Here’s our weekly roundup

AHB fixed

Well done to the Waka Kotahi NZTA engineers who have managed to get the Harbour Bridge fixed and fully back in operation in just 2.5 weeks. While it has obviously been disruptive, there are undoubtedly many valuable lessons that have learned as a result and that will help us in the future, particularly around managing disruption and Traffic Demand Management.

Now how about those permanent bus lanes on St Mary’s Bay and the bridge itself.

Motorways and emissions

A good article on Tuesday from Professor Simon Kingham, who is also the Chief Science Adviser for the Ministry of Transport looking at the question Does building and expanding motorways really reduce congestion and emissions?

Below are just a couple of quotes from it.

In addition to speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower mileage by 15-30 per cent at highway speeds and 10-40 per cent in stop-and-go traffic. If building or expanding motorways did reduce congestion, the smoother driving would be a benefit.

But this assumption is not backed by evidence. Research shows even on roads with no impediments drivers brake and accelerate unnecessarily, increasing congestion and emissions.


A significant change occurred in 1994 when a report by the UK Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Appraisal confirmed road building actually generates more traffic.

In New Zealand, this wasn’t acknowledged until the Transport Agency’s 2010 Economic Evaluation Manual, which said:

[…] generated traffic often fills a significant portion (50–90per cent) of added urban roadway capacity.

Of course, while we often now seem to recognise it, many engineers seem to treat it as a good thing, especially if it means they’ve got a better chance of building the next big project on their list.

The article is summed up with:

The short answer to the question about road building and expansion is that new roads do little to reduce congestion, and they will usually result in increased emissions.

Labour E-Bus proposal

On Wednesday Labour announced their “next steps on climate change“. Of note for us was a commitment to

decarbonising the public transport bus fleet by 2035, and requiring only zero emissions buses be purchased by 2025

A bit more detail is also provided

“Transport makes up about 20 per cent of New Zealand’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest growing source. This needs to change so Labour will require that only zero emissions buses be purchased by 2025 and will target decarbonising the public transport bus fleet by 2035. We will support regional councils with this through a $50 million fund over four years.

Electrifying all buses is fantastic and absolutely needs to be done. This will not only reduce emissions but anyone who has already been on an electric bus will know it also improves the experience for users and those on the street thanks to reduced noise and other pollutants. Better still, the experience so far shows that those e-buses also have lower operating costs, potentially making it easier to run more buses with the same amount of budget or reduce fares, or at least fare rises.

There is an issue with this though, we shouldn’t be waiting till 2025 to require all new buses be zero emissions, that requirement should be put in place for at least all new urban buses immediately and which would also help in bringing forward that target for the entire fleet to be zero emissions.

Furthermore, what about other forms of public transport, like ferries and regional trains. What about encouraging e-bikes and zero-emission heavy vehicles. And yes, even electric cars.

Wellington to Lower Hutt Path

Waka Kotahi yesterday announced they’re using a new fast track consenting process to build the Ngā Ūranga to Pito-one section (Ngauranga to Petone) of Te Ara Tupua, the new walking and cycling path that will be built between Wellington and Lower Hutt – very much Wellington’s equivalent of the Auckland’s Skypath and Northern Path. They’ve also released a video showing the new design.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has announced the next steps for Te Ara Tupua, the highly-anticipated harbour-side walking and cycling link between Wellington and Lower Hutt, with consent applications to be lodged in the coming weeks.

The Ngā Ūranga to Pito-one section (Ngauranga to Petone) of Te Ara Tupua will be the first Waka Kotahi project considered under the new fast-track consent process, with applications to be lodged this month. At the same time, Waka Kotahi will begin work to select an alliance partner to build the path.

Waka Kotahi has also unveiled updated designs for the project, which incorporate mana whenua aspirations and community feedback, and address the effects of the project and its construction on the coastal environment.

“The new designs we’re sharing today reflect more than a year’s work to create an environmentally and culturally respectful design that we think the Wellington region will love,” Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight says.

“Te Ara Tupua will be a stunning addition to the Wellington Harbour coastline, and create a step change in the number of people choosing to walk or bike between Wellington and the Hutt. It will make State Highway 2 and the Hutt rail line more resilient and provide the ability to adapt to sea level rise,” says Ms Speight.

“We’ve invested in ecological design changes to preserve sensitive habitats and added new offshore habitat areas, which will offer undisturbed roosting places for birds while the path is being built and when it opens to the public.

