Welcome to Friday. Here’s our latest roundup of stories that caught our eye this week.
The Week in Greater Auckland
- On Monday, Matt looked at Christchurch’s proposal for light rail
- On Tuesday, Matt covered AT’s Hobson St consultation
- Yesterday, Matt highlighted how we’re taking resilience more seriously but we need to do the same with emissions reductions
The government delivered their latest budget yesterday. We’ll look to cover it in more detail next week but one thing that was a great addition is that as well as covering existing policies, such as PT being free for those under 13, then half price till 25 and better wages for bus drivers, the government is putting money in to help reinstate services that were cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
“We’re also putting money on the table for councils to restore public transport services to pre-pandemic levels. Public transport patronage has been increasing steadily since the pandemic but hasn’t reached the same levels yet. This funding will allow councils to consider reinstating cancelled services and minimise further service cuts to ensure Kiwis can access affordable, frequent, and reliable transport.
Yet another rail fault
In what is a far too regular occurrence, Auckland’s network suffered another serious failure yesterday.
Trains on a section of Auckland’s Southern and Eastern Lines are waiting for the all clear and power has been restored, after mass cancellations on Thursday evening due to a power outage on the lines.
Trains were not running between Penrose and Papakura rail stations during the evening rush hour. They had been replaced by buses, Auckland Transport said.
This is now far beyond a joke for rail users and how much more do we need to suffer before the government does something. At this point they’re more Kiwifail than Kiwirail.
Kiwirail’s Rail Control
While we’re on the topic of Kiwirail, they opened their new train control centre in Upper Hutt yesterday
KiwiRail has opened its new railway traffic control centre, allowing it to monitor nearly all of New Zealand’s track and train issues in real time.
The new control centre in Upper Hutt watches over every railway track from Invercargill to Whangārei, bar the Auckland commuter network which has its own separate centre.
“We know the Wellington Railway Station has a relatively low earthquake rating and if it shuts down, it would stop most train movements around the country.
“Having a brand new centre that is safe from tsunamis, slips, and liquefaction just makes sense.”
The 2800m2 facility will be staffed by more than 100 people and is located at the Blue Mountains Campus in Wallaceville – a site KiwiRail signed a 25-year lease for in 2021.
The facility tracks and monitors each line around the country in real time, giving the operational team the ability to direct traffic or negotiate track obstructions as quickly as possible.
This is all thanks to a state-of-the-art rail traffic control computer system, which replaces one that was 25 years old. The system is designed to allow growth in the network both in terms of new infrastructure and more frequent services.
A new train control centre for Auckland is currently being built in Penrose.
New AT Directors
Auckland Council has appointed two new directors for Auckland Transport. They and the other directors as well as the new CEO are going to have a lot of work to do to get AT back on track.
Auckland Council has appointed Raveen Jaduram and Henare Clarke to the board of Auckland Transport.
When looking for directors, the council sought candidates that would assist the board with experience from within the transport sector, experience in organisation transformation and culture change, strong commercial acumen and experience in implementing innovative technologies for the transport sector.
The council would also like to thank AT board directors Abbie Reynolds and Darren Linton for their service and commitment during their terms, as they step back from the AT board from 1 June 2023.
“We are grateful for the direction, advice and support Abbie and Darren have provided the board, the organisation, and the wider Auckland Council whānau, and wish them the very best for the future,” says Cr Christine Fletcher.
Welcome to the two new AT Board members. Sorry to see Abbie Reynolds leaving who has been an exceptional Board member for the voice of climate action & woman.The Board will now have only one woman AT Director working alongside 6 male counterparts.https://t.co/6h4eGXb9Sm
— Councillor Angela Dalton (@angeladalton64) May 17, 2023
Keeping the housing build going
There have been a huge number of building consents issued in Auckland and across the country in recent years. Not all of those will be built but the government have put money in to help some developments built that would otherwise have stalled. This is a good move to help keep building rates up.
The Government has put more money down to stop housing developments from failing.
They’ve made $159 million available to get affordable housing projects which would otherwise stall, off the ground.
