Last year Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee held an enquiry into the future of inter-regional passenger rail in NZ. You can read our post about it here, and our submission here.

Yesterday they released their findings on it. In total the inquiry received 1,752 written submissions and of that, 97 percent expressed support for new inter-regional passenger rail services. Despite this, support for inter-regional rail fell along party lines with National and Act opposing the idea.

There are some interesting quotes scattered throughout the report but their conclusion sums it up fairly well.

We recognise that there is real potential for inter-regional passenger rail in New Zealand. Our inquiry has been an excellent opportunity to gain further insight into the socio-economic, environmental, and well-being benefits that passenger rail could provide. It has helped us to evaluate the role that inter-regional passenger rail could play in New Zealand’s land transport system in future.

The main finding of our inquiry is that the regional-centred approach to land transport in New Zealand has resulted in the potential for inter-regional public transport, such as passenger rail, often being overlooked. There is a knowledge gap regarding what opportunities interregional services could unlock. We think that one clearly-identified agency needs to be responsible for providing leadership and guidance regarding inter-regional public transport, identifying and evaluating the public value of potential services, and supporting the work of other land transport agencies in this area. Essentially, we expect this agency to lay the tracks for the future of inter-regional public transport.

We have also identified specific routes where we see the most potential for new interregional passenger rail services in the short term. These are the routes Auckland–Wellington, Auckland–Tauranga, and Napier–Wellington, and extension of the existing Capital Connection service to Feilding. We recommend that the Government initiate a programme of work to test the viability of these services.

From this point, we hope to start a more informed conversation about inter-regional public transport and start working towards an integrated system that supports transport, movement, and connection all across New Zealand.

We acknowledge that investment in the national rail network to support inter-regional passenger rail services would be a substantial and long-term commitment. We, as a committee of MPs from across the political spectrum, may not agree on every aspect of this report. However, we hope that this work indicates cross-party support for investment in public transport systems that are beneficial to New Zealand.

We note that, once we have presented our recommendations to the House, the Government will have 60 working days to respond. We look forward to this response with great interest.

We thank everyone who submitted on this inquiry. We have appreciated the great enthusiasm for rail and public transport and the high level of public engagement throughout this process. We also thank our advisers who have worked hard to assist our consideration of this inquiry.

We look forward to seeing how work on inter-regional public transport in New Zealand progresses.

And here are the specific recommendations.

Leadership for inter-regional public transport

  1. We recommend that the Government clearly identify a transport-sector agency to provide system leadership and guidance specifically for inter-regional public transport.
  2. We recommend that this agency be responsible for the following areas:
    1. providing advice, support, education, and guidance relating to inter-regional public transport in New Zealand
    2. identifying and proposing new inter-regional public transport services
    3. engaging with and supporting regional councils to identify potential for interregional public transport services that would benefit their region and communities
    4. engaging with regional councils and Waka Kotahi—New Zealand Transport Agency to help consider the costs and benefits of proposed inter-regional public transport services
    5. coordinating with regional councils, Waka Kotahi—New Zealand Transport Agency, and the Treasury—Te Tai Ōhanga to determine the appropriate business case pathway for proposed inter-regional public transport services and providing assistance to regional councils during the business case process
    6. promoting well-being and environmental principles in the planning and design of public transport services
  3. We recommend that the Ministry of Transport investigate how the New Zealand Rail Plan could better incorporate inter-regional passenger rail

Funding for future inter-regional passenger rail services

  1. We recommend that funding arrangements for future inter-regional passenger rail services reflect the level of national benefit of such services to New Zealand.

Scoping studies to be progressed for inter-regional passenger rail services

  1. We recommend that scoping studies be progressed for the following inter-regional rail services:
    1. Auckland–Wellington
    2. Auckland–Tauranga
    3. Napier–Wellington
    4. an extension of the Capital Connection service to Feilding.
  2. We recommend that further investigation of other potential inter-regional passenger rail routes be undertaken to meaningfully compare and identify the costs, benefits, and risks associated with different opportunities.

While generally supportive of intercity rail and good in principle, leaving it up to an as yet undefined agency and the Ministry of Transport feels like a recipe for inaction and lots of easy money for the consultancy industry assessing various routes.

