On Sunday Transport Minister Michael Wood jetted off to Oslo to for “the International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS), hosted by the European Association for Electromobility

“EVS is the leading international gathering to address all the electromobility issues. The conference brings together government Ministers, policymakers, representatives from industry, relevant research communities and NGOs to discuss how we can enhance the transition to electric vehicles.

“We have a positive story to share about how we are putting policies in place to help foster EV uptake. Key to us accelerating the programme is locking in a secure supply of EVs.

“My message to vehicle manufacturers is clear. New Zealand is open for business. We are investing in supporting kiwi families and our economy’s transition to carbon neutral through initiatives like the Clean Car Discount, the decarbonisation of the public transport bus fleet and the Clean Car Upgrade funded through Budget 22.

We don’t make vehicles locally, so it is vitally important that New Zealand is seen as a viable market for low emissions vehicle manufacturers. I will be selling that message in Oslo.

While in Europe he’s also got a couple of other visits too.

“I will also meet with ministerial counterparts from other countries to discuss their experiences decarbonising their transport sectors and see what lessons we can learn.

Michael Wood will also visit Geneva to meet with the International Labour Organisation and Global Road Safety Partnership to discuss Fair Pay Agreements and the Government’s Road to Zero strategy respectively. This will be followed by a visit to London to meet with Ministerial counterparts, civil society groups and departments to progress Government priorities in the Transport and Workplace Relations and Safety portfolios.

“As we build our way out of our decades-long infrastructure deficit, we can benefit and learn from the experiences of others who have tackled these challenges head on,” Michael Wood said.

Electric vehicles are obviously an important part of our transport future, but going all the way to Europe largely for just an EV conference seems like a wasted opportunity given some of the really interesting things going on there right now, including other major transport events.

I’m sure he already has a fairly full schedule but if he’s got any spare time, here’s a few other things the Minister should be sending postcards home about.


While in Oslo

Beyond the EV conference, the Minister should absolutely explore Oslo’s public transport system as a model for local consideration.

The wider Oslo metro area is home to about 1.5 million people, and prior to COVID, the city’s metro, tram and bus networks carried around 297 million trips annually.

Some of that high level of patronage is obviously due to legacy networks – but it’s notable that usage had nearly doubled in the 15 years since 2004 (when it was just under 150 million annually). On top of this, there were around another 110 million trips annually on regional buses and trains and ferries.

They’re clearly doing something right. One striking example is a new tram line through Bjørvika, an area of urban redevelopment on the city’s waterfront, which opened in late 2020. It’s easy to picture how something like that would be desirable on, say, Dominion Road. And it shows you don’t need an underground tunnel to get great outcomes for both housing and transit.

Photo: Hans O. Torgersen

Even more impressively, this is what it used to look like:


Meanwhile, in London

Plenty that should be on a transport minister’s agenda in London. The obvious place to start is the fantastic work to deliver dozens of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which has further accelerated since the pandemic started, with schemes moving from temporary to permanent almost every week.

It would be ideal for the minister to to visit a couple of examples in person – say, the original Waltham Forest, and maybe a more recent example, like Railton or Lewisham – and talk with politicians and officials about how they’ve done it, and how they’ve moved beyond initial resistance to deliver more results for more people. 

https://twitter.com/rahario/status/1536763815399931909?s=21&t=y0iJMf8XHDrM6LHw4VDXFA

The most recent research on the results shows impressive outcomes for not just healthier daily travels, but quieter streets, cleaner air and livelier shopping streets.

LTNs now cover more than half the area in north and east London, and more are planned.

In London, the Minister should also be sure to catch up with his counterparts and their advisers in the British Government. One aspect that should absolutely be on the agenda is to discuss their ambitious Cycling and Walking plan for England – called Gear Change and its review a year later. The plan calls for half of all journeys in towns and cities to be made by walking or cycling. It also established an Active Travel Commissioner, whoour minister should meet, to assess delivery by local authorities of walking and cycling schemes. The plan even suggests those assessments will influence the funding allocations for other non-walking and cycling projects.

There are others to meet too, such as London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman who has been involved in many of the things above.

How about also talking with officials about their Low Emissions Zones and world leading truck safety standards?

A concrete truck that complies with London’s new Direct Vision Standard.

Why not swing by Ljubljana?

It’s also notable that right now while the Minister is in Europe, Velo-city, the annual world cycling summit is taking place in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Velo-city is the major fixture on the active transport calendar, and Ljubljana is the first opportunity since the pandemic postponed the 2020 event to gather again in-person with the luminaries and leaders from around the world who are transforming their cities for everyday two-wheeled transport. Everyone who’s anyone will be there.

Frankly, given the rhetoric from the government about the need for change in transport, this should be the conference the Minister was travelling to attend, rather than the electric car one.

And it’s not just the conference itself – Ljubljana is an inspiring example of rapid, and rapidly accepted, transformation.

It would be interesting to know if the Ministry or his advisers even suggested some of these, especially Velo-city, as an option.

