Yesterday I wrote about the Briefing to the Incoming Minister from the Ministry of Transport. The post was already fairly long, so I left some of the other items for a second post, which is today.

Kiwirail

The Kiwirail BIM is one of the most interesting to me as they are starting to show some ambition for the rail network whereas up until recently most of their focus has been on day to day survival.

Most of the BIM is fairly straightforward, talking about the organisation and the rail network. Where things start to get interesting is when they start talking about sustainability and that includes this section

As well as the new ferries, progress towards a low-carbon future for KiwiRail will likely be dependent on:

  • Further network electrification where the economic and carbon case is clear (usually on intensively used routes).
  • On less intensively used routes where electrification is not justified, a combination of battery and hybrid technologies should be phased in as rolling stock approaches scheduled replacement. This includes:
    • Bi-mode locomotives – can operate on electrified network or diesel engine. Provide continuous journey along partially electrified routes without a change of locomotive and eliminates unnecessary diesel usage.
    • Tri-mode locomotives – combination of bi-mode and hybrid technology in one trainset. Can run on electrified network, diesel engine, and battery power

I think this is the first time we’ve seen them talk publicly about wanting further electrification and looking at hybrid technologies, though they’re still really just monitoring developments in this space. It is however significant given just three years ago they were looking to turn off the electrified section in the Central North Island in favour of running more diesel trains – elsewhere they note that the refurbishment of their existing electric locomotives is expected to be complete by 2023.

It also ties in with the most interesting section which is looking at potential future investments.

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Just a few comments on these:

Electrification – One of the powerful opportunities that things like hybrid technologies allow is that we could then set up an ongoing electrification programme where every year a set amount of funding is provided to wire the network. We currently run bespoke projects where every time we have to bring in the expertise and set up temporary supply chains etc. Overseas, continuous programmes have seen the cost of electrification (per km) fall as it allows rail providers and suppliers to invest in personal, processes and gives certainty to suppliers. Hybrid technologies mean we too can follow that route and mean that we wouldn’t need the entire Auckland to Hamilton corridor to be finished before it’s of any use.

Stratford to Okahukura Line – A paywalled article from BusinessDesk suggests the cost to reopen the line is around $40 million.

Level Crossings – I would hope the $2 billion they suggest includes more than just Auckland as otherwise it would put the cost per crossing at close to $65 million each – which is huge given many will likely just be closed and not grade separated and that Newmarket project a few years ago cost just $10-15 million.

Auckland Metro Network – It’s good to see Kiwirail talking about the need for a fourth main, it’s just a shame it couldn’t be being done at the same time as they’re adding the third.

While not part of this BIM, there was also an interesting article on Stuff that suggests the government are looking at the future state of Kiwirail and if it stays as a commercial entity.

Kiwirail’s future as a commercial state-owned enterprise (SOE) may be numbered in the wake of the impact of the Covid pandemic, a government document suggests.

Ministers have asked the Treasury and the Ministry of Transport to consider Kiwirail’s “entity form”, a briefing paper released by Treasury on Tuesday stated.

“Public benefit expectations and public funding of KiwiRail are increasing and so the SOE Act may not provide sufficient levers to achieve ministers’ ownership objectives for KiwiRail,” the department advised.

Treasury said it wanted to engage with ministers about its objectives and priorities for Kiwirail, “including its corporate form.”

Giving the current and increasing role Kiwirail play, making changes here seems like good idea.


Waka Kotahi NZTA

Waka Kotahi’s BIM isn’t nearly as interesting as Kiwirail’s but there are a few things in there worth noting, such as this map highlighting their current capital projects

They note that some of their big NZ Upgrade Programme projects are due to start construction this year including widening the Southern motorway from Papakura to Drury, Takitimu North Link (Tauranga Northern Link) and Penlink.

Project NEXT, the new national PT payment system gets a mention

Project NEXT is a partnership that aims to procure a national system for paying for public transport tickets – using mobile phones, credit cards or paywave. The integrated national system will replace Auckland’s HOP, Wellington’s Snapper and Canterbury’s metrocards with a single ticketing solution.

Waka Kotahi is the lead agency within the Project NEXT partnership, consisting of ourselves, Auckland Transport, and 11 regional councils. Our role will be to procure the national ticketing solution on behalf of all public transport authorities and to provide back office services.

A streamlined payment system is aimed at increasing public transport use and is one of the many ways Waka Kotahi is looking to make public transport more attractive and to reduce dependency on car travel.

The request for proposal (RFP) for the national ticketing solution was released in April 2020, with responses due back later this year. The RFP evaluation period will then begin, with a view to selecting and contracting with a preferred supplier in 2021.

We would expect the build to commence early to mid 2021, with roll-out from early 2025.

Of course, they already have a ticketing system in use that the explicitly brought to become the national system but they’re starting from scratch.

