesn’t mean we won’t still have plenty of truck journeys. But it does mean that we should be planning to reduce the number as we rationalise our consumerism.

        2. Platform to Platform express freight. Maybe from the Rotokauri to Puhinui. Just have a small electric forklift to lift pallets on and off on the platform. Don’t know its a bit like my idea of having Grannies delivering freight using their supergold card and a wheely freight suitcase to deliver parcel using public transport.

        3. More people not driving is the best way to improve road freight.

          Best way to encourage people not driving (outside of destroying a place, or its economy) is to offer an actual viable alternative.

          Effective Intercity passenger rail is a long proven, highly successful, low carbon, scaleable, trusted, and popular alternative to driving.

          There is no real economic evaluation in this doc. But it does make the case for starting then incrementally improving service on existing route.

          Want to keep the drive viable? Invest in its alternative. Will be cheaper and better; eggs, baskets etc.

    1. Depending on the mass – Energy requirements.

      If we assume that the total mass of the train is 150t, going from 360 to 400 requires roughly 1/3 more energy to achieve.

      If the train is only 100t, then we’re only looking at another 20%.

      It’s pretty safe to assume that our trains will be well over 150t, so the energy requirements will be significantly higher.

      1. The kinetic energy is calculated as 1/2 mv² . The mass does not change the proportion of energy needed to increase speed.
        400²/360²=1.23. You need 23% more energy to add these 40 km/h. In any case I’d hope most of the energy can be recovered when slowing down.

    2. It takes a high speed train around 15 km to accelerate to 360kmh, and another 15 km to slow to a stop again, that’s 30km spent get up to speed and back again between stations.

      They are proposing stations every 20km or so… so the trains wouldn’t even make it to 360, faster than about 300 is a waste of time.

        1. Actually it spends almost half the trip accelerating to full speed on the few departures a day that they actually run it as fast as the track can support. It spends only a few seconds at 430km/h before starting to slow down again, just for marketing reasons.

          Most of the day they don’t bother, it only goes to 300km/h and sits there for about a minute and a half before slowing down again.

          The difference between the 430km/h and 300km/h runs is a trifling 50 seconds to Pudong Airport. Top speed just isn’t important when it’s only 30km between stations.

  5. To me the approach should be more an option A.5, with the full, well gradual, electrification of the existing line but purchasing Battery electric vehicles, capable of 160 kph (tilt trains?) that can run either overhead or on their batteries as need.
    Once the system has bedded in then start the modifications to bring it up to spec for option B and further down the track making the improvements to option C specs.
    At the same time any new freight locomotives should be dual battery and overhead electric.
    This sort of approach would enable a reasonably frequent service to start sooner and also start the move away from diesel.

    1. The current rail corridor from Pukekohe to Hamilton will have to be up grade for increase rail freight movements, so why not upgrade the corridor for high frequency freight and inter-regional passenger rail services.

  6. The report appears to be analysing the effect of measures such as electrification and improvement of track alignments without even considering their effect on the movement of freight. This is astonishing.

    Taking that together with the changes in land use this would make possible, any proposed returns to any of the options are understated by an amount that’s hard to guess.

  7. Off peak Google says it takes 26 mins to drive from Papakura to Britomart, so odd that a 320km/h train would take 32 mins according to the report.

    1. It says in the article above that people will have to transfer to an express metro service in Southern Auckland. The standard gauge high speed tracks wouldn’t run through the urban area.

      1. The report says for the standard-gauge option (Option D) that it “envisages upgrades to tracks within Auckland and Hamilton to enable both to accommodate narrow and standard gauge lines” (p26), so no transfer would be required. It would be a bit foolish if it did, spending lots of money to save time travelling very fast only to have everyone stand around waiting for a connection.

        No such accommodation for standard gauge lines would be needed if high-speed trains like Spain’s class 730 were used, which have variable-gauge bogies. All that’s need is a gauge changer in a shed with a 10km/h (I think) speed limit through it – barely noticeable to your average traveller, particularly if adjacent to a station stop.

        1. Have you seen a gauge changer working? You would definitely not do this on what is effectively a commuter train service. You would be better off adding a third rail so both Narrow/Standard gauge can run on the same alignment. In Auckland’s case if you could get Standard Gauge in as far as say Newmarket, this would likely be sufficient, and passengers can meet a high frequency city rail loop service.