NZ Herald Wellington business editor Jenee Tibshraeny explains that the Government will either buy “build-ready” land or pre-purchase or underwrite homes.
“This $159 million it’s putting on the table- it might not actually cost $159 million and it might just backstop some of these developers that are running into trouble at the moment.”
A good video on modern trams that are mixed with general traffic – not what was proposed for a surface route in Auckland where light rail would be separated from traffic.
Speeds Limits to save lives
A good piece on Stuff this week about why lowering speed limits is the the quickest way to save lives on our roads.
This week is Road Safety Week, and a timely reminder of our deadly road safety problem.
Over the past five years, an average of seven people were killed on New Zealand roads every week, and another 46 were seriously injured.
Since the beginning of this year alone, more than 120 people have lost their lives in crashes on our roads.
Our road safety performance is abysmal in an international context.
On a per capita basis, three times more people die in road crashes in New Zealand than the best performing European countries, such as Norway and Sweden.
The death rate is 50% higher than countries we should be comparable to, like our trans-Tasman cousins and Canada. We do perform better than the United States, but that’s a very low bar and not something we should consider a success.
Existing roads are also being retrofitted with median barriers to make them safer, such as State Highway 2 Waipawa to Waipukurau, and SH58 over Haywards Hill. Whilst it would be amazing for our entire state highway network to be median-divided, the simple reality is we could not afford it. The cost would be astronomical.
That’s why the setting of safe speed limits is also needed. Again, the evidence is clear that lower speeds save lives.
In late 2020, lower speed limits were introduced on 120km of SH6 between Blenheim and Nelson. The 100kmh speed limits were replaced with a combination of 80 and 90kmh limits, as well as a 60kmh speed limit in the tortuous sections.
In the five-year period prior to the change in speed limits, 52 people were killed or seriously injured on that stretch of state highway – more than 10 people per year.
In the last two years (2021 and 2022), that number has decreased to five. Injury crash numbers had reduced too – down 35%.
Tweets and threads of the week
Related to the issue of safety
Being a cyclist or pedestrian in Auckland is not easy (or safe). pic.twitter.com/vTvKIzFQMz
— Tim Welch (@email@example.com) (@TimFWelch) May 17, 2023
Why can’t Auckland Transport do this with the city centre. It’s absurd we still have large trucks using the city as a shortcut to get to/from the port just because they can.
Hamilton’s new truck route plan will no longer allow large transport trucks to drive through the downtown, or through other parts of the lower city. New signage is going up around the city this spring. More details at https://t.co/Er38cUey2U pic.twitter.com/PmYPuc1lKb
— Jason Thorne (@JasonThorne_RPP) May 18, 2023
Speaking of a cities being for people
Used to all be cars. pic.twitter.com/qZEkjyw9Jh
— Hayden Clarkin (@the_transit_guy) May 13, 2023
Even in auto-obsessed Germany, there is a tacit understanding the heart of the city is no place for private automobiles.
The majority of streets and squares in the center of Leipzig are totally car-free, making it a large living room accessible to all of its 600,000 inhabitants. pic.twitter.com/TnP4ClXxHT
— Melissa & Chris Bruntlett (@modacitylife) May 13, 2023
I’m in the place that radicalized @holz_bau. Don’t let me back in Seattle because I will burn the whole place down. pic.twitter.com/dS7YSVKxdm
— Qagggy! (@Qagggy) May 13, 2023
Something perhaps quite relevant given recent events in Auckland
The economic impacts of the council’s over zealous protection of “character” homes.
this new urban economics (working) paper provides insight into an important issue: "The Welfare Effects of Character Protections on Neighbourhoods."
Main findings? In Auckland, the welfare effects of character protections (CP) are large and negative.https://t.co/6wDJ4nniJO
— Stu Donovan (@StuartBDonovan) May 17, 2023
And the impact of congestion pricing
London’s congestion pricing program increased bus usage by 40% and reduced bus congestion by 50%.