Tolling – Waka Kotahi are concerned about the funding of the transport system, saying “funding sources are not sufficient to fund the NLTP and/or meet ministerial and stakeholder expectations“. They also say they’re working with the ministry to “to develop road pricing options to secure a sustainable funding stream for the NLTF

Part of that is clearly around tolling as they are keen to make use of it in more situations, noting:

However, with the assessment of Ara Tuhono – Pūhoi to Warkworth, and the introduction of the NZ Upgrade Programme, Waka Kotahi is widening the use of tolling permitted under the existing legislation but also looking to initiate work into the current legislative constraints tolling encounters. This work is the first step to Waka Kotahi working closely with the Ministry of Transport on considering the need for legislative change.

Earlier this year they consulted on tolling the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway when it opens but it appears the actual decision on whether to do so will be up to the government. They also state they are going to do tolling assessments on the big new road projects included in the NZ Upgrade Programme (Penlink, Tauranga Northern Link, Omokoroa to Te Puna, Otaki to North of Levin, Whangarei to Port Marsden and Mill Road). Assessing them for tolling doesn’t mean it will happen – although it’s worth noting the government said when announcing it that Penlink would be tolled.

Let me know if there’s anything that stands out to you that I’ve missed.

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115 comments

  1. Standardised sets of BEMUs battery/overhead bi-mode passenger trains for both AKL and WgTN intercities would be sufficient.
    The gaps without overhead line are short enough on all currently envisioned services to not need the diesel generators too.
    Next step would be to wire up sections of the ECT to Tauranga to enable taking these set there too…

    1. Why not use hydrogen fuel cell passenger trainsets like the Alstrom Coradia iLint which would be more suitable for regional and inter-regional services across the 13 regions that have rail infrastructure connectivity. It is cheaper for a central government agency like the national public transport agency, to ‘buy’ bulk than in small quantities currently being used on a regional basis.

      1. Hydrogen has high cost and technical requirements, including a whole infrastructure for distributing and storing the fuel which New Zealand doesn’t have. Battery dual mode or even tri mode with diesel is technically quite simple. We have very well developed electricity (and diesel) distribution infrastructure.

        I don’t see what the advantage of hydrogen is if we are buying new trains, why not electric?

        Also right now all hydrogen is sourced from fossil fuel. Using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen is too expensive for mass production. Just use the electricity!

        1. Hydrogen is by no means a slam dunk but I think it is worth considering: green hydrogen (produced from renewables) will save more emissions than hybrids, and the argument against full electrification is the capital cost e.g. $370m for Papakura to Pukekohe (albeit with some track work and raising a motorway bridge).

          Hydrogen infrastructure may get rolled out to support hydrogen fueled trucking anyway: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/300160249/existing-gas-pipeline-infrastructure-could-be-key-to-future-hydrogen-refuelling-stations

        2. My comment was in regards to battery electric. Use overhead line directly where it exists (Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton to Palmerston North) and battery where it doesn’t. Short stretches of overhead at terminals and intermediate points (e.g. Tauranga, Kinleith) to top up charge would be at least as cheap as hydrogen fueling stations.

          The $370m for Papakura to Pukekohe isn’t indicative of a normal electrification cost by the way, there is a heap of odd infrastructure changes required there, including rebuilding a motorway. Note that P to P is costing more to electrify that the entire Auckland suburban network did!

        3. Can the battery electric units cover gaps that large and recharge sufficiently while running on the already electrified sections?

          I presume the driver for the Papakura to Pukekohe electrification is to get common rolling stock across the Auckland commuter network. But could we instead replace the EMUs with battery electric units and save the $370m?

        4. Riccardo – BEMU’s currently have range to 150-180kms under 100% battery operation, which means if used in NZ, they have limited operational flexibility on regional and inter-regional services, with the exception of Wellington region, where BEMU operations can be used between Wellington (Waikanae) and Palmerston North and between Wellington (Upper Hutt) and Masterton under 100% battery operation.

          With the Alstrom Coradia Ilint hydrogen fuel cell train sets, that have a range up to 800km on a tank of hydrogen allowing greater operational flexibility for ‘turn up & travel’ regional and inter-regional passenger services across 13 regions that have rail connectivity with a small infrastructure being –

          – Maintenance, stabling and refuelling – Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

          – Overnight stabling and fuel top up – Whangarei, Tauranga, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Picton and Invercargill.

          Alstrom do offer customers various lease options that include the supply of the train sets, maintenance/refueling infrastructure, technology upgrades, driver and maintenance/refueling staff training.

          The above will allow for a standardised and flexible regional and inter-regional passenger train network for the 13 regional plus the job and economical benefits to the regions, as oppose to what we have now.

        5. “and economical benefits”

          Economical and green hydrogen are antithetical. Green hydrogen is a great way of taking renewably-generated electricity and turning most of it into waste heat.

        6. Sure you turn most of it into waste heat. Which could possibly be used in other ways, albeit still inefficiently. But if you really need better density and weight savings then there isn’t much in the way of alternatives. Trains are not one of those places however.

        7. Hydrogen is wasteful on the fuel, but you potentially avoid the wires and pylons needed for electrification, so there is a tradeoff and you’d need to analyse it more to work out which was better here. I know they’ve looked at in a few places in Europe and decided hydrogen was better.

