This is a guest post by Darren Davis & Malcolm McCracken and originally appeared here.

It’s one month until Budget Day 2023. Read on to hear the critical need for rail investment in the Lower North Island.

This is a sad story of how we still ‘plan’ for growth in Aotearoa. We do so without providing people living in new and growing communities with real transport choice. Even when public transport solutions are available with high benefits, we tend to double down on big roads which make existing issues worse. This makes it nearly impossible for Aotearoa to achieve a zero-carbon future with genuine, inclusive transport choice.

The first part of the tragedy is growth without transport choice. The second part is that even when good transport choices with high benefits are on the table, the choice is to double-down on roading investment and spend the bare minimum on public transport.

The most clear and present example of this Transport Land Use Disintegration is taking place here and now in the Lower North Island where significant growth is taking place in Kāpiti, Horowhenua and the Wairarapa. For example, Horowhenua District Council’s updated growth strategy in 2022 plans for an additional 26,008 additional people by 2040 – a projected 71% increase. Kāpiti District, part of which is beyond the Wellington urban rail network, is projected to increase by 32,000 people over the next 30 years. Wairarapa is also growing, partly due to lifestyle reasons and partly driven by housing affordability challenges in Wellington. For example, medium growth projections indicate that Masterton district’s population will grow from 27,500 in 2020 to 30,549 (+11.1%) by 2031. At the same, the single commuter train from the Manawatū, Horowhenua and northern Kāpiti is at capacity as are the three peak-direction commuter trains from the Wairarapa. Put simply, there is a lot of growth coming, and there is no public transport capacity available for more people to use the train now, let alone any ability to accommodate population growth on public transport.

The second part of the tragedy is about doubling-down on high-cost, low-benefit roading investments when robust public transport business cases that provide effective, affordable solutions with high benefits are ignored.

At least $4 billion is being invested in roading in the Wellington Northern Corridor which serves Kāpiti and Horowhenua. $2.325 billion of this is for already-opened sections of expressway and motorway from Transmission Gully through to Ōtaki and $1.5 billion is budgeted for Ōtaki to North of Levin. Waka Kotahi is also due to pay $125 million a year for the next 30 years under the terms of the Transmission Gully Public Private Partnership. This takes the total roading investment in the Wellington Northern Corridor to over $7 billion. All this investment doubles down on car dependency and a high carbon future, often just to get commuters and holidaymakers to the back of the traffic jam faster. At the same time, the once daily Capital Connection commuter train from Palmerston North to Wellington is on life support and being patched up with refurbished rolling stock from the 1970s to keep it limping along for a few more years. The Wairarapa Line trains are out of capacity and also in urgent need of an upgrade.

The contrast could not be starker along State Highway 1. The gold-plated expressway, 100% funded by central government, at times parallels a single-track rail corridor with a solitary weekday peak-direction commuter train and the three times a week tourist-oriented Northern Explorer service.

In the wake of recent extreme weather events, we often talk about the need for resilience and redundancy in our transport networks, but in reality, this only seems to apply to roads. For example, the Transmission Gully expressway was specifically designed to provide an alternative to the vulnerable Centennial Highway, wedged between the Paekākāriki Escarpment and the Tasman Sea. But the rail line parallel to Centennial Highway still clings precipitously to the escarpment on its steep, slow, single-track descent from Pukerua Bay into Paekākāriki and is subject to regular disruption from increasingly frequent extreme weather events. While car capacity has doubled with Transmission Gully, rail capacity remains severely constrained to serve the fast-growing Kāpiti and Horowhenua districts by the section of single track between North and South Junctions. This also severely impacts on the ability of the Wellington urban rail network to meet growth in the parts of Kāpiti on the Wellington urban network.

While the interim Capital Connection rolling stock, made up of refurbished 1970s Mark II carriages from the UK, will buy a few years’ reprieve, the opportunity cost of this is that it puts off, but doesn’t replace the need for a robust long-term solution to regional rail rolling stock that would provide a template for regional rail networks across Aotearoa.

What makes this situation worse is that there is a robust business case on the table with high benefits which provide a compelling case for passenger rail solutions for the Lower North Island. This is the 2019 Lower North Island Longer-Distance Rolling Stock Business Case.

