The last week has been a rough one for KiwiRail. Understandably huge attention was paid to their enormous stuff-up about a track inspection vehicle needed in Wellington that was both faulty and not even scheduled to be in Wellington when it was needed. Then on Friday, Auckland’s entire rail network (well, what’s left of it, given the Eastern Line is closed for months due to another KiwiRail stuff up) was brought to its knees by a humidity induced equipment failure. A review into the Wellington stuff-up has commenced, while here in Auckland we wonder what it might take for a similar review into the dire state of our rail service to be instigated, or for our local politicians to even care, let alone grow some teeth and demand one.

With Kiwirail’s incompetence brought to the forefront it feels like we’re at a tipping point because, as rail historian Andre Brett highlighted in a post for The Spinoff, recent events are not isolated incidents:

It is hard to avoid the impression KiwiRail has little interest in running a railway or serving those who want to use it. It is doing potentially irreparable damage to the future of rail in New Zealand. Wellington’s fiasco is only the latest inconvenience KiwiRail has thrust upon rail users. Auckland is experiencing months-long shutdowns on every line. Most of the country does not even have passenger rail as an option: car dependency is baked into our transport system. As for freight, insiders tell of existing or prospective users being cold-shouldered.

It’s now 15 years since KiwiRail was established, when the previous Labour government ‘bought back’ the train system from Toll in mid-2008, a few months before losing the election. A few years before then they had bought back the track network for $1, after it had been privatised in 1990. Between 2004 and 2008, when the Government owned the tracks but not yet the train system, an organisation called “ONTRACK” existed, which led much of the early work on revitalising Auckland’s rail system through projects like double-tracking the Western Line.

In KiwiRail’s early years, the new government was hostile to spending money on rail and reluctantly made a series of fairly minor investments through a “Turnaround Plan” into upgrading old rolling stock and other facilities, while looking to downscale the rail network by closing or mothballing some of the less used lines. More recently, investment levels into KiwiRail from the government have skyrocketed – last year’s budget alone allocated around $2.1 billion of investment into rail, with most of that going to KiwiRail (alongside other investments like City Rail Link).

Throughout these past 15 years there have been questions raised about the future of KiwiRail. Even recently, a series of reviews into rail have looked at how to improve outcomes and performance, especially given the vast increase in investment the government is making.

  • The 2019 “Future of Rail” review looked at how to better integrate rail into normal transport planning and investment decision making processes, eventually proposing an extremely complicated system involving the New Zealand Rail Plan and the Rail Network Investment Programme.
  • A more recent review into KiwiRail’s status as a State Owned Enterprise bizarrely reached the conclusion that no changes to current organisational arrangements were necessary.

I chat with quite a few different people involved in the wider rail sector and nobody agrees that we should simply continue with the status quo. There are a few big reasons for this:

  1. KiwiRail wear far too many “hats” in the roles that they play in the rail system. An obvious example of this is the Auckland Metro Rail Network where KiwiRail freight trains and Auckland Transport passenger trains essentially must ‘compete’ for a limited number of ‘slots’ in the rail network. Yet it’s KiwiRail wearing another hat who make the decision on this. It’s no wonder that despite rail forming a critical part of the “frequent public transport network”, it doesn’t actually meet the standard of off-peak services at least every 15 minutes.
  2. There seems to be extremely limited competition or innovation in many of the tasks KiwiRail performs. How can we be confident that the Auckland rail network rebuild couldn’t be done much faster and in a less disruptive way, if it’s only KiwiRail’s own internal team who are allowed to carry out the work? When it took a month for them to clear what looked like a small slip near my local station recently, and more than two months after that there are still significant speed restrictions around the site, it’s very hard to have any confidence. Note, City Rail Link don’t seem to have few issues with track work in part because they’re using experts and equipment from overseas.

    Looking west towards Meadowbank – photo by Anthony Cross
  3. It seems unhelpful that planning and investment of rail continues to be separated out from other types of transport projects. There are endless horror stories in the transport sector of how difficult Kiwirail are to deal with on issues but they’re especially unhelpful whenever anyone else tries to use some of their unused land for something like a cycleway. Also, it seems nearly impossible to plan new passenger services on the existing network, or future rapid transit corridors (like in Christchurch or perhaps even Tauranga) that might be heavy rail or another mode that interacts with the rail network.
  4. Kiwirail are hard to hold accountable for their poor performance due to a lack of transparency, for example, they say their rail network rebuild in Auckland will result in faster and more reliable services and fewer cases of shutdowns, like we experience every long weekend/holiday period. But they refuse to say just how much faster and more reliable services will be, making it hard to judge the level of benefit we’re getting from all this disruption.

It seems to me that we have fiddled around while Rome burns for long enough when it comes to KiwiRail. More significant change is necessary – with rail playing such a major role in helping to achieve many of our transport goals and with so much government investment at stake. The detail of any such change will obviously be complex, but should focus on the following:

  • Splitting off the freight part of KiwiRail’s business from the tracks. The freight business can keep going as a State Owned Enterprise, as it seems to do OK whenever it’s not asked to fully cover the costs of looking after a nationally significant transport network.
  • Requiring much more competition and transparency when it comes to the track improvement and maintenance activities required – so we can have confidence that these tasks are getting done as quickly and efficiently as possible – especially if network closures and major government investment are required.
  • Merging the track part of KiwiRail into Waka Kotahi, so that we create a truly multi-modal national transport agency that has responsibility for all our national transport networks. This will have the added benefit of properly forcing Waka Kotahi to shed its historic state highway culture as it will have another major task and network to look after.

Of course, it’s impossible to know whether changes like these made earlier would have prevented much of the mess that we find ourselves in with rail in this country. But I’m fairly confident that no amount of eye-watering investment into rail will prevent this from continuing to happen unless we see finally properly reform KiwiRail.

We’ve had enough.

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  1. I looked into taking the kids from Manurewa to Otahuhu by bus and rail.

    It turns out we’d be 5-15 minutes faster riding our bikes, even when the train is running.

    Is it any wonder people just drive, park for free and take a third of the time or less?