        8. They decided that hydrogen was better because they received EU subsidies and use hydrogen produced by steam reforming natural gas…so what is the problem that these trains are the solution to?

          Electricity can be delivered from a remote generator to the traction motors of a train with an energy efficiency of around 83% using conventional 25 kV overhead wiring.

          The same job can be done with green hydrogen with an energy efficiency of around 20%.

          To use the hydrogen route will require building around four times the wind turbine/ geothermal/PV/ tidal generation capacity as well as hydrogen production, distribution and storage but we are concerned about the capital cost of electrification?

          Hydrogen is a boondoggle waiting in the wings.

          If the issue to be resolved is low traffic routes then batteries with recharge sections close to suitable power supplies and without clearance issues seems much more pragmatic.

        9. I’d say the issue is how we can cheaply achieve emissions free or very low emissions railways without undue operating constraints.

          High volume routes would be a big part of that. Can we make these emissions free with BEMUs and relatively short recharge sections without putting on operating constraints? If so, I’d guess this would be the best option.

          But if not yes I would be concerned about the electrification capex relative to the costs for hydrogen. Hydrogen distribution may be solved by using old natural gas infrastructure, which may happen to support trucking anyway. And my guess is that the rail freight electricity load is fairly small and so the extra generation capacity implications wouldn’t be that big?

          So, if just short recharge sections won’t work I’d like to see some numbers put to it – both opex and capex.

        10. +1 on the study. And that is what it sounds like they are doing / wanting to do. Hopefully impartially.
          BEMU can be significantly upgraded with extra batteries, an additional trailer / wagon that is just a whole heap of batteries would be fairly easy to implement on rail, but I would perfer:

          Prioritise electrifying the sections of track where a lot of energy is expended, long steep grades. Instead of just electrifying 20kms on the end of an electrified section each year you could do a few 10 km sections independently, could save expensive tunnel work too. Keeping the train going once its up to speed isn’t so energy intensive, accelerating and gaining height is. BEMU operations could be significantly upgraded with some strategic infrastructure that could charge on the go a bit and take the grunt work out of it.

        11. “Can we make these emissions free with BEMUs and relatively short recharge sections”

          Considering that BEMUs don’t carry freight, the answer is no.

          “Hydrogen distribution may be solved by using old natural gas infrastructure”

          Very unlikely since it would require an instantaneous switch from natural gas to hydrogen for all users. In some cases hydrogen cannot be substituted for natural gas (eg where endothermic cracking of natural gas is the requisite outcome rather than exothermic combustion).

        12. Sherwood, they actually designed and approved the pukekohe electrification using battery electric trains, but changed to overhead line at the last minute. Not sure why.

          Kris, that battery electric range would allow Auckland to Wellington and any points in between, and auckland to Whangarei or tauranga with a charging section at each end. Importantly it allows a very easy transition to more/fully electric. It’s used extensively in Japan.

        13. MFD did you read the link I posted above? The gas pipeline owners seem to think there is potential for using it to transport hydrogen.

      2. Kris
        Hydrogen power can take trains up to 1000km range, but as Richard said requires high cost and some serious issues for fuel storage.

        Battery powered trains can now reach 100km range and at much lower cost. So you would only go to hydrogen if you had long range issues.

    1. Tolls work best on a distinct stretch of road with reasonable time savings, of those on the list only Penlink and Puhoi to Warkworth stand out.

      1. Transmission Gully fits that definition exactly, it’s likely they aren’t tolling it cos they know then it will have humiliatingly low numbers using it. Especially to justify its now revealed actually cost.

        Which brings into question the whole economic basis of a great deal of highway funding; people don’t value time savings at the level that justifies much of the highway building done in this country.

  2. Re: Project NEXT. Why are they looking at a single card only for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch? All other cities in New Zealand are already in the process of moving the the Bee card (making it one card outside the big 3 cities). Surely either Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch could move to using the Bee card as well, or and replacement solution should also replace the Bee card used around the rest of the country.

    1. Yes exactly, there should be one nationwide system for all PT (including requiring it be used for other services over a certain size too)

      1. There is one ticketing system designed for a nationwide rollout, HOP. But unfortunately…Wellington. So now there’s a whole lot of unnecessary duplication and cost. The new Te Huia train will require two cards.

        1. Kris , and don’t forget the Gold card in the Afternoon between Britomart and Papakura , then Beecard from Papakura to Hamilton .

      1. Beecard is only a temporary solution until NZTA can get its act sorted out an rollout a national ‘open’ tap & travel payment/ticketing system.

        At least Beecard can be used in 9 regions, unlike HOP, Snapper and Metrocard.

        1. Last I had heard was that was part of the plan. Still need transport card option though as not everyone will have a paywave bank card, especially children and also bankcards won’t allow for the free travel for over 65s.

        2. – Slower to tap on and off
          – Startup more expensive CAPEX because you have to integrate with multiple payment providers
          – Ongoing more expensive OPEX because the card providers want to take a cut per transaction
          – Much more expensive CAPEX and OPEX because you have to maintain compatibility with a stored value card system (like HOP) for all the users that don’t have debit/credit cards (children, seniors etc.)