There’s so much to see and learn that would be useful for helping move forward the government’s stated ambitions on transport. It will always be hard to take everything in on one relatively short trip, especially as I’m sure he’s also keen to get back to his family. But with overseas travel a more precious opportunity  than ever, it’s really worth making the most of these serendipitous chances to connect with the change-makers, taste the transformations, and bring home some tangible souvenirs for the rest of us.

Readers: what else would you suggest as a must-see on a transport minister’s brief OE?

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43 comments

  1. While in Oslo he should also look at Norway’s passenger train network and decent inter city bus network (with onboard toilets). In the meantime, back in NZ another txt telling me the Capital Connection has broken down again and will be replaced by buses.

  2. Obviously the new Elizabeth Line on the tube in London.

    This is what should get done on a 20 year consultation to opening timeline.

    (Beady eye on essentially anything that isn’t a motorway…)

  3. Government has refused funding for new low emissions modern design Palmerston North and Masterton trains,
    The business case for new trains has a very positive cost benefit yet Govt still seems disinterested – now the Capital Connection is constantly being cancelled due to “mechanical issues”.

    1. These could have been very easily funded if this government stopped its wasteful spending. They’re needed for Te Huia as well.

      1. Wish they would buy a decent order of DMUs for the Waikato manawatu & wairarapa services. Hauling those trains with a big freight loco must push the operating cost right up.

    2. Hopefully it’s because, they are going to change ALR to surface rail and use the extra 10 billion to do up and electrify the main trunk line of the North Island?

  4. LTN,s eventually meet with public approval, but are very difficult politically to get over the line. The London map shows a suburb wide approach, which seems to be necessary for better outcomes. The Minister and some officials of influence should spend some time absorbing ,what London has done so far.
    I can already see the Herald headline ,if Michael Wood dared set foot in such “dangerous” territory,the “media” control the narrative around such projects, so l am greatly encouraged by the “Wellington newspapers” current editorials trying to shift the dial

    1. Isn’t the Dominion Post Modeshift series wonderful? The difficulty of getting LTN’s politically over the line is a reflection of:

      – how poorly the public sentiment is reflected in the media, usually. Yay to the Dominion Post for its leadership on this. But decision-makers have responsibilities that are quite independent of errant media beatups.
      – how poorly the politicians are informed about real public sentiment. Their advisors don’t seem to be looking past the anti-change vitriol from the minority.
      – how the typical pattern overseas – leadership smoothing over the hiccups and bumps by staying firm on the longer term goals, as required for transitions – is being ignored in NZ.

      We can have nice things too, but we need to stop letting the politicians and decision-makers duck for cover every time the media says “boo”. Reactive decision-making isn’t democracy.

      1. I was not under the impression that it is just the media saying boo. It is more like open rebellion. In Onehunga local residents literally started dismantling the infrastructure. And didn’t we have people suing to halt a cycleway project somewhere in Wellington?

        1. But that level of opposition comes from a very small minority. Most people either quietly support these changes or simply do not care.

        2. Contrary to the comment below, there was considerable opposition in Onehunga. To some extent there was a populist uprising, with people arguing that measures introduced without public consent from the majority were illegal. With many people in Onehunga having gardens they felt there was little need to reallocate road space to public parks. And many people’s leisure time activities involved driving to them. There was also a preference by many people to avoid exercise. At the time I had a job that involved travelling to offices of an organisation around NZ, and I was astounded by the extent to which the staff, who were overweight, were overjoyed by the prospect of being able to avoid walking even very short distances.
          Politically it might have been better to have started with saying children had the right to be able to walk and cycle safely to school, and to travel around their neighbourhood on foot, and road space allocation should start with this right. This would result in narrower lanes, slower speeds, and more cycleways and pedestrian crossings. I suspect that as population density increases support for reallocating space will increase.

  5. All we need is a 36m wide road corridor and a gazillion dollars from selling crude oil and gas to the world and we could be just like Bjørvika.

    1. Copenhagen would’ve been the better city to visit, then, given they chose to invest in cycling partly because it was the most affordable option.

      1. Yes. Norway makes a big deal about their EV uptake while becoming one of the wealthiest nations in the world through fossil fuels. (Possibly the highest GDP per capita when you exclude the tax havens.)
        Sweden is more like Australia for income and as you say has focused on more efficient modes.

        1. Sorry brain fog. Denmark has a higher GDP than Sweden and a country that is cheap to run. But they don’t have anything Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. Norway is a global outlier.

        2. Anyway as far as I understand going all in on roads and on street parking like we do is much more expensive than going for a bicycle network.

          Just think about how many minor streets have a roadway wider than 4–5 metres. How much extra money are we pissing away on maintaining all of that? There is a reason why we are using this crappy chipseal everywhere.

        3. I wonder about the narrative around Norway. It seems we criticise them for where there wealth comes from but also use that as I reason for us not doing any of the good stuff they have done. We are poor so lets keep just building roads.

      2. You should go to Copenhagen, it’s a very easy city to drive around. Copenhagen didn’t just invest in cycling, they have spent a lot of krona on their road and rail networks. They have metro running underground and on elevated tracks, suburban heavy rail. The airport is serviced by both heavy rail and elevated metro rail.

        1. Roeland, AT is not going all in on roads. Remember 15% of arterials are going to be repurposed. And it’s only going to take 10 years.