Lower North Island Longer-Distance Rolling Stock Business Case

This business case was completed at the end of 2019 and made a compelling case for the existing Wairarapa Line and Capital Connection rolling stock to be replaced within the limited lifespan of the current fleet by 2025. It proposed its replacement with 15 four-carriage dual mode trains able to run on electricity within the Wellington electrified network. It noted that both the Capital Connection and peak Wairarapa Line trains were at capacity and urgently required additional services, as well as new or much improved non-peak services and a doubling of weekend services on the Wairarapa Line and new weekend service on the Manawatū Line.

The business case had a benefit cost ratio of 1.5 to 3.1, compared to the very low benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 0.22-0.37 for Ōtaki to North of Levin Expressway, originally estimated to cost $817 million. At its new cost of $1.5 billion, this BCR will most likely have slipped further. Construction cost inflation means that the Ōtaki to North of Levin Expressway project is once again being rescoped to fit within budget.

The benefit of the recommended investment is not limited to regional rail. The infrastructure investment would benefit freight and Kiwirail Great Journeys train services, without those services picking up any of the cost. The business case did include significant investment in Wairarapa Line infrastructure to enable more frequent service. However, much of this investment is now underway as part of a separate Wairarapa Line upgrade programme, which means that the benefit of the new rolling stock is even higher, given that much of the infrastructure cost is already covered. In an irony, that is frequently repeated in New Zealand public transport planning, the Wairarapa Line infrastructure improvements enable, but don’t provide for, improved rail services to use the improved infrastructure.  If a future decision were taken for electrification of the Manawatū or Wairarapa lines, investment in dual mode sets is not a sunk cost as it would enable those services to be extended further beyond any future electrification, for example to Whanganui.

Despite this compelling case for investment, the 2022 budget bid for this rolling stock was refused while investment continued in the Ōtaki to North of Levin expressway, whose costs vastly exceed its benefits, continued. The failure of this bid took everyone, most particularly the Greater Wellington and Horizons regional councils, by surprise, given its high benefits, support for transport choice in growth areas and its role as effective climate change action. The two regional councils have resubmitted the proposal in the 2023 budget, to be made public on 18th May.

Instead, Government decided to implement an interim solution for the ageing Capital Connection fleet with the refurbishment of 1970s era ex- British Rail Mark 11 carriages which have been quietly rusting in Taumarunui since Auckland electrified its rail network in 2015, making these carriages redundant.

While this may provide a stop gap solution for the Capital Connection trains for a few years, it means that a more extensive refurbishment of the existing Wairarapa Line rolling stock will be required to enable them to operate until 2032. This would be avoided if they are replaced by the bi-mode trains proposed in this business case as well as making much earlier use of the much-higher service frequency enabled by the already committed Wairarapa Line infrastructure investment. ​

It also kicks for touch the urgently needed longer-term regional rail rolling stock solution, which could provide a template for similar regional rail solutions in the Upper North Island and Canterbury.

Given that there is at least a four-year time frame from funding commitment to new rolling stock being in operation, a decision is required now in order to have the new rolling stock running for 2028.

Put simply, our ask is that:

  • Government funds the Bi-mode Lower North Island rolling stock in the 2023 budget so that a sustainable, long-term regional rail solution is in place within the lifespan of the interim Wairarapa Line and Capital Connection rolling stock.
  • Use the opportunity presented by the Ōtaki to north of Levin Expressway rescoping to make rail improvements to slow sections of the North Island Main Trunk Line in this area to enable rail speeds that are competitive with road speeds. This would help this project provide a modicum of transport choice instead of an exclusive focus on roading.

​While the current impetus is on addressing the Lower North Island rolling stock, the story we share today is not unique in New Zealand. In Waikato, Kāinga Ora is supporting the development of 1,650 new homes in Te Kauwhata, which the Te Huia Hamilton to Auckland service runs through twice in each direction each weekday without stopping, even though the former station platform still exists. In Canterbury, there is huge growth in the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts which have rail lines running through them but no urban services to provide transport choice. Similarly, the majority of the well-advertised $98.03 million cost of Te Huia is capital ($68.7 million) and $29.3m is operational costs (includes mobilisation costs of $2.19m). This infrastructure investment is a sunk cost, which we should seek to make the most of by funding improved frequency. Yet in 2021, Waka Kotahi refused to use already allocated funds for Te Huia on a third return service on weekdays.