        3. Jezza – There will be a branded ‘tap n travel’ card for concession fares like child, Supergold (65+), disability, community card, etc and for those who only have a ATM EFTPOS card.

    2. Bruno – Christchurch could be using Beecard, as the current payment/ticketing being used is a ‘stored value’ card system, provided by the same company Init that is behind the Beecard system.

        1. A Metrocard is still a ‘stored value’ card which you have to place on the ticket machine to deducted the fare, as oppose to using tap on/tap off scanners.

          I have a HOP, Snapper, Beecard, Metrocard and PTV Myki cards.

        2. Tag-on/tag-off doesn’t define a smart card, it is simply a method of determining what fare should be charged.

          Ecan chose a different method where the majority of trips happen within one zone so tagging off isn’t needed. The metrocard is just as much a smart card as HOP and Snapper are.

        3. jezza – There are 3 fare zones in Christchurch being 3 bus zones and a ferry special zone.

          When you board a bus, you place your Metrocard on the ticket machine and tell the driver how many zones you want to travel. There is a 2 hour window for transfers.

          The ‘tap on/tap off’ system is better a better system for convenience.

        4. I’m well aware of that as I lived in Chch for a number of years. The majority of bus travel happens entirely within zone 1, which makes not having tag-off more viable.

          There are pros and cons to each system, however the Metrocard is very much a smart card.

        5. Jezza – Busit Hamilton city services with covers most of the city’s suburbs is a 1 fare zone and its tap on/tap off, so I am not sure what your point is.

          With a tap on/tap off system, the Waikato Regional Council and like with any other regional councils that use ‘tap & travel’ payment/ticketing systems, have passenger travel data for forward planning and delivery where is the system the ECan is using only gives boarding giving the regional limited travel data.

    3. “… only for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch?”
      The nine councils implementing the Bee Card are part of Project NEXT.
      Bee = temp stopgap

      1. But why did they need this “temporary stopgap” which just duplicates HOP’s functionality? Why did they have to reinvent something that already existed? For a small country of only 5 million, we sure like to complicate things and waste money in the process.

        1. It needs to be an ‘open’ system like Opel in Sydney, Oyster in London, etc to allow the use of Visa, Mastercard and American Express transactions.

          HOP, Snapper and Beecard systems are ‘closed’ payment/ticking systems.

  3. Kiwirail really need to improve their resilience and attitude if they are to become a credible long haul freight operator for all but a few of their large customers.

    My company shifted hundreds of containers annually by rail but have had to reluctantly change to road. The killer was the Kaikoura earthquake closures but even before that it was diffcult to justify using KR given their appalling customer service.
    They have no appreciation of the impact of delays on their customers. If you have a ship cut-off to meet, being told they’d cancelled your booking because Fonterra needed the space (which happened constantly during the busy season) just doesn’t wash.
    Hopefully along with the much needed infrastructure the culture of the organisation can also be dragged into the 21st century.

    1. For so many years they have (accurately) seen their role as providing palliative care for a rail network in managed decline. It’s going to take years to develop a more aspirational culture as an organisation.

      1. “Seen their role as…” is a polite way of “being too underfunded to even afford proper last rites for the dying”.

        So yes. I don’t think we can blame them for still having some of these defensive and unambitious attitudes (especially when many in National – who will *eventually* come back in as the govt) still consider rail that way.

        We’ve seen it with other modes as well – it takes a decade or so of institutional and political investment to really make proper progress on institutional culture. Like they have (sort of) achieved with PT in AT and have failed to do on cycling

  4. I think once the government hits the go button on the Lake Onslow pumped hydro system then we will see the NIMT and ECMT electrified very soon after/concurrently.
    The question then becomes do you upgrade Wellington to AC?

    I’d still like to see trains to Huapai/Helensville so that is another possibility for electrification or BEMUs

    Surely the motorway extension to Warkworth will be rolled like the rest of it is past Orewa? Won’t be any public objections to it really and might as well help make it pay it’s way.

    1. “The question then becomes do you upgrade Wellington to AC?”
      The answer is nope, add a few more traction feeds for the 1600v dc and call it a day, one of the major advantages of ac is the significantly fewer feeds, all of the Auckland metro network can be powered off one feed, once you already have a whole lot of feeds I cant see there being much more of an advantage, heavier trains perhaps? but in NZ that’s not a huge issue anyway, especially on a cities metro network. The 25kvac needs more clearance, lots of tunnel work in wellington, and dual mode trains are an established tech.

      1. Dual voltage locomotives can be used between either Palmertson North or Waikanae to Wellington with out changing locomotives.

        With regards to EMU’s it can be battery/electric or dual voltage.

        Hydrogen fuel cell passenger trainsets like the Alstrom Coradia iLint would be more suitable for regional and regional services.

        1. Palmerston North is a logical point to change from AC to DC. Only through running services would likely be freight and tourism based trains therefore slowing/stopping is expected. The question would be whether extending DC that far makes sense

        2. Omega – I think it is feasible that well into the future regional commuter services could terminate at Feilding rather than Palmerston North.

