This is a Guest Post by Michael van Drogenbroek. He is a Rail, Freight and Public Transport Consultant/Advisor at Heriot-Edievale Ltd with 30 years plus experience in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Australia and New Zealand. This post was first published here and has been edited for length.

We are happy for people to submit ideas for Guest Posts, and are always on the look out for more regular contributors. Get in touch.


Rail across New Zealand is in an existential fight for its survival as a national network across New Zealand. The recent headlines are endless:

This is all in just the last couple of weeks.

I am sure the cancellation of the Interisland Project IREX has come as a big shock to many – but really is it such a shock? The writing was on the wall many weeks ago it seems.

To be clear I think it is a major misstep to cancel it – wouldn’t it have been better for a pause for at least a few weeks to see more of what could be salvaged. As it stands it is a major threat to the future of interisland rail freight on the Auckland to Christchurch corridor and as a result of that also to the very North Island Main Trunk itself and the Main North Line from Picton to Christchurch – can it survive without RoRo rail ferries?

There is a pattern emerging here that is setting the stage for a massive relook at the performance and future viability of KiwiRail. In fact in the National Party Transport Strategy “TRANSPORT FOR THE FUTURE” on page 25 it states the following;

“Rail has received significant investment in recent Budgets but isn’t performing, with freight volumes decreasing. National will continue to support rail as a critical part of our supply chain but will have very clear outcome targets that we expect KiwiRail to deliver against to maximise these investments”.

Toll Rail’s 2007 “Plan B” Revisited

I believe we are facing a situation where a future akin to what Toll NZ in 2007 called Plan B is looming. This will see the Golden Triangle – Auckland Metro to Hamilton to Tauranga and associated Golden Triangle lines, such as the line to Kawerau and Kinlieth in the Waikato and BoP survive.

The lower North Island Metro rail in the Wellington region with regional rail connections to Wairarapa and Palmerston North should survive due to the New Rolling stock being procured as part of the  Lower North Island Rail Integrated Mobility (LNIRIM) project underway (assuming that project doesn’t get scuttled) and a few other bespoke sub network lines survive such as Central South Island for dairy and inland Port traffic together with some other hinterland connections to Ports such as Fonterra traffic to Port of Otago and maybe the connection to Napier Port.

Gone perhaps will be all rail beyond Napier, Northland Rail (despite recent investment unless Northport development takes off), South Island West Coast Rail as soon as the coal extraction there declines – Westland Dairy and the Tranz Alpine I am afraid are not enough to sustain such a vastly expensive rail link – especially if the Alpine Fault cracks open. And perhaps the Connector lines through New Zealand from Auckland to Christchurch and beyond – including Interisland Rail.

Project IREX, the Interisland connection replacement and upgrade project with two new large RoRo rail capable vessels, has suffered cost blow outs and has now been cancelled. It is now debatable, once again, whether or not the national rail link down the North Island Main Trunk and the Main North Line Auckland to Christchurch via the Interisland connection will be sustainable into the future despite the largely funded Main North Line rebuild after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016. That  was funded under an insurance claim. One way this could have been more sustainable was to build the alternative to Picton Ferry terminal by building Clifford Bay – but that wasn’t done and is another story that should be written about some other time.

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is threatening to tear a gash in the side of Rail in New Zealand. Make no mistake the knives are not only out for rail in New Zealand – they are being sharpened – I can almost hear the spinning stone wheel grind against the metal of the knives as I write this.

Historical Context, Background and Historic Government Agency Views

First up some context.

The New Zealand establishment seems to have had it in for Rail in New Zealand for decades. Why? Because they don’t understand it – at least not in the way many other nations do – they think they do but surely they don’t.

Many years ago a senior Treasury official said to me

“Michael, the Economics of Rail are the economics of Rail – they never change” – this was fine in some sense but what was implied in that statement was the meaning, more than anything, that rail in New Zealand is hopelessly uneconomic and simply doesn’t work here and likely never will.

As far back as 1987 the New Zealand Treasury was trying to shut the whole network down In 1988 the NZ Treasury wrote in a advice paper to Cabinet ministers:

Despite this being in 1988 similar advice as recent as June 2015 was being offered by Treasury.

The hard truth for those that believe in Rail is that it has never stopped being the Treasury view despite studies such as the Value of Rail in New Zealand study from EY in 2017. For all the talk of a balanced transport view  there remains a underlying view in Treasury, MoT and NZTA Waka Kotahi  that fundamentally outside of Wellington and Auckland Metro rail systems, and perhaps the Golden Triangle between Auckland Hamilton and Tauranga, New Zealand doesn’t need a rail network. Yet we trumpet the unrealistic view that Aviation and Air New Zealand can decarbonise in the relative near term whilst the most obvious decarbonisation of a transport network that already exists and is proven already to be able to be decarbonised – electrification and better use of the national rail network – is ignored. It is harmful to our international reputation and there is an argument from some that it should be broadcast to the World exactly what are our true emerging colours are as a nation in this regard – and it isn’t pretty.

Big companies like Fonterra, the nation’s major export ports such as Port of Tauranga, freight forwarders such as Mainfreight and Toll, coal exporters, steel manufacturers and the forestry industries are keen supporters of Rail and lobby the Government for investment in Rail assets and upgrades. What is it they see that the academic, research fellows and ex Treasury officials don’t seem to see? Is it just big business promoting its own self interest as some might say? That they see a way of getting cheap freight rates below economic costs at the cost of taxpayer investment? Thank you Mr Taxpayer! Or is it more about broader economic comparative advantage and lowering supply chain costs in order to make our supply chain to the worlds markets for our produce cheaper than our international competitors? So that in turn we export more produce overseas and therefore have a higher GDP for the good of the nation’s economic prosperity overall? The truth most likely is that it is a combination of these factors. It is good for their business’s growth but also a way of subsidising their transport costs through government intervention by public investment of taxpayers money in Rail. This in turn leads to a stronger export lead economy and a higher profit for those businesses and a better performing New Zealand overall from which we all benefit. In a pure efficient market this may sound like a nonsense, but other countries we compete against do it, so we seem to be forced into a corner.

