This guest post was first published by Nicolas Reid on his Linked In page.
There has been a bit of discussion recently about the potential for a night train between Auckland and Wellington, so I thought I would look into what a North Island sleeper service might involve and whether it could be a good idea.
I consider myself something of a first-hand specialist on sleeper trains. I love long distance train travel and in my backpacking days I, er, slept my way right across Australia, Asia, Europe and America. I’ve done everything from six hours ‘sleeping’ in a chair on the night train to the salt flats in Bolivia, to an almighty six-day train trip from Mongolia to Moscow on the famed Trans-Siberian railroad.
For the passenger, the ability to sleep through long overnight travel in comfort is the main attraction of a sleeper train. This is obviously a good alternative to a long overnight car or bus trip, which can range from unpleasant on a bus, to downright dangerous behind the wheel. But it can also be a good alternative to a much shorter daytime flight: once you factor in eight hours or so spent sleeping anyway and the time taken getting to and from remote airports and checking in, a night train can be effectively faster than flying on the right corridor.
Who takes sleeper trains?
So what is the point of a night train and who are the target markets? Based on these experiences travelling overseas I think there are five kinds of people who use night trains:
- People with little money who want to get the best deal they can, students and backpackers, including travelling overnight sleeping in a chair. They are looking to travel cheaper than flying or driving and are happy to waste their time and comfort to do so.
- Enthusiasts who do it for the romance and experience of train travel, most of whom are happy to spend far more time and money than flying, but expect comfortable/luxurious private cabins and premium food and drink.
- Mid-range tourists and business users who travel overnight to save the cost of a nights accommodation and to maximise their daylight hours travelling. They expect reasonable comfort and access to reasonable food and drink and facilities like showers and luggage.
- People who are socially/environmentally conscious and try to avoid flying or driving too much. They have similar expectations to the mid range tourists.
- People who are afraid of flying (I swear half of Amtrak users are in this group, the fear of flying is strong in the American Midwest!)
Looking at this, there’s probably a reasonable demand base from a broad range of users, which is a good thing for a business if you can serve them all with the same product.
So which kind of route works?
Any good long-distance trains need to be anchored at both ends with major demand centres that drive two-way traffic across the year. This means trains between big cities. Smaller towns and tourist destinations that are seasonal or have little non-tourist activity outside of a couple of peak weeks will struggle to support trains alone, so these are best as stops on the way between to strong anchors. The best route for a sleeper train is between a pair of main cities that have a few other towns on the way.
What sort of schedule should sleeper trains have?
In my experience night trains work best on routes that are ten to twelve hours long, with a departure around 7pm to 9pm and an arrival around 7pm to 9am. Less than that and it is too rushed and compressed, you don’t have time to sleep for eight hours, and you end up either leaving after midnight or arriving at 4am, etc. But go much longer than twelve hours and you feel you are wasting time by leaving too early or arriving too late, and feel the need for lounge cars and other things to occupy your waking time. Interestingly there are quite a few examples of night trains that actually stop and park on a siding for several hours to extend a route that is too short to give a convenient timetable.
A key success factor for sleeper trains, in my experience, is that the timetables need to have a long non-stop section in the middle during the overnight hours. This is because stopping and starting trains and blowing whistles at stations constantly wakes everyone up every half an hour all night, and very few people want to get on and off a train between about 10pm and 6am anyway. Having caught the odd one at 3am I can say there isn’t much sleeping involved that night, and much more the next. Also, running every night of the week, and in both directions every night, is ideal as it gives people the opportunity to travel when they need to. The fact is most business travelers, weekenders, tourists on short trips, students etc. don’t actually have the ability to wait around a day or two for when the train is actually running. The only people who can do that are premium tourists who book well in advance and plan their whole trip around the train.
A scheduled train both ways between Auckland and Wellington every night?
Accordingly there is at least one route in New Zealand that clearly meets the criteria for a successful night train, Auckland – Wellington. There are some other routes that might work but I’ll stick to this most obvious one for now.
This has the strongest demand for travel between two main centres in the country, linking the largest city in the country to the third largest, and the economic capital to the political and cultural capital. It is also on a route that can take in two main centres along the way, Hamilton and Palmerston North. This also has the right distance and route length at around eleven hours travel time each way. This gives it the right timing to create an overnight route that’s long enough for sleep, but its still short enough that it can leave and arrive at convenient hours.
My suggestion is to run two trains a night, one each way. And to run both directions every night of the week. The southbound train would depart Auckland at 8pm, picking up extra passengers at Pukekohe, Huntly and Hamilton. After the final pickup stop at Hamilton at 10:30pm it would the run non-stop overnight to Palmerston North, with the first arrival at 6:30am, followed by stop at Paraparaumu and arriving in Wellington at 8:15am. In the northbound direction it would do the same thing in reverse, Depart Wellington at 8pm, stop at Paraparaumu then a last pick up at Palmerston North at 9:45pm, before running non stop overnight to Hamilton for the first drop off at 5:45am, followed by Huntly and Pukekohe for an arrival in Auckland at 8:15am. These non-stop sections in between allow passengers the chance to sleep as the train makes its way through the thinly populated centre of the North Island. This does mean the train skips potential stops such as Te Kuiti, Taumaranui and Ohakune, but on a night train these would be reached deep in the middle of the night so it’s unlikely many people would want to get on or off anyway.
If you look closely, you can see I’ve timetabled Hamilton to Palmerston north at eight hours, which is actually about two hours more than it takes on a direct run. This is so the trains can park in a siding for a couple of hours early in the morning (Taumaranui or National Park village would be the place to do that). This has a couple of reasons: it stretches the run time so that the departure at one end isn’t too late or the arrivals at the other aren’t too early, it gives passengers a full eight hours in the middle without others getting on and off in which to sleep, it gives a good place for the train crews to take a break and swap staff, and it builds some fat into the timetable so that if there are any delays getting away they can make up the time overnight.
Service classes of cabins and seats
My suggestion is an Auckland-Wellington sleeper with a three-class service with three price brackets, to sever a range of users markets. In my experience a three-class offering in the most common around the world. So these three price ranges would be:
- First class sleeper, with luxury private cabins with one or two people per cabin and ensuite bathroom. This would come with a sit-down restaurant-style food and drink service, and personal host service. This targets the luxury tourists and some of the business travellers.
- Standard class sleeper, with more compact mid-range cabins with up to four people per cabin, (e.g. bunks with two up two down), or maybe compact two-bunk and single options. These would probably have shared toilet and shower facilities, and self-service café counter food and drink options. This is for the mid-range tourists and business users and the environmentally conscious types.
- Economy class: open carriage with large reclining seats in 2+1 arrangement (NZ trains are quite narrow so getting four across would be a squeeze). These would likewise have shared toilet and self-service café food and drink options. This is for the backpackers, class trips and budget conscious.
Train carriages and capacity
Based on similar sized trains overseas each train carriage would fit about eight cabins, or 54 seats in the economy carriage. So first class is up to 16 people per carriage, standard class is 32 per carriage, and economy is 54 seated. I’ll assume each train consists of seven carriages and a locomotive, to easily fit in existing station platforms. I’ve not assumed there is need for a separate baggage car as people will take luggage with them into the cabin or above their seat. This gives us something like this for each train, with capacity for 220 people if completely full:
- 1x first class cabin carriage (16 passengers each),
- 3x standard class cabin carriages (96 passengers)
- 2x economy seated carriage (108 passengers),
- 1x café counter/restaurant car, with generator.
- plus a locomotive.
What would the ticket prices be?