  2. This brings back some memories from 1990’s and early 2000’s when Polish State Railways (PKP for short) was responsible for every single aspect of providing the service – local trains, intercity trains, cargo trains, tracks, stations, electricity,IT systems and so on. A very painful de-merger happened with a number of separate entities created to deliver particular services. It created a number of issues (i.e. Poland is divided into 16 provinces and local trains are funded by local councils so crossing the province border proved to be a challenge due to finances) but solved a number of failings. The main entities that provide passenger services are not required to turn a profit (they have long-term contracts with the central government and some of the local councils; local trains are owned by the local councils; a number of councils have their own rail entities that they fund) and neither is the company responsible for tracks maintenance. From memory, the only big one that needs to show profits is PKP Cargo which is a listed company at Warsaw Stock Exchange.
    There is clear responsibility split between the entities and they can be held to account.
    Yes, there are still issues – rail is not very weather-resilient and there are issues with adequate number of trains running during the main holiday seasons (summer holidays, Christmas, long weekends) but this particular problem is a nice one to have.
    Rail in Poland, both local and intercity, is booming. But I appreciate that there was a lot of funding available from the European Union which sees rail as a key component to fight climate change. This additionally brings transparency.
    So, yes – I agree that KiwiRail needs some changes – they have internal departments competing with each other rather than working together. And they look at activities that bring them most profit as they’re required to be profitable. Does NZTA need to be profitable?

  3. Rearranging deck chairs is one option. How about some performance KPIs for trains running on time. Think about copying systems from Japan or London underground

    1. The only way KPIs will make a difference is when people can be fired for not achieving them. Structural problems may make that beyond their power.

    2. The only time recently that I have taken the long distance rail trip from Wellington to Auckland, the train that only goes once every two days, the train that used to be scheduled for at least two return trips every day (way back in the olden days before the 80s happened), the train left 15 minutes late.

      I was fairly amazed that being just one train, they could not leave on time, even once every two days. You have to be pretty incompetent to do that. Or, simply don’t care.

      1. From Wellington it’s not just one train leaving at the time, it’s one every 20/30 minutes plus freight and with a similar number of opposing trains on the single track through Kapiti.

        Rail networks are quite complex beasts, even in NZ. Operational issues are much, much more likely than incompetence or not caring, and both are slurs on the people who devote much time and energy to address all the compromises and pitfalls of railway operating.

        1. Given how few trains kiwirail run per hour compared to the rest of the world (even in Wellington and Auckland) there should be no excuse for a train not leaving on time on its allocated path.

          Nearly every intercity train run by Kiwirail leaves/arrives late. They just don’t care.

        2. That is not the point, the fact is the rail network is no as capacious to match. There is not very much duplicated track anywhere in NZ. A lot of the network is single track and trains have to cross at stations.

      2. Our network is far more congested, there are significant areas that are still single tracked. It could hardly stand up to any sort of comparison with the likes of Japan.

    3. 1. In Japan, if the shinkansen is even a minute late the crew come through and apologise. I’d love to see someone from JR be brought out to AK & WN metro to sort things out.
      2. If metro trains competing with freight for time slots was the issue, there’d be no delays between britomart and otahuhu.
      3. It’s funny how those at the top always cite the crew shortage as the cause for crap service. I use rail every day and they’ve never given driver shortage as the reason for a delay.
      4. Good leadership would be doing this already, but because they don’t, it should be in senior managers job descriptions to use PT to travel to and from work at least twice a month.

      1. NZ does not have a rail network anywhere comparable to Japan. The tracks are quite congested at existing choke points that would in some cases cost billions to fix and so cannot be easily addressed.

  4. While focusing mainly on longer distance passenger rail, our group Save Our Trains is running a conference at the end of June. The Minister of Transport, the head of KiwiRail, all main political parties, government agencies and iwi will all be part of the conference. I am sure many of the issues of raised on GA will be discussed at the conference. We are also running a series of blogs about rail. The site for information is

  5. I can’t help but feel that merging the track part of KiwiRail into Waka Kotahi might give them option of paving the rail network by those managers that love the smell of bitumen

    1. Yes, I can’t see that, “forcing Waka Kotahi to shed its historic state highway culture” will come true without more than just giving them railways to run down further. Staff with a rail operating background would be needed at all levels of WK.

    2. Giving Waka Kotahi responsibility for the rails also introduces a conflict of interest as Waka Kotahi are the rail safety regulator.

      Their record as a safety regulator for land transport is… mixed at best… and their record of signing off on unsafe infrastructure is downright risible.

      1. You worry that they are the rail safety regulator so shouldn’t be the rail operator – but they are also the Road Controlling Authority for the State Highways at the same time as being the regulator of all the Road Controlling Authorities.

  6. The problem with KiwiRail is – it’s expected to be profitable as a comparable Freight business. Also, it is required to be a good employer & have social responsibility for Rail Public Transport. These requirements under the State-owned enterprises (SOE’s) Act as profit clashes with public service. Result it doesn’t work. They need to be separate to work.

    1. No, that is not true. Only the freight part is required to be profitable., The track construction and maintenance is subsidised.

  7. Great post. Entirely agree.

    Waka Kotahi to manage and maintain the below wheels asset, become a real all modes agency.

    Waka Kotahi to fund and inter regional and rapid transit, both infra and services.

    KR as logistics company (no trucking company owns and has to maintain the road network). SOE. Focussed, competitive.

    All passenger services able to be subsidised whether inter regional or intra regional.

    1. The fundamental problem you have is lack of sufficient funding. Restructuring Kiwirail is not going to address that, it is simply rearranging deck chairs.

  8. I’m uncertain that the transfer of the track part into Waka Kotahi is a great idea. The corporate culture is designed around road building. I’d move the governance components to Ministry of Transport and then let them contract out the provision of services in a similar manner that coastal shipping is dealt with.

    1. In my view it’s less ‘bias’ than not having the responsibility for rail, so of course give it less attention and want funding for their areas. So make it their responsibility. They at least exhibit competence and experience as both asset maintainers and builders. Have scale, and know how to subcontract, something KR resist, trying to do everything opaquely in-house.

      After years of starvation, KR have clearly been unable to swallow all the new investment. They have the wrong structure and the wrong model.

      NZ is small, if it makes sense to have one owner of national strategic roads, (it does), to me it also makes sense to have that same agency own the rest of it too. Efficiency, coo-ordination, transparency. Keep competition at the right level (contractor level).

      All mode land transport agency (plus inter island ferries).

      One canoe.

      1. If you wrap everything into one agency then parts of it will get ignored. This happens in every large agency and is fundamentally why we don’t have one government agency or ministry for everything, there are separate departments to do stuff.
        If one agency is responsible for both roads and rail, they will downgrade rail for certain because the public by far favour road. It is not going to solve these problems.

    2. Nik – I agree. If the national rail network (above ground/below wheel infrastructure, signalling and train control) becomes an entity within WK/NZTA (Waka Kotahi / New Zealand Transport Agency), there will a conflict of interest between WK/NZTA the State Highway network operator and WK/NZTA the national rail network operator, as currently with the current business and operational business model of Kiwirail Holdings Ltd.