It seems Rail in its history has so often been wedged into this somewhat uncomfortable position itself as it is in many other parts of the World. New Zealand at large, it would seem, should generally benefit from these investments in Rail infrastructure much like it does in Roads. But many struggle to see the public good in Rail that they can easily see in Roads because Rail is more of a closed system not open to casual users like the Roads. Only the Rail operating company has access to the tracks. When it comes to Roads everyone seems to be a socialist as it enables us all to put our “snout in the trough”.

Surely we have got past the Road vs. Rail arguments in 2023. Where the more neo classical academic economists seem to struggle is the allocative efficiency of this “intervention” in the freight market by the Government and the investment of scarce public funds in Rail. It is after all a more Keynesian approach and the Government trying to help pick winners. Pity for Coastal Shipping as they currently seem to, unfairly, miss out on any of these economic welfare transfer payments – except maybe the local body owned Ports. Welfare economics has always been a difficult area for these types of investments – it sees these “welfare transfer payments” to Rail as having lots of economic leakage and waste. But what is your choice? Is there a welfare gain or loss from the investment in Rail?

I had been hopeful that this issue had been put to bed for good after the landmark Economic Value of Rail Report in New Zealand in 2017 which addressed some of the issues I talked about back then. However, some of the same political and central government agency protagonists and core key questioners are still there – likely still asking the same questions.

Back in June 2009 David Heatley wrote in his “The history and future of rail in New Zealand Research Report” for The New Institute for The Study of Competition and Regulation Inc the following:

”Rail has had a net social cost for at least 50 years, soaking up resources that could have been diverted to other, more productive uses. Without that drain on social welfare, New Zealand might today have vastly improved roads, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Given the poor productivity and economic performance of rail in public ownership, private ownership should have been in the public interest. The proper response by a private owner to the economic situation of rail was to increase productivity where possible, and where this was insufficient, to rationalize services and reduce the scale of the network.”

“While completely exiting rail would be more economically desirable than the present situation, such a move would not capitalize on the tasks and rail lines that may be economically viable. A viable subset of the network would seem to be available. It will probably be around 1500-2000 kilometres in length – less than half the present size. Line closures and land sales in other areas could fund upgrading of the core network to 21st century standards. The potential economic and environmental benefits of rail are most likely to be realised in this scenario.”

Luke Malpass in September 2009 in the “KiwiRail: Doomed to Fail?” supported by the Centre for Independent studies wrote.

”KiwiRail needs to be restructured and privatised in separate pieces. This way, the commercially viable parts can be privatised and certain lines sold to interested parties like ports and companies such as Solid Energy and Fonterra. The unprofitable parts should be shut down by government and the land put to more valued use.

Land could be set aside for public use, such as being part of the new national cycleway, or sold to private interests. KiwiRail has a difficult future in its current form. With many fiscal pressures looming in the medium term for New Zealand, KiwiRail is becoming an increasing financial burden on the government’s balance sheet. The reform, rationalisation and resale of KiwiRail should be a top priority for the government.”

In March 2009, Bill English, a former Minister of Finance ,described rail  as follows: ‘‘Billion Dollar KiwiRail investment now worthless” says English.

How will the rest of the World view this? How will it go down when we broadcast to the World that New Zealand is seriously considering abandoning its national rail network. Will they even care? Well they should – as this could be an indication that we as a nation are generally playing only lip services to our clean green image.

More Recent Advice From NZ Government Agencies

The next bit of analysis is rather shocking from the period around the middle of 2015 for New Zealand Government advice.

The following are extracts from Government agencies, and in particular the NZ Treasury, advice to the New Zealand Government Cabinet in 2015. A copy of the source document titled “Kiwi Rail – NZ Treasury Response To OIA Request on Kiwi Rail Funding / Possible Closure – 4 February 2016” is available here.

The only real options available to the Crown with respect to KiwiRail are therefore to:

  • retain most of the freight network, or
  • close most or the entire freight network, with the option of retaining the upper north island section only (Auckland to Hamilton to Tauranga) as this part of the network carries the most freight volumes and covers most of its costs.

Treasury believes there is a net economic cost of continuing to fund rail at the levels required. The net social cost is estimated at between $55 million and $170 million per annum based on a national cost benefit analysis. Whilst the assumptions underlying analysis of this nature are subjective and some require further work to validate Treasury believes that it will not change the conclusion that there is a net social cost of continuing to fund rail at the levels required.

Treasury believes that a more comprehensive study be undertaken to better understand the implications of closure to enable the Government to make the most informed choice possible. The comprehensive study should be public, and at arms’ length from the Government. Treasury therefore recommends a one-year funding commitment for KiwiRail whilst this process is undertaken. It is critical that any study be done publicly, as it will not only ensure that all relevant stakeholders and information can be accessed, but it will also provide an opportunity to inform the public on the ongoing costs associated with funding rail, and what benefits are being generated from this investment.

And this from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) at the time:

note that NZTA advises that if all the freight currently transported on rail was transferred to road, the additional road user charges earned from the additional trucks on the road would be sufficient to adequately address road capacity and safety issues in most areas

note the estimated environmental and safety benefits from transporting the current volume of freight by rail of ~$10 million and ~$20 million per annum respectively do not outweigh the costs of continuing to fund rail, and

note that a further assessment of the likely impact on the transport supply chain (including the impact on New Zealand’s major ports), KiwiRail’s customers, regional economies, road safety and environmental impacts would be needed before a decision could be made to significantly down-size the rail network

NZTA supports the indicative evaluation outlined in this report, and the conclusion that even taking account of the public good aspect there is currently a significant gap between the financial assistance the Crown is providing to KiwiRail and the value of the public good.