In terms of ticket prices, based on international experience the standard class should be priced similar to a standard full price airfare on the same route, in this case about $200 one way for a standard class berth in a cabin. Per person, first class should be a bit more than double standard class, at about $450 a head (or $900 per cabin), while economy should be about half the cost of standard class at around $99 each way for a recliner. If you add up these fares levels and the number of berths and seats proposed, each one-way train run could bring in up to $40,000 of revenue if fully booked out.
What about the cost of buying and running these trains?
Luckily New Zealand has the capacity to make these trains. We have a large supply of spare carriages from the old Auckland fleet, and the industry within the country to design, modify and refit them for other purposes. Kiwirail has done this several times for its acclaimed tourist train carriages, and most recently for the Te Huia commuter train from Hamilton to Auckland. There are some parts that come from abroad and other considerations, but they could be designed and built within 12 months of getting sign off. Indeed from the business case for Te Huia we have a very good idea of what it would cost to set up the trainsets for an Auckland-Wellington sleeper train.
Based on these recent train developments by Kiwirail, I expect we can budget $1.2m per carriage for the cabins and café cars, $1.0m for the seating cars and $2.5m per locomotive refit. This means each seven-carriage trainset would cost $10.5m including the locomotive. With two trainsets required to run both ways that’s a capital cost of $21m to build the fleet. If we assume these new trains can be stored, maintained and serviced at the existing Kiwirail facilities in Auckland and Wellington, the fleet should be the only major capital cost to set up the service.
In terms of operating cost, again the Te Huia business case gives us a great indicator. Kiwirail is charging $5.0m per year to fuel, staff, manage, operate and maintain the Te Huia trains. This buys twenty-two one-way trips a week on the Hamilton Auckland run. Doing the math, we can see this equates to 1,716 train-hours of operation per year for five million dollars, or a cost of $2,900 per service-hour per train. These costs are very high by international standards, but that’s another story. For now our night train concept would have ten and a bit hours of service time per train (plus the layover), which amounts to a little over $29,000 per train, per night.
With two trains each night, running every night of the year, the operating cost of the night train service would be $21.6m each year.
To recap, the bottom line
By international standards Auckland to Wellington is a good candidate for a sleeper trains, with the right sort of route length, timing and demand drivers to be a success. In this post I have proposed a schedule for a nightly sleeper train both ways between Auckland-Hamilton and Palmerston North-Wellington, starting each end around 8pm and arriving at the final terminus around 8am the next day, with an eight-hour non-stop period through the night. The two trains would each have capacity for 220 passengers in a mix of premium and standard cabins and seats, across a seven-carriage locomotive hauled train. The trains could be re-built from carriages and locomotives already in New Zealand, and be operating within about 12 months.
With these trainsets and schedule a North Island night train would have the potential to replace up to 150,000 long distance car trips or flights per year, and in the order of 75 million vehicle-kilometres-travelled.
The capital cost to set up the trains would be around $21m dollars up front, with ongoing costs of $22m per year to run. With fares roughly equivalent to flying between Auckland and Wellington, it would need to achieve average occupancy of 74% full each night across the year to break even. While maintaining very high occupancy levels every night of the year is perhaps unrealistic, these quick sums do suggest there is at least the possibility of a decent business case, especially when non-fiscal factors like emissions, travel time savings and business productivity are also considered.
So, what say you? Is this idea worth studying further?
Great post! Absolutely need this
I agree they used to have sleeper trains in the 50s going from auckland to wellington with cabins in them it was great
Absolutely worth further stufy
I used to use the Silver Star which ran in the 70s..it was great and I’d love to see something like that again.
I agree too, it’s about time
Again – pictures not showing for me. Please embed them in the text. Thanks
Really hard to see how it would be viable when even in Europe it’s extremely borderline. I think my main issues are:
– AKL to WEL is only 45 minutes by plane and the airports are pretty accessible (except for North Auckland I would say)
– Track/Suspension quality = they are going to have to put some world class suspension on the sleeper carriages for people to have a gentle night’s sleep considering the appalling state of the track I would have thought?
You have left out one other important consideration. The need to dramatically reduce emissions – and to do that really quickly. Which means using existing technologies not hoping for some miracle that gives us cheap low carbon aviation. A night train could be running within a couple of years. Air fares will inevitably increase as the price of carbon rises and as the many subsidies to aviation are examined and hopefully removed.
Yet another catalyst for electrification of the golden triangle and north of Wellington, along with Te Huia, the benefits to the freight network as well as, oh yeah, climate change
If there was any sense, the Pukekohe electrifcation programme, once completed, should just be rolled south to Hamilton, from there to Tauranga and then close the gap to Wellington
Cue muh voltages !!!
If it’s going to cost that much to fly down or be such a pain in the arse to get there then I suspect many people would just not make that trip at all.
Trips that damage the climate and aren’t even valued by the people doing them should not be taken, so that’s fine.
Then why fund a train service that takes ten hours for trips that by definition, can’t be that urgent? If it’s meant to be a tourist train then fine, call it that and charge accordingly.
You’re saying “urgent” when I’m saying “valued”. As people are pointing out, they’d value being able to travel overnight when they sleep rather than taking hours during the day to travel. I’d value being able to support rail, as this shares the investment in the rail improvements further. And I’m not alone in wanting to travel with low emissions rather than creating more climate damage.
It’s in decisions like these that we can minimise the heat waves, wildfires, biodiversity loss and floods.
Heidi, I’m not saying you’re the only one who might. I’m saying people vastly over-estimate how many people share their thoughts to the extent they’d accept a 1,000% increase in the time it takes to make a journey, when 99 times out 100, the option to just not go at all is cheaper and even more justifiable under the same value set.
If time is really that valuable to you that you need to hit the ground running, you aren’t catching a train that takes 10x as long as flying does, or you’re going for reasons that aren’t time critical at all i.e. tourism/discretionary travel.
Spending a whole bunch of money developing services for fringe use cases to go from Auckland to Wellington is so much harder to justify when there’s so much more work to do within those cities that would do far more in terms of climate impact the handful of people who would realistically travel this way over flying like they would currently do.
Cost isn’t an issue for most people travelling to Wellington because it is paid for by their employer. If you have a choice of the boss pays heaps and your total trip is 2 1/2 hours, or the boss pays a little and you are stuck on a train all night, then most people will choose the first option.
There were dozens of flights a day, so if only 1 in 20 people would choose a sleeper train, then we are looking at filling a train. That seems pretty likely to me.
45 minutes is a flight time. The airport hassle and boarding time is usually a lot longer for the flight (train has many entrances and plane usually has just one).
Another huge competitive difference of a train is a station location, the sleeper train can potentially depart from the city centre, and arrive to the city centre which is absolutely unaffordable luxury for airport.
Yes with plane it is possible to do stuff in one day, taking flight arriving about 9AM doing stuff and returning back on the flight departing at 6PM, but this is incredibly exhausting. I would certainly prefer sleeper train, simply can’t imagine myself taking flight if one was available.
“Yes with plane it is possible to do stuff in one day, taking flight arriving about 9AM doing stuff and returning back on the flight departing at 6PM, but this is incredibly exhausting”
SOLUTION. Take a nap on the plane.
45 min nap? With interruptions for tea/coffee, etc?
Not much of a nap.
Agree, Andrew. And I think it would suit many people.
I think there could be quite a big market for an overnight sleeper train, especially for people working for government organisations who travel between Auckland and Wellington very frequently.
At the moment their main choice is to catch something like a 7am flight down to Wellington and then a 6pm flight back to Auckland. In practice this means waking up around 5am and not getting back home until 8pm – which is a pretty rough day. Being able to do a sleeper train both ways would actually be a more attractive option for these kind of trips.
Once that kind of choice is in place, I think there would also be a strong argument for requiring trips by the public service to be made this way, for climate reasons. Private companies wanting to prove their sustainability credentials would also have a reasonably alternative too.