        2. I have experienced a gauge changer working, which is the basis on which I made that remark. I’m not advocating such a thing – I can’t see how adding the complexity of another gauge will be worth it – but the Spanish show that it’s perfectly possible for the sort of operation that’s being discussed.

          Talking of complexity, adding a third rail sounds fairly simple, but like just about anything to do with transport (and railways in particular) it certainly isn’t easy, and I suspect that NZ would be unique in the world if it introduced such a method of operation where multiple gauges didn’t already exist.

          For an idea of the track complexity that dual-gauge running requires, Train House’s YouTube driver-view videos taken from standard-gauge trains leaving Melbourne for Dynon and Broadmeadows are worth a watch. And of course there are signalling, clearances, platforms etc to consider, and how facilities for terminating standard-gauge trains could be fitted in at somewhere like Newmarket.

    2. It wouldn’t be able to do 320kmh on the southern line through suburban Auckland. All the times assume the same conventional speed from Papakura to the city.

      1. Google’s algorithims for driving times are pretty accurate in free flow traffic. They mainly fall over when there is congestion along the route that is changing rapidly or on country roads that don’t get a lot of use, thus there isn’t much data.

  8. It’s really missing an option (lets call it “e” or “b2”
    It is basically option b but with the shortcut tunnel through the Bombay’s.
    This is the biggest current detour and slow section so a realignment here would gain significant time savings.
    It then still allows for future realignments south of there to further improve speeds.
    Option B with its slight realignment near Mercer is a shorter term solution that would be a wasted investment (approximately $1B if a tunnel is ever built).

  9. We should just pick a sum of money say something like $200 million per year to be spent on electrification. Probably start from both ends as Waikato is wanting to run trains to Te Awamutu. A small section of electrification would get to the base (Rotokauri) then on to Huntly..
    Simultaneously we can purchase a small number of BMEU and give them a whirl running beyond the end of the wires. If they workout then it will be obvious what to do next. If they don’t the batteries can be removed and they can run on the Auckland network.
    Build stations along the line. Put $100 million a year.
    Sack all the planners and let the politicians and engineers do the design.
    Give Kiwirail $200 million per year to upgrade the tracks.
    No more planners and no BCR.
    Bring back the Ministry of Works.

    1. This sort of approach applies to many aspects of the sector. We could have a separate budget for new pedestrian crossings, for grade separation of rail crossings, for cycleways, for low traffic neighbourhoods, for reducing intersections and fitting them out with bus stops and crossings, for depaving and tree planting. The person with the budget needs to justify decisions on where they used it, and to show that coordination with other programmes produced value-for-money.

      Business cases wouldn’t be needed because the programme’s already decided. Just some local consultation about local considerations is all.

      1. Having certain budgets for continuous improvement activities would also help reduce costs and improve quality as the companies involved would have some certainty about the pipeline of work and be able to specialise appropriately.

    2. Need to allocate $5 million per year for rail replacement buses. Need to keep things moving while the work goes on. The rail buses must be easy to use and well signposted with the APP and station displays.
      Also make provision for express services to morph into all stopping if required for construction work or incidents on the network. Also can have hail request stops like they have on British trains. Need flexibility.

      1. Agreed about the importance of having a reasonable substitute service for times of disruption (planned or unplanned), but request stops on the British network are few and far between, with none on main lines or commuter routes. The savings from conditional stops aren’t worth the hassle, and time has to be allowed for them in the schedule even if they’re not used.

  10. Shame they don’t elaborate on how they determine the crossover from car to rail… because only 1,586 under Scenario B seems extremely low when the greater Auckland – Waikato corridor will be moving 64,000…

    Also, it’s not really clear if the “new passengers required” are new passengers compared to 2020 or on top of the 2050 traffic flows (the 64,000 number). If it’s the former then it doesn’t seem so bad, it just means that 1/3 traffic growth to 2050 would go via rail rather than car. Giving an overall mode share of 22% in 2050 which seems fairly feasible considering the need to meet net-zero.