So, if you believe that passenger rail has a crucial role to play in securing sustainable, inclusive, carbon-friendly mobility for Aotearoa, the time to act is now.

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  1. When I lived in Palmerston North not all that long ago during the week I could catch a train to Wellington at 5.04am (Northerner from Auckland), 6.20 (Capital Connection), 2pm (CC), 5.10 (Overlander) and 5.25 (Bay Express). Once trains also passed through on the way to New Plymouth. While trains on this route mainly replace cars, our lack of rail overall means that on a per capita domestic basis, New Zealanders emit seven times more CO2 from aviation than people living in the UK and nine times that of Germany. And just yesterday the Climate Change Commission told us we need to go harder on emission reductions. Building more roads wont help that.

    1. I think NZ will always have quite high domestic aviation emissions. Auckland-Wellington, Wellington-Christchurch and Christchurch-Auckland are by far our busiest air routes, moving more people than all other domestic air travel combined. Rail is never going to be competitive on those routes. A-W is the closest, but realistically even an overnight service isn’t going to poach much patronage from our airlines.

      Overlay NZ over Germany or Britain and you’ll see just how big the distance between our main centres is (not to mention Cook Strait). Our European peers also have attractive rail corridors which are a) shorter than ours, b) over much easier terrain, c) through areas with much higher population density, d) connecting centres with an order of magnitude more people in them.

      Unfortunately for our domestic emissions, aircraft remain the obvious best choice for travel between our main centres. As long as that remains true, rail will struggle to make a dent in our aviation emissions, even if it manages steep cuts in the number of travellers on secondary routes like Auckland-Tauranga. It is better suited to the displacement of regional car travel in areas like the lower North Island (as discussed here) and the Golden Triangle.

      1. If we skipped high speed rail and went straight to Maglev, trains would be competitive.

        Auckland to Hamilton express in 20 minutes. Auckland to Wellington in 120 minutes.

        Yes, it would cost lots, but there are also costs of not doing something, which are higher?

        1. Having an infinite amount of money / resources would solve a lot of problems, but it is not how the real world works.

          That maglev line in Japan costs, what, 100 billion NZ dollars if you convert it?

        2. Maglev is not commercially viable.
          The opening comments on Tom Scott’s video lay bare the current reality

      2. I agree, national rail will never make up any significant proportion of trips without stupid amounts of investment (like subsidies of over $1000 a trip). Even in the golden triangle, for most people its just easier to drive. NZ would only cut CO2 by a tiny fraction after investing billions in regional rail. I am sure an EV subsidy or similar would be better from an environmental perspective.

        1. The is no good reason why a service Golden triangle ( Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, etc ) can’t be competitive. A better train on this route should get close to 2 hours, better than a similar drive and the route should support at least hourly service.

          The article talks about the billions being spent in road upgrades. A similar amount would give us a lot of upgrades on this route.

        2. The key draw of rail is that it can be much faster than a car. Narrow gauge trains have run up to 200km/hr and been perfectly safe. Additionally, they can run entirely on electricity, can be more spacious and comfortable than air travel and have functionally zero security and boarding time when compared to a plane.

          The necessary upgrades to make a rail triangle successful are local PT networks and urban design that significantly reduces the need for a personal vehicle.

        3. A business case was done and we could have a 14.325 billion dollar high speed rail line to Hamilton. Travel times would be 69 mins

        4. There are some corridors on which rail is potentially competitive. The railway stations in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga are all near the city centre. The trains also go through, rather than over the Kaimai Range. Admittedly it doesn’t help that all three cities are so spread out. The railway stations in the lower North Island, with the exception of Palmerston North, are all centrally located, and the routes fairly direct. Rail is well suited to serving the small towns on the route, which will never have their own air services.

        5. Yes – although there’s something we need to be wary of. While the aviation sector is pretending they’re going to be able to electrify planes in a timeframe that will be useful, in reality all they’ll manage to do is provide electric flights for planes that carry very few passengers over short distances. These flights will be electric – but the energy use per passenger km will be absolutely enormous compared to rail or long distance bus.