    2. You’re right miffy, unfortunately that highway did not disappear, they have just buried it in a tunnel.

      Feels a bit like cheating.

    3. The road which used to run through Bjørvika was put underground, that opened in 2010 and was part of the project to revitalise the old container port. There are a lot of road tunnels running under Oslo, plus a heavy rail tunnel and metro tunnels.

    4. “All we need is a 36m wide road corridor”

      Queen Street is that wide at the southern end, and only a bit narrower at the north. So is Ian McKinnon Drive and the first bit of Dominion down to View Road. Fanshawe Street is even wider!

  6. I believe the message the Transport Minister is sending is loud and clear. Here in NZ we see our future in roads and cars. That is the focus and future of our transport and hence the ministry has chosen the relevant stops in Europe for this.

    1. exactly. I’m baffled how naive people are about the government. They don’t do much for walking (just look at Queen St.) not much for cycling (cycling bridge… among others) not much for public transport (some could argue that maybe it’s more than previous governments and MAYBE it is but it’s still not much when you put it in perspective) but seem to be very very much interested in EVs. And I think it has more to do with lobby groups than governments care about environment. In my opinion government should only facilitate electric vehicles for PT and not subsidise any form of private car transport.

  7. I’m disappointed in this government’s continued focus on privately owned EVs. There is no effective low-carbon transport option between New Zealand cities, and a focus on reducing domestic air miles and intercity driving would be more equitable and effective than subsidising any kind of private car.

  8. I am sure Minister Wood,will have a “come for the cars,stay for the PT and cycleways” moment,the contrast in most European cities to here is stark.

    1. the question is will he even use any other form of transport or jjust stay in his limoousine the whole time…

  9. I have not being to Norway what’s the point of going somewhere where its cold even in summer and I have heard the beer is expensive. But good on them looks like they have got things sorted out but all of Europe has there roads rail and public transport miles ahead of us. Michael Woodhouse is getting things about half right. In my opinion more attention to intercity bus and trains would be a good thing. The coastal shipping package looks good as does the funding of new locomotives and ferries for Kiwirail. But he needs too try and pin down whether to pursue new clean technology to replace diesel powered North Island trains or whether to press on with rail electrification. Maybe he should offer to fund a couple of battery / electric overhead hybrid locomotives just so every one can get there heads around the pro and cons. For instance the shunt to and from the Dairy factory at Te Awamutu would be an ideal location to trial a hybrid locomotive.

    1. I worked at that factory the first summer after leaving school. We moved carriages around on the factory site with a farm tractor with an I-beam chassis. One carriage with two containers of butter took some stopping.

        1. I biked all the way to Nordkapp one summer many moons ago. Being far north of the Arctic Circle and well into the land of the midnight sun I went prepared for freezing temperatures. What I got was glorious heatwave – almost too hot to cycle.
          So impressed I was that I went back for more the following summer. This time it was cold and wet. Payback I suppose.
          But I did get to try out the Holmenkollenbahnen (light rail up in the hills) in Oslo.

  10. Norway’s passenger rail network isn’t as impressive as you think it is, its good in the south but misses all the west coast coastal cities, it only goes a couple of small towns north of Trondheim, leaving the entire north of Norway without any rail service. Flying is cheap, it’s the quickest way to travel in Norway.

    1. Sure it doesn’t cover much of the arctic north but to be fair, 90% of Norwegians live south of Trondheim, in the area covered by a quite extensive electric passenger and freight network.

      I don’t know what you mean by misses all the west coast coastal cities, are you aware there is more than one rail operator in Norway? GoAhead Nordic runs the line to Stavagner, Vy to Bergen and SJ to Kristiansund and Trondheim.

      1. Rail misses Ålesund, Molde, Kristiansund areas with a lot of heavy industry, fishing and fish farming and most of Norway remaining shipyards. There is no rail on the West Coast from Bergen to Trondheim, apart from the Rauma line to Åndalsnes, rail runs inland through mainly unpopulated areas. About 20% of the population do not have access to rail.

        1. And Norway been spending-up uber-large on building highways, tunnels and bridges to connect every little hamlet, while doing nothing to expand their railways to those significant towns that have never had it. I fear they have lost their transport balance, just as NZ has.

        2. The cost of building rail spurs to all those little hamlets would be enormous, even by Norwegian standard they couldn’t afford it. Most of the new roads, bridges and tunnels to those tiny hamlets are built for safety reasons, a lot of the roads which are being replaced haven’t been maintained since they were first paved, they still follow the original cart track, are only a single lane wide, prone to avalanches and rock falls or they are replacing a ferry.

          The govt didn’t start spending on highways until Nye Veier was created in 2015 to address the decades of under funding.

  11. He could also get a few pointers while in Geneva. For example, consumer goods logistics by rail.
    https://www.railjournal.com/in_depth/cooperation-is-the-name-of-the-game-in-swiss-logistics/
    And he could have a look at one unified public transport system across the country, which integrates travel for tourism, local recreation, urban movements, regional, national, and international travel. This system is focused on transport hubs, with an emphasis on rail transport, but integrating many other transport modes.

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