“I think there could be quite a big market for an overnight sleeper train, especially for people working for government organisations who travel between Auckland and Wellington very frequently.
These people fly as their time is more important to them. Plus many Govt Orgs are now using ZOOM or SKYPE for meetings.
“Being able to do a sleeper train both ways would actually be a more attractive option for these kind of trips.’
I tried the sleeper train from LA to New York. Despite buying a private cabin, I got very little sleep, due to: track noise, movement, uncomfortable cot, noise, frequent stops to load mail and other items, noise, ding ding ding ding ding ding, cold cabin, diesel engine drone, …did I mention the noise?
Perhaps your poor experience has clouded your judgement, then?
There’s been a sharp reduction in government travel in the last 18 months, probably about 10 % of the travel that used to happen in my department.
MBIE has recently started calculating its carbon use for internal purposes and travel is the big component of its carbon totals even post Covid. If its domestic travel (where needed) was forced to the lowest carbon option, they would be filling significant capacity on this may days a week by themselves .
Not much chance of this happening I’m afraid. I frequently travel to Wellington for day-long business trips. Typically, I leave home at 6.15, catch a 7.30 flight and I’m in the office in Wellington CBD by 8.50. I finish work at 5pm, catch a 6pm flight and and home for dinner with the family at 7.45.
If I took the night train option it wouldn’t be practical to go home after work and back into town to get the train and on the journey back it would be straight into the office from the station, so three days without seeing the family. No thanks.
The only realistic competitor to air travel in NZ would be a proper high speed rail line, allowing the Auckland to Wellington trip to be achieved in, say, 2 hours 45 (similar speed and distance to Paris to Avignon for example).
A night train to Wellington would be great, but there is zero chance of it being a proper competitor to mass air travel. It doesn’t work in Europe, and it won’t here.
On that note, there is only one decent operator of night trains in Europe now, and that is OBB (Austrian Railways) with their Nightjet network. They take it very seriously and operate at a high scale. Other than them, no one else in Europe is successfully operating night trains, even pre-pandemic.
Incidentally, a very similar route to the one proposed here is the one between Madrid and Lisbon. I have used that service at various times over the past 40 years. It has become steadily less and less economic (despite being an excellent service, operated with Spanish Talgo train sets pre-COVID), and has now been permanently discontinued.
But it does work in Europe
Did you read my post? It basically doesn’t work in Europe any more, with only a few honourable exceptions. And the night trains that do still run generally have exactly zero people on board travelling on business.
Accomodation provision is a huge amount more then the transport provision.
I would seriously like Kiwi Rail to get a lot more involved in providing services for self loading cargo, especially on the potentially medium distance bulk routes, Tauranga Hamilton Auckland Helensvale Whangarei?
Amberly? Rangiora, Christchurch, Ashburton.
Masterton, Wellington, Palmerston North.
And the current daylight runs expanded to meet general as well as tourist transport demand.
But accomodation provision nah leave that to others.
Robert Grant here is a you tube video of one of the newest services and this person has posted a number of others on his site ;-
“Night trains don’t work apart from that one operator that is massively expanding as well as all the other services being planned”
No, there isn’t a case.
They can’t even run an Auckland to Hamilton train properly.
They haven’t tried uet5
Who is “they” and what makes you say that it’s not running properly?
It’s a debacle, it’s patronage is low, it’s costly and there have been plenty of technical issues.
Technical issues on one service – if “plenty” as you say – could be affecting ridership. In any case, the success or otherwise of that service does not support your claim that “there isn’t a case.” If you try to put numbers to it, make sure you bring in the cost of emissions and the benefits of regional access…
Not quite Zen. Loadings for the weekend services have been good. It turns out the Te Huia (in its current form) is better at meeting the needs of folk wanting to make a day trip to Auckland while avoiding its weekend traffic.
A ‘case’ is at least partly dependent on the credibility / track record of the party putting forward the case. Our rail operators have hardly been covering themselves in glory.
This website is great 70% of time, but for the balance it lets itself down with overly idealistic and poorly conceived claptrap.
Lets get the critical basics right (ie. intra-urban PT) before we even think about long distance overnight services…
It’s been running just over 3 months, it’s only been allowed to run 1 out of 4 Saturdays. The train is forced to terminate at Papakura and it is winter. Given all the restraints, Te Huia is far from a debacle and has a lot of improvements coming. To write it off after such a short period is ridiculous and shows how rail services are held to a special standard by some where they expect a bullet train without spending any money, nutty. Get it into your head, it is a start to build on and improve.
Agree, Zippo. What most disappoints me is the common refrain that it is “only” working for families on weekends and holidays. As if this travel need is somehow less important. There’s a very strong commuter bias and bias against children in transport planning which is being identified and stripped out in some countries. We need to do the same here.
And we know from many types of modeshift examples that people will try things out recreationally before they make the shift to use them in their daily or weekly routine.
I agree, Kiwirail shouldn’t run the service. They’re amateurs and they need to let go of running passenger services.
KiwiRail certainly appear to have no interest in passenger, even their CEO publicly scoffs at the idea when it is suggested.
KiwiRail didn’t bother to bid for the Auckland suburban contract, they also had $40 dollars of PGF money for South Island long distance trains taken off them, due to inaction.
Regarding stops in the middle, in ski season (July-October) the trains should make a stop at National Park/Ohakune on request as there is quite a bit of potential there. If the train is going to rest in National Park anyway then that isn’t an issue.
Any carriages will need huge improvements in suspension (vibration isolation etc too) to make them comfortable (I’ve done this exact trip several times back in the day and the old carriages were uncomfortable AF). Speaking of, National Park was where they used to swap over crews.
Without track upgrades, I think the timing is a bit generous since the old train used to take about 12 (IIRC) hours without a big stop. Yes it would make more stops along the way.
I would suggest putting the cafe car near the middle (between standard and economy).
Ideally they can extend OLE from Pukekohe to Frankton sooner rather than later which just leaves Palmy-Levin which is only 50km so you would think it should be a shoe-in.
The old train had a lot of fat in the timetable and included a lunch stop at National Park. I remember being about an hour behind schedule and still arriving into Wellington on time.
The current train does it in 10h 40m.
I took the overnight train Auckland-Wellington around 1998. It took 12-13 hours. The seats made sleeping near impossible.
I took it because it was cheaper than flying and something I hadn’t done before (went all the way to Dunedin). I think a bus would have been cheaper again at the time.
Any service today would also have to compete with a bus. I don’t think there is much point in having many seats on an overnight train, aside from a dining car or similar. Beds are the way to go, and these may take passengers away from air when a nights accommodation and decent nights sleep are considered
The fastest ever trip was a shade over 8 hours, pre electrification/realignment. There’s definitely potential to reduce journey times if the investment is made.
If I’m right a $200 fare will get you a bed in a cabin with potentially three other people you’ve never met before. I can’t see this being popular with many business travellers.
Compare that with the cost of an unsubsidised flight.
Truly unsubsidised flights would be very expensive.
I would happily pay for a ‘capsule hotel’ experience on an overnight train.
Flying takes me about four hours door to door between Wellington and Auckland – and that’s mostly dead time that I can’t use for work or leisure.
A great post which needs a little checking re times, fares, and loadings. Whilst there are some Greenies who might consider environmental aspects, those will soon disappear when the nonsensical stuff about global warming and CO2 become better known and the politicians finally admit they have been conned! However, if their impractical compulsory dreams about EVs ever become reality, there would be very very few EVs doing this journey without very long recharging stops en route. So there is some prospect for this suggestion becoming a reality.