And research shows express bus riders would save *hours* each week.https://t.co/lATwZ4d4pI
— Transportation Alternatives (@TransAlt) May 8, 2023
In New Zealand we have zero
In 2020, Paris launched “school streets” outside 211 schools, closing streets to traffic during pick-up & drop-off.
At least 22 have since become permanent pedestrian streets, creating dynamic new community spaces 7 days a week.
— Jonathan Berk (@berkie1) May 14, 2023
Have a good weekend
Thanks to Paul Durdin for a great thought piece on speed reduction. I’ve been involved in quite a number of projects where speed reduction was to be one of the solutions. Invariably, the engineering elements were green lit but the lower speeds weren’t. The psychology of this is fascinating- how to overcome the sense of loss (I have to spend more time travelling) when the compensating thing (I’m safer when travelling) has no tangible personal benefit.
Don’t read the comments—it’s a lot of people saying “sure but where does it stop? We can reduce the speed limit to 5 kmh and then no one will die but we won’t get anywhere! Also it is ONLY driver skill”—as if they did not read the article.
“Invariably, the engineering elements were green lit but the lower speeds weren’t. ”
Assuming you have the funding, installing the physical works can be easier than going through our outdated system and processes for changing speeds. And that’s not just public consultation. I mean right up to the prime ministers, when it comes to lowering speed limits as a blanket safety measures, they balked or outright rubbish it, with a side eye to certain voters who argue that THEY drive safely at speed, and this is just nanny state stuff, blah blah blah.
Hard to overcome. Need to keep hammering away at it – both with speed limit changes and physical works and public education on the benefits of slower speeds.
We don’t have an “outdated” system/processes for changing speeds; the 2022 Setting Speed Limits Rule and Road to Zero guidelines actually now make it much easier to implement lower speeds just on the basis of an agreed strategic plan. Which is why the likes of Akld, Wgtn and Chch are simply cracking on with sweeping speed limit changes. It’s really just the rural sector (esp the state highways) where the powers that be seem too afraid to frighten the horses, even on all the roads that have no right being anywhere near a 100kmh limit…
Yes, agree. Some avenues are:
– the stories of how people’s lives improved and the stories of how some people changed their mind after experiencing the benefits. There are lots of these stories already, but we could be collecting them more efficiently.
– the data about the delays due to crashes due to higher speeds.
But there’s also the big piece of work that no one seems to be tackling: explaining how a safe system functions. The public, and the decision-makers, are mostly experienced only in how an unsafe system works, and often can’t envision a safe one.
And tied up with explaining how safer speeds, enforced, can create significant modeshift (in a self-reinforcing cycle of creating more liveability and reducing vkt) is the task of explaining how more lanes at intersections creates significant inefficiency and that safe speeds and road diets are complementary.
If the speed reduction engineering works, confirming speed limit change can follow. This has happened in the first round of AT school speed changes.
A little less effective, unfortunately, is reducing speed limits without engineering measures or existing low operating speeds.
The national funding for reduced speed limits has not included the cost of engineering measures, in order to spread the extent of speed limit change possible with the allocated budget. This does lead to less reduction in operating speed than is desirable, although some DSI reduction has been measured even in these cases. But I am worried that speed limit signs only, with limited enforcement currently possible or practicable, may lead to poor compliance, so not achieving the DSI reduction that should be possible.
Lowering posted speed limits alone is not about compliance – it’s a simple mathematical fact that you will have a greater proportion of your driving population “not complying” with a lowered posted limit. But you will still get a notable reduction in the average travel speeds – and that’s the thing that will actually improve road safety, not compliance with a new limit.
Good to see plans underway for more rail electrification:
“The Government’s $10 million funding will allow us to look in detail at how best to electrify more North Island rail lines – such as the Golden Triangle (Tauranga – Hamilton – Auckland), which carries around half of all rail freight in New Zealand. We’ll also look at how best to complete electrification along the main North Island rail line, between Palmerston North and Wellington.” – https://www.kiwirail.co.nz/media/budget-2023-continues-rail-rebuild-and-looks-to-the-future/
There should be a 10-year programme of electrifying and upgrading the NIMT and ECML with more crossing loops, with bi-mode passenger fleets like what Wellington is procuring in the interim. Over time the diesel engines would be used less and less as electrification is extended.