Whangarei to Marsden options

Back another lifetime ago in January the government included the Whangarei to Marsden motorway as part of their NZ Upgrade Package. Waka Kotahi are now consulting on the route and it looks like a classic case of making one option look so extremely so that everyone agrees with your preferred option.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has announced a shortlist of two route options for upgrading the Whangārei to Port Marsden State Highway (SH1), with a preferred route to be confirmed by the end of the year. Waka Kotahi is now asking for public feedback on the options presented to feed into decision making.

The project will provide an upgraded 22km four-lane corridor that will improve transport connections between Auckland and Whangārei.


The two options for consultation are to upgrade the current state highway to four lanes (with some sections built on a new alignment to straighten out curves) or to upgrade the current state highway to four lanes with a section built on a new alignment to the west to avoid the coastal marine environment at Oakleigh.

Waka Kotahi is now seeking public feedback on both the urban section of the project between Tarewa Road and Toetoe Road and the two route options in the rural section between Toetoe Road and Port Marsden Highway.

“The last time we talked to the public about upgrading this section of State Highway 1 was in 2017.” At that time, there was strong support for widening the current state highway to four lanes but we need to hear from those new to the project or who didn’t participate in consultation three years ago. The option including a section built to the west of SH1 is a mixture of two route options shortlisted in 2017 so we’re also keen to hear our customer’s thoughts on that.”

They should really be looking at incorporating the rail spur to the port into the project and building that at the same time.

This could be Fanshawe St

Oslo have opened a new tram line through the Bjørvika, an area of urban redevelopment on the city’s waterfront and it looks fantastic – though the cycleways could do with some protection.

Photo: Hans O. Torgersen

This is the kind of look we should be aiming for with Fanshawe St

The image above is even more striking when you see how the area used to look

The new line above is just one part of an existing line. Oslo has six tram lines in total and as of 2019 they moved about 53 million trips a year. On top of that their metro system moves about 119 million trips, buses about 180 million, commuter trains 42 million and ferries 4.4 million for a total over almost 400 million public transport trips annually. That’s the kind of numbers we need to be aiming for.

Here’s another tram shot from Oslo. While some parts of their tram routes are mixed with cars, other parts like below, are more like what we’re talking about with light rail in Auckland where they have a dedicated right of way. Imagine how amazing Dominion Rd would be if we built a grass-lined light rail line down the middle.

Have a good weekend.

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  1. Good point about the buses Matt. Politicians love to make promises that are so far away they don’t actually have to do anything. Why not start buying electric buses from today? Why not subsidise them so they are the same price from today? If they can lock down the entire country in a few days I don’t see why they need to plan 5 years ahead before buying electric buses…

    1. “When Auckland Mayor Phil Goff attended a City Labs C40 meeting in Paris in 2017, he signed the Fossil Fuel Free Streets (FFFS) declaration alongside mayors from major cities including Paris, London, Los Angeles and Mexico City to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and creating a Zero-Emissions Area (ZEA) in the city centre by 2030”.
      2035 is not ambitious considering the portion of the Auckland bus fleet that access the CBD. Similar targets for the government vehicle fleet and vehicles as a whole also need to be made. Progress thus far has been dismal.

    2. The problem with making policies so far away is that if Labour only last one more term then National will probably cancel it. They need to make policies that they can see through in their current term. At least they are contributing money towards it up until then so some of the fleet will be there by the end of the next term.

      1. Would you prefer Labour to spend many millions of our dollars on studies and proposals, and then put the project on the back burner to be resurrected at some time in the future. And no doubt with changed circumstances proceed to spend many more millions on update 1 of the previous plan.

        Or would you prefer, in your words, for National to cancel it, therefore not spending all of that money on unnecessary studies.
        And your proposition is flawed anyway. As I recall it National took over the Waterview tunnel project, improved it from the Labour design, and set about building it.
        I don’t see too many National projects getting the same procrastination and wasteful spending as Labour Light Rail and other pipedream projects. Still, they achieved their aim of sucking the voters in.

        1. Graham – neither a great options but at least there’s a chance of something happening with the former.

          I wouldn’t throw to many stones from within your glasshouse, it looks like National are getting in on the study bandwagon, with a working group proposed to look at AT and Auckland Council.