          The result? Modeshift to aviation for these shorter distance trips, with the further undermining of rail and bus networks. The rich will be able to afford this mode while the masses will not, and will suffer.

          Unfortunately, the problem we face is the techno-optimism of people who fly is enormous. Flying is a fully abnormal practice and an extremely inequitable use of the planet’s resources. Yet people who do it regularly – including bureaucrats and the powerful wealthy – have convinced themselves that it is somehow part of a normal lifestyle and will be part of a normal, low-carbon future… that all we need is improvements in technology. In the meanwhile, we’ll watch as research and development of electric aviation chews up funding that could be spent on making further improvements in already-sustainable technology.

      3. Hi, you could fix that comment by replacing the would “rail” with “road” and it becomes an equally valid argument for never investing in roads as part of a long distance network for NZ. But we did and continue to do I don’t support the position you take.

        1. I’m arguing against the attitude that regional rail will make a significant dent in our domestic airline patronage in the next several decades. This is also true for roads, but no one is going around claiming that throwing a few billion into SH1 improvements will have a significant impact on Air NZ’s market.

          I would like to see better regional rail services in NZ, but I took issue with Paulc’s claim that “our lack of rail overall means that on a per capita domestic basis, New Zealanders emit seven times more CO2 from aviation than people living in the UK and nine times that of Germany.”

        2. Stoat, I take issue with your whole premise that rail wouldn’t be competitive. It certainly would be if the enormous subsidies and bailouts involved with propping aviation up were removed and their past effects mitigated, and if the climate destruction being caused was required to be lowered radically – as equity demands.

          Rail is “never” going to be competitive on those routes, you say.

          How about you take a long deep look at
          an emissions scenario that delivers a 1.5 world. Look, too, at the cascades of costs and risks our kids will face if we don’t manage that, and then reassess where aviation sits in that scenario.

          Where it sits is most certainly not as a mode for high passenger numbers.

          It’s time to call bullshit on the aviation sector, which is as full of greenwash and misinformation as the tobacco industry once was, and is causing way more harm.

        3. And don’t forget that rail services many intermediate points and provides for shorter-distance trips that are either not possible or not well catered-for by aviation.

        4. Heidi – the reality is if we have to cut down air travel, there will simply be a lot less travel between Auckland and Christchurch and Auckland and Queenstown. Stoat is correct that these routes are never going to be replaced by rail.

        5. Jezza, I don’t believe you have the data to assert that. In any case, if passenger numbers drop when there’s an excellent rail service and when aviation becomes untenable because it’s having to pay for its externalities – then those extra trips were low-value. This would simply be a sign that those extra trips happening now can’t be justified when their true cost to society is measured. But it doesn’t mean a rail service to provide the connections for trips that are of value isn’t tenable.

          I think all that’s happening is that you and stoat aren’t managing to imagine a world with a different set of economic drivers and constraints. A low carbon economy is different. Stop seeing that difference as somehow unattainable.

        6. And people should ask themselves if ‘hopping down’ to Queenstown for a weekend or one Great Walk is really necessary and a high value trip.
          Or to put it differently: It is not inherently bad if the number of trips from Auckland to Queenstown decreases.

        7. Heidi – like Stoat I’m not claiming that a rail service is untenable, I think there is huge underutilised potential for passenger rail in NZ. Not sure how you have come to that conclusion that either of us think that.

          I don’t have any data at the moment, however I have seen it in the past and a large chunk of travel on those routes has a return within four days.

          Many of those trips are what would be considered low value and it could well be that trips from Auckland to Queenstown get replaced by train trips to the Bay of Islands, Thames or Rotorua.

          There is no rail that even goes close to Queenstown and realistically a rail trip from Auckland to Christchurch is unlikely to be made less than around 15 – 16 hours. I stand by my assertion that rail is unlikely to replace many of these trips.

          It is more likely that they disappear or that they are the reason we continue as a society to pay lip service to climate change.

        8. Jezza, the point is that you are mixing two things:

          “Stoat is correct that these routes are never going to be replaced by rail.”

          “I stand by my assertion that rail is unlikely to replace many of these trips.”

          Routes, or trips?

          The air routes can be replaced easily by rail routes through proper investment and capture of externalities. The air trips will probably not all be replaced by rail trips – although exactly what pans out is unknown. Once international aviation is slashed as well, there might be a lot more domestic travel.