Given you can charge an EV that has 500km of range to 80% in about 30 minutes, I’m guessing this post has traveled forward in time from 2014.
I’ve driven one of these, rural roads, AC blasting, achieving over 450km per battery. The price may look unaffordable, but the lifetime cost of electric is far cheaper than a comparable ICE
And there we have it folks! Our very first climate change denier, anti-EV loud-mouth for this article!
Sharp as a marble you are aren’t you?
It’s everyone else who is crazy round here, I’m the only sane one…
So it would be like the Silver Star but without the asbestos this time?
Was this article written by a Wellingtonian?
One rather glaring error – “political and cultural capital”?! I think not.
Better described as from the economic and cultural capital and the political capital.
Wellington’s cultural scene has always been overhyped to the point of being untrue.
I was trying to be kind to Wellington 😉
I’d love the option of a night train between Auckland and Welly and this article sets the argument out perfectly – great post and thanks for sharing!
The price even looks achievable and attractive – as a budget/mid range tourist still looking to maximize time in cities (or at least still having that mindset as a recent Europe-returnee) I’d happily pay $99, although to be competitive with flying a standard sleeper should probably be closer to $150.. Still, picking away at details here and not wanting to take away from a great and well thought out post!
” I’d happily pay $99, although to be competitive with flying”
As soon as this service is introduce the airlines would blow it out of the water with a $29 late night or red eye fare from AKL to WELL
It’s not the airlines that would compete. The trip is too short for them to run any specials at night.
Busses on the other hand… They may well try to compete. Wouldn’t have to try hard either. They’re already damn cheap.
When Skip was running before the pandemic, a no-frills bus trip AKL-WLG was just $16. InterCity charges $35 for non-refundable tickets IIRC.
A sleeper trip on InterCity costs $80, so $99 for a train is in the ballpark.
Air NZ did the night rider service for a few years in the 2010’s. It kinda worked but was no frills, no checked luggage. I used it once for a there and back social trip in one day which worked well, but the sleeper would be the ideal option of not rolling in the door at 1am after the 6am start from home.
I thought that all the SA sets had been removed from Taumarunui?
Perhaps, but I’ve recently found out the AK carriages are actually entirely new and locally built despite being based on the Mk2 design, so there’s not any need to use them anyway.
Yes, AK cars were all designed and build in NZ. Shame only 16 were built at the time! Taumarunui still has dozens of SA cars parked up there (I was there last Sunday). Kiwirail have purchased all the remainder from AT.
KR + RES have purchased the SA + SD’s from Taumarunui so there is plenty of stock for them to rebuild . and they bought them for next to nothing .
As of 7 June 2019, the disposition of on-sold SA/SDs from Auckland Transport are:
KiwiRail – 39 carriages
Railway Enthusiasts Society – 13 SA/SD carriages (9xSA and 4xSD) currently located in Taumarunui. Will be relocated by RES into storage for their future needs.
Could be feasible but I doubt it – flying is so much cheaper and quicker. I took trains in Europe but the difference is that the trains compete with flying for time when everything is considered. But 12 hours on a train compared to 45 minutes flying – not even close.
Yes but we can’t continue subsidising flying.
What do you mean by subsidised, Heidi?
Here is some info: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/12/04/planning-for-air-travel/
Mitigating climate change is expensive and is not borne by the people causing it. Preventing climate change is far cheaper. The case of aviation is perhaps the most inequitable of all. Airlines, airports, the emissions themselves and the research into lowering emissions are all subsidised by the public purse, with mitigation being loaded onto future generations.
Air NZ gets a government bailout about every 20 years to keep operating, it would have long been broke by now otherwise.
Most airports in NZ are also propped up by ratepayers or more recently by money from the Provincial Growth Fund.
Rail isn’t exactly known as a standout financial performer in NZ either to be fair. I can’t imagine any two things I’d rather avoid investing in if at all possible.
It’s really more relevant for business trips. 45 minutes flying plus a night’s accommodation to pay for – taxis at each end etc etc. There’s also the issue of Wellington’s frequent flight cancellations/re routes, a concern that is bypassed by the train.
I used to fly often to Wellington and I had one flight cancelled – maybe I was just lucky but I doubt it is frequent.
Also, there should be no subsidies for anything – and that includes planes, electric cars or any other favorite hobby horse.
I disagree in regards to the cutting emissions in NZ for reasons I said before unless it makes our specific environment more pleasant.
What about the scenario where we start getting tariffs placed on our exports because we are failing to meet emissions obligations?
Trains are cancelled by bridge strikes, accidents, flooding, trespassers etc etc, are they really any more reliable than planes? Probably less given the hopeless lack of redundancy in the rail network.
“People with no money” can already travel AKL to WELL on a bus.
The buses are absolutely horrific. I caught one from Wellington to Napier and I never want to do that again.
More of an endurance test than a means of transport now. And not even cheap with Intercity exploiting its monopoly status to the full post covid.
Buses are a horrendous way to travel long distance, they are not a good way to attract users to public transport.
The difference with coach is it doesn’t feature a bed for you to lie on, food and drinks onboard, also experience bumpy ride, no toilets, nor does it feature a lie flat recline. If you were to travel by train it would feature all of things I have stated.
It would be cheaper to give people a free rental car, and some complimentary sausage rolls, for their AKL to WELL overnight trips
Forget about tired drivers and potentially dangerous roads. Forget about the extra wear and tear on the roads or the increase in carbon costs.
Yes. That’s not a solution in any way.
Counterpoint: Take all this money that you’re going to spend on a train to Wellington (lmao, as if anyone is going to go there if it costs hundreds of dollars AND takes 10 hours) and spend it on a regular service to the Bay of Islands.
Or dig a 50km tunnel and let me catch a train to Coromandel. Both ideas are more sensible than an overnight train train from Auckland to a city that only functions by actively hampering the development of other parts of the country.
Lets do the numbers:
So what is the point of a night train and who are the target markets? Based on these experiences travelling overseas I think there are five kinds of people who use night trains:
People with little money who want to get the best deal they can, students and backpackers, including travelling overnight sleeping in a chair. They are looking to travel cheaper than flying or driving and are happy to waste their time and comfort to do so.
Enthusiasts who do it for the romance and experience of train travel, most of whom are happy to spend far more time and money than flying, but expect comfortable/luxurious private cabins and premium food and drink.
Approx 200 people per year
Mid-range tourists and business users who travel overnight to save the cost of a nights accommodation and to maximise their daylight hours travelling. They expect reasonable comfort and access to reasonable food and drink and facilities like showers and luggage.
Business travellers fly, so ZERO
People who are socially/environmentally conscious and try to avoid flying or driving too much. They have similar expectations to the mid range tourists.
Number of these people = 80 per year, Mainly Greedy Green Party members.
People who are afraid of flying (I swear half of Amtrak users are in this group, the fear of flying is strong in the American Midwest!)
Allow another 20 people per year. People in the Midwest also believe that they have been medically examined in the middle of the night by aliens. See: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/ufo-aliens-belief-poll-americans-b1879321.html
You forget, members of the media, who take the train, ( for free ) then write a story about the experience; Allow another THREE people
What about all the people currently flying who won’t pay the unsubsidised air fare? And equity demands that we stop subsidising it.
What about all the people in organisations (public and private) with sustainable travel plans that require cutting down on their aviation emissions?
I wonder what the estimates are for “unsubsidised” domestic air travel. It would have to be a pretty bloody big fare hike to make even a $99 overnight train ride competitive.