  2. I was originally quite excited by the e-bus announcement, but then read further and found out that Auckland is already ending new fossil fuel buses from 2025, and Christchurch hopes to have a fully zero-emissions fleet by 2030… 5 years ahead of the Labour plan… So I wonder if the extra funding actually speed anything up, or just subsidise decisions already made…

  3. Does anyone know the full lifecycle cost benefit of electric busses vs diesel for the bus companies or have a link to something like that? I wish (or wish I knew where to find) AT or any of the AK bus companies reports on costs and benefits. Also a lifecycle greenhouse gas output of the two. Obviously there is a reason that the bus companies aren’t going out of their way to only buy electric busses so it must be more expensive for them over the bus lifetime. I think if the c02 ETS price was freed up from its cap at the moment it would help some with that. I know there are hidden benefits but I’m talking as a cold hearted businessman.

    1. I haven’t seen analysis on this either but would be interested to see it.

      Companies will often choose the option that is cheapest in the short term, even if it means paying more in the long term. This may be for a number of reasons that I won’t get into here. Suffice to say that the same motives apply to bus companies.

    2. I understand the lifecycle costs are a bit better than break even at this point. Electric buses cost more up front due the the battery pack, but cost much less in day to day fuel which more than covers the capital difference over the life of the vehicle.

      Another factor is the need to upgrade depots with charging infrastructure, this can often include expensive high capacity power connections to the depot and new substations to handle the demand of charging dozens of buses simultaneously. The best model currently has buses charged overnight, with potential top up charging during the day. That means a depot of 100 buses needs 100 chargers and enough current supply to run them all simultaneously. Again I understand those sorts of costs pay themselves out in the long run.

      Bus companies have capital constraints like any other business, but generally they will go for the cheapest across the life of the operating contract (which is more or less guaranteed for the duration), not the cheapest in the short term. If they know they have to run a new bus for at least seven or eight years, they will be very focused on minimizing whole of lifecycle costs. The flipside is they are on the hook if the vehicle doesn’t last that long, so they’ll want something that is guaranteed to last (or at least has a known renewal cost they can factor in, like batteries).

      So on a multi year bus operating contract, it generally makes sense to be electric going forward. I expect that within five years or so there will be no new diesel buses procured based on market forces alone.

  4. One thing that should be noted is that there is a substantive New Zealand made component to our buses and coaches. No reason why electric buses or coaches would be any different. I would have thought the Labour policy would emphasise this especially the jobs aspect. Also is it possible to convert diesel buses to electric or maybe hybrid. Hybrid would be good for running on electric in city centers where there is a lot of pedestrians around. And what about a return of trolley buses I could imagine the various busways under construction would be ideal as they are following a fixed route.
    I agree the targets are underwhelming. Labour needs a rocket up them on this as it seems an obvious emission reduction policy.

    1. How easy is it to switch between trolley running on overhead wires and no wires battery running? Its easy for light rail with pantographs, but when both conductors are overhead its not so easy. I think the wires look really cool so I would totally support them being used along the entire northern busway route (even into the city). Although trolley busses should 100% have a backup battery so they can move a little bit un-connected if they have to.

  5. Labour’s taken a lot of stick for this new climate policy – too little too late. And it is very little. But I think the critics may not be taking into account the need to learn as we ramp things up, and the potential resistance of the public (and just now, the voters) for more rapid change. As well as $50 million over four years for e-buses, Labour will also increase the low-emission vehicle fund from $6m to $24m a year. Sure it could be 10 times larger, but it’s a start.

    1. Maybe they could actually talk about what other places are doing? Like Groningen:

      From 2022, the Municipality of Groningen will only permit freight traffic to enter the city center in the morning.

      From 2025, ALL city logistics must be zero emission.
      Supply, waste collection, event traffic: all must be done electrically or by bicycle.

  6. I wonder if the supply of buses would be an issue in NZ if it was a closer almost immediate start for all new buses to be zero emission?

  7. That Wellington – Hutt Valley walking and cycle design is beautiful. And It really needs better separation between cyclists and pedestrians. I’ve been for training rides along that stretch of road, and with the wind in the right direction, maintaining 40 or 50 km/h is straightforward.

  8. I realise this idea comes from thinking outside the square but would really like to now if there are any real reasons why with a four lane road the north and south lanes need to be right next to each other. If not how far apart could they be. Build a new road where you want it and make the current road one way in the opposite direction. Further west one north bound, further east one south bound.
    Another option is build a two lane road which bypasses all the small towns and keep both new and old SH1 as one lane in each direction.

  9. Grass-lined – yes!
    Urban designers in this country seem obsessed with hard surfaces. Yes, I know, all very Euro plaza-ish, but not really anymore. Greenness is warmer and more appealing, as well as addressing stormwater and heat island effects.