        9. Sorry, Heidi I meant to say trips. Yes the routes are generally able to be replicated by rail, although as I mentioned earlier Queenstown is a long way from any current rail lines, although a couple of former lines went within 100km.

  2. In Auckland there has been a big switch to apartment living around stations. (except for those protected inner suburbs such as Remuera and Greenlane where there are very few AT train users). So many more people now living in Sylvia Park, Middlemore, Panmure, Glen Innes are closer to work and amenities and the trains are busy.
    This is good economics.
    The idea to expand distant suburbs is not economics because people will have to spend at least 2 or 3 hours a day commuting.

    1. Yes imagine what surface LR could do for Auckland if they just focussed on the inner suburbs instead of trying to spend billions on the sprawling suburbs and airport. Imagine the entire Isthmus being a 10 minute LR ride to the city! Buses currently take 10 minutes just to travel Symonds Street.
      Wouldn’t it be great if the plan was for all new growth to be within 5km of the city and all new transport investment to be there too. Why spend billions on Botany, isn’t that the opposite of what we should be incentivising?

  3. Good article. Fingers crossed for the funding. Do you support electrification to Palmerston North and Masterton or is that a lower priority?

    1. I would much rather transport-funding go into electrifying to Palmerston North and Masterton than building the poor-business-case Otaki-Levin motorway. Localised improvements to this road are all that is needed.

  4. I don’t know if this article really captures what the new carriages are like. They were literally stripped back to sandblasted metal shells and have had a from-scratch brand new interior installed, the same used on the Te Huia carriages (nicer than even some European intercity stock). The running gear has been removed and either replaced or very thoroughly ‘refurbished’. Depending on your feelings about a certain Greek boat they are essentially new rolling stock.

    Buying the new trains is still a good idea to reduce emissions, increase service frequency, and enable speed increases once issues with the alignment are addressed. But some good work has been done by Hutt Workshops in turning what was basically scrap into a major improvement in the quality of service. As we know, though, frequency is king and this refurbishment approach won’t scale into a proper lower North Island fleet. Funding from this budget is critical.

    1. They’re OK but are not up to the dynamic standards of modern rolling stock. The doors cut in the side determine floor height with a big step down. The floor height problem limits the suspension travel in the bogies which leads to banging and crashing over bumps. The stainless steel doors also lose a lot of heat from the carriage.

  5. I’d love to see a commitment between GWRC & Horizons to improve the frequency of the existing Waikanae to Palmy bus service.

    There are now trains every 20 minutes all day from Waikanae, so if that could connect to a frequent bus service that served Ōtaki, Levin, and Palmy it could result in a very good interim solution (and help prove a business case for more direct train services).

    Frequency is key in Public Transport

  6. Wonderful article by Don & Malcolm- l doubt a BOP newspaper would ever publish such for fear of offending Councils, Port, Chamber of Commerce & Transport industries/ agencies in Tauranga mostly front Road profiteering cronies Cartel opposing any investment in passenger rail although for their self interest/profit wish to exclusively monopolise Rail. Seems a harsh criticism, but negativeness and vehement opposition to passenger rail from those “in charge” justifies this reactionary remark
    That in 2023 Govt prioritises the most emissive form of transport-Road Dependency & neglects rail investment is a political crime. Not only for Lower North Island is funding of new trains critical, but failure to urgently plan & provide for passenger rail is Govt dereliction of responsibility to NZ. Entrapping citizens to a Road only option is an outdated 1960’s ploy that has destroyed our planet, cities and lifestyle.
    Rail is the future as many successful worldwide examples prove.
    More urgently in planets’ extreme climate emergency, Rail offers foremost sustainable transportation, so no excuses for delay- Earth’s degradation won’t wait. Imperative NZ enacts passenger rail NOW.

  7. $7 billion is a lot of money for a city the size of Wellington! That is the equivalent of about $30 billion being spent in Auckland.
    Imagine if they spent $30 billion wisely in Auckland! The could do a lot of surface level LR, maybe 30 different lines if they weren’t gold plated.