        3. Omega – Since the tourism market as we knew it prior to COVID19 has gone. The future of tourism will be small with 1-2 million tourists per year, so the so call ‘tourism’ passenger train in the North Island between Auckland and Wellington being the Northern Explorer, will be come a limited stop ‘book & travel’ service as oppose to the proposed Northern Connector ‘stop at all stations’ and/or localised ‘turn up & travel’ regional and inter-regional services like between Hamilton and Palmerston North, Wellington and Palmerston North. Palmerston North and New Plymouth, etc.

        4. From the evidence I’ve seen so far this year things will return to normal as soon as it’s possible, I’d expect this to be the same with tourism.

          Volumes might start off small but I’d expect them to return to 4 million + per year unless we actively try and change it.

        5. Jezza – Are you sure that things will return to normal as soon as it’s possible?

          Have a read – https://www.executivetraveller.com/news/digital-travel-pass-app-will-show-covid-test-results-vaccination

          Have you factor in that SARS-cov-2 virus is still mutating that could affect current SARS-cov-2 vaccines ineffective?

          Have you factor in that the planet is warming every second of every day that will have affect on weather patterns, melting of the planet’s ice and permafrost regions releasing more methane and viral and bacterial pathogens that have laid dominant for thousand of years creating more global health pandemics and the impact of global economies which is going to affect global air travel and tourism?

          The current SARS-cov-2 global pandemic has given use a glimpse of what is to come, so countries including NZ need to start thinking on they will adapt to the looming challenges and tourism is not at the top of the list.

        6. I have taken both of those factors into account but I’ve also accounted for human nature.

          The virus may well mutate and become endemic like many other viruses. However, I can’t see how that would curtail travel unless borders remain closed. It has become very clear this year that once restrictions are lifted people return to previous behaviours.

          As for climate change, it should curtail travel but it didn’t prior to 2020 and I don’t see any reason why it will in the near future.

        7. jezza – I think you need to take off your ‘here and now’ glasses. Did you read the link regarding what IATA (International Air Transport Association) is working on. Also the the CEO of Qantas has been in the media saying any international travel on Qantas will need proof of a SARS-cov-2 vaccination unless there is a country to country travel bubble.

          Until all 8 billion humans have been vaccinated incuding the anti vax humans, there will by tight boarder control by all countries using the ‘no vaccine/no enter’ policy.

          The reality is global passenger travel is going to more difficult and expensive, especially there is more global health pandemics due to planet warming.

        8. I’m with jezza on this. IATA are painting a bleak picture because they want another financial rescue package for its members.
          If you look at places like China, where COVID is pretty much under control, airline flights are only down 3% on week 49 2019 (data as of the 14th December). Evidence suggests that People are going to fly as soon as it’s safe – probably by late q2 21.

        9. I think things would largely get back to normal if the vaccines prove to be effective and just about everyone gets vaccinated. But if the vaccine efficacy isn’t as good as it looks now or the uptake is low then an open border might mean some ongoing limited outbreaks and perhaps ultimately even some deaths. In which case the politics of re-opening the border fully could get interesting.

        10. Jezza – another factor is that the whole airline industry will be struggling for some time. Last year more than 30 airlines few to NZ – some will go bust, meaning less competition and higher prices. Business travel will be slower to recover, as it was after the GFC, but moreso now that videoconferencing is better. Business class is far more profitable to airlines.

        11. Which of the airlines flying to NZ do you think will go bust? Most of them are sold blue chip or govt backed entities, they may pull back from servicing NZ for the time being, with the possible exception of MAS, I don’t think any will.

      2. Clearance is a non-issue. The difference required can be as little as about 2.5mm with no pollution to as much as 8mm, with heavy conductive pollution.

        Also, an air gap of 20mm has a theoretical breakdown voltage of 43.27KV. Eyeballing the Auckland insulators and distances to earths, it’s well over 100mm, which has a theoretical breakdown of ~162KV.

        Short answer, as long as the existing clearances in Wellington are more than 20mm no changes in clearances required.

        1. Omega – The Green party’s plan around the lower NI regional trains is to extend them to Whanganui, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their plan eventually gathers steam and political support, so that in say 15 years time, Whanganui is the terminus.

  5. With the level crossings I seem to remember in the UK where I did see a level crossing it was much more significant than our little barrier arm. From memory a decent thickness steel double arm the whole width of the road on each side. It slotted into a barrier on the other side meaning there was no way to get around it. From there it was fenced both sides too. That combined with a camera to alert trains if someone is trapped in between might be a cheap solution for the short to medium term.

      1. That is one investment I wish rail in NZ would make. Would stop vandalism, track access and people/animals being hit by trains away from recognised crossings.

      2. I have seen the same on various Doco’s about the british network but they still have people that want to harm themselves getting over/through those fences . And there is alot of NZ rail estate fenced many to stop stock from getting onto the tracks , but like most animals they find the grass etc is better than where they are .

  6. Has anything been stated on the quality and maintance of the rolling stock, bogies & wheels?

    How much of the excess damage to the Auckand rail network was caused by badly maintained freight wagons?