However, it believes that in the event the government has some ongoing investment in the rail network as a public good, NZTA could be the appropriate policy and planning agency for investment decisions across the entire transport system (including rail). This would allow for an integrated ‘whole-of-network’ approach to investing in and delivering on the government’s ‘public good’ priorities for both rail and road transport, over the long term

So there you have it – as at June 2015 NZTA did not believe in the Value in Rail. I suspect there are many in the agency that still have this prevailing view despite the recent years apparent support for rail emanating – but how much of this was just to satisfy the political masters of the day. What is their true “frank and fearless advice” And whilst they have apparently made good progress to being a more mode neutral Transport agency over the past five or six years, indications are is that they maybe are about to return to previous form.

The National led Government of the day didn’t support publicly the drastic options for reducing the network but I have no doubt it was a close call at best by the Government Cabinet of the day. However the underlying fundamentals continue to be against rail. Increased road investment is about to occur making rails competitive position even weaker.

It has to be acknowledged, though by the rail industry, that it has had a lot of funding over the past few years and the nation has yet to see it perform to the expected standards expected from this investment unfortunately. This is disappointing for the industry so I have absolutely no doubt that all the matters pre examined in the history of Rail in New Zealand will be looked at once again and as such the industry is again under existential threat despite progress in the period since 2015.

Future Outlook

It is probably that further reform of the network is required but fundamentally until the elephant in the room is addressed, Rail in New Zealand will continue to significantly under perform to its full potential.

The elephant in the room is pro -roading investment and incremental improvements to roading networks through Roads of National Significance (four laning of major roads across New Zealand) as this has continued to erode rails competitiveness over time in terms of transit time on road as well as its weight carrying capacity. Not only does it do this but it crowds out capital for Rail – after all there is only so much money to go into Land Transport.

From a customer and user perspective, the problem to be solved is how do we sustain efficient, reliable transport connectivity that delivers the service promise to make our exporters and importers competitive on the international market. Rail is a key enabler and link in the transport network in the same way that roads and the Interisland link are.

As for passenger rail nationally across New Zealand and my Vision on that previously released by me – these will need to be paused for a while whilst we fight for the very existence of the Rail network itself as its very existence is under threat. Without a Rail network there can be no national passenger rail service.

Share this


  1. Well researched.

    Freight rail was never going to compete with road as long as 50kg/m rail; 18t axle weights; and now what looks like non rail capable ferries. Of course the opposite is true but those who in power did everything to keep NZ rail at the beginning of last century.

    1. What is the problem with ‘18t axle weight’, can anyone comment on what ‘future axle-load’ should be
      In Kiwi-rail update to Waikato Regional Council in Sep they said ‘all bridges on the Auckland – Tauranga route ready for future axle-load increase’, they did not actually say what future axle-load are

      1. In the past, individual manual rail cars allowed anyone to use the rail network. However, nowadays, KiwiRail holds a monopoly that can be detrimental to its own interests.

        1. This comment is nonsense as there has never been a time when there was ever access to the rail network outside of the national rail operator. Your claim”In the past, individual manual rail cars allowed anyone to use the rail network” has no factual basis to it. There has never been such a situation anywhere on the railway network in NZ where “anyone” could use the rail network.

  2. It would be interesting to see the Treasury analysis updated to take account of:
    a) the recently significantly increased socioeconomic cost of air pollution
    b) the recently significantly increased socioeconomic cost of crashes
    c) the fact that trucks don’t currently pay congestion tolls in any major urban area
    d) the delays to other road users truck cause on hills and roads with long areas of no-overtaking
    e) the fact that our roads have to be constructed to a standard to take the weight of road freight not just cars. (I’m not sure that the RUCs cover this full cost?)

    The Domestic Transport Costs & Charges Report shows an annual subsidy to road freight of $825m in 2018/19. This at minimum excludes the updated full air pollution cost and crashes.

    1. Agreed, this is is a glaring omission. Rail is “proven” by these reports to have a net cost, but there is no comparison to the only transport alternative being offered. In any case, the SH1 connection from the North Island to the South is only via ferry.

    2. I’d suspect these costs have not been considered but then there isn’t really that much freight being shifted between islands, and no matter how much creative accounting is undertaken, the underlying economics are just not there, including future allowances.
      The whole Interislander operation had revenue of just $151M in the last financial year and a surplus of $12M. To spend $3B on it where revenue is just 5% and profit 0.4% is never going to be viable.

    3. Or just privatise rail, let customers including commuters pay what it costs to maintain and upgrade the network and let it make its own case to those customers for their business. Then shut down all the parts of the network that even under optimistic assumptions will never break even. The only people who fear that option are those that know many lines and services won’t survive without perpetual taxpayer handouts.

        1. Agree about the Roads , And once back when Kiwi Rail was sold and made Private , then it went to the Dogs and now we are seeing a great catchup for all the works that were never down when it went private .

        2. Sure if you’re going to remove all the other ways I currently get taxed and charged to build and maintain roads and go with a user pays scheme based on mileage, vehicle type and weight then I’m up for that. But no double dipping, you need to give me back every dollar of mine that’s being used to pay for them by some other path. Let’s do the same for cycleways and public transport while we’re at it.

        3. @wondering does your logic about privatising roads apply to rail too, that it should only be privatised if and after all other taxes are dropped?

        4. Sure feijoa, As I said lets have KiwiRail recover all costs from it’s users, various providers of public transport recover all costs from fares and cyclists be charged a reasonable per kilometer fee for cycleway usage as well. Light vehicle users will barely notice an increase over what they currently pay. Cyclists particularly will be in for a shock as will public transport and rail freight users.

        5. Especially if we include wider economic benefits, then as a cyclist I should get paid to cycle on a cycleway. eg I’m saving the health system from an expensive heart by-pass later in life.

        6. Grant, that’s a common fallacy. Even then the numbers don’t stack up. Increased cycling rates are only weakly associated with city residents meeting adequate physical activity guidelines or having a reduced chance of being diagnosed with hypertension. It is cheaper to do those extra bypasses than build and maintain the cycleways. Cities with more cyclists also have a higher number of people with bipolar disorders, depression and anxiety. Cycling is the second most dangerous mode of transport in New Zealand after motorcycling. You cost ACC much more per km travelled than a car driver. Environmentally you have a worse CO2e footprint per km travelled on a full lifecycle analysis than a fully loaded BEV. Cycling participation is also quite discriminatory with respect to gender and ethnicity. Not a lot of good news either economically, environmentally or socially for cycling if viewed objectively.