Well, it would be. Had Corsia been a responsible agreement, the airlines would’ve been required to lower emissions and we wouldn’t have seen cheap flights sending plane travel numbers up so alarmingly. Remember that the only sustainable aviation will be electric aviation, because radiative forcing associated with any aviation fuel means so-called sustainable aviation fuels still cause significant climate damage. We would normally expect ticket prices to include the cost of all the damage being caused by the activity and also the cost of all the research into lowering emissions. As soon as you start raising the prices, though, fewer passengers mean the costs of the research is split between fewer tickets. It starts a spiral of cost increases. This makes sense as you try to shift an utterly energy-wasteful and inequitable activity to having a cost structure that reflects the resource use involved.
I think you will find that businesses will just offset emissions. And people are already travelling much less due to acceptance of video conferencing. Where people need to travel most employees would fly if given the choice. Managers are not going to force employees to take the train as they wont want to themselves. Remember the employee is not paying and in many cases the costs are passed on. Given travel time is also charged out it will be a lot cheaper to pay to fly.
As for the public sector, the best indication of looking after themselves is how full the koru lounge in Wellington is around 6pm.
The time for considering offsets to be sufficient has passed. The CCC is quite clear we cannot continue with a “short-term focus on planting trees and purchasing offshore mitigation” and must move to do what is “necessary to achieve actual emissions reductions at source.”
Businesses will be guided by their peers, customers, business organisations and legal obligations, and sustainable travel plans will feature strongly.
As someone who work for a large business that has people moving between Auckland & Wellington – it has been discussed here already and we could certainly do it, so Business traveler who being zero is utter nonsense
I think that either the cabins need to go from 4 peeps to 2, or the prices need to come down a little, in order to overcome the cultural negativity towards trying something “new” or taking the slower option of the train.
Kiwis are not “can do” people, we just say that we are.
Also, perhaps an arrival in Akl (The Strand) a little earlier? 08:15 means another 20 mins walking/taxi to most parts of the CBD and no time for a cafe breakfast…
you get a slap-up breakfast on the train, that is part of the point!
Another possible service would be, AKL to WELL, dropping people off, but not returning them.
You would need to solve the diesel ventilation problem at Britomart thou…
Currently all long distance services are limited to the Stand…
Went on the overnight Train 2000 Wellington to Auckland had job interview at Middlemore hospital and changed into good clothes in the Bathroom for the interview,
Memory of that particular trip was late only 30 minutes the observation car at the back was unusable NZ rail employees were using it as a sleeping pod and stretched over the seats other trip in the same years up to 2 hours late – locomotives breaking down just a half pie attempt at rail service
Climate change is, and has always been happening. What we don’t know is how much of the current change is caused by human activity? No scientist can quantify this because no one really knows. We do know natural climate change is quite normal and outside of our abilities to influence. As for Co2, this is a plant food and essential for life and currently sits at quite a low level historically. While we all want to be environmental and live in a clean world, rushing into solutions thinking you are going to save the world is quite comical. China and India are not slowing down in building their coal fired power plants, so we need to progress to a cleaner world in a more staged way. Concentrating on the output of Co2 means more important environmental issues will be lost in the smoke and mirrors of the current political climate.
Plenty of links in Wikipedia to put this comment in context: “Climate change denial, or global warming denial, is denial, dismissal, or unwarranted doubt that contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its effects on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions. Many who deny, dismiss, or hold unwarranted doubt about the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming self-label as “climate change skeptics”, which several scientists have noted is an inaccurate description. Climate change denial can also be implicit when individuals or social groups accept the science but fail to come to terms with it or to translate their acceptance into action. Several social science studies have analyzed these positions as forms of denialism, pseudoscience, or propaganda.
The campaign to undermine public trust in climate science has been described as a “denial machine” organized by industrial, political and ideological interests, and supported by conservative media and skeptical bloggers to manufacture uncertainty about global warming.
The politics of global warming have been affected by climate change denial and the political global warming controversy, undermining the efforts to act on climate change or adapting to the warming climate. Those promoting denial commonly use rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of a scientific controversy where there is none.”
Heidi, I have no doubt that the climate is changing and human activity is a significant factor in that – we agree on it. However, what we do about it can be very different. That’s not denial just a difference of opinion of what we should do about the same facts. Not you of course, but there are some who shout “climate denier” to anyone who doesn’t go along with a very specific agenda.
The costs that have been proposed far outweigh the costs of other options. We can mitigate the effects of climate change a lot cheaper than what has been proposed. We will move away from using oil and gas for transport but it will be because a better technology comes along.
Us spending billions for climate change is illogical and a waste of our resources that can be used on other things.
Thanks, Adrian. The MoT and WK are now addressing climate change using the Avoid, Shift, Improve framework. This involves:
– avoiding travel first (either entirely by using zoom etc, or with a compact city strategy, bring people and amenities closer to each other)
– shifting to lower carbon modes (eg from driving to PT or active modes, something that’s easier when trips have been shortened as above, or from flying to rail or bus)
– improving the emissions of vehicles.
In saying, “We will move away from using oil and gas for transport but it will be because a better technology comes along.”
you are simply referring to the final stage of the strategy, the “improve” step. It has been, to date, what the MoT and WK focused on, but the last couple of years have seen them update their ideas.
The Night Train fits into the “Shift” stage of the strategy.
Hold up! This is amateur hour at it’s best. One must remember the costings GA did for the Hamilton – Auckland commuter train were out by a factor of 5 in 2017. So, perhaps these are now out by a factor of only 3?
Fact of the matter, putting those who love social equity etc…, the public don’t give a damn and the ones that do make up a minute number ( even Greens voters eagerly hop on planes to fly domestically). Hell, even Julie Ann Genter regularly flys around NZ!
Is there a market for a seated overnight train, with stops at some of the smaller towns missing out on public transport connections to other cities? Yes in my opinion. Is there a market for expensive sleeping cabins? No.
Planes will be here for along time to come. Sure Heidi may not like it, but that’s a realistic fact and governments do change, so the extreme left government today will be moved on in due course, at least by 2026 (given National is a self made basket case, though the extremist right party Act could grow much larger).
“those who love social equity etc…, the public don’t give a damn”
Please provide peer-reviewed evidence to back this statement up. It doesn’t match research I’ve seen which shows that New Zealanders do care about social equity.
To enable New Zealanders to transfer that into their transport decisions, we need better systems with better transport options available.
Hold up! This is amateur hour at it’s best. One must remember the costings GA did for the Hamilton – Auckland commuter train were out by a factor of 5 in 2017. So, perhaps these are now out by a factor of only 3?
GA (along with everyone else) get costings wrong, sometimes wildly, all the time.
But this case in particular, its far more credible than normal. We had a project doing something pretty similar happen last year. The costs per whatever resource, are going to be pretty much identical for a scheme started very soon, under the same conditions.
Hell, even Julie Ann Genter regularly flys around NZ!
Yeah, sure that is why its important to try and provide an alternative. So that isn’t the only option.
Even America provides a decent service on a few corridors, with a company that almost makes a profit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5A1RsgXgTs&t=617s
Calling Labor extreme left is laughable, as is calling Act extreme right. I guess its my fault for reading a political take on an anonymous forum.
QWERTYOPS: What are your transport planning qualifications and experience? As you’re dismissing this piece as ‘amateur’, I assume you not only have some but are significantly better qualified and more experienced than the author in said field…
That would be the Hamilton – Auckland commuter train that was actually built, funded and delivered, the one that is actually out there, running right now carrying people? The one they’ve just announced they’re extending to The Strand on weekends and adding extra trips to?
GA’s support of Te Huia seems to have really helped make that happen.
How’s your Huapai train campaign going? Doesn’t seem to have achieved anything after ten years of shouting at politicians and waving signs.