    The use of Full-distance Equivalent passengers in that CBR part of the report but not elsewhere when discussing traffic numbers makes comparisons very hard :/

  11. Why BEMUs, hydrogen would make more sense. Alstom also make those, albeit 110km/h but I’m sure if the market was there they could figure it out. They already are battery/hydrogen hybrid, maybe even to extend the range of a pure BEMU.

    1. Basically Hydrogen is just another form of battery only less efficient.
      Hydrogen isn’t used to power the vehicle it is used to generate electricity which in turn is used to power the vehicle, much the same way the the diesel electric locomotives are electric propulsion using on board diesel generators, just the Hydrogen version is more efficient than diesel and more green.

      1. And hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels, so it’s greenness is debatable.

        The cost of using clean electricity to convert water into hydrogen gas to store to convert back into electricity is prohibitively expensive. Currently it’s far cheaper to reform the hydrogen out of natural gas hydrocarbons (releasing carbon dioxide and other exotic compounds in the process).

        1. And that’s before you consider how it’s transported to the depot, or the losses involved in bulk transportation.

          Also ignoring any potential environmental issues around the hydrogen economy – Hint: That’s a growing concern.

        2. Riccardo – An Alstrom Coradia ilint hydrogen train set can do 3-4 return services per day Hamiton/Auckland on a tank of hydrogen. They will be refueled at night.

          The Coradia iLint trains sets, can be use on all regional rail routes through out the country as oppose to DEMU or BEMU train sets as there is not need for electrification infrastructure and trains sets can be move around the country.

          Since Z Energy has a bio fuel manufacturing facility, the Stradler FLINT with a power pack for hybrid operation can be fitted to various train sets for regional/inter-regional passenger rail operations, as an alternative to hydrogen.

    2. Maybe they could use the hydrogen to fill airships and run a fleet of them between Hamilton and Auckland to avoid traffic congestion. I can’t see that going wrong.

    3. The Astrom Coradia iLint hydrogen train sets can travel up to 140kph and have a range up to 800kms on a tank of hydrogen.

        1. The problem with hydrogen (and other liquid or gas fuels) is that you have to take a train out of service and drive it to a depot to refuel each time.

          800km sounds like a lot, but that’s only enough for three return trips from Auckland to Hamilton, about 12 hours of back and forth service, so what you would want as a minimum to not have to refuel more than once a day.

          One huge benefit of BEMU is you can ‘refuel’ sitting at the station at Auckland or Hamilton, and as you are passing through the Auckland network or through Hamilton south of Te Rapa. A return trip would spend about half the time under wire charging the batteries, and half the time drawing from them.

    4. Perhaps they could fit each engine with a generator and a diesel engine to run the generator and let them generate their own electricity on the move.

    1. How would it be cheaper to drive? Its about convenience to travel from point a to point with least amount of disruption.

      1. It’s currently cheaper to drive anywhere… and will probably continue to be after the train starts. This is problem number 4.

        1. When you say it is cheaper to drive, is that taking into account all the expenses associated with owning a car or just the petrol required for that one trip? I wonder how many people add up how much they spend each year on insurance, registration, wof and maintenance. Replacing even two tyres is expensive enough without any other work needing to be done.

  12. So this report assumes there will already be all stops* trains servicing intermediate stations on the line. But it doesn’t consider that at least some of the track upgrades will benefit those train passengers? Nor does it count the benefits of faster, electrified freight trains? And it assumes no land use changes, despite this happening before our eyes in response to the Waikato Expressway? Seems like a very pessimistic approach.

    I’d have liked to see an option where instead of focusing on an express service the all stops* service just gets faster. The reasoning for this is that there are likely to be a lot more intermediate trips than end-to-end trips. For example Te Kauwhata to Pukekohe or Huntly to Hamilton.

    (*all stops along from Hamilton to Pukekohe then express to Puhinui and Britomart)

    1. “….likely to be a lot more intermediate trips than end-to-end trips. For example Te Kauwhata to Pukekohe or Huntly to Hamilton.”

      Agreed. This is a Waikato network from which you can interchange to the AKL network heading to Britomart and every where in between.

      Eventually, I expect the percentage of travelers going Hamilton-Central to Britomart to be dwarfed by those taking intermediate trips, either solely in the Waikato or stops shortly before or after the boundary.