        7. Marlborough ratepayers, yes, even the many hundreds in Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel who have no nearby roads, let alone road access, are about to learn just how much general ratepayers are about to be slugged twice for keeping the incredibly expensive but lightly used road access to the rest of the Marlborough Sounds. Once in their rates, and secondly in their general taxation.

          The vast majority of cycleways are not funded by road user charges, but from rates, as is public transport.
          However mode shift in urban areas from the spacially incredibly private vehicle transport to these modes is hugely benificial to these private motorists.
          For instance, if the existing Wellington harbourside railway lines were replaced by an additional two traffic lanes on the Hutt Road then the increase in congestion in Wellington would be catastrophic to those private motorists.
          Not only for their journeys, but also for finding places in Wellington to store their car between commutes.

        8. DonR your comment about funding from rates and other sources are exactly why the users should bear the costs and specifically why I say stop charging through all these other mechanisms. Similarly stop transferring money from one user to another if you’re going to be fully fair vs considering one mode more virtuous so it’s non users should pay for it. Charge cyclists per mile travel amortised over the cost of the road and cycleway network elements that they use. Charge those roadless house owners on the sounds only when they manage to make it to and use a public road, bus, train or cycleway. And let’s avoid those arguments of ‘Users of mode Y should subsidise mode X because mode X is a benefit to them even if they never use it’ Those are handwaving arguments usually used to justify subsidies. For example ferry operators could state those Marlborough residents are costing them significant money by caring about speed limits. The cross charge for each Tory Channel home owner could be hundreds of thousands a year if apportioning the economic cost of current lower ferry speeds to protect their property. In fact there would be some quite large savings in capital expenditure as smaller faster ferries running more trips per day would move the same amount of people and freight as a couple of mega ferries running less trips due to speed limits. And that’s an economic argument that’s fairly easy to show vs some of the more handwaving ones.

      1. And what would happen if road users paid their full costs to use the roads? I can tell you. Many Kiwis driving a lot less. It’s funny how some people think rail = subsidised, roads = fully paid for, when the fact is that’s not even close to the case for roads. I’d love to see costs made fully user pays for roads, ending taxpayer handouts subsidising their driving. The huge shock for many Kiwis would be very entertaining.

        Secondly either you’ve forgotten, or weren’t around when railways were privatised in NZ. The private owners made almost no investment, let alone maintaining the network. A lot of the upgrading that’s been done in the past few is actually fixing up the damage that was done in the private ownership period.

        1. @Wondering. I do t know where you get your stats from. Sure, ACC could be worse here due to lack of safe cycle lanes and better cycling infrastructure in general. Perhaps out helmet laws are the issue, preventing more careful riding or helping make cycling more widespread. I’m sure the stats for the Netherlands must be better. Always hearing how their children are the happiest in the world or similar. They are able to get themselves to where they need to go to visit friends clubs and sporting fixtures etx without being chauffeured around by their parents.

          Come on when do you ever see “a fully loaded BEV?” And most cars are still ICE anyway. E-bikes are a game changer for not using your car or even have less in the household due to the extra range abilities etc.

        2. NZ will never privatise the roading, because the costs would be too much for drivers to bear. On that basis, we should not privatise

          Roads are heavily subsidised out of general taxation, so again, same for rail.

          Roads don’t have to have a positive BCR or make a profit. It should be the same for our rail infrastructure.

        3. Grant the stats come from ACC. In the Netherlands cycling is still an order of magnitude more dangerous per kilometer than driving and that is on what is considered best in class infrastructure.

          Anecdotally you hear a lot of things about the Netherlands. And then there’s the actual statistics. Unicef notes more dutch teens have a mental health disorder than the EU average. Now correlation is not causation so it’s unclear if cycling is to blame for that. The same correlation between more cycling and worse mental health is seen in New Zealand cities (council and government stats), similarly unclear if there is any causal link.

          e-bikes are indeed even more efficient than a fully loaded BEV and preferable to human powered cycles from an environmental perspective. And I’d counter when do you ever see a fully loaded bus or train? Ever outside rush hour on major routes? Most buses in Auckland don’t carry enough passengers to amortise their extra environmental impact over the same number of people in BEVs. Cars running on fossil fuels won’t be around much longer compared to the time it takes to build infrastructure in New Zealand. In considering future infrastructure you need to be building considering ZEVs will be the majority of personal vehicles.

        4. KLK the point is rail, public transport and cycleways are all subsidised more per passenger kilometer than roading. So you’d expect more pushback in those other modes if the true costs were to fall where they belong. And you don’t need to privatise infrastructure to charge for it. Public transport and roads already have well established methods for usage based charging and there seems to be an appetite to extend that. And it also seems a fairly simple problem to solve for cyclists, after all we have no problem registering and slapping plates on motorcycles and mopeds. Then it’s just a matter of setting appropriate charges.

        5. “if true costs were to fall where they belong”, the full cost of building roads, maintenance, as well externalities (that rail doesn’t, or rarely, has) like emissions, death and disability, would render driving the privelege of the very few. Throw in free parking (by council) too.

          Making each mode pay the same percentage of its total costs would be interesting. I suspect we would see alot more people on bikes (assuming cycle lanes don’t have other infrastructure requirements (piping, etc) steal from its budget)..

        6. “In considering future infrastructure you need to be building considering ZEVs will be the majority of personal vehicles.”

          I think e-bikes are outselling EVs 10-1 but try to put in the infrastructure for those…

        7. KLK I don’t think anyone’s ever seen a congested cycleway in New Zealand. Clearly latent demand doesn’t apply to bikes.