Perhaps it’s on the same pile as Light Rail, the SH16 bus improvements and anything else our fearless representative Vanushi Walter is so effectively and visibly lobbying for…
We should do a comparison between flying and an APV network or similar on dedicated standard-gauge track, which would take 2-3 hours AKL-WLG and could run several times a day. Let’s be a bit more ambitious about reducing flying and the associated emissions, even if it costs more to build the network.
I used to take the Northerner frequently in the 1990s. It attracted reasonable passenger loadings. It would be nice to see a similar such train, perhaps using some of the carriages currently parked at Taumaranui.
The people of Taumaranui would also like to see some passenger trains stop there.
No trains stopping at Taumarunui – should Heritage NZ be campaigning abou that instead of being concerned about card readers…
The Northerner with 4 seated cars actually operated between covering costs and a marginal profit before it was axed by Toll Rail in 2004. It also departed and arrived at Britomart, not some out of town skanky bordelo of a station called the Strand!
So, seated cars could work….and the Northerner always had people boarding and alighting at Otorohanga, TK, Taumarunui, National Park and Ohakune when I regularly used it. Why? Because it’s solely about a point to point service that the author went down. It’s about connecting towns enroute who are starved of interegional public transport services.
These small towns are quite possibly more important given the ability of Aucklanders and Wellingtonians to fly point to point, not so the case with those towns along the rail corridor.
Yes, a revived Northerner style service with a bunk carriage similar to the overnight buses together with cheaper sitzwagens might work.
Great proposal that I would certainly support. I was disappointed when the Northerner (the former night train) was discontinued, at a time when the upheavals of privatisation effectively got rid of the teams and talent committed to running passenger trains.
My own usage of the night train was both end-to-end for work purposes (as an alternative to taking ‘red-eye’ flights), and also to intermediate stops for non-work purposes. The train was very useful for instance, for accessing Ruapehu for a weekend of skiing. It was indeed the best way to get from Wellington to Otorohanga for a morning-event (those who flew required an overnight stay in accommodation somewhere).
I would much prefer that the option for intermediate stops remain. If night-time stops are handled sensitively (no whistle-blowing etc), then they need not be that disruptive on sleep. Given our largely single-track system, trains tend to stop and start all over the place anyway. For me this was never a problem. Even on the great multi-night journeys across America and Russia, trains routinely stop in the wee small hours.
Would be fantastic to see the WLG-AKD night train re-started, and maybe a PICT-DNDN night train also.
Great post! I’d suggest however another major selling point of sleeper trains: they connect city centres to city centres, dropping you where you want to be, and not in an airport that can be miles away. Auckland-Wellington might be a one-hour flight, but getting to and from the airport, with adequate time buffers for safety checks, is another ballgame.
…or in this instance connecting city centre with city fringe wasteland.
I have to travel to Auckland once a month for business. This isn’t the public sector, its a medium-size private business,
A $200 overnight train would be a great alternative to flying very late or very early and would avoid a night’s accommodation and the expensive taxi/Zoomy trip to and from Auckland airport. Obviously I care about CO2 emissions and would love an alternative to flying with offsets. However, an overnight train makes very good sense in terms of my use of time even if emissions were a lower priority. It is perhaps easy to underestimate the value of point to point travel and a good nights sleep for business travel 🙂
This is why a overnight sleeper train from AKL to WELL will not be viable:
Yes but they wouldn’t be able to offer those prices if governments hadn’t turned a blind eye to aviation emissions and hadn’t continued to subsidise the airlines and airports.
Policy can change this. The subsidies must stop.
But let’s be realistic here. An emissions tax of $20, $30 or $50 a ticket from AKL-Wellington is still going mean it would be cheaper (and faster) to travel by plane on these routes.
A room in a sleeping carriage would be somewhere along the lines of cost of the journey (say $100) + a room in a sleeping carriage (another $200 or $300). This won’t entice business travelers to rail and that is the market you need to tap into.
The $3k per hour KiwiRail charge to run a contracted passenger train is no small issue. But a sleeper train will on top of that have a very high staffing and maintenance cost. The cleaning of compartments, bedding, etc, will not be cheap.
The article ignores a fundamental issue though, which is that we have already had sleeper trains and their use declined. In the 70s you had two to choose from, every night the Silver Star luxury sleeper, followed by the standard sleeper Northerner would depart from each end of the line (four trains total). Both services declined in use as more people purchased cars or took advantage of ever decreasing airfares. By the late 1980s the last sleeper train was no longer viable, and it was cheap to run too. They converted it to seats only and this kept it financially viable enough to keep running until 2004.
I don’t understand the bit about not stopping at Taumarunui for passengers, but then also suggesting it stop at Taumarunui for two hours anyway. You may as well make it a passenger stop if you’re stopping anyway. But it’s worth pointing out that as the main trunk is busy at night, it’ll be stopping frequently to cross freight trains anyway, assuming freights have priority, that’s your two hours right there.
I would also like to know who you envision would run the train. You insinuate that KiwiRail would, but then that means paying that ultra-high subsidy to them to make up for the lost opportunity of allocating the locomotives and drivers to more lucrative freight services. That is an inappropriate use of tax or rate dollars, so I would suggest a second government-owned entity, something like an Air New Zealand on rails, be established, with its own resources and therefore better cost control.
“I would also like to know who you envision would run the train. You insinuate that KiwiRail would, but then that means paying that ultra-high subsidy to them to make up for the lost opportunity of allocating the locomotives and drivers to more lucrative freight services. That is an inappropriate use of tax or rate dollars, so I would suggest a second government-owned entity, something like an Air New Zealand on rails, be established, with its own resources and therefore better cost control.”
It should be run by, and 100% funded by, members of the Greedy Green Party.
Gobble gobble the Greedy Green Party gobbles up nature, stealing it from the kids.
Oh wait, that wasn’t the Greens; it was all the other parties. The Greens are the ones trying to conserve it.
No to diesel locomotive hauled passenger trains running between Auckland and Wellington. EMU’s between Hamilton and Palmerston North connecting with the Te Huia and the capital connector or even buses between Auckland and Hamilton and Palmerston North and Wellington. Two or even three services a day both ways stopping on demand at all stops between Hamilton and Palmerston North. Faster on the hills and curves no stinky diesel and they wouldn’t need to be run by Kiwirail so maybe would be cheaper. Buy from CAF tow through to Wiri for servicing. Do something different than what has being tried and discarded in the past. Make use of the overhead traction asset that is sitting there underused gifted to us by those clowns Birch and Muldoon. Possibly the only thing they did right in all those years they were in Govt.
“By international standards Auckland to Wellington is a good candidate for a sleeper trains“
I’m sorry, I love sleepers and am a big fan of them in Europe, but this is factually incorrect and a solution looking for a problem. By what international standards is a city of a quarter of a million or so ten hours away from one that’s a million and a half or so a good candidate for a dedicated sleeper train? There are some exceptions like Stockholm to Narvik but that’s the Arctic circle and in the richest countries on earth…loading on any service would be woeful and given the route isn’t and won’t ever be electrified, I think would probably increase net co2 emissions.
As we wrote in “Night Train”, https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2020/02/12/night-train/
“The distance of 682 km is within the range considered optimal for a sleeper service, as suggested in a New York Times article, Once threatened, Europe’s Night Trains Rebound.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/travel/europe-overnight-trains.html
If our travel demand between the two cities is so very small, there are a whole lot of highways and airline bailouts we could’ve saved money not paying for…
Population…not distance. Square pegs don’t go into round holes. What sleeper services elsewhere exist to connect two cities the size of Auckland and Wellington? It might be the most interesting minuscule % of emissions, but climate change doesn’t work that way. There are much greater % shares (I am yet to be convinced running a diesel train that far for so few passengers would be of net carbon benefit) to be won for much less money.