  8. I love the idea of Bimodal trains rather than carriage trains towed by elderly dirty diesel locomotives. I wonder if we could build them in New Zealand. I expect one reason we keep fixing up the old carriage trains is it keeps people employed at the Hutt workshop. Also extending the life of the locomotives although new locos for passenger service have being ordered. But as noted above Te Huia is of a good standards so I expect the new capital connection will be the same. The idea of running more buses between Waikanae and Palmerston North in the interim is also good. More buses between Pukekohe and Hamilton would also be a good interim solution.

  9. Has a tunnel ever been proposed to replace the north-south junction? I was thinking a straight-line from around Fisherman’s Table south of Paekākāriki to the valley NE of Plimmerton (SE of Whenua Tapu). It’d be about 8km long. It would surely cut train travel-time down dramatically as well as energy consumption. An apology and good replacement bus would be required to Pukerua Bay residents, but I think it’d be good for the overall network.

    1. With modern Tunnel Boring Machines, a double track or dual tube between Plimmerton and Kapiti should be easily and safely achievable. It would remove a difficult steep, landslip prone slow section and have numerous benefits for local commuter services and long distance freight. Needless to say in present day NZ it is considered completely out of the question.

      1. One thing which may offer some hope for lower North Island rail development is that 2023 is election year and two “commuter” seats are up for grabs.
        Wairarapa and Otaki (Levin to Paraparaumu) both went to Labour three years ago and National wants them back. It will be interesting to see what the National candidates say about funding improved rail capacity.

    2. Keeping rail services to Pukerua Bay is probably needed if the bonkers greenfield development by Kāinga Ora up there goes ahead.

  10. The exec summary of the Wellington Rail Programme Business Case says the following: “Full duplication between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki (North-South Junction), a key single-track constraint with several tunnels, and addition of a third main in the Porirua-Tawa area, which will enable higher passenger frequencies and improve service resilience and reliability on the Kāpiti Line. This will make rail a more attractive travel option on that line, where population growth is expected to be highest, and ensure continued freight access to the network as passenger frequencies increase.” So looks like there are plans to address the slow single-track section between North and South junctions.

  11. Rail is not the future for New Zealand and the government know this. Cars and trucks will remain the best transportation for many years to come. Trains are too slow.

    1. Cars are limited to 110km/hr at best. Trains can run up to 160km/hr easily on NZ’s rail gauge. Trains are slow because our entire network has the bare minimum of investment to keep the lights on.

      1. Plus, trains could allow me to book a seat and travel from Britomart to downtown Tauranga congestion free on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend. Train would be full but its speed would not be impacted…

  12. With transmission gully now open it should be a bit easier to daylight the tunnels between muri & paekak and double track it. The centennial highway can probably be closed for a few days at a time now to allow for the rock fall risk.

  13. Absolutely, it’s so completely obvious that these new dual (or even tri-mode) units need to be purchased. Ideally a bigger order to include trains for Christchurch and other areas (golden triangle etc) should be made to achieve economies of scale.

  14. It doesn’t matter what BCRs are, or what environmental outcomes there are, or anything else. The bulk of transport funding comes from road users, and therefore the bulk of funding will be spent on road users. If politicians deviate from that too far, they get booted out.

    Public transport advocates have never been able to get their heads around this simple fact. He who pays, says.

    For years I’ve asked people to suggest ways for non-drivers who want more trains and buses to pay more so they can have their toys, just like motorists, but they squeal loudly and start foaming at the mouth at the very suggestion that they spend their own money.

    And so nothing changes. It never has and it never will. It will just be moaning and groaning decade after decade until they are too old to want to go anywhere.

    1. If he who pays, says, then ratepayers and taxpayers would get much more say, as the crown funding and local share components of transport funding are enormous.

      The truth is that even “user pays” as a way of making decisions on how we impact our public space, our environment, our social and public health outcomes doesn’t exist in isolation; there is a whole ethical and conceptual framework that must be considered. The Future Funding Study from about a decade ago laid that out clearly, following the neoliberal point of view. Even if you follow that framework rather than something more robust and forward-thinking, it lays out that the funding collected from road user charges must be used to pay for active and public transport investment.

      For example, it said:

      – Pedestrians are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles.
      – Cyclists are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles.

      – The revenue should also cover related services whose costs are caused by road use, such as the road enforcement aspects of police costs, safety programmes, and NZTA overhead costs.