          But sure, if they’re selling like hot cakes slap a registration fee on e-bikes and have a RUC for them and put all the cash towards cycleways. no argument there. If the mode works for you, use it and I look forward to seeing all these fully user funded multi use paths pop up

        8. And Wondering.
          How about a charge for walking on the footpath?
          And for crossing the sand on the beach to get to the sea?
          Or for slowing the traffic down in front of schools?
          In fact if its OK to charge for the imposition of speed limits down Tory Channel, why not charge residents everywhere for the imposition of speed limits on the transport corridors on which they live?
          Nearly as mad, and as dangerous, as linking cycling with the incidence of bi polar condition.

        9. There’s no reason to slow traffic down in front of schools if children are delivered by autonomous vehicle into safe off road drop-off zones. The problem is of course that a lot of schools and the roads around them are not designed to facilitate safe and fast pupil drop off and pickup by vehicle. Slow speed limits are not really the long term solution to this problem.

          And by all means lets devise a system where everyone who wants a low speed limit on a road can pay money to everyone who doesn’t. Let’s see how that works out. My bet is limits quickly rise to reasonable levels again.

          And my point on the ferries is you can make far reaching, hand waving arguments about spreading economic costs to others because of the ‘benefits’ they are getting from your virtuous behaviour. But it’s usually done to justify why you’re taking their money for your pet project rather than spending it to make things better for them.

          And lets face it everyone knows a cycling advocate or two who’s a bit off their rocker so a link between mental illness and cycling would not seem that far fetched a hypothesis to much of the population. But I did mention that while the correlation is there, it does not imply causation.

          And in some cases it’s hard to charge people on a usage basis. But a lot of infrastructure is going in right now to be able to read plates and charge people for usage and facilitate congestion charging. Given current plate based tolling systems handle motorcycles just fine It’s not a huge jump to include cycles and e-bikes in that scheme.

        10. @Wondering “I don’t think anyone’s ever seen a congested cycleway in New Zealand”

          Yes the NW cycleway at it’s most busy point is congested for one. You don’t see this from the limited view of your car windscreen.

        11. ” In the Netherlands cycling is still an order of magnitude more dangerous per kilometer than driving ”
          Even if that’s true based on some stats for accidents only I would assume, what is it that’s killing or seriously injuring them? Other cyclists or cars, trucks & other heavy vehicles?

        12. Grant It’s absolutely true. Last year cycling deaths there outnumbered car deaths in absolute terms, let alone on a per kilometer adjusted basis.

          A quarter of the dead simply slipped or fell off their bike without colliding with anything. Another quarter were a bike only accident. the other half collided with vehicles (no indication of who was at fault) and were unable to overcome their innate squishiness. 88,000 riders ended up in hospital emergency departments, 22,000 of them with brain injuries. (Now we have a good hypothesis for the correlation between higher cycling rates and higher rates of mental illness)

          But the statistic is what it is. Cycling remains one of the most dangerous mode of travel even somewhere people point to as the shining example of a country doing everything right for cyclists.

          And less than half the deaths involved cars, so in some even smaller percentage was the car rather than the cyclist at fault. And over time driver assist systems and automation will push the number of times that it’s the driver at fault towards zero. But cyclists will still make mistakes and errors of judgement.

        13. Wondering.
          I think you are simply a troll, playing, rather then contributing to a sorely needed discussion by our entire society on how to avoid sleep walking into an avoidable catastrophe. Climate change and poor urban, and transport planning, has already this year caused considerable suffering and economic impairment.
          Without fundemental changes in how we do things, things are rapidly going to become worse, much worse.
          To you I will say no more.

        14. DonR Clearly you find it tough when incontrovertible facts come up against your deeply held but incorrect beliefs.

          Every solution you support seems stuck in the past, as if the decisions European countries or our own government departments made in the 1900s with the technology of those times still hold as the best way to do things in the 2020’s and beyond. Having not built out some of that infrastructure and given just how long it takes New Zealand to do anything with infrastructure we do have the opportunity to consider different more forward looking ways.

        15. OK found your article with quite google search. Do you realise how many ride in the Netherlands and how many kms are travelled by them? Mabye they got out of practise after COVID, also the uptake in e-bikes? Also they don’t have to wear helmets remember.
          Remarkably, more than half of the road deaths among cyclists were 75 years of age or older. And 85% were aged over 50.

          “…the modal share of cycling has been more or less stable for the last three decades at 27% of all trips”
          In the cities cycling has increased a lot. The cycleways became noticeably busier after cycling increased by 12% since 2005. At the same time cycling decreased in the country side. The growing population and the increased use of motor vehicles are some other factors which make the final modal share figure deceptively stable.

          Almost a quarter of the Dutch population cycles every day. The exact figure is 24%. When you look at the under 50-year-olds it is 27%. The figure is raised by the many school children who cycle every day to school. The figure for the over 65-year-olds who cycle is lower but still impressive with 17% of that age category cycling every day.

        16. Grant other statistics from previous years show exactly the same result, with cycling in the Netherlands being about 10x more dangerous per passenger kilometer than driving. It’s a documented fact for over a decade or so regardless of the reasons even if 2022 does show a bit of an upward spike. And I could believe the hypothesis that the higher speeds of e-bikes are currently causing more deaths. And 22,000 is a lot of avoidable head injuries. Should helmets and airbag jackets be mandatory equipment for e-bikers? No self respecting motorcyclist goes riding without a helmet and leathers.

          What is your answer for those over 50’s? get them off bikes and on to some other mode to save their lives? Have licensing, fitness tests and age caps for cycling? e-bike speed limits?

          How else would you propose to close that 10x gap?

          The infrastructure already world class can only become so much better. Technology doesn’t offer the same answer for cycles that it will for vehicles in eliminating cyclist error or misadventure. We note and now presumably agree is the cause at least 50% of the recorded cyclist deaths in the Netherlands.

        17. In terms of kilometres, a large majority of distance traveled in the Netherlands is still done by car. This is easily found online:

          A key benefit of cycling (and walking) is that you don’t have to park cars, so all kinds of businesses can now survive without a large parking lot and associated nuisance from extra car traffic. That in turn allows you to actually put them in residential neighbourhoods.

          For example supermarkets. It becomes much more viable to have small local supermarkets. So people will spend less kilometres driving a car. These trips will instead show up as bicycle trips with less kilometres.