  13. Why would we want to encourage people to live in Hamilton if they’re going to be commuting to Auckland? Why not just… live in Auckland, a higher-amenity city, where you’d have a much shorter, easier, and more environmentally friendly commute?

    $5 billion would buy several entire light rail routes in Auckland and leave change to drop a few hundred million improving services within Hamilton. It would improve the lives of vastly more people and be an environmental benefit, rather than encouraging a few thousand people to do expensive and energy-intensive super-commutes for no real reason.

    1. So we should just leave all the other non-work intercity trips to cars just so we don’t encourage a few people to do a super commute?

      1. Given we have limited funds and ability to execute, and a city with apparently acceptable yawning gaps in its rapid transit network, it’s a big ask for people to get enthusiastic about bringing in intercity travelers when the actual city remains a congested mess for the people who live and work there.

        1. If we wait until Auckland has a ‘complete’ rapid transit network before looking at intercity travel then it’ll never happen. The two can happen in parallel, with an emphasis on the RTN. Just spread out the Hamilton to Auckland rail improvements over a decade.

      2. The business case estimates that the $5 billion version of the train would divert 1,586 daily trips from driving by 2051. How many driving trips a day do you think you can divert by spending that money on several light rail corridors within Auckland?

        1. No reason we couldn’t do both. We’ve managed to build roads in Auckland and the Waikato at the same time before.

          Given the funds will come from national sources it shouldn’t all be spent in Auckland anyway. If rail isn’t viable then at least some of it should be spent on roads in the Waikato.

        2. Jezza says there’s no reason you couldn’t do both.

          I would encourage Jezza to note that the NLTF is a mess with a billion dollar hole blown through it, we narrowly avoided disaster with light rail and it will increase rapidly in price now, Transmission Gully is bleeding cash, City Rail Link has penuried Auckland Council, and the government is currently $50 billion in a hole and rising.

          If anyone can detect infrastructure programme control from the centre in 2020, I would be very impressed to find it. More is, in this context, not more at all.

          Even the existing Pukekohe to Bombay motorway now needs nearly $1 billion of capital to widen and upgrade.

          A billion here, a billion there, and a crap record of passenger rail delivery. Just pause before you

        3. “I would encourage Jezza to note that the NLTF is a mess with a billion dollar hole blown through it, we narrowly avoided disaster with light rail and it will increase rapidly in price now, Transmission Gully is bleeding cash, City Rail Link has penuried Auckland Council, and the government is currently $50 billion in a hole and rising.”

          – The government has topped up the NLTF before and it can do it again.
          – Transmission Gully is bleeding cash because it’s a PPP that for some reason was not set up to put all the risk on the private funder.
          – CRL is a nationally significant project that should have been funded primarily by central government. Though the bigger issue is that the whole local government funding system is broken.
          – The escalation in government debt due to Covid-19 is really nothing to do with transport projects and is hopefully a one off.

          Some projects could be better managed and this is something NZTA and other agencies need to improve. But this is not an argument for not funding future projects, especially now we’re experiencing an economic shock worse than the Global Financial Crisis. The main lesson from the GFC is that responding by cutting government spending (austerity) is the worst possible response. If anything the government should be increasing its infrastructure spending. Not necessarily on this particular project but it deserves further investigation.

  14. To make it attractive for Auckland business man going to Hamilton, the Hamilton office buildings must be all within walkable distance to the train station. The train must also has tables and chargers so business people can work with their laptops.

    If Hamilton business person want to use train to work in Auckland CBD, the Hamilton station must be accessible either with connector bus or park and ride.

    If the connector bus are slow, It would be faster to drive door to door from Auckland to Hamilton, making this train uncompetitive.

    For tourist, it only works for solo backpacker who couldn’t afford to rent a car and the ticket must be cheaper than intercity bus.

    For a family of four with luggage’s it is always cheaper and flexible to drive. Therefore the use case for tourists are quite limited.

    1. Why must the ticket be cheaper than InterCity bus? The train offers a much better level of comfort. In fact the Te Huia train ticket price using, I assume, the Bee card will be cheaper than InterCity mainly because InterCity are grossly overpriced.