      Public transport services to help reduce the tens of billions of dollars of carbon credits we’ll be needing to pay over even just the next few short years as a result of poor transport planning are absolutely “services whose costs are caused by road use”.

      What the neoliberal strategists did was put together a framework that was about 70% logical. However, the neoliberal commentators, politicians and public then cherry-picked just those bits they liked.

      The question remains why they do this, when it’s absolutely clear that the outcomes of such thinking include curtailing the lives, mobility, opportunities of children and youth, and the destruction of the very ecological base on which we depend.

      To what should we ascribe the practice of relying on this orphaned “he who pays, says” concept in isolation from the other more humane aspects of the neoliberal approach? I think it is an irrationale aversion to a caring, collective mindset, which probably stems from fear of inadequacy. The same old thing: the coward is the one who abuses others.

  15. Catz, if cars users had to pay their full fair share, few could afford to drive.

    Cars and trucks are heavily subisdised, Your road user charges do not pay the full cost. The general taxpayer picks up most of the bill. Most people demanding PT users pay all the costs of infrastructure and travel can’t get their head around this.

  16. To answer your question Bob, yes, a tunnel between the Paekākāriki area and the Plimmerton area has been proposed many times over the past 150+ years (including in the original proposals for railways between Wellington and Manawatu), with extensive geological investigations being undertaken by the PWD/MoW/MoWD and consultants.

    As luke says below, now that the Transmission Gully road is available, it should be relatively easy, as an initial solution, to improve construction access to the existing line to realign/duplicate and daylight the currently restricted and prone single-track section.

    Ultimately a more direct low-gradient double-track tunnel for inter-regional, express commuter and freight trains would be required in addition.

    1. This is Aotearoa. In English you may refer to it as New Zealand, which is actually based on a place in Holland, so just typical backwards German that the English language is, stealing from others to make it a less tedious language but in the end THE GREAT COLONIAL LANGUAGE of the past present and future!

      1. Touchy touchy.
        New Zealand – a name gifted but now (in the current cancel culture) thrown back in our face.

        1. See Claude_Balls I have never really been into liberal causes but I so badly don’t want to be like you that I am going to adopt a few. Kia ora Aotearoa!

    1. Campaigners who explain the existential threats of their issue, and then don’t take actions commensurate with the importance are possibly doing more harm. The public might look at their nice, well-mannered suggestions and think they’re nice people, but are left with the impression that they are clearly sensationalising the issue. “If it was really that bad, they would be doing more than just talking.’

      Campaigners who disrupt society to bring attention to their issue, on the other hand, don’t inspire the public to like them … But they do raise public understanding of the importance of the issue. “They’re complete bastards, but they do have a point.”

      People who have done their homework on climate change, and who understand that we are ruining our children’s future fast do have a civic duty to act. How? Our government and councils are acting as climate deniers. Options for gentle transitions have been wasted.

      The best and most ethical path forward for people trying to bring systems change is to seek to be effective – which means using the evidence for what is effective. There’s now plenty of evidence that peaceful but disruptive actions are more effective than trying to work within the Establishment to make incremental improvements.

      Get used to disruption. We’re going to see a lot more of it.

      Oh, one more thing. Status quo trolls understand this, and they fill forums with abuse about protesters in order to waste public energy creations gate and division. People need to think this through and stop reacting gullibly.

      A good thing to consider is: How, exactly, are we going to turn this juggernaut around when government is so weak? How do we support people taking that action?

      1. Do you really think their actions will achieve anything other than turn the populace against them? Of course not. They are doing more harm than good. And if the ambulance carrying your critically-injured daughter to hospital gets held up by hoons glued to the road, I assume you’ll be fine with that and tell the driver he/she/they will just have to get used to disruption

        1. What slows ambulances from getting to hospitals in good time is congestion, caused by car-centric planning that reduces mode choice, induces traffic, and results in the domination of space in our road corridors by cars.

      2. Heidi, you are talking to a rail buff here who would love nothing more than to see NZ filled with railways.

        You say that cars are producing the congestion and causing the delays; yes, so does it make sense to make those delays 10 times worse? Is that really going to get people on board? And would you really be OK with it, if it were your daughter in the ambulance?