For those potential routes listed (and any others), the issue of not having any spare rolling stock is noted a number of times. As such, perhaps one aspect they’ve missed is the opportunity to expand upon the recently announced rolling stock order for the lower North Island. Increasing the order would almost certainly add some economies of scale and provide a fleet which could be used for trialling some of these more easily.

As noted earlier, both the Act and National parties dissented on the recommendations of the report and the views of each are included in the report but in both cases, feels like ideological opposition to inter-regional trains more than anything. Both quote things such as the subsidies to run Te Huia. However, one interesting comment I found in the report was:

Te Huia is funded through revenue from passenger fares, contributions from the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council, and a subsidy from Waka Kotahi. Its farebox recovery rate—the portion of its operating costs covered by passenger fares—is 13.4 percent. This is almost double the service’s target farebox recovery rate of 7.6 percent. Higher farebox revenue than expected ultimately results in a lower subsidy than planned.

One thing particularly notable is that farebox recovery of 13.4% is currently higher than what Auckland has, sitting at just 11.2% due to the recently ended half-priced fares and lower usage due to all of the network disruption right now.

Now we wait to see how the government responds to this report.

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  1. How come there is no discussion of South Island inter regional rail? Despite there already being two existing services. Canterbury to Marlborough with the Coastal Pacific. And Canterbury to the West Coast with the TranzAlpine. Both services are inadequate because they are priced for tourists not locals. And a Southerner service between Canterbury and Otago (Christchurch to Dunedin) would seem to be as viable as some of the proposed North Island services.

    1. Agree, any regional rail plan should really be looking at putting some more basic affordable seating options on those two tourist trains.

      Christchurch to Dunedin should be at least as viable as Wellington to Napier, especially if regional rail options allow for faster running on straight stretches of track.

      1. Jezza – There is not enough AK passenger carriages to allow extra carriages on the Coastal Pacific. To do it, you would need to take the current 3 AK carriages from the Northern Explorer and add it the Coastal Pacific to standardised the South Island fleet and purchase new carriages for the Northern Explorer at approximately $2.5 million each.

        The Public Transport Forum NZ has a concept plan titled ‘Time for a new regional passenger rail network’ – and the associate ‘Light Rail for Branch lines’ concept plan –

        These concept plans are worth reading.

        1. There aren’t enough carriages to run a service from Wellington to Napier, Auckland to Tauranga or to extend the Capital Connection to Feilding either.

          I thought it would have been reasonably obvious to most readers in the context of this post that suggesting additional services or enhancements to existing services would have included procuring the necessary rolling stock.

  2. Instead of blowing money on more “scoping studies” whatever they are, why not put the funds towards the purchase of new, modern rail cars/regional trains? The previous regional services ended mostly due to life expired rolling stock and an absolute refusal to buy new while spending billions on roads.

    1. I would agree with Matt.L comment.
      “While generally supportive of intercity rail and good in principle, leaving it up to an as yet undefined agency and the Ministry of Transport feels like a recipe for inaction and lots of easy money for the consultancy industry assessing various routes.”
      Why do we pay politician so much to pass the buck onto the bureaucrats. What ever happened to taking a bit of a punt. They are pretty gutless in my opinion. No wonder everything takes so long and costs so much.

  3. There are 12 carriages available for use on Te Huia but only 4 are used on most days. So we could start right now with more services between Auckland and Hamilton and onto Tauranga. The other option for the long term would be to run them behind electric locomotives between Palmerston North and Hamilton with Te Huia being replaced with bi modal or tri modal stock where the overhead lines are only available for part of the journey.

    1. A shortage of drivers is the issue at the moment. Te Huia have plans to implement more services once this is resolved.

    2. The problem is a shortage of locos and drivers. Each Te Huia train uses two locomotives which is most of the allocated fleet. This is another urgent reason for new rolling stock, dragging a dead 90 tonne loco around to provide a driving cab is just nuts really. I suggest new modern diesel only railcars would reduce the fuel consumption by 50% while being faster, quieter with a better ride quality. Just imagine the fare box recovery on Te Huia then.