    2. I commuted occasionally between Auckland and Hamilton, trying to be “green” by using the Intercity bus. The service has been alright, and fare is acceptable. (it’s priceless to save my sanity from the congestion of the southern motorway)
      However, my latest Inter-city trip about 2 months ago between Hamilton and Auckland was quite unpleasant. Because of COVID, inter-city bus decided to run a mini-van service instead. We were cramped in this small space for over 2 hours… not happy about it.
      I am happy to support any upgraded rail service if we continue with a mini-van service.

      1. You show the kind of courage that Auckland’s commuter cyclists regularly have to display.

        I sincerely hope you can be persuaded to the train alternative.

    3. All of Hamilton’s office buildings are within a short walking distance!

      I don’t agree however, it’s not like business workers don’t fly to Wellington constantly, and there aren’t any office buildings within walking distance of the the airport.

  15. The options consider bypassing Tuakau but equally track could be run Tuakau-Mercer, bypassing Pokeno to the south to provide a straighter alignment. Tuakau has a larger population, more space for future development and is further from the motorway, making the alternative rail connection more attractive.

  16. Problem 5. Beautiful new expressway that can get you not only Pukekohe and Drury to Hamilton in the pleasure of your own car in an hour, but also to Cambridge.

    I’d hold back any more fat rail investment until I saw if anyone was going to use it.

      1. Shocking I know. Lucky I wasn’t banned 🙂

        For those who work in Auckland but currently come from over the border, they are used to leaving at 6am to get in. Most have staff vehicles, which they would be most loathe to give up.

        Whoever the operator is, they will be fighting hard to attract them over to sit there for over 2 hours each way and not be able to pick up the kids and do the shopping on the way home.

        You’d have to think about free tickets for a 6 month trial to see if there’s even a chance of mode shift. Not impossible, but very hard.

        1. I commuted for 2 years between Ngaruawahia and Auckland Airport. Absolutely loathed the drive. If I could have taken the train and rest to/from work I definitely would have. When you realise how easy proper InterCity trains are, you don’t want to use a car, company or otherwise.

        2. The population isn’t static. There are always people changing jobs and/or moving to new places, or even just joining the workforce. Sure you might not convert many existing commuters but new commuters might be quite tempted by the train option and take the cash rather than the company car.

        3. It failed last time they tried this and I’m pretty positive they will fail again. If you’re going to attempt a new service you have to make it a new service and not use crappy old refurbished trains and having a service which doesn’t actually get you from Hamilton to the Auckland CBD on a single train.

        4. They should also be running a midday – 1PM service for those who want to travel during the day after having done some activity in the morning. Having services bookended at the beginning and end of the day decreases flexibility and make the service less attractive.

    1. So you want to underfund a service which makes it look bad compared to the massively subsidised alternative, and then say “look see, no one uses it” and then remove it? Gee where have I heard this before?

      1. I’m not going to get too bothered about an initial BC report until we see evidence people want it. The obvious implication of Matt’s point is that the Auckland network service is now so shit that new passengers using it for a 2.5 hour journey just might not get out of their cars.

        Better to wait and launch when Auckland’s tracks are better than 40kph and we’ve gone back to the kind of service we had before the 2007 double tracking and old Silver Fern carriages.

        1. I think the correct response to the rail fiasco is to hold the Hamilton Auckland trial and instead to roll out bus priority along the motorway asap. There’ll be some ridership built up by having a frequent fast bus service. It could be substantial. This would give them some time to improve some elements of the rails at the southern end of the route, too, while the Auckland rails are improved.

          Climate Change should give the ability to do the bus priority as an emergency measure without being put into business case purgatory first. And the impacts on the network – of reducing traffic into the city – can be seen as part of the Covid emergency response too, as we’re needing to see that network improvement while people rebuild their trust in PT and are using their bikes more.