Domestic aviation emissions are far from “the most interesting minuscule % of emissions”. You seem to be ignoring the radiative forcing effect. Here’s a graph with them included:
As you can see, improvements in technology managed to bring domestic aviation emissions down slightly, but the quickly escalating numbers of passengers swallowed all those gains. The only line in that graph that represents “a miniscule % of emissions” is rail – even with it being diesel, the emissions per passenger is low. With electrification, it’s negligible.
Domestic aviation emissions cause more climate damage than heavy trucks do, yet we’re putting work into reducing those through shifting to rail and through improved technology.
If you’re concerned about “running a diesel train that far for so few passengers” then you’ll be shocked about the irresponsible level of traffic-inducing highway building this country has been indulging in.
Let’s be realistic here. Our problem modes are aviation and driving. We need to shift to a low carbon system, including rail.
Heidi, it isn’t letting me reply to your most recent post, sorry. But I’m afraid your graph needs further analysis. The only flights this service would displace are Auckland – Wellington & vice versa. And each train would displace…less than one plane per day. So it is a small fraction of a small fraction of all emissions, which depending on passenger loading would probably make a marginal difference in terms of net emissions from a diesel train. Electrifying the route would involve significant embedded carbon emissions and costs which would be less efficient from a carbon and cost perspective than probably any other action possible.
Night trains are great in some circumstances. In others they are a red herring. We are not short of better ideas to increase rail travel but are certainly short of money and political will to advance better proposals.
Maybe we simply don’t know the problem that we are trying to fix? The science said that 1.5 degrees of warming was the magic number. But is it? At the current 1.2 – 1.3 degrees are we already too far? How many floods can Ashburton farmers cope with in a year? (Commentators are already asking, if a rich country like Germany cannot protect itself against the current adverse weather, where to from here?) Is this years temperature going to be in the range 1.2 – 1.3 higher, or are we already beyond that? When will we hit the 1.5 degrees that is predicted at least once in the next six years? Will it only be once?
With the damage that occurs at 1.5 how quickly will we move to cut carbon emissions? Does that permit much flying, or do we set priorities for carbon emitting activities elsewhere?
If the world reaches 1.5 degrees of warming, what does our climate legislation permit?
Climate scientists and some economists say the only answer is to reduce consumption. Where does that leave the future of unlimited travel by private vehicles?
Having used night trains here and in Europe I am not hugely enamoured of them, but I can certainly imagine a time in the very near future where inter city trains compete against road trips for which you pay a toll.
There’s plenty of night trains between small and mid sized cities.
Some random examples are Belgrade to Thessalonica in Europe, Springfield to New Haven in America and Brisbane to Cairns in Australia.
Not to mention all of the sleepers in Finland, Sweden and Norway, which link various small towns and provincial cities to their capitals which are all between 1 and 2 million in population.
Aviation may be “very important to us” but we still need transparent accounting. Without having to include the extensive climate damage flights are causing, ticket prices and aviation freight costs are absurdly cheap. This is skewing the playing field for all sectors that use aviation and ruining the chances for their more locally-based competitors, or for alternative enterprises that might make use of the same natural or staff resource.
The businesses benefiting are only “important to us” if they are operating in a way that provides jobs and tax revenue without subsidy and externalities like emissions being imposed on society. “Support for the airlines” is corporate welfare, otherwise.
@JW – Firstly Auckland isn’t 1.5M it’s 1.7M and growing rapidly. Wellington isn’t 0.25M it’s more like 0.4M and also growing. Then you have Hamilton (another 0.3M if you include close by towns) and Palmerston North. So really the pool is more like 2.5M (if not higher) than your 1.75M.
A more modest 2 carriage overnight service, like the old silver fern would suffice. Sleepers in one and reclining seats in the other.
I don’t like flying and would always opt for the train if I had the option.
A relative often travels to manawatu from welly and always chooses the train over the bus. Intercity has increased their prices and aren’t much cheaper anymore.
Sleepers don’t need to go to main centres, eg https://www.sleeper.scot/timetable/london-fort-william/ – a very comfortable way to get there!
Two night trains I travelled on in the early 1970’s firstly Friday night ex Christchurch about 11 pm arrive into Dunedin about 7 am. Secondly the Vulcan railcar ex Christchurch to Greymouth. I can’t remember when it left but we arrived at Atikens and sat in the dog box station and waited for the sun to come up maybe a couple of hours. No platform just climb down on the ballast. Tramping trip. They ran the railcar to take the Christchurch press for early morning delivery. Maybe only half a dozen passengers nearly 50 years ago now. Pretty sure the Dunedin train ran Friday only I can’t remember but I think I came home on the day train on the Sunday. Probably it was the Southerner before that it was the Invercargill Lyttleton express which connected to the overnight ferry to Wellington.
Brilliant. Great, bring back the Northener night train as a climate friendly way to travel. Demand will grow as we move to reduce carbon emissions.
Yes, fully support the idea. Maybe limited timetable to start with I.e. one train going alternate ways on alternate nights, then more as demand increases: which it will. Pickup a commuter carriage on the way north through Hamilton!
Please not alternate nights. This needs to be useful for a single day trip to centres as that may be a large part of the demand!
Yes, train every night which would also reinforce existing commuter service . Hamilton person goes to Auckland in the morning, finishes business meeting etc after 6pm, has a meal and in on the train at 8pm,home by ten pm. Likewise Palmy Nth person to Wellington am, stays for a talk or lecture at the National Library after 5pm.(often sponsored by Massey Uni) then at train 8pm, eta PNorth 10 pm.
Had the same thought! This could really improve existing commuter service. Unfortunately day service of Northern Explorer only every other day and too expensive for a Auckland-Hamilton or PNorth-Wellington commuter trip.
That’s and excellent point, a primarily sleeper service with seating would still offer a great option for shorter trips later in the evening, a back up to Te Huia and the Capital Connection heading out of the big cities around 8pm for those that stayed a bit later, and at the other end picking up early morning commuters.
That could actually swing the economics a bit. If you target the seats to Auckland-Hamilton and Palmerston North-Wellington, the sleeper sections really only have to pay their way on the stretch between Hamilton and Palmy.
There is a big assumption being made for this proposal that no-one has thought of. Pathing. Overnight paths on our single track railway between Hamilton and Palmerston North are all taken by freight trains which compete with trucks in the overnight freight market between the cities. Adding two passenger trains per night at the peak times for freight trains would hugely disrupt KiwiRail’s competitive position, and result in more freight on the road and much more GHG’s emitted than might be saved by some people not flying. Yes, there used to be overnight expresses, and they were ditched because the paths they occupied were much better used by freight trains.
Add some passing loops if necessary. There’s hardly any traffic on the NIMT south of Hamilton. Any half way decent operator could deal with 1 x train per night each way being added.
A handful of freight trains with hours in between them is far from “all paths taken”. It’s crickets most of the time.
The elephant in the room for any night train service between Auckland and Wellington, is the track infrastructure, signalling and train control is owned, maintained and operated by Kiwirail as a ‘closed’ network.
The NZ Rail Plan which was written by Kiwirail for the government, clearly outlines the future objectives of Kiwirail, as being a national freight operator with its three ‘tourism’ passenger train services and inter-island ferry services.
If Christchurch is struggling to get any urban passenger train services between Rangiora, Rolleston and Lyttleton as part of the Christchurch ‘turn up & go’ passenger transport, let alone any regional commuter passenger train services between Amberly and Ashburton, the chances of re-introducing a ‘book & travel’ night train service between Auckland and Wellington is very remote at this stage, unless the government separates the national track infrastructure network (track, bridges, tunnels, etc), signalling and train control from Kiwirail and makes the network as an ‘open’, not for profit strategic ‘steel’ highway public asset, allowing any domestic and/or international rail services operator/s whether it is heritage, freight, freight/passenger or passenger access to the network.