  9. Every part of New Zealand’s transport network is blighted by a culture of management that is wedded to the idea that internal departments should compete with each other.
    The idea that in a tiny country like NZ we would have so many separate organisations competing and that within those organisations individual departments would compete with each other is insane.
    The only winners are the many many many managers who count each sabotage of a competitor as a win.

    1. The “tiny country” line just doesn’t really hold up. Pure NZ exceptionalism. We’re plenty large enough for all this stuff to work. The electricity system for example is working well as one of the most liberalised in the world and handles the local natural monopolies well. Transpower (a SOE) building owning and maintaining the core transmission infrastructure and charging those that use it. Just like a rail network operator and a state highways network operator should do.

      1. Roads are not required to make a profit but the national rail network has to under the current SOE model.

        1. Didn’t Max Bradford suggest that some time in the 1990s until his mates in the National Party actually realized the likely consequences, such as rural roads only being maintained if the local farmers paid the full costs!

        2. No, that is not true. Rail freight is required to operate profitably at present, but the rail network is subsidised.

        3. Tony Hurst: In 1998 National was going to corporatise all the roads by putting them into SOEs. This policy did not continue as National lost the 1999 elections.

      2. I was thinking about Transpower as well.
        Dealt with them professionally as well Kordia (telecommunications SEO) and Chorus (private company, but telecommunications infrastructure)

        All these companies have issues at times, but mostly seem to get on and provide infrastructure (build and manage) with private companies or government bodies paying to use that infrastructure

        I don’t know rail, but wouldn’t a more natural split be for Kiwirail to own tracks and all associated infrastructure, maintain them and allow other companies to run stock for freight and passengers services?

        I assume this is how it is split overseas

        Ferries could be private, depending if you think they are a virtual track across the Cook straight

        The other thing would not be structural changes to organizations, but simply performance and governance. If Kiwirail is not performing as an SEO, surely the minister, government and board should be in the firing line to make improvements.

        I have a horrible feeling that Government opposition have not been jumping on this like they did with ‘ute tax’ as it suits their agenda to let rail in NZ die or get fully privatized; they also don’t care

        1. There are pros and cons for any structure. We had a separate infrastructure operator (ONTRACK) from 2003-2008. This was integrated with Toll Rail to make Kiwirail after the 2008 change of government, so it could be reasonably assumed the new government felt there were advantages in setting up Kiwirail as an integrated operation as it now is. The issue with the Auckland overhead is unfortunately but it is not sufficient grounds on its own as faults like that do happen from time to time. Most of the people out there campaigning for Kiwirail to be broken up are people looking to further their own interests and generally are small groups rather than large entities.

  10. I think Kiwi Rail should spend some money on promotion.
    About benefits to businesses using their freight trains.
    How they are saving time and money for happy students and commuters.
    About the growth in numbers of services.

  11. KiwiRail is inhibiting development of passenger rail, in part due to them being an SOE.
    Passenger rail needs to be separated out from KiwiRail, put into a not for profit government agency.
    There needs to be centralised planning for inter-regional and long-distance passenger trains, in much the same way as it is for state highways. Passenger rail improvements and investment needs to be judged by taking a triple bottom line approach.

    1. Passenger trains need to use the national rail network (above ground/below wheel infrastructure, signalling and train control, which Kiwirail Holdings Ltd is both the national rail network and a passenger/freight train operator excluding Auckland and Wellington urban metro passenger train services.

      The chances of a national regional, inter-regional and long distance passenger trains across the national rail network will still be a dream under the current ‘operational and business model of Kiwirail Holdings Ltd

    2. No, they are not inhibiting these operations. If you expect them to run these trains at a loss, then there must be found some form of funding. I do not know how they can be expected to find this funding when the Government is not subsidising an expansion of the passenger network, which is the key issue. Restructuring them is not going to change a thing.

  12. Woka Kotahi – NZTA is the renamed NRB(National Roads Board)
    They are depenent on Govt funding. Their underwhelming performance publicly reported in newspapers leaves zero confidence in managing rail- almost as a sideline?
    Better to seek & use world proven expertise and a specific Railway department actively targeted and authorised to plan and expedite NZ’s re-instatement and expansion of good rail services.

  13. Maybe the best way is to turn it back into a Government department and get the service element back into it. The other alternative is to re establish Ontrac to maintain and develop the tracks. However this leads to heated negotiations with the operating company which amounts to commercial blackmail. For instance Toll throwing the toys out of the cot and threatening to withdraw services on certain lines. One thing is certain the SOE model will always result in passenger trains being charged out at extortionate rates. You may ask why would one government entity try a rip off another. Kingdom building we see it in all organisation. We tryed to distance our politicians from making the decisions and it hasn’t worked so maybe it’s time to trust them more then it’s up to us the people to advocate for better and more service’s. A cleanup in disclosing party donations will help to negate the excessive influence of the corporate world.

  14. I agree with this. It is time to remove the below wheel infrastructure from KiwiRail and vest that more directly into the hands of the government, which invariably hides behind KRL when anything goes wrong. A couple of points though. I believe that there will need to be a separate agency for rail as Waka Kotahi may tend to go for more road projects based on dollars as opposed to social and environmental factors, whereas a separate rail organisation could compete for funding through advocacy on those grounds. This will also benefit the wider rail network which is still in managed decline currently. KRL lost a logging contract to Taranaki Port recently because it was more convenient for them to take logs from Whanganui to Palmerston North to put on the train to New Plymouth, than to stop the train at Whanganui (Eastown) on the way and they had the audacity to charge the logger for the extra mileage. Wellington’s CentrePort have also closed their internal rail port at New Plymouth while KRL have cancelled contracts with the Eltham butter factory, the Kapuni lactose factory and refused a contract to cart logs from Te Wera (east of Stratford) to Port Taranaki. Until recently, KRL charged Fonterra the price to move their goods to both Te Rapa and Tauranga what it would have been if the SOL was open, but since December they have been charging them the full cost of re-routing that tonnage via Palmerston North. Fonterra are now trying to find road operators for that contract. Having said that, I believe that shouting at KiwiRail is a bit like shouting at the ventriloquist’s dummy as KRL are doing what they have been set up for, and that is to make a profit. The funding of below wheel rail is now mostly from the NLTF but KRL are still responsible the maintenance and are sort of gate keepers for other operators and can charge for services. Also the Auckland rebuild is being pinned on KRL but is closely related to the wheel profile of the Auckland EMU’s which caused rolling contact fatigue. The solution to this a rebuild of the entire track bed and regular rail grinding to keep the rail heads perfectly smooth. In Wellington, Rotem came to NZ to see the track conditions and built a product that suited it. In Auckland we have to build a track bed to suit the EMU’s. This time AT, AC and the government have all thrown KRL under the bus.
    However, I agree whole heartedly that KRL needs to lose the below wheel infrastructure. Perhaps a new long distance public transport rail entity needs to be created too.