          A second thing that you can easily find online, is that traffic in the Netherlands is pretty safe, but not super safe. It is more dangerous than the UK for example by quite some margin.

          As far as I understand though, despite the extra accidents, you’ll be overall more healthy if you ride a lot of kilometres on a bicycle, so I’d still call it a win for cycling. The independence of children is also a win, for both physical and mental health. It is important for old people too, many have less trouble with riding a bicycle than with walking.

          As for the NW cycleway, cycle counters report only 1,500 trips or so per day and that is usually called ‘almost empty’. It is not used by a meaningful amount of people.

          I would guess by the time a cycleway gets congested, it would carry closer to 1,500 per hour. (As a point of comparison, the Harbour Bridge, a link at a similar spot in our transport network, carries well over 100,000 trips per day, and that is without counting bus passengers)

        18. Roeland autonomous vehicles vastly change that calculation. the young and the old can be delivered without driving with a 10x reduction in their chances of dying during the journey with not much different environmental impact.

          Small supermarkets charge more as anyone who has ever price compared a PakNSave and a Four Square will know. So they’re no more viable even if they are closer. I note Otago University’s 15 minute city analysis includes large dairies as ‘supermarkets’ though no price sensitive consumer would consider doing their regular shopping there. It is much cheaper to jump in the autonomous EV and head off to the nearest real supermarket or specialty retailer to pick up what you need, taking a nap on the way. They also solve the parking problem in a slightly different way where you jump out of your vehicle right at the store, it parks somewhere nearby and you summon it back when needed. Or if it was not your vehicle but a rideshare one it goes off to do other trips and you get a different one back for the return. It’ll actually be less of a burden and cheaper overall to travel further to a larger shop with a greater selection while doing something else on the way.

          As to health you’re trading of those extra deaths, falls and head injuries against improved fitness. You’d be safer to have your autonomous EV drive you to the nearest gym or pedestrian walkway. You’d also be safer to change into your running gear as you are being driven home and have your autonomous vehicle drop you off near home at the end of your commute and go home itself while you walk or jog the last mile or two as walking is much safer than cycling. How much more would people go to the gym or some other fitness activity if they lost the excuse of ‘I’m too tired to drive myself there then home’ or ‘getting there on public transport just seems too hard today’.

          The thing about autonomous vehicles is they totally change the way people will think about such things and how much they mind being in their vehicles for longer. Traditional public transport will become even less attractive option compared to your own or a shared use autonomous vehicle. And you can tell from the comments here some will defend their ‘but it worked fine last century’ mentality right up until the point they realise what a step change it will be for transportation. In the future we’ll likely live in ’15 minute’ cities, one where most things are less than a 15-20 minute autonomous vehicle ride away.

        19. Yeah I am not sure what the deal is with self driving cars. They are always a few years away. For what I know, they might still be “a few years away” in 2050. It is 2023 and we don’t even have self driving on motorways yet.

          My guess is that they will show up first on public transport networks. Trains would become massively more useful because you’d now have some way of actually getting to a train station.

          Supermarkets in Auckand are… weird. There are not a lot of them and they are relatively expensive. You’d have to look at how this works in other countries. for example the observation that you have to drive to a large one that is far away to get reasonable prices, is not true everywhere.

          The bottleneck at our local Pak’n’Save is not the size of the parking lot, it is that not enough cars per minute are able to drive in and out of its driveways. Having a car drop you off and then drive away will make this two times worse. It is expected, and this is already being observed thanks to Uber, that using cars in this way will make congestion much worse.

        20. Roads are subsidised as a public good. People live on roads. They don’t live on railway lines or use them to get to their houses.
          Whilst not enough maintenance was done under Tranz Rail’s ownership, the network isn’t rotten just because of that short period of eight years. It was run down also in periods of government ownership both before and since the privatisation period.

    4. a) We’ll see ZEV trucks become commonplace long before we see the rest of New Zealand’s rail infrastructure electrified. Outside of currently electrified lines if you take a 10-30 year view of things you’d be needing to compare ZEV trucks with diesel trains.
      b) Similarly in that 10-30 year time frame driver assistance systems and autonomy will all but eliminate crashes caused by vehicle drivers.
      c) Coming soon to a city near you!
      d) You could argue that that increases the efficiency of BEVs following them. But seriously multi lane highways solve that as do passing lanes where a multi lane highway is not warranted.
      e) Fixed by building better roads where heavy truck traffic is expected and charging per km for the extra expected damage.

        1. Where rail works for people (say the golden triangle) you would expect them to still to use it. In many other places the volume is already in vehicles. Trucks are only going to ‘take’ from rail if they’re the better option for the particular customer. If not then rail will ‘take’ from trucks. If the current heavily subsidised rail system can’t compete in some regions then at what point do you stop making up fluffy justifications to subsidise it more in the hope it will be able to compete and concentrate instead on the lines where the volume is?

        2. “If the current heavily subsidised rail system can’t compete in some regions then at what point do you stop making up fluffy justifications to subsidise it more in the hope it will be able to compete and concentrate instead on the lines where the volume is?”

          While I am not advocating rail everywhere (by any stretch), it might have something to do with roads and trucks being heavily subsidised too.

        3. The point remains rail is subsidised more per unit of freight moved. Significantly more. And still can’t compete. if they were only subsidised ‘the same’ then rail would be worse off than today. The only way that would work would be to reduce road subsidies and/or increase rail subsidies to slant the subsidy playing field even more towards rail. Then we’re well beyond the concept of the best system for the job at hand winning, but rather just increasing subsidies until the mode is attractive to customers.

        4. And yesterday while on Train “101” Te Huia I saw a lovely Traffic Jam at Mercer , all Traffic was a stand from north of Mercer to Meremere and all that traffic was heading South at the Time , so for those that like to put that into a Dollar Figure what would that be worth .

          And you had a train that was around half full which would have been cheaper for those in their tin cans to travel on the train .