      1. Your clever 90 tonne driving cab comment is dead on. Which is one reason why I suggested using Te Huia carriages behind double cabbed electric locomotives between Palmerston and Hamilton. But they could be used with any double cabbed locomotive for that matter. As regards to using diesel railcars okay but I would like to think we can move on from diesel even if some kind of hybrid is the first step.

        1. Royce – The plan is to use ‘push/pull’ operation for 2 operational ‘locomotive and 4 carriage’ consists with one train consist spare but the NZ Transport Agency hasn’t signed off on the plan despite Te Huia been in operation for 3 years.

          While the ‘push/pull’ operations where used on the Auckland metro rail network, there are drivers and the Union are not happy of the ‘push/pull’ concept being used for inter-regional passenger rail due to a number of non-controlled level crossings on the Pukekohe to Te Rapa rail corridor,

      2. dragging a dead 90 tonne loco around to provide a driving cab..

        But the cab built into the end carriage is still there, just like when the trains served as commuter rail. Can’t that replace one of the locos?

        1. When they were in service on the Auckland commuter network, there was an issue with platform overshoots due to the differing brake response from the carriage cab compared with the loco cab. I don’t know if it was fixed or just papered over til the emus took over. It’s what you get when you cobble together trains out of whatever happens to be hanging around, in this case 50 year old BR carriages.

        2. The driving cab has been stripped of the controls required to use it as it was in Auckland

  4. I wonder how many roads would stack up if the users had to pay the true cost? For example our residential street used by say 200 people a day is sitting on at least $10 mil worth of land, so just driving my car from my house to the end of my street should cost hundreds a day. You can’t subsidise roads then not expect to subsidise PT.

    1. You can if you are National or Act. Even subsidising airlines is preferred (and not even counted, really…)

    2. Do I have to buy the land every time I drive on it?

      I feel like this would be less of an issue if we didn’t make PT infrastructure a postcode lottery and expect people to be chill with things like multi-year shut-down on rail lines from an operator that regularly gets bailed to the tune of hundreds of millions from the same taxpayers it can’t even provide a basic service to.

      Fix that and I suspect a lot of the scrutiny goes away.

      1. “Do I have to buy the land every time I drive on it?” – no but you should pay a return on investment. Any decent right wing politician will tell you that when governments invest in stuff and then allow it to be used for free (or without profit) it creates all sorts of anomalies, and that is exactly what is playing out.
        Of course there are exceptions for the public good like parks and footpaths, I don’t see why roads need to be in that category.

      2. Take the land under Queen Street for example. Its worth a lot of money but is effectively gifted to car users for free, and of course cars will use it under that scenario. Now if they said “hey this land is worth $20 million, we want a 10% ROI on that so 2 million a year, every time you drive on Queen Street you need to pay $10 to collect that”, I have a feeling a lot less cars will use it. And as less use it, the price will need to go up, so it wouldn’t be at all viable to drive down Queen Street if you had to pay a fair price to do so.

  5. The report was an academic exercise.

    Back in the real world . . . Since 2017 the Labour Government has decided to fund one new inter-regional service, that between Hamilton and Auckland.

    Reluctantly and tardily operated by KiwiRail, Te Huia will not survive under a National/ACT Government. It might not even survive under a “bread and butter” Labour Government.

    Funding ends 30 June 2024.

    1. Te Huia will still be around this time next year. It’s exceeded it’s farebox and patronage targets and is especially popular around the school holidays. A large chunk of the costs have been sunk into the station at Rotokauri.

      National have gone quiet on their criticisms recently.

      Also the current government have funded new rolling stock for Palmerston North and Wairarapa services, which will increase frequency. This is the biggest investment in regional rail in decades.

      1. What Nats should think is how to modernize the Loco fleets and reduce the Operational expenditures rather complaining on the current expenditures!

        There are many less populated countries in the world which still maintains the rails services efficiently and economically.
        Think about the socio benefits these rail services could provide.!

      2. “National have gone quiet on their criticisms recently” Umm, no they haven’t. Just last week Chris Bishop was loudly and proudly dissing the proposals for existing and increased regional rail. At a Railways Conference, no less.