    1. Much of your comment is one sided. You haven’t disclosed whether those businesses whose contracts have ended refused to pay for example. When rail freight was operated as private business e.g. Tranz Rail and Toll, the sme controversies existed then.. Tranz Rail presided over a massive shift in freight from rail to road in the late 1990s. So you have failed to prove that separating the rail freight operations would inherently improve the position of the rail system.
      The track foundations issue currently being addressed in Auckland was passed on from the previous National government which refused to fund the work, as were many of the other issues Kiwirail is now having to deal with. The SOL is one of the lines that has been run down for years because of insufficient funding. Kiwirail has to be able to operate within the geographical limits imposed by its current network as no funding has been promised by government to address these issues. This issue well predates the current setup. Also you forgot to mention that Te Wera is on the SOL which has been closed for the past decade.

  15. I use rail alot from south 2 east train; I’m pee of our line won’t be open until Jan 15th;why??the tracks were closed during xmass holidays &sme wkends; &public breaks:so what ve they been doin(repairs)during this time (shut down)

  16. I like this idea. Make some times about not being able to remove rail lines without a full lifecycle, carbon, and social cost analysis of the alternatives including rebuilding within 100 years.
    Add in a tax and dividend scheme and it will make rail much more attractive got WK to invest in when comparing costs.

  17. The Government needs to reform and restructure the rail sector in New Zealand to put it on a level playing field with other transport modes. The rail infrastructure and passenger services need to be separated from the commercial SOE KiwiRail and regional councils, and be vested in the existing rail land holding SOE NZ Railways Corporation with a new Cityrail passenger division, to be run as an agency, like NZTA is with roads, creating a nationwide State-owned passenger rail network with the scale of funding it needs. Rail infrastructure and passenger services need to be viewed and funded as essential services like roads and urban bus services are.

  18. An as an aside I have just watched Te Huia pass through Papatoetoe with a respectable passenger loading so do not despair too much it will be hard for an incoming Government to scrap it. I sometimes wonder if we are just making to many demands on Kiwirail particularly with the setbacks they have faced lately with the weather and the amount of work going on on the network. I know we always emphasise frequency and I know other countries do better but I do wonder if we really needed the third main or the Pukekohe electrification. Also the gold plated stations so big transferring from bus to trains becomes an expedition. As soon as you double track everything becomes so complicated. So try and simplify and accept that increased frequency may not be obtainable in the short term. A reliable railway operating at a 20 min frequency should be our first goal. An extension of Te Huia to Tauranga should be the next although another station in the Northern Waikato is also needed.

    1. 20 minute frequency of Te Huia, extended to Tauranga, seems like a bit much.

      Hourly service with rolling stock similar to what has been purchased for the Wellington region would be a great start.

      1. Yeah sorry my post have that impression. 20 mins on the Auckland network. 3 or 4 trains per day each way to Hamilton and a couple to Tauranga. My point less in Auckland to free up space for longer distance trains.

    2. Double tracking is essential and from a network operating standpoint absolutely non negotiable. You will not find any rail expert anywhere around the world who advocates removing double tracking and actually there is not a lot of complexity happening with it. To increase levels of service with Te Huia it is essential probably to triple or quadruple Papakura-Hamilton or to double through the Whangamarino Swamp a current single track choke point.
      Is Te Huia consistently carrying large numbers of passengers on weekdays as well as weekends i.e. are the counts more people than just Gold card holders getting free trips to Auckland off peak.

  19. It’s obvious that something needs to be done, but beware of “obvious” solutions like carving up KiwiRail. Great Britain separated infrastructure from operations late last century, and it’s become obvious to all that the way it was done is no longer fit for purpose – so much so that the UK government’s latest proposal is to bring back an overarching body, recognizing that it’s important that the wheel/rail interface is not the barrier that it has become.

    Major restructuring (as seems to be being proposed) is expensive, distracting and damaging, at least while taking place – when you reorganize you bleed, as someone once said – and so a first approach would be to improve what we’ve got, eg by KiwiRail’s owners making it more explicit what the organisation needs to deliver, including facilitating decent passenger services (and eliminating single points of failure, which seem to be breeding like rabbits).

    I deliberately wrote GB above rather than UK, because in part of the UK a different model applies. In Northern Ireland road and rail passenger services are integrated throughout the province, making it very easy to get around. For instance, a day pass on all NI’s public transport, where buses connect with trains at adjacent stations, costs just GBP15 or so. And with none of the well-publicised problems that the UK network continues to labour under.

    Admittedly the NI rail network is small and there’s no freight currently, but it shows that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    1. Agree, rail works well in Germany and Switzerland where the train operator is the same as the track operator.

      Kiwirail just needs to be beefed up. While it got a lot more funding recently it is mostly to catch up and it is still operating as a smell of an oily rag organisation.

    2. In most urban areas of NZ the public transport parts are integrated similar to what you suggest, this is Auckland and Wellington commuter rail in particular. We did have separated operations from 2003 to 2008. Toll Rail was given a long distance freight monopoly but basically used its market dominance in transport overall to blackmail the government and avoid paying track access fees. Mainfreight I am sure would love to run their own trains but competition would be nearly non existent.
      The fundamental problem for NZ is we simply are not comparable with overseas countries that have a lot of bulk high value freight able to be carried long distances – what does get moved a distance is stuff like coal and logs which are low value and it just pushes the prices up and makes it too expensive. A lot of our freight is from port competition, like when Tauranga is moving stuff between its port and its terminal in South Auckland. The NIMT and the Main North Line in the South Island are carrying next to no freight at the moment because of competition including coastal shipping and a lack of population along significant sections of their routes, which is historical and not something that can be easily addressed.

      1. I’m not sure that Mainfreight and the other freight forwarders that utilise rail would really be interested in owning and operating their own trains, given how capital intensive and actively regulated this would be compared to running a lightly regulated road freight business using largely owner operated trucks. Conceivably Mainfreight et al might be persuaded to purchase their own wagon fleet, if there was another rail operator with a rail licence, locomotives and train crew in NZ so that they could competitively tender “hook and pull” haulage contracts. Even then the commercial benefits would probably be marginal, given that the freight forwarders mostly only use rail to move freight volumes that their trucks can’t handle so Kiwirail is a price taker rather than a price setter.