        5. david L time spent in cars is of course expensive but the true cost per seat of Te Huia its not cheap either, well beyond the desire of most riders to regularly pay the full price. And a couple of electric buses, even if stopped in traffic most certainly would have been cheaper to fund and better for the environment than the diesel Te Huia and the full lifecycle CO2e costs of all it’s supporting infrastructure.

          Also if the drivers had to be somewhere on each end which was not a train station or not even Auckland or Hamilton the time savings of zipping past that jam may not have been as great as you think. People know Te Huia exists. but for whatever reason they are deciding another mode works better for them for that journey.

          But look forward to the future where vehicles are autonomous, not only will capacity of that road section be increased with no additional lanes, the chance of a human caused accident or jam is much less. But were one to happen those ‘stuck’ in their vehicles won’t be driving. they’ll be using the time for some other thing further reducing the economic impact on them of the slowdown. Probably then the electric bus alternative to Te Huia will be an even more attractive option.

        6. the only “future” to look forward to is future generations being Mad Max desert scavengers AT BEST.

          you tarmac-lobby techbros are absolutely insufferable, prancing about like we’re playing life on sandbox mode with infinite resources, completely pig-headedly ignoring the fact that all your so-called solutions continue to increase consumption of power, the paving over of natural environments and farmland. all you lot want to do is preserve your privileged, individualistic car-based lifestyle so you don’t have to mingle with ‘the poors’ while sucking on musk and bezos’s boots.

        7. nihilist fossil fuel cars are essentially done. It’s just a matter of time. In New Zealand it may seem like there’s still a battle raging but worldwide when it comes to what’s on the design drawing boards and what is happening with regulation the tipping point has actually been reached. Also I’m commenting on what people will do rather than what may be the best environmental choice. It’s better to come up with fairly good solutions that people will actually adopt vs ‘perfect’ ones that never get built or are unattractive to users even if they are. Greening the vehicle fleet is the simplest most incremental win and one consumers will willingly commit their own dollars to.

          BEVs already beat lightly loaded diesel buses as a better environmental choice. That is fact not speculation. Right sized ZEVs also beat larger ZEVs for particular levels of shared vehicle ridership. I’ve seen AT diesel buses running 45km express trips to the Britomart with 1-2 passengers. You know that’s just not right or sensible. It’s also not a candidate to be replaced by a train or e-bike. e-bikes are better than EVs, but not by as much help environmentally as you might think with shorter journeys and low adoption rates compared to the rates necessary to move the needle environmentally. ZEVs of all sizes, shared where possible are our last best hope.

          And many people promote solutions that due to the CO2e invested in their construction, maintenance and operation will not best the other alternatives except in some particular regions. In those cases trains are neither an environmentally sensible option nor an economically sensible one. Based on any likely passenger volume in regional New Zealand electric intercity buses are going to be a more environmentally sensitive alternative when you look at full lifecycle CO2e emissions than running a train line there just to avoid a busload or two of people a day. The same is true of any provincial town where a modest volume of freight is sent.

          You’ve probably never done the math to figure out just how much better environmentally an electric bus is than a lightly patronised diesel train running on a barely used track.

          And I’m completely supportive of electrified busways. They are the most flexible moderate volume option that can get greater reach for the same spend and can be used in much more innovative ways than rail in the future. Cycleways are unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way and trains only really come into their own at much higher ridership levels than Auckland is likely to achieve. Can you imagine CRL running with 90 second headway and full carriages? No, I can’t either. Cycleways and multi use paths are a nice addition to the urban environment. Separating cyclists and cars is key to throughput improvements in the future and the safety of cyclists. It’s just that as a climate or commuting solution they’re incredibly over-sold. They are more of a recreational enhancement.

          And a lot of my commentary is based on what people will do. And for the automation deniers here most forward looking designs look like a small living room on wheels. At that point while you’re taking a nap, eating dinner, catching up on Netflix or TikTok or playing with the family who came in to meet you the you really don’t care at all about congestion or if the trip takes a little longer. You don’t need to get home and start your recreation. For practical purposes you are already home. You don’t care if a train is zipping past you or not or if you’re stuck in traffic a bit longer. It just no longer matters because you already reclaimed the time. That’s a big challenge to those who think that slow vehicle trips are useful lever to increase the adoption of other modes. It also does mean there will be an increased demand for travel because one of the primary drivers of latent demand for road usage is the time and annoyance of the trip. For most people that’s the real cost. Even thinking about the upcoming world and what consumers will actually do compared to what they wish they will do likely gives some urban conniptions.

          The poor are already best served financially by learning to use public transport rather than paying the monthly costs of owning and running even an ICE vehicle. Hopefully switching modes would allow them to start changing their ‘poor’ status. Climate change doesn’t change that math at all.

      1. I think you are by far underestimating the time before fully autonomous vehicles reach acceptable safety standards to be unleashed safely on our current multi use and fully accessible roads.
        And still to be addressed is determining responsibility when the inevitable happens and things go wrong. The designer? The manufacturer? The support agent for program updates? the operator? The toddler that slipped parental control some distance away but in clear view of the approaching vehicle?

        The aviation industry along with it’s closely associated space industry has had absolutely incredible investment since WW2.
        And yet the two aircraft currently, and for the forseeable future, currently carrying by far the most passengers and freight, and with the most current orders , are merely relatively minor enhancements of decades old designs.
        Nearly 60 years for the 737 which entered service in early 1967 when Harry Potter Ford Anglias were yet to be suceeded by Mk1 Escorts.
        And approaching 40 years for the A320 series aircraft with entry into service in 1987 when first generation Ford Telstars were still in production.

        My big fear with autonomous road vehicles is that because of insurmountable problems in making them acceptably safe in our current environment, the manufacturers will seek, and be granted, further carriageway access restrictions on pedestrians, and all other vehicles.
        Crossing roads only at signalised, crossings regardless of distances between them, cycles to be confined to cycleways, or worse given unrestricted access to footpaths.
        This, in order to solve the otherwise unsolvable problems of too many conflicting variables to be adequately addressed in their operation.

        1. DonR I think you are underestimating how far the technology is along. But either way it’s not a matter of if but when.