Are emissions from railway trains a major problem in NZ? Is electrifying rail corridors the lowest cost way to reduce our emissions? Surely the answer to both questions is no.
That’s the same logic climate-change-deniers use to argue NZ should do nothing about its emissions because other countries are bigger. It’s not a valid argument.
Are there bigger emissions fish to fry? Certainly. But electrifying trucking and aviation is going to be much more difficult and expensive, and you can’t electrify cattle (NZ’s biggest emitter) last time I checked.
You are using an association fallacy and then want to discuss which is a valid argument?
Climate Change is no reason to turn our backs on efficiency. If we are going to do anything meaningful about it we should use the resources we have in the best way to reduce emission. Diverting money to someone’s boondoggle wont help but it will hinder.
Boondongle? Electrifying rail in the 21st Century is a no-brainer. Are you ok hun?
If you want to reduce emissions then you spend the money reducing emissions. You know? Find a sector that creates emissions and decarbonise it. Long distance rail generates next to nothing, partly because it is efficient and partly because it isn’t a lot of use so people use trucks, cars and buses instead.
Electrification of our rail lines is more about modernising the system and reducing issues like having to switch from diesel to electric en-route. Then there’s resilience – we don’t produce diesel, but have a lot of electricity in this country! The climate change benefits are just icing, really.
Except marginal electricity currently comes from Indonesian coal burnt at Huntly, and some gas turbine stations. But the real point is it is probably better to spend the money increasing electric cars that have batteries people can charge from solar rather than a few very expensive trains that increase demand from the grid.
Don’t you get tired of being publicly wrong all the time Miffy? Or is that part of the attraction of being always the smartest person in the room?
So I am wrong but you can’t say why. If your job was to reduce emissions in NZ and your were given a finite budget would electrifying a few long distance trains even make your short list? Hardly. There is a good reason they stopped after the Think Big failure, Kiwirail would actually like to abandon there electric freight locos due to cost and switch to diesel so on what planet would you electrify to Tauranga? Diesel trains in NZ are a tiny part of our emissions so why would you spend anything there while ignoring the actual problem?
Miffy, are you talking short term marginal demand?
Huntly is very expensive to buy power from, you can’t seriously be claiming that any extra demand that will stick around for more than a year (like a train), will not induce more grid renewable projects.
Every generator and his dog is tripping over themselves at the moment rushing to build renewable projects, anticipating demand increases, and cost increases for fossil fuelled generation.
And how about this one “The project was driven by a national increase in demand for electricity, Gibson said.”
Jack so long as the Government pretends they will build Lake Onslow nobody is actually going to invest anything in generation. They can pretend they will build light rail and it doesn’t do any harm, just disappoint a few idiots, but doing the same scam with the electricity sector is damaging.
But one day someone will invest in renewables and the best place to use that is to replace internal combustion engines in cars and trucks. The last place to waste it is on a few engines on rails that require a whole new power reticulation system. It is a matter of efficiency and effectiveness. Money spent of railway electrification is money not available for other uses.
They’re full steam ahead pretending now, generators are putting billions of dollars into projects that are literally underway, shovels in the ground, some completing and them immediately moving on to the next one.
It’s not “one day” it’s happening right now. All around the country. All renewable fuel types.
Hell, there’s even a large grid battery under construction. 35MW / 33 MWh. Serving a completely different part of the market than Onslow would serve.
I agree that electrifying rail is pretty pointless from an emissions standpoint. Better to get more onto rail in the first place, and to electrify portions of the truck industry (short haul in cities / golden triangle) But that doesn’t mean more rail electrification shouldn’t happen. There’s a few operational reasons to do non-contiguous blocks so dual mode battery / electric trains can charge for example. or have less ventilation time in tunnels so you can get more trains through. Not having to switch locos in Te Rapa on the NIMT…
Surely this is a waste of money when the actually-existing Auckland electrification doesn’t work
What do you mean. Last time I looked, our trains use electricity, not diesel.