        I’m angry with the protesters because their action will achieve nothing whatsoever other than put lives at risk (at worst) and needlessly disrupt people (at least) so that those people who might have been supportive, will instead become hostile. What other possible outcome to this action could there be?

        1. Carole, I encourage you to take a fresh look at who’s really creating the problems: Waka Kotahi, Auckland Transport, their predecessors, and the wider engineering consulting sector. In order to create business cases favourable to road building, the sector has deliberately continued with outdated planning and inadequate processes. This is the reason for our increased traffic and congestion. Auckland’s vehicle travel increased by 40% in the same period that Paris’s vehicle travel decreased by 40%, for example.

          You say, “cars are producing the congestion and causing the delays; yes, so does it make sense to make those delays 10 times worse?” The question should be asked of the sector who are making those delays worse every day of the year, not of activists who raise awareness of the situation for a very brief period of time.

          We read in the media that “Transport Minister Michael Wood says it is “totally unacceptable” for protesters to disrupt Wellington commuters and the transport network.” Does he say the same about drivers creating an epidemic of disruption to the transport network – making active travel impossible for most due to their speeding, running red lights, stopping in cycle lanes and parking on footpaths all over our cities? He could speak out about how it is “totally unacceptable” for the Police to have deserted basic urban safety considerations. Or for Auckland Transport to fail to enforce the parking regulations.

          You’ve allowed yourself to be outraged by the “status quo” narrative of concern for safety during brief moments of activism. Can’t you see that the day-to-day safety situation is far more egregious, and is created by the transport system the activists are protesting about?

          Our arterial streets have extremely high DSI for people outside vehicles. People – in wheelchairs, parents with prams, children – are having to walk off the footpath and onto the road to get around wankpanzers parked there, all over the city. They can’t cycle most places because AT have refused to implement Vision Zero. This has impacted both public health and and public safety immensely; our children’s development is stunted by lack of independent mobility.

          Rather than fall for the “status quo” narrative designed to prevent change by drumming up outrage amongst the change-averse, if you’re really in support of a safe, sustainable transport system, it’s time to get outraged about the current crises of climate and safety.

          Have you read the IPCC reports? What’s your solution to the problem? Do you honestly think central and local government will take timely steps to decarbonise our systems – when all they’ve done to date amounts to nothing more than climate denial.

          Unfortunately, while disruption feels uncomfortable, research simply doesn’t support your belief that it leads most people to become hostile to the cause. It’s time to stop blaming the messengers.

        2. ‘Allow yourself..’ ‘fall for the status quo…’

          Why is it that people like yourself, Heidi, assume that someone with a different viewpoint is incapable of independent thought? Somewhat patronising as well as presumptive!

          I assure you I am not the kind of person to fall for anything. I make up my own mind based on my own due diligence (not mainstream media). I’ve had a whole career based on research and I’m not about to have wool pulled over my eyes.

          I have seen no evidence whatsoever that protests like this will a) recruit significant new supporters to the cause b) change a government’s attitude (governments of any persuasion) – for the simple reason that governments cannot, ever, be seen to bow to coercive action of any kind. For obvious reasons. And if the action doesn’t bring about the required change, then it’s utterly pointless. The only ‘outrage’ it’s drumming up is not for lack of action on climate change – it’s for the selfishness and stupidity of the protesters. No doubt you’ll disagree with that but it’s what I’m seeing all around me.

          To clarify: it’s not the causes of climate change that I’m disputing. You’re preaching to the converted. What I’m disputing is whether these coercive protests are effective.

          What do I think is the solution? Winning friends and influencing people. Getting them onside. Not holding a gun to their heads.

    2. I heard that if you urinate on the protestors hands it softens the glue holding them on to the road. Even if it doesn’t work at least you are not stuck in a queue while needing to pee.

  17. On Friday I watched in person the famous head of Perpetual Guardian, with his NGO that travels the world convincing governments to convert to the 4 day working week. He spoke beautifully, passionately and believable, saying it was his one opportunity to save the world. He spoke to our ridiculous carbon heavy solutions to speeding up our lives, when we would be happier and better slowing down. Trains are exactly this, they are relaxing, whether fast or slow, whether electric or not quite electric. They always were and always will be. That a “progressive” government is ignoring this is shameful for the great nation of Aotearoa. We, he tangata deserve better from those who make decisions for our tamariki!

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