    2. Hugh M – There is a lot of local support for Te Huia, despite the initial bad press through the ‘slow train between Hamilton and Auckland’ articles.

      The National/ACT Government would have a fight on hands if they cancel the service and writing off nearly $50 million spent in the rolling stock, Te Rapa maintenance facility, onboard crew recruitment and training, the new bus/rail interchange at Rotokauri (The Base) and refurbishing Huntly station.

    3. You need to be more worried about light rail and the second harbour crossing under National

  6. I wonder if it would be possible to lease existing diesel passenger units from another country?

    For example in less populated regions of Japan they use tilting DMUs which can do 120-130 km/h. They have the same track gauge, and it looks like a very similar loading gauge to NZ.

    Assuming foreign units can fit on our tracks, what other hurdles would kiwirail face around leasing existing units from overseas? This certainly seems like a good way to prove the concept of useful inter-regional rail, without the commitment of ordering brand new rolling stock which will definitely be a political issue due to cost (HoW MaNy PoThOlEs cOuLd hAvE BEeN FiXEd!!!1!!)

      1. Because, as the second part of my comment says, it is a cheap and fast way to prove that inter-regional rail can both be popular and economically viable.
        And any ‘clapped out’ trains from Japan are going to be miles better than the current ‘easy’ option which is to connect a bunch of 50+ year old carriages to a 50+ year old locomotive (aka Te Huia) to run a service which we know is going to be significantly slower and less convenient than driving.

        We already know that this whole regional rail thing is going to be a political issue, and doing it right is the difference between getting a good service now vs having the idea shelved and revived 10 years later.

        1. Why would they be “miles better”? We’ve had this mindset on Cook Strait, you end up with the cast offs other operators want to offload due to “issues” or simply worn out. Apart from that, NZ has a uniquely restrictive loading gauge/axle load which mean Japanese/Queensland/South African trains can’t easily operate here.

      2. They would be miles better because (as you said in a previous comment) they would be much more efficient (cheaper to run) and have better ride quality (90s tech vs 60s tech). Yes obviously the best solution is to buy brand new, but in the real world we are trying to prove the usefulness of a service which is economically shaky and not widely accepted as desirable by a large % of NZ public and politicians.

        The Interislander is different as the service already exists and we *need* ferries between NI and SI for the economy as we know it to function. Capital connection etc are different because once again the service exists already so its easier to justify the cost of brand new trains politically.

        In the case of introducing NEW rail services, it becomes more difficult because politicians are going to be much more wary of spending hundreds of millions on new trains for a service that (in their minds) may or may not stack up. So despite all evidence that its better for the environment, better for the economy long term etc, its unpalatable.

        Hence if we take a cheap, temporary option (leasing from overseas) we would have the chance of 1: actually having the services introduced and 2: proving that the services can be viable using modern rolling stock, opening up the door to actually buying brand new trains for ourselves 3 years down the line.

        In terms of technicality – this is obviously black and white, if Japanese units wont fit without major modifications then it can’t happen.

        1. The sad thing about what you’ve posted is that on the routes listed above and others not mentioned (Gisborne to Napier, New Plymouth to AKL/WLG, AKl to Rotorua, and CHC to Invercargill), people did want and supported those routes and many others.

          It was central governments from both spectrums not caring about lines being closed/invested in/focusing elsewhere (eg post WW2 reconstruction).

          Yet it was the rail operators Toll, TranzRail and NZR who have the most to answer for as they axed/ran into the ground popular services for freight priority failing to invest in reliable, modern rolling stock to revitalise or continue popular services.

          This attitude of theirs has created this false idea that kiwis don’t do passenger trains.

    1. In general, the issue is not the trains.

      Most of our locomotives can do more than 100km/h. the DF locomotives that pull Te Huia have a listed top speed of 113km/h. The issue is the tracks – many of which are windy and not well-maintained meaning speed limits as low as 30km/h, and average speeds around 50km/h – because most of our network is run as a freight network, and logs and coal don’t mind travelling slowly.

      1. I was more coming at it from the POV of running cost and customer experience. Around half the weight of Te Huia is made up just of the locomotives (which are using 70s tech), so you have to think its pretty inefficient in terms of fuel. The carriages they use also ride like shit even ignoring our poor track conditions.