  10. You need to get a little more realistic on electric buses. Worldwide, there is a massive push for cities to get some nice, new, all-electric green buses – I thoroughly approve. But the commercial reality is difficult, and to be honest, New Zealand is right at the back of the queue – there is a looooong line of cities that have already got their orders in, and just saying “Electric Buses Now!” is not going to work. For a start, they are considerably more expensive than diesel buses – and there are far fewer e-bus companies out there than d-bus companies. Figures vary, but its something like 30% more to 50% more for an e-bus. If you are after 50 new buses, would the public be happier with 30 e-buses only? Or would they rather have 50 buses and an increase in their rates? We don’t have a big chequebook to wave around and go higher up the queue – in fact, we’re lucky we get any at all.

    A quote for you: … “out of almost 425,000 electric buses in operation worldwide at the end of 2018, approximately 421,000 were in China” (, so yes, China rules the market there. Europe and USA are far behind the pack: NZ is nowhere in sight. Understandably, China is keen to supply its huge home market as well as supply the export market – but I think that it is obvious who wins this battle. Big governments: Not us.

    There is an outfit in China where lots of the e-buses come from, BYD, owned by one of the most clever men in China – and hugely driven to succeed, hence his domination of the field. WIRED magazine did a feature on him a couple of years ago – fascinating in terms of how much he strives to dominate the market and succeed.

    In NZ, most of our (few) e-buses have come from BYD, and while we do have some bus-builders in NZ making some buses, it is the clever e-bits that we need to keep importing from overseas. Batteries, yes, but also the techie bits that make it go and not chew through the batteries. We simply don’t have the ability that they do over there. I think Wellington has 4 or 6 e-buses, and has ordered another 10, but they arrive on a drip feed, as the factories over there have so many back orders. Last time I heard, Auckland had only one e-bus, but you’ve probably got a few more now?

    The other thing is that we not only need to build / buy more e-buses, but also build the e-bus recharging stations, and the infrastructure to support those. We have a recharging station in Island Bay (ie at the end of the Number 1 route) and it is (moderately) interesting to see how the bus needs to slowly drive up to it, raise up its double-decker recharging point exactly to the right position, connect, wait 20 minutes till recharged, disconnect, etc (was watching while eating Friday night fush and chups, I wouldn’t normally sit and watch a bus for 20 minutes). Its quite a technical and difficult bit of kit – and as I was watching, I couldn’t help think how much simpler it was when we just had trolley buses which got a continuous flow of electric current, before the idiots at Wellington Regional Council destroyed and removed them.

    1. Guy M: Wellington currently has 10 ebuses (all Tranzurban double-deckers), with a further 98 on order – 31 Tranzurban double-deckers, all planned to enter service October 2022; and 67 NZ Bus single-deckers, all planned to enter service by January 2023.

      1. Thanks Mike – that’s good to hear. Tranzurban note that all their EV double deckers are made by Kiwi Bus Builders in Tauranga, which is great news, but there is nothing at all on Kiwi’s website about this. Which is odd – I would have thought they would be all singing and dancing about something like this. I’m presuming that they import the EV parts from BYD? Can you give an indication of how much extra GWRC had to pay to get them as electric buses instead of diesel?

        Any idea where NZ Bus will get their EV buses from? Their website is fairly devoid of useful information. Nothing at all about EV buses.

        Christchurch, it seems, has a total of 3 EV buses – the Alexander Dennis Enviro200EV bus, which uses BYD electric powertrain. And, outside your remit, but: Auckland? No info on that. But I think they do have one or two – hopefully more? We have a long way to go.

        1. Wellington EV double deckers use equipment from CRRC rather than BYD. I’m guessing that’ll also be the case for the next batch.
          NZ Bus operate 5 electric buses in Tauranga (ADL coachwork on BYD chassis).
          6 Waiheke electrics start next month (2 more due later):

          9 for Auckland Airport – Manukau due in service first half of 2021:

          There are also two electrics operated outside council contracts: one for AUT’s shuttle in Auckland (Tranzit Group) and ex-trolley #361 on the Airport Flyer in Wellington (NZ Bus).
          Tranzit/TranzUrban are also converting two BCI 3-axle double deckers to electric as a trial:

      2. Answering my own question: Auckland has, it seems, at least 3 EV buses – 2 red Link buses and at least one green Link bus. The AT website says that currently Auckland has two electric buses: “built by Yutong in partnership with JW Group, and Alexander Dennis in partnership with BYD,” but I suspect there are more. None made in NZ, it seems.