Sure, they are far too often out of joint at the moment, but that isn’t because we electrified them.
Electrification was a massive part of our rail boom in the 2020s. Electrification on the wider network will also drive modernisation (of track and rolling stock), climate change response, and reduce operational issues of having different systems.
I’ll take your comment as a weary frustration with the other issues our system has rather than a real comment against electric trains…
I heard a rumour that the failure on Thursday was because the circuit breaker on a train didn’t open at the neutral section near Penrose.
Hardly a Kiwirail problem
Can Transpower supply enough energy for everyone?
Electric car charging, housing intensification, rail electrification – all wanting more from the grid
Not just Transpower but the capacity at the next level- the 27 local lines companies.
Traditionally they supplied electricity to a property but now with solar panels on many roofs plus some wind farms they are becoming receivers at a local level. And they are the ones hit hardest in earthquakes and when the weather bombs arrive.
Funny thing about the grid is you can, you know..add more capacity!
You can’t if the government threatens to spend billions on Lake Onslow which could undermine your investment. So instead everyone sits and watches.
And you can’t if the Cook Strait cable is at capacity
Onslow is storage not generation. You can’t invest in long term storage if the govt does. But nobody else can really do that anyway. Might slightly undermine geothermal. But that is supported by being located much closer to load centers anway.
But it would provide a floor for electricity prices and prevent the market conditions we’ve seen lately with super low prices, 1c per mwh during periods of high wind. Which obviously undermines wind investment. The same will presumably happen with solar.
The cook straight cables are starting to come near the end of their life anyway and transpower has just begun their replacement process.
The lead times are about 10 years. You would expect that they will put the new ones in place with more capacity, and upgrade other parts of the link in the future. They’re also going to be adding some capacity to the existing link sooner than that with some minor upgrades.
Jack perhaps we can reach agreement here. Electrifying train lines makes a lot of sense provided: 1/ someone builds more generation capacity. 2/ The new generation capacity doesn’t in itself create more emissions. 3/ Money is first spent sorting out the parts of the transport sector that are actually a problem. 4/ Someone actually wants to use trains get around or use trains to move their stuff around.
Otherwise the money will be wasted and crowd out spending on things that actually reduce our emissions.
Housing intensification should drop energy use per capita.
Better insulated homes, closer together and hooked up to transit, electric trains and all.
Swap out multiple cars per household for one car and a bunch of bikes, ebikes, scooters and HOP cards, at least in town.
Now most people are using a 5-30kg vehicle instead of 1500-3000kg EVs, if they aren’t on transit or walking.
Yes. Despite the population growing, and number dwellings growing considerably over the last few decades, total residential electricity use has dropped, by around 0.2% pa.
Old houses are terrible, ones built in the last 20 years are much better, and the new building code will improve this this even more. Along with the continual replacement of lights with LEDs. Lighting was estimated to be around 7% of peak electricity loads a few years ago.
The big new residential load will be EV charging, which along with hot water are highly controllable, and is already heavily incentivised to charge off peak, and will be even more so going forward.
Have a look at this data from Orion (christchurch) from one of the coldest days last year:
The local lines spend most of the night with 1 to 2 hundred MW of spare capacity. Upper south island grid has even more spare. Couple targeted upgrades and it will be golden.
There surely will be growing pains as there is lots of uncertainty even a year or 2 out with the likes of a Tiwai exit makes it very hard to judge exactly what is needed and when.
We’re one of the most renewable resource rich nations in the world. Our industry is structured to handle growth smartly. There’s hundreds of mw of generation under construction right now (170mw of baseload geothermal included), transpower is in late stages of planning its upgrades. Lines companies are building up. Don’t buy the malthusian crap, we can handle electrification, and end up with a more efficient grid at the end of it.
Jack, I love your optimism and we will see whether there is indeed enough extra capacity to meet future growth. Some are not so confident.
But where is the extra supply to decarbonise the grid? When will Genesis close their dirty power at Huntly. When was it first going to happen? 2018? And still nothing in sight.