        2. The train is due to start running in November call it December so it can do a few shakedown run before Christmas then I expect there will be a complete or more likely partial shut down for at least a month of the Auckland network to replace the dodgy track meaning by February the train can start running as it was originally envisaged when train speeds return to normal. The Waikato council could start running a bus as soon as it can be arranged to start building a customer base. Kiwirail is putting it’s energy into the Eastern Line presumably it see this as crucial to its freight trains but also as being the best option for keeping a bare bones passenger operation running for the duration of repair to the network. I assume they will run Eastern line trains to Manukau with buses further south. That’s good because all stations excepting Homai are close to Great South road. In fact maybe they can just double the number of buses on the 33 route which already runs between Manukau and Papakura. I expect the Southern line will be out of action except for freight for a significant amount of time so it will be worth doing this properly. Now at present we have the 349 rail replacement bus which runs almost empty between Papatoetoe and Puhinui its route could be easily extended to take in Homai station. So now lets get back to the Rail Replacement bus from Hamilton. I would suggest this runs to Manukau Station sure its going to be held up on the Motorway but so are the cars. It’s not ideal but we have to start somewhere. Zippo and Jezza do not reply to do this with snide remarks about my assumptions at least I am putting forward positive suggestions on how things can be improved.

        3. Looks like the Hamilton Papakura train is not scheduled to stop at Pukekohe. The reason for this is so they do not have to provide rail replacement buses to Pukekohe when there is a block of line. So the buses can just straight down the Motorway no detour. Should be quite a good service.
          Another potential problem for passengers will be what happens when there is the inevitable meltdown on the network and passengers for Hamilton cannot get to Papakura to board there train to get them home to Hamilton. Do they get to spend there night in Auckland.

  17. $5B to $15B – how do we get these crazy numbers. So much for kiwi innovation. Sounds like the wrong people were asked (again). That’s a lot of tickets at $12.20
    Love trains. 2.5 hours to the tron – plenty of time to enjoy 🙂

    1. How much in current dollars, has been spent on the Auckland-Hamilton road over the past 40 years? How much is being still being spent on it now? Then compare that with how much has been spent on the rail line in the same period. Even Australia, which is a similar car dominated society, is way ahead of NZ when it comes to regional rail.

  18. Train journey is the safest.
    I would love to if there is any option to foot on the train.
    Nice style of elaboration.
    Let’s hope for the best.

  19. Firstly, if a new standard-gauge section of line was built, it would be entirely possible to use gauge-changing technology to run through into Britomart. However, it would be mean that any rolling stock would be bespoke and expensive. Plus you’d probably either need to keep the old line for freight, or have dual gauge track.

    The other option I don’t see mentioned is ordering Electro-Diesel rolling stock that would run on 25kV AC, 1.5V DC with a diesel engine for bits that aren’t wired and in the event of an electric power shutdown. This has been very effective in the UK using Japanese and European-built Hitachi AT300 units similar to the Japanese 3’6″ gauge Sonic units, which I’d imagine were probably not too difficult to adapt to NZ. The advantage of this approach is that a few extra units tacked onto the order could pioneer Tauranga and perhaps even Wellington services. The first UK batch were rather expensive due to Government interference, but the subsequent run-on orders were apparently much more reasonable and against expectations, they are now the de-facto standard for InterCity trains in the UK, with the economies of scale that generates.

    Yes, in NZ they are probably overkill for now, but if you assume a 30-year working life, they could still spend a significant proportion of that running much faster than now, plus it will take a few years for demography to catch up with the provision of services.

    Finally, though we are talking about passenger rail. don’t forget that replacing the EF’s with an NZ ‘standard’ electro-diesel locomotive which could run into both Auckland and Wellington would probably be an excellent strategic investment. They’d reduce pollution and have better performance under the wires than their diesel-only equivalents, freeing up space for passenger services.

  20. Where’s Scenario RRR2 in the business case? I thought the government had signed up to the plan to use diesel-electric high-speed tilt trains to be able to defer electrification and track upgrades. On the face of it $400m all up in 2017 dollars (mostly rolling stock) is mighty compelling.

  21. Does anyone believe we will reduce the number of ICE vehicles in the near future to reduce our carbon footprint?
    Hopefully there is going to be near future change in the economics of the personal ICE vehicle transport which may make this investment seem long overdue.
    Does the examples quoted of high speeds really need to happen if we have a more holistic approach?
    Do the examples quoted have such a sparse population to support their investment?
    it would be nice to see the introduction of an alternative rail link developed prior to the increased cost of the carbon based transport system. It would also be nice to see the system grow rather than try to be the best in the world at the start and not be affordable for the low income users as they find the ICE vehicle to expensive to run.

  22. Scenario B would be best scenario for both increased frequent passenger and freight services on the Auckland to Hamilton rail corridor.