        Something more modern is bound to do wonders in improving the perception of the train too.

        And I would expect a modern DMU to be a bit more forgiving of poor track conditions and able to carry higher cornering speeds too (even without tilting technology).

    2. AlthoughJapanese narrow gauge trains use the same 1067mm track gauge as New Zealand, they are typically wider and taller than the NZ structure gauge

      1. Japanese rural line loading gauge is 2744mm wide, 3886 high.
        NZ is 2830 wide, 3815 high. So not much difference. Is the Kaimai Tunnel so tight that an extra 70mm on top would hit the roof?

        I would be more concerned about the profile on the trains, I.E. will they hit platforms because they don’t taper in enough. I wonder if anyone has actually given this serious thought.

  7. I wonder how many Aucklanders and Wellingtonians would decamp to a railway town in the regions if they had the chance?

    In the UK, London Victoria to Brighton is currently an hour and 5 minutes on the train, *during a strike*. Normally its about 50 minutes.

    Driving is an hour and a half at midnight, up to 2 1/2 hours when congested, with a motorway covering about 80% of the distance.

    1. A lot of Wellington already does, don’t they?

      The reason why it has good patronage is that a large number of people working or studying in the city center live in the satellite suburbs and as far away as places like Masterton.

      I think we should be running on a cycle; you get a route up and running with refurbished diesel. You eventually move to electric and the diesel goes to the next major center. Christchurch, I’m looking at you…

        1. It needs what (I understand) happened to Auckland when rail was flatlining and about to be closed down; the purchase of diesel trains at peppercorn prices from Perth, after they moved to electrification.

          From there, a grant for refurbishment and the re-opening of lines and additional services. Gradually patronage grew and justified further investment. That’s how we got to where we are at in Auckland.

          It could happen in ChCh too.

    2. Absolutely, go in for 2-3 days – WFH the rest.

      Comfortable trains so you can actually work on them (means can leave office earlier too so not home too late), or just read or have a nap. Or grab a nice drink in the afternoon.

    3. The London Victoria to Brighton is exactly the sort of service we should be seeking to emulate on the Auckland to Hamilton route. Unlike the current Te Huia service it’s fast, frequent and well connected at either end. I did my PhD and some teaching in Brighton while living in London some 18 years ago and can confirm its viability although it was often overcrowded, especially during peak. A pleasure to use though.

  8. In the report, the ACT party differing view says, “The trains from Palmerston North and Wairarapa to Wellington are essentially commuter trains but are also only operating because of significant taxpayer and ratepayer funding.” – is the subsidy really significant? Until a few years ago the Capital Connection was not subsidised at all. This would have to be examined on a level playing field with road travel, which is also subsidised. Depending on where you draw the boundaries, it’s subsidised a lot.

    They also say, “It was a shame that data on existing rail passenger numbers, and the amount of the taxpayer subsidy of each, was not provided. It was never clear why passenger services could not be delivered more efficiently by better bus services, cars, or planes.” Surely the ACT member on the committee had the power to pursue that question? I thought that was the purpose of an inquiry.

    1. Surely the substantial subsidy between Palmerston North and Wellington is for Transmission Gully and Otaki to Levin with their appalling benefit-cost ratios.

      The upgraded Palmerston North to Wellington passenger rail service managed to get into positive benefit-cost territory, as I understand it.

      1. You need to understand that public transport, especially on rails, will always be subsidised while roads are the backbone of the country and are just natural to have. /s

        1. “Planes”?

          Is that ignoring the now customary once-in-a-decade- bailout for Air NZ?

    2. Very typical Act and dare I say it National response to rail and rail investigations.
      “where buses (or other modes but rail could do it) cheaper”.

      If either of these parties actually had examples of work or projects that they would endorse – be it a regional bus proposal etc, then they could be taken seriously. Simply dismissing rail as too heavily subsidised without even offering alternatives is annoying and lazy politics.