    1. Good question! Likely barking up the wrong tree though, since KR is of the opinion that wear became more pronounced after the EMUs were put into service… Backed up by their substantial body of knowledge of wear patterns on some rather heavy trains down south (big coal).

        1. I understand there’s been an as yet unreleased report into the cause of the issue and it found it has nothing to do with wheel profiles and is due to Kiwirail running the maintenance network like it was a low volume freight line. Also that issues exist elsewhere on the network but Auckland is more pronounced due to the higher volume of traffic.

        2. @Matt. Interesting. That will back up the report from Opus(?) last year warning about the maintenance not getting done.

      1. Given KR approved the design of the EMU’s I assume they have someone holding up a mirror when they’re pointing the finger of blame?

  7. Its good to see the Stratford okahukura line being mentioned. closing a major export provinces’ rail link to the main export ports of the north was purely political and benefited nobody except the trucking companies on SH3.

    1. $40 million is the figure being quoted for restoration which is peanuts compared with many road projects. For instance and very relevant, the Mt Messenger deviation is a $200 million project. The problem is we are coming out of a very long period when rail was seen as a liability so there is a decades long backlog of maintenance and development. As shown again by the Auckland rail track fiasco.

  8. Maybe we need a North Island port strategy or maybe we already have an informal one. Tauranga for the majority of North Island exports and Auckland, Tauranga and in the future Marsden Point for the Majority of Imports. So $40 million for reopening the SOL seems obvious. As does a spur to Marsden Point. I see Gisborne is upgrading their wharves and is thinking about containers for coastal shipping presumably export containers to Tauranga.
    Kiwirails hub at Palmerston North becomes critical to marshal export containers and run them up to Tauranga and also to distribute imports coming down the NIMT from Auckland. So if the SOL is to be reopened we would need the likes of Toll and Mainfreight to be aboard and Kiwirail to provide the wagons and trains to divert some of the large amount of freight sent each night on truck from Auckland to Taranaki on to rail. So does this tell us where the money should be spent certainly if electrification is to be pursued both the ECMT and the Auckland Hamilton section of the main trunk should be priority. Trains of exports from Palmerston North to Tauranga port and trains of imports from the Warehousing epicenter of South Auckland to the Palmerston North freight hub.

    1. Agree with most of your comment. One thing I’d add though is that every time a ship berths there will be imports and exports, it’s inefficient to do just one.

      The market ultimately decides what goes where. The obvious example being Metroport where PoT are able compete with PoA due to backload rates for imports available on ships coming in to take exports out.

      1. Don’t know about the market more like the shipping companies but I am sure they take the freight on offer into account. And yes the Metroport trains is the other heavily trafficked route. And of course all ships are export/import just as the railway carries freight both ways.
        If coastal shipping can transfer containers to export and import ports to and from Gisborne it could remove heaps of road traffic between Gisborne and Napier and Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty.

        1. The shipping lines are a part of the market, albeit a very powerful part of it. They go where there customers want their cargo to be delivered.

        2. Sorry when people start talking about markets I remember Ruth Richardson and feel ill. If Market forces were the only force there wouldn’t be a railway and we would have everything being trucked. Sometimes Nations and organisations needs a plan to draw them together. There seems to be a consensus developing between Kiwirail its customers the ports and the various trucking companies as to what needs to be done. Kiwirail is looking at its whole network not just the most profitable parts. For instance the road/rail container yards at Otiria and Kawerau and even Wairoa has being mentioned. The new containers for domestic freight are so much better than their predecessors suddenly using them is making sense for customers and trucking companies whereas in the past the treated with derision. In addition they fully utilise the whole of the deck space on the wagons.

        3. @Royce
          I like to think about it in a math perspective. Market forces are like a ball on a smooth surface where there are various dips that represent the optimal solutions. Some deeper (more optimal) than others. However the ball gets stuck in dips, when there are other deeper, more optimal dips. Sometimes there needs to be a hand to move the ball up and put it on track to find a better optimal solution. Getting a transport corridor built would not happen in a world where this hand did not exist, but after we’ve moved up and cleared the houses and built the infra, then market forces can return and find the new, more optimal than before solution.

        4. If market forces were the only forces it would be too expensive to truck heavy goods over long distances without the taxpayer subsidizing the state highway network. You’d see a lot more rail activity if trucking companies and private motorists had to pay a market price for their road use.

  9. When I went down SH4 to Taumarunui in October the SOL had a piece missing across the road namely a bridge and now the only things that use the line are Golf carts . and after seeing a number of comments KR’s ceo would like to be reopened in case there are problems with NIMT further south . ;-

      1. What I have from the locals it was the piles either side of te rad that were at fault as thet couldn’t carry the wieght of the bridge it’s self .

        1. What I have heard from the locals it was the piles either side of the road that were at fault as they couldn’t carry the wieght of the bridge it’s self .

    1. This is an item from scoop dated Thursday, 4 July 2019, ;- Re-opening Stratford-Okahukura line priority for KiwiRail CEO

      July 4 (BusinessDesk) – A $40 million project to reopen the mothballed Stratford to Okahukura rail line is a priority for new KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller.