    Hamilton is becoming a ‘satellite’ city of Auckland, due to increasing number of Aucklanders buying properties or renting due to the high cost of building and renting in the greater Auckland metro region.

    Currently, the only frequent public transport options between Auckland metro and Hamilton is InterCity and Skip bus/coach services, but as COVID19 has shown, these services are not reliable as they are subject to health lock downs and not deemed to be ‘regional’ public transport services for NZTA funding, as these services are traveling between two regions, leaving frequent passenger rail services between Auckland and Hamilton the only ‘funded’ public transport option.

    I not sure why that upgraded figure for the Auckland/Hamilton rail corridor for frequent passenger rail services under Scenario B is quoted at $5 billion when rail freight will be using the same rail corridor.

    Looking at the final business case, the cost of upgrading the rail corridor from Pukekohe to Hamilton would be $1.5 to $2 billion for frequent freight and passenger rail services, $150-200 million for passenger rail service infrastructure along the corridor and $200-250 million for passenger rolling stock stabling in Auckland and Hamilton and maintenance facility in either Auckland or Hamilton.

    That leaves $2 billion for passenger rolling stock which is high, as the number of train sets has not been determined. In July 2019, Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein rail authority NAH.SH awarded Stadler a €600m (approx NZ $1.1 Billion) order for 55 battery-powered Flirt Akku multiple unit trains with a 150km of battery range, along with spares, training and maintenance for 30 years.

    If Scenario B is used for frequent limited stop passenger train services between Auckland and Hamilton, the cost would be $1.5-$1.7 Billion for the rolling stock (55 BEMUs) is ordered, stabling/maintenance facilities and passenger services infrastructure if the rail corridor is deemed by government as a national transport asset upgrade like the national state highway and national regional road networks are or $2.2- $2.8 billion if 50% of the rail corridor upgrade is factored in.

    Since passenger rail travel between Auckland and Hamilton will operating between the Auckland and Waikato regions, how is it going to be fund? Is the government going to stump the cost of the rail corridor upgrade as a national transport asset and Auckland Council and Waikato Regional Councils share the rail passenger costs 50/50 or does the government pay all of the costs?

    If NZ had a national public transport agency instead for the bureaucratic uncoordinated mess we have at present, then the agency would pay for it as part of providing cohesive public transport planning, funding and procurement across all 16 regions in NZ including a national ‘tap n travel’ payment ticketing system.

    Whilst travel times are important, the most important aspect of the rail services between the two regions for a passenger – is scheduling of services, passenger comfort, service and experience.

    1. Kris its got to be the sum put aside for electrification. The BMEU’s were suggested by Matt.L their not in the report but until we try it out how will we ever know if they would be suitable for the route. If we could just piggybank on some one else order and get a couple over here to try out. There is a huge advantage to not having to electrify not only in the initial cost but It also means that we don’t have to go back and rewire every time an improvement is made to the rail alignment not to mention all the isolation procedures needed every time maintenance is needed to be done. However will they be able to deliver high speed. The faster they go the more power they need. What would work at 100 kph is unlikely at 160 kph batteries are just not good enough yet. I still think it would have being perfect if we had ordered those battery EMU’s before the last election but all the politicians just piled on board and said we will electrify to Pukekohe . I wondered at the time if it was an act of sabotage designed to scuttle any extension of rail past Pukekohe. Patrick.R posted that I was a Dumb Arse but that’s okay. The latest EMU’s that are being delivered now would have had batteries and we would be in a much better place to evaluate their potential for use between Hamilton and Auckland.

      1. The $1-5- $2 Billion upgrading of the rail corridor between Pukekohe and Hamilton under Scenario B includes the electrification for both passenger and freight rail services up to speeds 160kph by knocking out the kinks in the corridor.

        With regards to passenger rolling stock being used, it can be EMU, BEMU, DEMU, hybrid or hydrogen. I like the way that Stradler offers a power pack unit for BEMU, DEMU, hybrid or hydrogen operation for their FLIRT train sets, to suit operating environments like NZ has, with out the need to order new specialised train sets for different operational requirements through the country. Example, on the Auckland to Hamilton sector an EMU power unit can be inserted on a 4-6 train set, for Hamilton to Tauranga or Palmerston North regional and inter-regional service a DEMU, hybrid or hydrogen power unit can be inserted into a 2-4 unit train set, Wellington to Palmerston North or Masterton a BEMU power unit can be inserted into a 4-6 unit train set and so on. Using this option to mix and match power units, mean you have standarised train sets to operate across the 12 region that have rail connectivity.