  9. I think the most logical way to establish an effective heavy rail network is to spend most of the money on upgrading the core, most viable sections like Auckland to Hamilton to about 160 km/h, which means any services travelling beyond that can still be faster (to Auckland) than a car, without having to have costly upgrades on more lightly used lines. (Though obviously they should be upgraded to have a consistent 110 km/h running speed when possible.) If Auckland-Drury is 100 km/h, Drury-Hamilton is 160 km/h, and the NIMT is 120km/h, then even a service over the slow and windy Stratford-Okahukura line between Auckland and New Plymouth could be time competitive with driving on an end to end trip.

  10. Some thoughts:

    * There is a need for national co-ordination of inter-regional transport; and this would include planning for Intercity Coaches (yes, I know that no-one here cares for coach services, but there are significant welfare reasons to look more at them)

    * The system is fragmented enough – for planning inter-regional transport, a small group within WK would do the job. On a related note, should rail be brought back directly within Government control as a department?

    * Not enough discussion of what this will cost – current proposals are open to the criticism that they are not a cost-effective way of dealing with carbon emissions.

    * Restoring Wellington-Auckland as a seven-day-a-week operation is at least straightforward. On rail fares: what here is the view as to what an ‘affordable’ fare for Wellington-Auckland should be? In 1970 a Wellington-Auckland airfare was about four times as high as the equivalent train fare. Now they are roughly at parity, and that is where the problems are arising.

    1. Coach services are vital as there a number of core intercity journeys not covered effectively by rail.

      New Plymouth to Hamilton
      Napier to Taupo
      Rotorua to Tauranga
      Gisborne to Whakatane

    2. There is not enough AK passenger carriages and open air view carriages for the Northern Explorer train between Auckland and Wellington on a daily basis.

      You would need to manufacture or purchase at least 10 AK carriages (4 carriage on each train set with 2 spare), at least two AKV open-air viewing/generator carriages, two AKF carriages (kitchen and food storage), two AKC (cafe) carriages and 2 AFS carriages (luggage and crew rest area). Approximate cost will be approximately $30 million.

      The question is, who is going to pay for it, as the Northern Explorer is currently a non-subsidised ‘book and travel’ service.

      Is the ‘new’ daily Northern Explorer going to be stopping at all stations or limited stops as currently being operated.

    3. Re- “In 1970 a Wellington-Auckland airfare was about four times as high as the equivalent train fare. Now they are roughly at parity, and that is where the problems are arising.” – Echoing that sentiment- As teens many of use used the old Auckland to Wellington service and also the New Plymouth rail car was a feature despite its danger to the rail crossings. People being run over at these places is not a new issue.
      Fare price became an issue in the subsequent few years. When someone I knew used the Auckland-Wellington train later towards the end of the ’70s and complained that for an extra $12 he could have caught a plain instead of having to ‘suffer a trip where he felt he’d travelled the night “sleeping in a noisy tin can”. Patronage is all about customer service quality. If customers are happy with the service they will use it, but a “free” bad service will fail. Customers, which are the heart of a successful service, will vote with their feet no matter who provides the service.

  11. I read this blog one thing I really like it is, you are doing your job well. If you keep working like this, your side will get traffic and DA million

  12. It was noted that they haven’t got the trains what is sitting in taumarunui Railway yard rotting trains from Auckland kiwirail own under default all they need to do with the interior of them is 2 put new seating and toilet in them take a look at Glenbrook railway they run trains steam or diesel and make a hit with the public it is time that kiwirail management get their heads out of the sand

  13. If kiwirail does not want to use them get rid of them out of our town is they are an eyesore I suggested it is a quick easy option I forgot about the ADL sitting at Glenbrook what’s happening about them

    1. Been to Taumaranui lately? There’s a whole multitude of pre-owned trains there – including a Gatwick Express, and I believe the Silver Star as well. Abandoned for decades. Probably needs an oil and grease and a splash of new paint, at least…

  14. The report describes “inter-regional public transport” but does not talk about existing bus services, which are faster and operate with a profit. Also air. 37 pages is brief but it’s really fundamentally lacking. The dissenting views have good reason.

    1. @Anthony – yes, there is a need to consider inter-regional transport as a whole, including coach provision – where more support is needed anyway – and to look at patterns of air service provision.

  15. Engaging with regional councils will matter. It is likely to make sense to run trains which act both as regional and inter-regional at the same time.