Unfortunately private ownership is not a model that often delivers a surplus of anything. And there will have to be a surplus due to the greater unreliability of wind and solar. Hydro electricity only doesn’t work when it is dry. Will the next El Nino be a test of that?
Renewable electricity supply will expand to whatever demand grows to. These are the largest under construction plants. But there are literally 10s of gigawatts being planned, mooted, or consented right now. Some in very late stages, construction imminent. Sites all over the country, with transpower starting a program to deliver localised transmission upgrades, plus new main transmission lines.
Closing huntly is not something that will be delivered soon (because it’s not worth it and gas keeps getting more expensive) but that doesn’t mean that renewable generation and demand cant scale hugely. And one of huntly’s current roles, providing for winter peaks, is going to be severely eroded with these BESS systems. Like I said above to Miffy, increases in demand are being met by increases in renewable generation, if we keep huntly open for dry years, but electrify most of land transport and process heat we would be light years ahead of where we are today. Huntly is a red herring. The grid will become less carbon intensive, with the likes of Te Rapa closing, and the Taranaki Combined Cycle plant. And it will become less carbon intensive through growth with remaining thermal generation making up a smaller and smaller portion of generation.
AWS is a fun headline, but they are making power take off deals that are financing some of the new renewable projects. Cant ignore the fact that the government is subsidising the electrification of process heat through the EECA which is also a lot of demand.
Sorry, I keep trying to post lots of links to schemes underway but its not working.
Harapaki (176mw, wind), Tauhara (174mw geothermal), Kaiwera Downs (43mw, wind) Huntly BESS, Turitea (221mw, wind)
These are shovels in the ground projects, and there are many others starting next year.
Tauhara alone will add another 3.5% of total annual national electricity generation.
Turitea will add another 2%.
AWS has signed a power take deal which is enabling them to move forward with their next wind projects.
For reference, the Tongariro power scheme, which was a massive hydro project in its day, spread across 3 large power stations provides between 3.5% and 4% of total annual electricity generation.
Greater electricity price volatility makes grid batteries more viable, and provides incentive for generators to build new hydro projects (there are a lot that is consentable), update existing hydro stations like Mercury have been doing on the Waikato, or build more stable generation like geothermal.
Wind is variable across the week, but when you zoom out it is remarkably stable across the year, any excess power it generates only needs to be shifted days, not months. This is achievable with BESS and displacing hydro to generate at different times.
All sounds good.
Whilst electrifying the NIMT between TeRapa and Papatoetoe seems to be a no brainer, It should not be the main priority for this section of line.
Line improvements, including substantial curvature easement, swamp avoidance deviations, track formation rebuilding, elimination of at grade crossings and just completing the double tracking should be completed first.
Otherwise the wires will be in the wrong place, and the track formation will crumble even faster under any increased traffic.
Yes the clear priority should to upgrade and wire-up between Pukekohe and Te Rapa simultaneously. This clearly creates a viable higher capacity and reliable electric section of 25kVa, enabling investment in electric rolling stock. To be buying diesel locos or MUs now, is absurd.
Keep the skills and supply chain intact from the current OHL work.
It is likely diesels of all kinds will lose social licence to operate in the years ahead, especially in urban areas.
My reservation of doing all at once, is that it then becomes a massive program, with a huge hurdle to just get a start.
Whereas the deviations and rebuilding required to ease curves, replace dozy track bed, and to complete the double tracking are multiple smaller projects, which therefore have a much smaller hurdle to overcome to get started. And each project still provides an incremental improvement to resilience and journey times.
Need to do all of the above. BTW, did you mean Pukekohe?
While I think it’s great to have public transport fares that make it cheaper for families, I’m not so keen on free fares for too many people. Why? Because in a country like New Zealand it makes it more difficult to have public transport beyond the urban limits, that is one integrated national public transport system. Should it really be free to travel between Te Awamutu and Auckland, for example? And if not, where do we draw the line? This is particularly so if the same vehicle (train, bus) is used for both short and long distance trips, as it will have to in some rural areas.
Anyway, it seems that soon only tourists and people without Community Services Card between 25 and 65 will pay full price for public transport.