        Future AT plans are for: “The first six electric buses for Waiheke Island also arrive in the middle of next year from Alexander Dennis & BYD.” and also “12 buses from Zhejiang CRRC Electric Vehicle Co Ltd (China Rail).” That means it is a long way to go to get to the stated aim of: “As part of the Low Emissions Roadmap Auckland Transport plans to only procure low emission buses from 2025 and have a full low emission fleet by 2040.”

        1. If AT is Starting to procuring electric buses now, then it is already five years ahead of its goal to only procure electric buses from 2025.

  11. Good to see the return of opening windows on buses. I caught an RBX bus (seemed new) from Otahuhu to Newmarket and it had windows!! Nice cooling breeze cleaning out any covid floating around. The electric outer links also have opening windows plus noisy aircon.

        1. Ever come across a system that resolves this? Most of the year we wouldn’t need air con if we had opening windows. In the heat of summer, failed air con and no ability to open windows means everyone becomes a swimming pool – breathing even becomes hard with the hot air.

          I guess the solutions are either:

          1/ air con and no opening windows, but a big fleet of spare buses so no bus needs to stay in service if its air con fails.
          2/ air con and opening windows, but the driver needs to flick a switch to choose one or the other.
          3/ opening windows designed for excellent air flow through the bus, no air con, and priority for buses so buses don’t ever get caught in congestion.

          Number 3 would be the most environmentally wise.

  12. On a different topic, I saw on Monday, at Pukekohe, one of the Hamilton/Papakura
    commuter trains, I guess on a test run. It was stopped at Pukekohe, and then went
    north, I guess to Papakura. The consist was remarkably quiet, but the silver/aluminium paint scheme looked very amateurish. Lo and behold, on Wednesday I saw it again, this time at Papakura.
    The previous week I saw, going north through Wiri, the famed DC 4444, between
    a DL and a string of freight wagons. It was in a brillant colour scheme of white,
    orange and blue. Going off to be exported, I guess.

    1. And not the only rail equipment to be exported. I noted 12 older container wagons all nicely stacked up on a cargo sled ready to be loaded onto a ship at Auckland port. Okay so they must have some life left in them pity they are being exported rather than being used by Kiwirail to carry more freight. I suppose if they have too many wagons they would have to drop their freight rates to justify there retention. Sort of yield management or market manipulation. Maintain the monopoly.

      1. I do wonder if the economics for exporting equipment would be different if the plan for shifting freight from road to rail was closer to what it should be. Keeping anything that currently has sufficient life in it to be worth shipping overseas would surely spread the costs of buying the new equipment required over more years.

        I’d love to see photos of this sort of thing next time you notice it, Royce.

        I wonder where Norway will sell these to:

      2. KiwiRail’s wagon fleet is very old – 45% over 36 years – so much of the fleet needs replacing. Older wagons need upgrading to modern standards, cost more to maintain and carry less, so it’s a false economy to carry on using such life-expired stock. That doesn’t, of course, mean that other operators in different environments might not still find a use for them, but they may well be being sold for scrap.

        KiwiRail apparently has funding for new wagons and is looking for 2,000 container flat tops, with 400 due this year.

        Freight rates are largely determined by competitive factors – the days when rail had any sort of monopoly or was able to charge according to the age/condition/number of its assets are long, long gone.

        Yield management is a different concept: NZR looked at it in the late 80s/early 90s, but it was very difficult to see how it could be implemented in a road-dominated market with many potential suppliers, and cost being the primary customer driver for many customers.

        Those Norwegian coaches may well go for scrap, just like the many British coaches currently being replaced by more modern trains. (Since the Scandinavian structure gauge is bigger than the rest of Europe, it’s highly unlikely that they’d fit here!)

      3. Heidi I had my phone but didn’t think to take a photo. Saw them from Quay street then walked a bit further along and there was a stretched semi trailer with another one heading through the port gate. Possibly they are going to Queensland to accompany the locomotives mentioned below for carting rail or sleepers so maybe not for revenue service for Queensland rail. And yes some of them would be very old. However there are some slow speed services where old wagons could be used. I have noticed over the years Kiwirail and its predecessors don’t hesitate to scrap wagons which was where I get the suspicion that they do this to keep their rates up also I expect to lower maintenance costs plus the revenue from the scrap. Its an accountants call to present the best book for a company that is subsidised by the taxpayer. But it seems to me if the tax payer is going to subsidise them then someone should calculate how much putting more freight onto rail would cost. If a benefit could be shown then give them a bigger subsidy. Nobody would mind except a few trucking companies.

    2. And I was done in Tauarumui the other day and saw all these poor and lost carriages that should be upgraded for future passenger services around NZ ;-

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