    For example, a train which ran between Morrinsville and Kumeu would not exist to serve passengers travelling all the way from Morrinsville to Kumeu.

  16. A couple of things for low hanging fruit without purchasing any new rolling stock.
    The capital connection has a new consist that will start soon. Not sure what will happen to the old consist. Hopefully a lower north Island council can pick it up. But this means 2 consists for the lower north.

    Loco supply is rough during weekdays but better on weekends so capital connection running weekends to wanganui or hastings or something is possible without further rolling stock purchases, just running cost subsidies.
    Once te huia push/pull is approved, it will be able to run 2 separate consists at the same time. Currently it can only do one. Maybe the second consist starts somewhere else.

    In terms of Tauranga, I’m not sure about the kaimai tunnel regulations. Track congestion also a problem around Tauranga, mtmng. So would need big investment in double tracking/ tunnel works to get there I would say.

  17. Re-“The main finding of our inquiry is that the regional-centred approach to land transport in New Zealand has resulted in the potential for inter-regional public transport, such as passenger rail, often being overlooked. There is a knowledge gap regarding what opportunities interregional services could unlock.”
    Its not a “knowledge gap” so much as an instance of one sector of the transport industry having gained a near-monopoly over the entire NZ transport economic market system, which results in persistently trampling/profiteering off of depriving NZers of choices they could otherwise make about how they move around the country.
    I have posted a reply recently about the great experience of being able to combine rail travel with cycling. Being able to use the rail service means that I am able to travel out of the district that I live in using my Bike and the rail service if I wish to; and have my bike available to use when I reach my destination. This makes these journeys easy to accomplish without having to own or have access to, or be able to drive a car.
    With the recent storm damage to our roads MSM has reported on the use of local air travel services for people to travel between localities affected by storm damaged roads in the Bay of Plenty area.
    No doubt that these transport initiatives will not be welcomed by the NZ motor industry, or bus services, as they hope these alternatives will be a ‘temporary’ transport service to bridge the gap while NZ’s roads are being repaired. Heaven forbid that these, and other transport modes gain support to become a popular customer choice, and become viable as a permanent choice for NZers. Also look at how NZers had to fight for active transport modes to be enabled to cross the Auckland Harbor bridge….We have to challenge this attitude.
    This would be especially true about the prospect of re-established rail services, and to a lesser extent, localized air passenger transport. How many people would prefer to travel between NZ’s urban centers by rail if it were available? Would it mean less people would hire a car-or even buy one, and the bus services would have to upgrade their standard of service to be competitive? oops!
    Its time NZ governments of all shades got a grip on reality in this instance. They owe this to NZers who voted for them.
    NZers should not have to put up with being forced to use one mode of transport service, and be at the mercy of whatever level of customer services they choose to provide, along with Governments and transport industry influences choosing to bow to the motor/road-based industry wishes and ‘freeze’ other alternatives like rail and local air services out of access to services delivery markets, with among other tactics, lawfare, procrastination and filibustering.
    Having dominated the N Z transport market for many decades, it would be understandable that the motor/road based transport industry would resent the introduction of alternative transport services choices for NZers, and would prefer such recovery support to be channeled into their industry sector alone. A lot of the time in many instances the motor/road based transport system is neglectful of the needs of many NZers. There are now fewer long distance bus services operating, that are available as an alternative to personally driving a car for ordinary travel; and the quality of service can be awful. Consider the nightmare of having only a maximum of 3 toilet stops on a trip between Auckland and Wellington where at each of these stops there is a choice, queue up to buy a drink and snack or queue up to use the toilet. [ unlike European countries which mandate onboard facilities be available on long distance busses]. The response to complaints is to be told to put up with it, or find another way to get to your destination. If you complain too much or become distressed, refusal of service delivery is always an option.
    We need a [publicly available] transport system which works for all people who want to travel and not have to suc on the suspension of service delivery while the motor and road based industry sector demands the lions share of government support to get their act together, and afterwards, be made to travel around NZ under the motor/road-based industry terms alone.

  18. It is good to see the committee report mentioning similar themes to what many of us have been saying for some time. However, is it just another report, another plan with no real commitment to do anything..