      The line, shut since a derailment in 2009, is the only alternative north-south rail link should the main trunk line through National Park ever be shut by a natural disaster. It is also a commercial opportunity for Fonterra, forestry companies and other firms looking for a faster flow of Taranaki exports north to Auckland or Tauranga. ;-

      https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1907/S00132/re-opening-stratford-okahukura-line-priority-for-kiwirail.htm

  10. As long as the enabling works for the forth main (e.g. bridge spans) are done when the third main is installed, timing of installation of the track and signalling can be argued.

    It’s when we don’t plan for the inevitable (e.g. North Western Busway/Light Rail Corridor) that people get excited/upset.

    1. Most of the bridges on the southern line were made with space for the third main when they were rebuilt for electrification but will need a rebuild or additional spans for a 4th main

  11. The Stratford to Okahukura Line would be very handy if someone in Stratford wanted to send something to Okahukura. But it would also be useful if someone in Okahukra wanted to send an item to Stratford.

    1. “To the door of an inn in the provincial town of N. there drew up a smart britchka—a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. In the britchka was seated such a gentleman—a man who, though not handsome, was not ill-favoured, not over-fat, and not over-thin. Also, though not over-elderly, he was not over-young. His arrival produced no stir in the town, and was accompanied by no particular incident, beyond that a couple of peasants who happened to be standing at the door of a dramshop exchanged a few comments with reference to the equipage rather than to the individual who was seated in it. “Look at that carriage,” one of them said to the other. “Think you it will be going as far as Moscow?” “I think it will,” replied his companion. “But not as far as Kazan, eh?” “No, not as far as Kazan.” With that the conversation ended.”

  12. Hmmm – Waka Kotahi are concerned about the funding of the transport system, saying “funding sources are not sufficient to fund the NLTP and/or meet ministerial and stakeholder expectations“.

    i.e: The government recently declined the annual inflation adjustment in the fuel excise tax.

    There is also no reason RUCs cant be applied to electric & hybrid vehicles – even if in a graduated manner to maintain a benefit to those motive sources.

    Road pricing will come, its more efficient, but there’s room to play with fuel excise taxes in the meantime.

    The first statement implies higher funding per capita – this would have to mainly come from fuel excise/RUC or road pricing. This is not needed. Congestion tolls can be introduced and then road pricing. These will cap peak demands reducing the PT subsidy and the need for expensive road based capital infrastructure improvements.

  13. One might also add that working from home is likely to become more common even once covid19 is gone. The pandemic has shown the technology is just good enough now and it will continue to improve. A further reason to see lower peak demands and reduced funding needed for peak traffic related works

    1. Work from home has had no discernible impact on aucklands motorway congestion in my non scientific experience. Now would be the time it would be most likely to because of the slight lingering covid threat. There is still significant advantage to in person work, that even zero latency VR I don’t think would alleviate.

    2. My experiences on the M25 during and after England’s 2nd lock down disagrees with this statement.

      Covid has forced the UK into card and many working from home are chomping at the but to get back into the office.

      1. Half my team was already working at home prior to Covid 19, then the rest of us were forced into it. I’ve found it good in some ways (obviously saving money on transport), but have felt socially dislocated from colleagues, a feeling shared by a number of my colleagues, so actually my Team Leader is checking with management if we can be back in the office 1-2 days a week. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people working from home are feeling the same.

        1. My Auckland office has always been flexible, but has this month asked all the work from homers (90% of our staff) to start coming in to the office 3 days a week for “culture” and “communication” reasons. Our productivity hasn’t declined since March. But WFH doesn’t suit everyone.

  14. Currently the national rail network is under utilised and whilst Kiwirail is both the national rail infrastructure operator and the train operator, nothing much is going to happen, especially when it comes to the re-introduction of regional, inter-regional and lessor extent new urban and long distance passenger heavy and/or light rail train services.

    The government needs to decide if NZ needs a strategically important national steel highway network which is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than roads, in addition the current national state highway and regional roads networks that is currently administered by NZTA.

    If the answer is yes, then the national rail infrastructure (track, tunnels, bridges, signalling, stations, etc and train control) needs to be separated from Kiwirail Ltd and be a crown entity (Ontrack 2.0) under the Ministry of Transport, like Network Rail in the UK or Vicrail in Victoria, operating as a not for profit ‘open access’ network to any train operator whether its a heritage rail, freight, passenger or freight/passenger, who pay a track access fee/s, which is reinvested back into the network. Ontrack 2.0 would have the ability to ask the government of initial funding to upgrade the rail infrastructure network and for any ongoing major capital work either as direct funding or as loans.

    Kiwirail becomes a train operator using the business model similar to Air NZ, operating its existing freight and 3 scenic passenger train services.

    With Ontrack 2.0 being a crown entity, in association with the crown entity – national public transport agency (Public Transport Aotearoa), will allow the introduction of light rail, new urban passenger rail services and the re-introduction of regional and inter-regional passenger train services.