  20. You’re not going to get this 15 minute off peak frequency until far more tracks/paths are available. The southern line to Papakura was doubled by 1931. Ninety-two years on and it may get an extra track between Otahuhu and Wiri although no decision appears to have been made about Middlemore.

    1. I can’t see why 15 minute off peak frequencies are not viable once the third main between Westfield and Wiri has been completed.

  21. “Due to high humidity and recent wet weather, contaminants had got on the insulator”.

    Who knew that Auckland has humidity and wet weather?
    This is BS. There was stuff on the insulator that should not have been there and the insulator ceased being an insulator by a process known as “tracking” (no relation the to railway use of the term).

  22. Recreate Ontrack, have it report to the MoT for governance functions. It can make money from track fees, the property portfolio (rental/leases as they do now), and gov funding as KR gets now. It’d be not for profit – and manage the competing demands of different track users. Private companies doing freight or passenger, heritage trips, KR, our local/regional councils etc. would all be able to run services rather than the present KR only, and no capacity is getting added if KR doesn’t need it.

    KR would keep its freight and tourist businesses, and would remain profitable if it just had to pay for track access fees rather than the entire network. Additionally, with competition also allowed on the tracks, they might have to improve their service if they no longer had a monopoly on freight on our most important routes. I don’t see most customers running their own, but Mainfreight/Fonterra etc. might do the maths and decide it’s easier to run their own dedicated services rather than rely on KR – which would also allow for much faster trips.

    Interislander – would probably need to be separated entirely into a different for profit SOE – with appropriate MoT oversight to ensure that rail freight pricing was not overly advantageous to Interislander or the operators. Interislander would be fine if they upped prices a bit, did proper maintenance, and got a third new ferry (as two is fine BAU, but it’s such a critical link that we need a third for resilience when one is off for maintenance/peak periods etc. – and the route will only grow in popularity as Chch cements itself as NZ’s second city.)

    1. +1000

      especially on chch growth. NPS-UD / MDRS, and the general public attitude on public transport improving couldn’t have come at a better time for the city. Going to continue through a period of sustained growth and hopefully avoid the mistakes of Auckland and other golden triangle cities. Plus the high bicycle mode share base, and continuous improvement in the infra helps a lot.

      On the ferries, I wonder what could be done to encourage more from private companies. Bluebridges model of getting second hand ferries from europe is quite attractive.

    2. You have to prove this would better. There were in fact no less controversies or issues when Ontrack operated from 2003 to 2008. It didn’t inherently make the network better because they didn’t get the money from the government to fund work they needed to do.
      Given how cut throat road transport is, you would see the same behaviour in rail freight with big players squeezing out small ones. There simply isn’t the freight volume given the competition comes from coastal shipping as well. The South Island network never carried a large freight volume even under the old NZR long distance monopolies they had.
      You are not going to make trains significantly faster as most freight services only stop at major terminals as there are relatively few of these so Mainfreight and Co would likely need to stop at the same terminals to load their own freight if they were running trains, The only way to speed up trains in reality is to increase actual running speeds or duplicate or actually reduce traffic levels. None of these are desirable or easy to implement.

  23. Good idea to merge the track part of KiwiRail into Waka Kotahi. Planning upgrades and any new areas to run tracks can all be handled by them.

  24. Cutting the waka in two and hoping it stays afloat is not so clever. Tying it to another waka that is travelling in a different direction won’t help.
    Getting MoT to manage Transport as one big system, and dealing with the different regulatory, funding and management systems required for the different types of transport to work together is important.
    Much better if Kiwirail can focus on their rapid growth to manage rail assets and services efficiently. Internal restructuring and management to develop divisions that can co-operate (yes, that is an actual word and means a lot) is necessary even if future separation of those divisions becomes desirable.
    Wheels and rails are a single physical system, even if the asset owners of the two are separated. It could be argued that AT bought the trains designed for what the rails under them ought to be. Expecting to run modern speed, frequency and axle weight on undersized slivers of steel on ancient gravel beds with poor drainage is not something that can be fixed in a hurry, but it has to be worth fixing.

  25. “Due to high humidity and recent wet weather, contaminants had got on the insulator”.

    Who knew that Auckland has humidity and wet weather?

    This is BS. There was stuff on the insulator that should not have been there and the insulator ceased being an insulator by a process known as “tracking” (no relation the to railway use of the term).

    1. Oooh, look, someone had better go around wrapping all these insulator in some crap or other to stop stuff falling on them
      Kiwirail have to be given some slack for the fact this was obviously an unforseen circumstance. A bit like how leaves get blown over the track in the UK. Hard to predict when the winds are going to blow or it rains or whatever.

  26. I’ve just been up to Hawkes Bay to see the flood damage from February’s Cyclone Gabrielle. The damage to the train network is intense – far worse than to the road network. There are some road bridges washed out (11 bridges in total I think?), and there are diggers all over the place working on them – there are also rail bridges destroyed and completely swept away – and not a sign of any work on those yet.

    The Esk Valley has a rail line going up next to the Highway – the entire rail line has been destroyed. Not just minor repair work needed – the sleepers are all suspended in mid air, the rails are completely twisted like sticks of liquorice, and the gravel bed underneath has simply been washed away. Several kilometres of rework needed to be done up the Esk and elsewhere – and not a sign of anyone doing anything to the track. I suspect that someone has already made a decision to simply scrap the entire rail network to and from Napier – it was already pretty dodgy in places, and I think they are now just abandoning it completely.

    This means that the entire forestry crop from the Wairoa region, which used to come down the rail line 3 times a week, and meant the removal of hundreds of monstrous logging trucks over the Napier/Wairoa Highway – that has all been undone. The future is, sadly, for more and more trucks.

    1. No decisions have been made yet. Kiwirail simply focused their initial response on fixing the connection from Palmerston North to Hastings and are currently fixing the section between Hastings and Napier. They are currently assessing the line north of Wairoa.

      You would have to assume government money will be required to get that section open again though.

    2. The Wairoa traffic is tiny compared to the rest of the network. It was only justified to fulfill an election promise by NZ First.
      The railway from Napier to Gisborne has always had the same problem due to the poor quality weak soils and erosion along most of this length. This is a very hard and extremely expensive problem to address, and until it is done properly it is similarly extremely expensive to maintain both the road and highway links in areas like the Esk Valley and Whareratas.
      Hard fact is three trains a week is only a small volume and almost not worth the effort for Kiwirail.

  27. Split KiwiRail from the tracks, yes, but give the tracks to NZTA? No thanks. That agency is a bigger basket case than KiwiRail, and for as long as their focus is on roading, with income from road users and therefore an incentive to increase road use, rail will always be treated poorly by them.