        The problem is, NZ doesn’t have a national public transport plan for all 16 regions, that provides cost and asset effective public transport services to both the rate and tax payers. The current model its up to the regions to plan, fund and procure is not cost and asset effective. This why NZ needs to have an independent national public transport agency separate from NZTA and a national above ground national rail infrastructure (track, signalling and train control) agency that is not part of a rail operators, with both being operating on a cost recovery basis under the Ministry of Transport.

  23. Why is the speed limit for narrow gauge trains always quoted at 160km/h?

    I have seen some information that 200km/h+ narrow gauge trains ran for a time in the 1990s in Japan. The QR trains have run over 200km/h before as well (although I appreciate they run at 160km/h in regular service). I also understand that new narrow gauge trains in Malaysia will run faster than 160km/h.

    Is the speed limit due to passenger comfort/safety? What is to stop a narrow gauge train having say a top-speed of 200km/h on particular sections of track and something like 150km/h average speed overall?

    1. I think you are mistaken on Japan narrow gauge trains running at 200km/h+. You’re probably referring to the “Mini Shinkansen” programme that extended the Shinkansen from the new main lines onto legacy narrow gauge lines to reach into the countryside. However this was done by converting the old branch lines to standard track gauge, while using smaller trains that could fit through the old loading gauge.

      Nontheless the bullet trains were limited to 140km/h on the old sections, although they did go over 250km/h once they joined the shinkansen lines.

      QR has gone over 200km/h on test runs, but never in normal service. The narrow gauge trains in Malaysia are limited to 140km/h in service.

      There are a range of factors to do with track geometry, wheel diameter, hunting oscillations, signal block distances, sight lines to level crossings, impact speeds… the end result is a max service speed of 140 to 160km/h with upgraded narrow gauge lines.

      1. Thanks for the additional info.

        So the best we can hope for here in NZ on narrow gauge track is maximum in-service speed of 160 km/h and an average trip speed as high as possible relative to that?

        We would never see narrow-gauge trains running at top speeds of 180km/h or 200km/h in service (even if they could do so in testing?)

        1. There is no requirement to have dedicated high speed passenger train services. Speeds up to 160kph for regional, inter-regional and long distance passenger trains is about right, as passengers trains will be sharing the track with freight trains, as NZ does not have the population, even if we double our population to 10 million for gold plated dedicated high speed passenger services.

          To have fast passenger train services, it to remove as main kinks in the track, track that is engineered for higher speed loading’s for frequent freight and passenger services and effective national train control management system.

  24. Yes part of Matt’s point 3 in the post is important as has been mentioned before:

    “Progressively start to extend electrification. One of the ways overseas that the costs of electrification have been brought down is by delivering it as a constant stream of work rather than a series of individual projects with breaks between them.”

  25. Scenario C looks to be a non started, because of Scenario D which would be by far preferred given it also allows for far better future expansion of the system in terms of running higher speed trains from further afield.
    Also skeptical of Scenario B because running at 160kph with level crossings looks like folly to me, and if you have to engineer out level crossings, you are de-facto building new alignment anyway.

    1. I’m pretty sure that level crossings are not precluded from British 100mph (160km/h) lines – they don’t seem to think that it’s “folly” (though clearly the fewer level crossings the better, particularly at higher speeds).

  26. I would not be aware earn money appeared the following, on the other hand presumed that send once were very good. I can’t fully grasp the person you could be although definitely you are going to a new well-known blogger should you are certainly not witout a doubt online marketing. All the best!

  27. Surely uptake success of any publicly funded transportation system is profited by the appeal to the boarded range of the population. Reminiscent of the Eurorail offering and migration from HS1 and now HS2.
    Cars, trucks and people A2B – lowest carbon footprint in a sustainable manner.

  28. Would be interesting to see or estimate the increase in patronage simply by using BMU’s (ie allowing Britomart as the final destination), having a central Hamilton station and having the service run hourly or even two hourly including weekends.

    Also a unified national public transport card may help too.

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