    Agree the issues with the infrastructure need attention. New Zealand should be looking to what is being done in the UK with the planned creation of Great British Railways, which will take responsibility for the infrastructure, passenger services and ticketing system nationwide.

    New Zealand could easily replicate a similar model by separating the infrastructure from KiwiRail and rail passenger services from regional councils, and vest it in the existing rail land holding SOE New Zealand Railways Corporation, with a Cityrail passenger division responsible for all rail passenger services nationwide.

    It seems strange the committee only recommend extending the Capital Connection to Fielding. It would make more sense for this to be extended to Whanganui, which is a much bigger population centre with greater potential.

    Also, strange with no recommendation of services to Dunedin (and within Dunedin).

    Rail passenger travel needs to be reimagined in New Zealand, to provide services that will work more practically for people, particularly those who want to reduce car dependency and their carbon footprint. This could be achieved with new modern overnight sleeper trains.

    For the South Island, consideration should be made into a new overnight sleeper train service which runs the length of the island in both directions between Picton and Invercargill. The southbound down service from Picton could connect with the 3.45pm Interislander sailing from Wellington, and the up northbound service from Invercargill could connect with the 11.00am Interslander sailing from Picton.

    In the North Island there should also be an overnight train running in each direction between Auckland and Wellington, the southbound down service connecting with the 8.45am Interslander sailing from Wellington to Picton, and the northbound up service with the 2.15pm Interslander sailing from Picton to Wellington.

    Rail services also need to be introduced into Rotorua and Taupo with building a new line inland from the ECMT at Te Puke, through to Rotorua around the back of Mt Ngongotaha, through to Waipa mill and onwards south to Taupo via Reporoa and Broadlands. This would then enable a new daytime rail passenger route to be introduced between Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo – which could run via Auckland Airport if a line were to be built between Onehunga and Puhinui.

    1. Thankyou. That sounds like a really good plan! I hope the Ministry of Transport is paying attention to what you have said. They need to. People may not realize how restricted travel has become between NZ main urban centers. Outside of air travel or private motor vehicle things are a bit grim.
      Recently a friend had to travel to a funeral from Auckland to the middle of the north island. The only option available for him was taking the bus. His physical fitnbess level is no better or worse than many NZers in his age group which is under superannuation eligibility. He didn’t make it without being taken in an ambulance to the local hospital for the night when he had almost reached his destination. The reason was that the journey was so stressful because of the lack of opportunity to use restroom stops and replenish hydration he suffered a hypoglycemic episode.
      I know this is not an isolated incident. About 5 years ago I experienced similar situation when attempting to use a long distance bus to get from Auckland to Levin, with my my elderly mother, who was visiting a friend she had come from overseas to visit. My normal choice would have been rail travel but this was not available to us at the time, and we did not have access to a car for the trip.
      It was a harrowing experience. The bus driver, who was the same person driving for both ways was abusive to the passengers, overloaded the bus at one point, so that some school aged children had to share single seats with adults. he also behaved callously and threatening towards us when we had to ask him to stop at a restroom after several hours without a break and him failing to stop at a ‘designated’ restroom because someone had ‘forgotten’ to unlock it. We were running out of drinking water.
      When I followed the experience up by seeking an explanation from the bus company they were evasive, unsympathetic and legally threatening. I had to get the support of an advocate and sign a “gag” order which prevented both of us from contacting news media, before they would even allow their representative to discuss the matter.
      I had to justify to them reasons why we deserved to have our fares refunded. I also requested that they inform me about how they would amend their service provision to prevent this happening to other passengers. I received no further personal follow up.
      I visited their website a few months later, and found that their reaction to the complaint was to amend their contract agreement with passengers to include adding a surcharge on the standard fare price for “older” age passengers, and a clause which allowed them to refuse service to ‘older’ people if, in their opinion, they thought they were not physically up to traveling under such conditions. It stopped short of asking for a doctor’s certificate however. As far as I know this matter still has not improved.

  19. Will the Hamilton Underground Station be used if this goes ahead? Would love to see that. Just imagine, Parking the car in Te Awamutu or the Hamilton Underground station to catch a train to Auckland Airport.

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