    Just re-establish Ontrack, which existed from 2004 to 2008.

    It’s also important to let other companies use the network, on fair and equal terms to KiwiRail. KiwiRail isn’t growing, and hasn’t grown since it was formed 15 years ago. They price a wagon load of freight at roughly four times the price of a truck, and so can’t compete with trucks. They don’t even try.

    The media haven’t picked up on it yet, but KiwiRail are close to closing down the railway to New Plymouth. A major primary industry region, with some 600 truck movement north per day and 500 south per day. Over 1000 trucks in and out of the region every weekday and KiwiRail struggles to load one small train because it’s priced all its customers out of using rail. Getting other railway companies on the tracks is vital if the network is to have a future of growth, and for mode shift to take place.

    1. And at the same time the NZTA is building a multi-hundred million, 0.4 bcr tunnel bypass on SH3 to replace the mt messenger section.

      Politically driven “investment” decisions on the big shiny projects, all the while the low hanging fruit, median barriers, slip prevention, drainage, bridge upgrades etc are largely ignored. The NZTA needs the same treatment as kiwirail does. Spin the state highways, and some of the large local roads off into an Ontrack like organisation too. Give them self funding mechanisms, tolls, road user charge, congestion charge. Fuel tax is on the way out. Good time to revise the operating model, not just the funding.

    2. If this is true, it is crazy. rail freight mode share needs to be going up. not down. This needs to be supported by a national strategy.

      SOEs should make decisions consistent with national policy around mode shift and decarbonisation.

      1. There is already a national strategy clearly signalled a couple of years ago and that includes a big new freight terminal at Palmerston North, close enough to Taranaki to cater for more freight in and out of that region.

    3. Rail is set up by its nature to handle bulk freight, this is how Mainfreight and Co work, they run integrated logistics networks collecting the freight, loading it onto trains in their own depots. If you expect to get a competitive price for a single wagon load you are not going to get that, it will be competitive by the trainload, not by wagonload, because roads are subsidised and have fewer fixed costs to overcome.
      The rail network in New Plymouth is not able to compete effectively with road transport due to there being no route north out of New Plymouth and the whole region has issues due to a lack of port calls by shipping companies. At one point there were next to no international container services operating there, and it is still hard for the shippers to justify diverting to NZ’s only major West Coast port.
      Fonterra was once a major player in Taranaki with a pro-rail policy but this was abolished by new management coming in about the same time as the Tories allowed HPMVs to start operating so the loss of traffic from most of Fonterra’s factories in the region is not necessarily due to bad KRL policy. The Rail Plan the government has put out is citing rail freight growth and the big new yard at Bunnythorpe is close enough the New Plymouth to materially impact it in terms of services.

  28. Separating responsibility for wheels from rails has a nice ring to it and resonates with the roading model. However it glosses over the role of the access gate keepers. If you buy a truck and load it with freight as long as ‘you’ follow the road code you’re free to access and use the network. Roads very neatly cater for multiple unrelated users by being multi-access, bi-directional and not requiring each user to submit & adhere to a central timetable.
    If access (and timetable marshalling) sits with the track asset it’s not hard to imagine the future headlines about their stranglehold on growth. If it sits with the wheels the complaints would go the other way.
    I don’t know the answer and I feel this is central to how we structure the system.

    1. Remembering back to the UK in the 1990s, with ownership of track by one party (Network Rail?), ownership of the rights to run trains divided up into 3 or more different companies, ownership of the actual trains belonging to another (something like seven separate companies?), and actual running of the trains by 10 or 20 separate businesses. What a dog’s breakfast. Failed miserably as a business model of course. A few select people made vast amounts of dosh out of the deals – multi-millionaires made, fortunes wagered and lost, the public completely screwed over, and now it is all being undone. Must have made sense to somebody, somewhere.

      The sign to me of just how screwed up the system was when a locomotive broke down and instead of just sending out another loco to tow it back to base, they sent out a massive truck and a massive crane, which proceeded to lift it off the tracks and put it on the back o the truck, to drive the loco back to base – all because it was cheaper and simpler than trying to schedule the moving of a locomotive across the rail network. True madness.

      1. I witnessed this just yesterday here in Buckinghamshire.

        I daily have my life ruined by HS2 being built 300 meters from my house yet no citizens in Bucks can use it while our local railway lines are likewise being ignored like so much of home (Waikato) with it’s potential for a great local network. Instead HS2 is building major roads (highways in kiwi talk) instead as compo. Madness.

        Such a pity that NZR etc tore up Canterbury’s and Otago’s branch lines 40-80 years ago. What great networks they would be now.

    2. It would be less an issue without the systematic failure to address key choke points like areas of single track within the existing double tracked networks around all the main urban areas. Commuter trains are then competing for space with freight. There is hardly anywhere in the country where duplicate routes are available or new routes in parallel etc. Capacity being added in the roading network is taken for granted virtually e.g. the massive expressways that the Tories built as “roads of national significance”.
      Kiwirail is planning a big new freight yard at Bunnythorpe and big new rail ferries to handle an increased freight volume.

  29. Given that trains, and electrification of the entire network, are really the only hope we have of reducing “car” life that seems almost impossible to stop; whoever is responsible for tracks and trains must be focussed on the end of the world 2030. Forget about the cost, the cost to lives from carbon dioxide, from drunk driving, from many other health issues due to automobiles means that any logical mind would put everything on a track. It would be somewhat anticonsumerist but it would be hard to argue for safety and health issues that the private car needs to be run off the road so we can build back our ancient tram system, with modern technology. Meanwhile ensuring regional trains become the preferred way to travel to the provinces. Those of us who grew up walking on tracks with no trains know too well how very very slow the recovery from decimation has been. I personally avoid every other mode of transport when a train is available, sometimes that means transferring a few times, but there is no more fulfilling experience than the LS ex Onehunga at 2.30pm when the motorway has already begun to convert into a carpark. Efficient, relaxing and satisfies those urges for speed and accelaration and being faster than expensive EVs who still cannot evade a blocked motorway.

  30. I agree with Matt. It is time to connect communities with a sustainable, environmentally friendly, ‘open track access’ national ‘steel’ highway network (above ground/below wheel infrastructure, signalling and train control) operating on a ‘not for profit/cost recovery’ business model, as a separate entity under the New Zealand Railways Corporation, to allow more frequent urban, regional, inter-regional and long distance passenger and freight trains to the 13 regions (14 regions once the Gisborne is reconnected to the network) that currently have rail connectivity.