    With regards to Project NEXT, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it is essential to have a nationwide open ‘tap & travel’ payment/ticketing system for all ‘turn up & travel’ urban, semi rural, rural, regional and inter-regional bus, train and ferry travel from Kaitaia to Oban by making it easy to travel with no fuse for infrequent or frequent travelers.

    This ‘open’ payment/ticketing system, along with a national travel and information website and mobile phone travel app would be administered by the crown entity – Public Transport Aotearoa.

    1. I totally agree that Kiwirail needs to be split up again. The operational part can then focus on making a profit as per a normal company and pay “rail user fees” just like trucking companies pay road user fees.

      The infrastructure part which is a strategic asset should be treated as such with set yearly budgets and no expectation of making a profit etc. T

      This also means that the track can be opened up to private operators. There is no reason why rail in NZ should not be open access as rail is becoming in Europe. If anyone can compete on the roads and in the skies, then there should be competition on the rails too. Kiwirail should be just another operator. They show no motivation when it comes to passenger services so in my opinion, a motivated private operator might just offer a better option when it comes to future regional pax services. Private freight operators in the market would also hopefully give Kiwirail the kick up the backside in terms of attitude and initiative to make them a better organisation too.

      Doing away with Ontrack and re-combining all parts of the railway industry back into one under Kiwirail was one of the very worst things the Helen Clark govt did.

      1. There are already heritage operators running infrequent services nation-wide. Dunedin Rail was running regularly scheduled tourist services on the rail network as well as their own tracks. KiwiRail doesn’t own or operate the commuter services in Auckland or Wellington. And there was that Antipodean Explorer service that was supposedly going to run tourist passenger services the length of the country using their own rolling stock.

        So there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of restrictions when it comes to passenger rail services. Do we know the same isn’t true for freight too?

        Is there actually some rule that says no one but KiwiRail can operate freight services on the national rail network? Or is no one doing it because there is no money in it?

        1. David & Luke – Just ask heritage rail museums about trying to get access to the national rail network to operate rail excursions. Kiwirail just makes access very difficult usually citing that their freight services could be disrupted or there is not sufficient slots available, despite there could be one or two day time freight services. When the original Ontrack was responsible for the national rail infrastructure, they were very co-operative and supportive to heritage rail museums,

          Since Kiwirail ‘own’ the national rail infrastructure network, their trains have priority access, so in essence it is a ‘closed’ network, if a train operator is going to compete with any Kiwirail freight or scenic passenger train services other than the 3 regional council metro train services.

          With regards to Auckland and Wellington metro train services and the Waikato’s Te Huia train service, NZTA reimburses the 3 regional councils for track access fees as part of the operating subsidies

      2. Simon – Mainfreight and Owens are strong supporters of bulk and semi bulk rail freight and initially would have like to operate their own rail freight services but this was dropped when Ontrack was absorb into Kiwirail Ltd.

        What I gather, Mainfreight and Owens had initial discussions with Pacific National – an in state and interstate rail freight operator to operate their rail freight services under contract.

  15. “The gas pipeline owners seem to think there is potential for using it to transport hydrogen.”

    Read carefully. Firstgas Group received a Government Provincial Growth Fund grant of $260,000 in 2019. They also expect to have a stranded asset some time in the future. Of course they are going to investigate possibilities, especially when they are getting taxpayer money for it.

    As for Andrew Clennett’s statement:
    “Hydrogen could also support decarbonisation of our electricity network by allowing excess energy to be stored in the form of hydrogen and then converted back into electricity at peak times or during times when the hydro lakes are low,”

    Well, yes, it could, but he neglected to add that it would demonstrate an appallingly low round-trip efficiency and be woefully uneconomic…but it’ feeds our energy minister’s beliefs and it may result in further taxpayer funding of Clennett’s business.

    It’s modern day snake oil. Claudius and Carnot should be our guides rather than companies with vested interests.

    1. All sorts of modern technologies have got their start through government seed money. Getting some initial support is no proof it’s a dud opportunity.

      It’s a separate issue from rail applications, but I agree it is hard to see hydrogen being used to substitute for hydro lakes. Pumped hydro is a better option for providing additional capacity for a flexible, demand responsive electricity supply here.

  16. I have a question , as there is need to use Hydrogen for all these vehicles will the Gas be replace through other ways by Nature or is it once it burn’t thats it similar to fossile fuels ? . So in a few centuries the Greenies will then be complaining that human race has again destroyed the world . And the oxygen rate will be so high anyone with fautly wiring that arcs will be gausing massive explosions , and if they suck out of water will we get longer drought periods ? . And the human body can only absorb so much oxygen to survive .

    1. Hydrogen does not occur naturally in the desired quantities. There are two main ways to produce it artificially, through burning natural gas under specific conditions, which releases co2 in the process. Or electrolysing water and separating h2o into h2 and o. The oxygen would be released or stored for something else eventually finding its way into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen produced could fuel our things. You would burn or react the hydrogen with oxygen turning it back into h2o. Overall from the renewable electrolysing method there is no gain or loss into the atmosphere of any gases in the end. So no net effect or “greenies” to worry about.

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