The government can simply instruct Kiwirail to change it’s focus. Kiwirail is part of the government, not some independent entity.
Does no one understand how small Amberley is!? It has about 1800 people, yet I regularly see it mentioned as a potential destination for regional or urban trains. The only passenger trains that ever run north of Rangiora will be heading for Kaikoura and Picton.
ECan sees Amberly as a growth community so it makes sense to operate a ‘turn up & go’ regional commuter passenger train services between Amberly/Christchurch/Ashburton/Christchurch/Amberly.
The travel time would approximately 4 hours each way between Amberly and Ashburton, stopping at all stations Amberly to Rangiora, limited stops between Rangiora to Rolleston and all stops between Rolleston and Ashburton.
The would be 4-5 daily return services on weeks days and 3-4 daily return weekend services.
One train set would be stabled at Ashburton and one train set at Amberly. Each train set would be at least a 4 carriage set with onboard toilets, wifi and a cafe/disable carriage.
We need to start to start have some out of the square thinking and planning instead of our current ‘here and now’ thinking and planing.
How is 4 – 5 services a day ‘turn up and go’!?
It currently takes 1:30 to drive between Amberley and Ashburton, so yes a 4 hour train trip is out of the square thinking but probably not the right square.
Out of the square thinking (by Christchurch standards) would simply be to get passenger services running again between Rolleston and Rangiora and with a station closer to the city than Addington.
If Amberley grows, then sure extend the Rangiora services but it certainly doesn’t warrant an express service.
Jezza all bar 3 passenger services in this Country are turn up and go . If wasn’t for that Auckland’s system would have been for nothing , and now with the Te Huia the only booking i basically for a Wheel chair slot and now there have been 11,000 passengers in 3months –
And this is what it looked like when it arrived at the Strand on Saturday , so who said turn up and go doesn’t work ? ;-
Jezza is using the terminology as I understand it: https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/how-frequent-does-turn-up-and-go-mean-to-you.176145/
Are Chris and David thinking of “not having to book in advance”?
Jezza – ‘Turn up & go’ urban/regional train services and bus services are ‘non bookable’ are frequently scheduled travel services like AT Metro trains and buses, Metlink buses and trains, etc, meaning the passenger turns up at a bus stop or railway station and take the next available bus or train.
The Capital Connection and Te Huia inter-regional passenger train services are also ‘turn up go’ , meaning booking a seat is not required except for people with disabilities especially on Te Huia.
InterCity coach services and Kiwirail’s 3 scenic long distance passengers trains are known as ‘book & travel’ services, as you have have to book a seat so the coach driver or train crew knows who getting on or off on route.
With regards to Amberly to Ashburton regional commuter passenger train services, I am not sure why you think it is an ‘express’ service, when the service would be stopping all stations between Amberly and Rangiora, limited stops between Rangiora and Rolleston and all stops between Rolleston and Ashburton.
4 hours would be about right when dwell times at each station, operations and crewing requirements are factored in. The 1:30 to drive between Amberley and Ashburton is with out stops so I am not sure where you are trying to compare a non stop drive with a multiple stop train service.
That is a gross misuse of the term ‘turn up and go’. If I want to ride Te Huia right now, I have to turn up, wait 19 hours and go.
Fair enough if that’s what you meant by turn up and go.
How many stops would your proposed train have if it is going to have 2 – 2:30 of dwell times!?
Limited stops is be definition express so yes if it is limited stops from Rangiora it’s an express. I’m intrigued by your suggestion of all stops between Amberley and Rangiora, there isn’t anywhere near large enough to justify a stop on that route.
I’m all for getting passenger rail up and running in Canterbury but what you’re describing is a solution looking for a problem and is unlikely to attract much patronage.
Ashburton to Amberley is about 140km. Trains travel the ~100km between Masterton and Wellington in about 1:40, surely your proposal can get a bit below 4 hours.
You can use an existing AK carriages fitted with reclining lay flats beds in a 2 aisle 1 configuration as a ‘premium’ class and standard seats in 2 aisle 2 configuration for ‘standard’ class.
Having experienced the overnight train to Welly some 20+ years ago, it would have to be a vastly better product to get me to recommend it to my worst enemy. I still have nightmares…
The arrival and departure from the city centre is huge. I have had so many nightmares trying to get to and from airports in both Wellington and Auckland, and it whacks a serious logistical cost on top – in time as well as money.
I regularly train to AK and back (see sarcastically titled post here https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/08/05/thoroughly-modern-commuting/) because climate and it kills me that there’s no overnight. I would take it SO MUCH.
Flying is the main competition for this, and it doesn’t take many passengers of the bazillion AK-WLG-AK flights every weekday to fill a single overnight train.
…of course, in terms of focuses for our carbon-reducing effort, as Paul Winton says: trains and ferries are rounding errors compared to road transport. So we should absolutely be focusing on what’s putting out the most emissions, and let an Ak-WLG train bubble upwards in viability as a result.
I would say, the re-introduction of ‘turn up & go’ urban (Christchurch), regional and inter-regional passenger train services that connects our 6 main centres with 13 provincial cities, major towns and smaller semi rural, rural communities located in the 13 regions of NZ that currently have rail connectivity that is integrated with local urban, semi rural and rural bus services would be more beneficial to the environment, especially when NZ will see a ‘rapid’ population growth as the disruptive effects of a warming planet become more visable.
Economic viability is an issue that was raised in the comment section – there is nothing stopping Kiwirail from running a mixed passenger/freight service like what they used to do decades ago when it wasn’t viable to run a separate service on some lines but combining the two together, maybe having a ‘depot to depot’ service using airline cargo containers (known as ‘Unit load device’ where at set stations they roll off these containers and customers can pick up the parcels the next day (depot to depot transfer) etc. IMHO as long as the price it right, they fully elecitfy from Wellington to Auckland so then it is possible to get off the train Britomart then I could imagine it being quite popular for those who want to go up for work then come back that night without having to worry about paying for a hotel room.
Oof $200 for Standard Class is a bit pricy for an average person if want to reduce the amount of passenger flights from Auckland to Wellington plus top of it paying for food and drinks. You normally see fares ranging from $59 – $400, though average price you’ll find is about $150 one way. Think starting from $49 would be a good competitive price or even perhaps have an alliance with Air New Zealand would be good for the service.
Also from a strategic point of view you shouldn’t put the price at a fixed price otherwise the demand won’t be there at all and your going to have not enough passengers. You should do strategic pricing where once there’s certain enough seats sold, bring the price up a bit, once enough seats are sold bring up again and repeat the process. Think it should be around think if you should do some seasonal sales and complementaries too to attract more people onto train.
Also 8:00 am arrival time in Auckland and Wellington might not be convenient for some passengers who are using the service for work, think you would need 6 am arrival time along with it so it suites some peoples needs.
They had sleeper trains in the 80s.
More economy id say, two bunks in a small cabin. Was shocked when i went to book one recently and discovered they no longer operatr
I agree with the proposal. Definitely needs to cater for range of fare options. Would support earlier arrival times for work commitments
This would be a good service that would definitely cater to some people. Getting the right price is probably critical to it’s success.
Good post by the way, the government should seriously look at this.
I suspect you could have the layover in the middle reduced by .5 to 1 hour?
Yes I think that would be a very good idea, as the railways are under utilized. Where there are long distance trains, they only run for part of the year, completely idiotic. Who ever is responsible, is a mere amateur when it comes to running trains, and knowing what the public want.
I used to travel on the Northerner, and the Silver Fern back in the 1970’s and 80’s, it was a total pleasure.