    The national rail network is a national strategic asset like the State Highway Network, yet the network has to make a profit and the State Highway Network doesn’t.

    With regards to the existing freight and long distance passenger train operations excluding Auckland and Wellington urban metro passenger train services, remain with Kiwirail Holdings Ltd operating as a SOE with the government having a 51% shareholding in the company.

    The Public Transport Forum NZ has an interesting concept plan for the national rail network –

      1. Patrick Dunford – Kiwirail Holdings Ltd is the operator of both the national rail network and operator of current freight, long distance passenger train services and owner/operator of the Capital Connection and Te Huia passenger inter-regional passenger train services.

        As an State owned enterprise, Kiwirail Holdings Ltd operates under Part 1, Para 4 , Subpara 1 (a) of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, to be ‘as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses that are not owned by the Crown’

        1. That doesn’t change what I wrote. You are quoting your ideology, not fact.

  31. The sub base problem that they are fixing at the moment dates back decades, before Kiwirail. Remember that KR have said that the work needs to be done before the CRL is opened so the deterioration will be over 30 years old before it is fixed.

    Network Rail is currently rebuilding Carstairs station on the WCML. This station and the associated Junction has been closed completely for 16 days. Remember though that NR has considerably more human and equipment resources than KR.

    Rail in NZ has been neglected by all political parties since the end of the age of steam at the time when NZR was transitioning from 50k staff to employing 4,500 now. The money saved in that exercise stayed with the consolidated fund. If it had stayed with NZR and it’s successors it probably wouldn’t be in this position.

    1. The London Underground has had plenty of disruptions while they upgrade and extend it. Stations closed for periods and so forth. People don’t seem to have a clue what they complain about here is routine overseas.

  32. . How can we be confident that the Auckland rail network rebuild couldn’t be done much faster and in a less disruptive way, if it’s only KiwiRail’s own internal team who are allowed to carry out the work?”
    Absolutely, we should have had the labour party get involved with 100 consultants to come up with potential options to discuss in work groups what the impacts might be before wider consultation at various levels, then work would be deferred until suitable impact assessments could be scheduled.

  33. Kiwirail is currently building
    -The third main,
    -Papakura to pukekohe electrification
    -Assisting with the crl and rebuilding the entire eastern line from the ground up.
    – works at auckland port
    -rebuilding the NAL after the slip
    – trying to build the Northport connection.
    -rebuilding HAST to NPR and then to Wairoa after floods
    – building wellington metro upgrade.
    – upgrading level crossings across the country
    – rebuilding old bridges across the country with modern ones
    -large scale yard works around chch.
    – rebuilding picton yard and ferry terminal and building new wellington ferry terminal in preparation for new boats.
    – rebuilding dndn workshops to put together new wagons, and new pits for loco
    – ordered 57 new locos for the south island

    And because someone made a scheduling error these guys decide now is a great time to split kiwirail apart and create as much confusion as possible before re-hiring the exact same former kiwirail people but under a different organisation name like it will make a difference.

    . Just leave it alone. You guys are like that client who gets angry that the house is dusty half way through a renovation.

    1. You’re referring to infrastructure, not services. The services are the problem. Freight isn’t growing, and passenger doesn’t exist. There needs to be other companies on the network, and for that, KiwiRail needs to be split up.

      PS, most of those infrastructure projects are being primarily done by other companies, not KiwiRail.

      1. The article was about infrastructure being separated from services and recent infrastructure maintenance issues so I addressed infrastructure.

        Yes a lot of work is contracted out but it all adds to time when tracks aren’t available with block of lines reducing/ delaying services and reliability.
        Looking forward to the day all this work is done and kiwirail can just run trains again.
        Services can increase with 57 new locos arriving next year I believe.

      2. Kiwirail isn’t the reason freight isn’t increasing. They have a mandate to increase freight and that is why they are getting two big new rail ferries, and why they are also pitching for a big new freight terminal development at Bunnythorpe.
        The fact is as we all know the last government increased the competition by allowing bigger trucks, and Labour hasn’t done enough to even things up. The task of getting more freight onto rail is being left to regional councils, who understandably are only interested in what advantages them – primarily export traffic to ports they own.
        It’s a combination largely of a failure in central government policy for rail and the current economic situation that is holding Kiwirail back. Oh, and the last CEO doesn’t seem to have helped much. Bringing back Reidy is a big plus for KR. But they need a much better SOE minister.

  34. Several things here – based on experience in: the old Transit NZ; the old KiwiRail; and nearly twenty years in the UK’s rail industry. If I may:

    * Operationally, splitting track and train doesn’t work very well, as we saw in the standoff between OnTrack and Toll. In GB, it creates a lot of management and control issues. And that’s before one has to deal with an independent “commercial” regulator. Because rail is so reliant on subsidy, it needs to have a clear Fat Controller.

    * Don’t combine State Highway and rail network management in the same organisation. They’re totally different beasts. But – somewhere along the way – do combine the overall high-level planning, either in NZTA, or (if you wish to include ports, shipping, and aviation as well) in the central MoT. This is what is done in Scotland:

    * Do break out the costs of the rail infrastructure in your financial reporting from the costs of operations. This is one thing the British regime does do well. That way, you can see clearly where the costs arise and where the subsidy is needed.

    * SOEs are fine when the company is earning a genuine commercial profit (Auckland Airport is my exhibit A here). Less so when a big subsidy for the core of the organisation’s costs is needed; less so again if it is not ‘commercial’ at all (the old Radio New Zealand).

    I am now coming round to the view that more direct central government control is needed – so, a return to the old Departmental structure – where the Government, as the main funding agency, can see clearly what is done with the money. But a fragmented structure does *not* work.

    1. The only real competition for Kiwirail in freight haulage is big road transport operators. These will achieve the much vaunted freight competition or improvements by forcing down workers’ wages and conditions. The big boys like Mainfreight already force their drivers to be contractors as it is, so when you see a feelgood announcement that MF has shared its profits with its workers, you can bet that the drivers didn’t see a cent of it.
      Industry veterans have said the real reason why there is a lack of freight in rail is simply that NZ doesn’t have enough volume of the types of things that rail excels at, which is naturally going to be long distance bulk haulage. It really has come down to mostly logs and coal, which are both low value and therefore cost sensitive. Milk was good for a while but then Fonterra got new management and they lost interest in rail, coincidentally around the same time as the government allowed HPMVs.
      We already have a sense that the likes of Mainfreight and the other major transport operators like Owens only use rail where it suits them, and that isn’t across the whole network but only parts of it. So even with their large market penetration these companies, which effectively have become the goods sheds of rail freight loading in a lot of the country, only have a certain amount of their traffic going to rail.
      Add in the latest – that the government is now subsidising coastal shipping to come in and compete with rail (the Picton line lost its freight to CS because of the 2016 quake closures and is having difficulty regaining it) and we can see pretty clearly what rail is actually up against. There are some things coastal shipping can do well, but it seems that rail has drawn the short straw again because of government ineptitude.

    2. The agitation for it to be split up is coming from a lot of different places. The policy has been particularly championed by New Zealand First – largely they are trying to curry favour with parts of the rail heritage community. This is generally the likes of Mainline Steam and a small number of other mainline operators who want greater access to the rail network. MS is funded by a very wealthy businessman who probably has an eye on the possibilities of freight operation as well.
      It is interesting to note Mainfreight put their own bid up for NZ Rail Ltd at the privatisation in 1993, which of course didn’t happen.

  35. Personally I’d like to see:
    a) MoT – overarching land, sea, air policy
    b) NZTA – land transport multimodal policy standards/guidelines + regulation
    c) State highway authority
    d) Rail authority
    e) Transfund
    f) Regional transport authorities – some of our TLAs are uneconomic
    This provides complete separation and transparency of functions.

  36. Bring back New Zealand Railways (NZR)
    Bring back British Rail (BR)
    They were both performing pretty well in the run-up to privatisation, but along came neoliberal ideology which tossed the baby out with the bathwater. Now both are a shadow of what they once were, and so much expertise has dissipated or been lost. It will be a monumental job to rebuild to where they were, but it needs to be done.

    1. Dave B – not exactly. BR and NZR were privatised because both the respective Treasuries regarded them as “money pits” (that view for NZ was put to me once by someone in Tranz Rail’s finance team who was there at the time).

      What neither privatisation process appreciated was the proportion of the cost base which was tied up in the infrastructure; and in New Zealand’s case, that the reasons why a commercialised network had needed $6bn in today’s money of refinancing in the previous ten years (1982, 1992), were still there. The costs of providing a freight railway in New Zealand, and a passenger railway in Great Britain, are out of all proportion to what people are prepared to pay for rail services. We get that now; no-one realised that at the time.

  37. This is a very weak justification, and I do not believe it is written from an innate knowledge of the rail industry or sector in this country. There are many factors that impact the rail network that provide single points of failure that will close down an entire segment of operation, a key example being a derailment at Wellington a few years ago that shut down commuter trains. These factors are very expensive to address. using the example for Auckland, if there was a fire at Britomart station, are you proposing there should be a completely duplicated station infrastructure kept in reserve somewhere else just in case at huge expense?
    The CRL is not a shining example of how to do it better as they are years behind and have billion dollar cost overruns.
    If Auckland Transport doesn’t like sharing tracks, let them build their own. Funny no one seems to have come up with that one. At the end of the day you cannot expect the signalling system and train control system to be jointly operated with Auckland Transport because of the expense of the extra staff and delays that would cause having to consult all the time.

    1. Agree. From the outside people just see two parts to kiwirail,… and when something goes wrong decide the two parts must be split, as that’s as far as their knowledge takes them.
      Then, after wasting time and splitting it and having another issue in 10 years, the same people will demand that the two parts must be put back together. Again as that’s all they can say.

      1. Agree, Kiwirail needs a kick up the arse and much better funding, not being split in two.

        The kick up the arse probably needs to come in the form of leadership from a successful overseas rail operator, rather than the current leaders who have risen through a company that generally has to run on the smell of an oily rag.

        1. Jezza – Kiwirail Holdings Ltd operates on a ‘for profit at least cost’ operational and business model and being the operator of the national rail network and freight/passenger operations excluding the Auckland and Wellington urban metro passenger train systems, as a State owned enterprise, Kiwirail Holdings Ltd operates under Part 1, Para 4 , Subpara 1 (a) of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, to be ‘as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses that are not owned by the Crown’

          This means the national rail network is required to make a ‘profit’ under State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, where the State Highway network does not, hence the need to separate Kiwirail networks (the above/below wheel infrastructure, signalling and train control) from Kiwil train operations, into a separate entity under the NZ Railways Corporation, to operate as an ‘open track access’ network using a ‘not for profit/cost recovery’ business model or keep the current business and operational model of Kiwirail Holdings Ltd but with a government mandated ‘open track access’ governance stopping the company blocking other commercialised train operator/s whether they are heritage, domestic and/or international operating freight only, passenger only or freight/passengers services accessing the network and giving preferential access of ‘movement’ slots to Kiwirail operated (excluding Wellington and Auckland urban metro services) freight/passenger train services.

        2. Kris – none of what you described requires Kiwirail to be split up. An alternative solution we be to remove KR from the SOE Act and either make it government department or create it’s own unique Act, removing the need for the tracks to make a profit.

        3. Kris. Having multiple operators on new Zealands small congested yards, small CT sites and mostly single track would be an absolute disaster.
          If something goes wrong it’s not easy to move a 750m long train out of the way.
          All the good operators will simply be held up by the bad operators. Everyone will be brought down to the speed/efficiency of the slowest operator and all the while creating mass communication and organizational issues

        4. KRH does not operate for profit. Kiwirail freight operates for profit in freight haulage, not the whole outfit.
          You don’t need to quote ideology about there being allegedly a huge untapped freight market – there isn’t one because NZ is not the kind of country that generates those volumes. The volumes weren’t there even in the days when it had a long distance monopoly.

  38. Yes, it could well be. I think they need the ability to implement a lot more network in terms of km’s and upgrades (including electrification).
    In terms of regional passenger services, think we need either a dedicated body for this or just amping up what Kiwirail has and can do so every new or upgraded service doesn’t need a government political decision on it for funding.
    I think freight can be regional passenger rail’s friend. We will get the best bang for our buck upgrading lines for use by both.

  39. I agree with your recommendations and would go a few steps further.
    Sell 49% of freight to Owens, Mainfreight etc and get them involved which will help reduce long haul and large trucks on the road.
    Seperate the two metros – Auckland and Wellington whilst bringing together the parties in each area into an Alliance model. Auckland – KiwiRail, AT and AOR. Cost savings and clearer purpose with KiwiRail freight negotiating access and more competition for projects and maintenance.

    1. So rail operator privatisation having previously (and expensively) failed, we resort to rail operator privatisation?

      Meanwhile, there’s at least something of a trend to bring passenger rail operations back into public ownership – e.g. Wales, Scotland, England (by default, and most of the non-default operators are publicly owned, but by overseas public), Adelaide – having learned that benefits of competition are not all they’re cracked up to be. (And let’s not mention PTOM!)

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