          When things go wrong blame will, be apportioned much as it is now. Sometimes the manufacturers is held responsible for a fault in the vehicle or its systems. Sometimes the owner is. Sometimes another road user is. Pragmatically initially if you level 5 autonomous vehicle crashes into someone else and it is in violation of the road rules, I bet it’ll be your insurance that pays. Maybe they’ll take it up with the manufacturer.

          No current automated vehicle will run over a toddler that it can see and identify. And systems do have a memory of ‘hidden’ objects. e.g they track the probable existence of things that may be temporarily out of view like a toddler who ran over the footpath then out of view between two cars and pops out between them. The automated system frankly has a better chance of tracking them a long way out and handling that compared to a somewhat inattentive human. A reasonable standard for software would be ‘did it outperform. human in the same situation’? In general given their greater situational awareness we should come to expect more from autonomous vehicles than humans.

          Aviation exists in a regulatory environment that makes it extremely conservative and slow moving. But even Airbus is now demoing full pilotless takeoff, flight and landing. it can’t be far away (and in aviation lets call that a decade or two) that the pilot serves the same role as safety driver in an autonomous vehicle testing program, there just in case of an unforeseen problem.

          To be fair most automative companies are also quite conservative with respect to vehicle systems. Which is why you’ll probably see people (elon musk notwithstanding) under-pitch the capabilities of their systems and leave much of the liability with the user while they build up more miles.

          Automated driving in the constrained environment of a busway is already a solved problem. And to truly unlock the potential of tech like platooning you can’t have random human operated vehicles in the way. So yes it already makes sense to separate pedestrians and cyclists from vehicle traffic. Eventually automated vehicles will drive much more safely and conveniently than humans and other than for nostalgia (or a deep mistrust of technology) few people will wish to drive themselves. The shift to automated vehicles may cause infrastructure to be more optimised for them. But for now automated vehicles are being designed to drive on the roads as they find them, humans and all.

      2. Math – There are one hellav lot of people out there that do not no of it’s it being there because there is no advertising , or them seeing it passing through the Different stations both here in Aukland and The Waikato . And same with Auckland when they purchased the rolling stock from Perth and upgraded them , that also cost money and now look what Auckland has

        And I have a question have you ever travelled on both those forms of PT ? .

        1. Given its status as a poster child for government waste and incompetence in the sphere of passenger rail you’d have to have been living in a cave to not know Te Huia exists. And non internet connected hermits who don’t own a TV or radio are probably not its target market.

          And yes I’ve travelled on every major form of public transport in New Zealand (and many overseas).

  3. The “rail “proponents can now lament with the “bike ” proponents,it’s an easy game to play,under invest in the mode,ensuring no proper progress,then sit back and say l told you so when the inevitable occurs.
    Trying to imagine SH1 carrying all mainline land freight ,is scary,the “new” motorway at Rangiriri,can’t cope with current load,perversely,we would need some big ferries.
    From a cycling perspective,it would open up some excellent corridors,presuming ,of course,the road builders don’t get in first.

  4. Killing the ferry upgrade was all about putting the knife into rail. Road transport interests have always loved and financially supported the National Party.

    Whats the bet they insist on a low cost like for like ferry replacement now? Its crazy deferring ferry replacement – I was on the one that nearly went onto the rocks and can still remember the captain saying over the intercom over the sound of screaming babies as we stood at muster stations with lifejackets on “The safest place is still on the vessel…”

        1. Earthquake engineeering on an active siesmic zone is very expensive. New regulations about earthquake construction caught the Kiwirail board off guard.

        2. Ziipo – Especially at the Wellington Interislander terminal where there is a certain amount of land reclaiming.

      1. Not telling anyone was obviously en election tactic but I don’t know if it was completely unreasonable to be concerned enough with the escalation to think it needs another look at before deciding what to do. We’ll never know whether a Labour or Labour-Green government would have ended up doing this as well, or proceeding with the full project or asking for a re-think to cut costs. it seems clear that the current government isn’t going to do much other than what may be needed to keep cars and trucks crossing. I think it’s also fair to fault the previous government at least in part, for how we got to such a massive unexpected cost too. But ultimately if it was really just complete incompetence from the previous government and a rail ferries could be completely very cheaply, the current government could do that, but they have no plans to.

      2. grant Robertson blamed Kiwirail for the cost blowouts.
        Richard Prebble writing in the Herald was a lot more objective, saying the key issue is the cost of building the new wharf facilities at Wellington because of the Alpine Fault and earthquake resilience. These costs are largely out of Kiwirail’s hands.

        1. You might want to check what other countries get for spending a 2-3 billion dollars on a port upgrade project.

        2. That’s rubbish. You can’t compare one project of one country with a project f another country. Kiwirail wanted to move the ferry terminal away from the proximity to the Alpine Fault but as they have been forced to stick with it by GWRC, their insurers have specified they have to put in 70 metre long piles.

        3. Well if the problem was 70 metre piles then why didn’t someone tell us why did we have to wait for Richard Pebble to pipe up. The whole thing has just made Kiwirail and the Labour Govt just look dumb. Escalation without explanation has being the one reason why I didn’t support Labour at the last election.

        4. Patrick you can’t compare one project, but perhaps look at say the top 100 most expensive port projects worldwide and you’ll see you can do a lot with 2-3 billion when you’re not feathering the nests of various consultants, trade union management and cultural advisors.

    1. The alleged road transport interests you demonise are among the strongest lobbies for keeping the rail network, including rail capable ferries.
      You seem to be locked into a past where Kiwirail operated its freight services independently and in direct competition with road transport companies.
      Not in the present where most rail wagons are loaded and unloaded in privately owned “goods sheds” by road transport firms.

      1. Daft idea. There is still a huge cost to maintain very expensive bridges over-engineered for such usage and the fact most of the track is still one way in significant lengths.

        1. What they have on the SOL and Rotorua are operators who run for groups who all go the same way at the same time. It is not a free for all, and if one of those bridges fell down, they wouldn’t have the money to reinstate it.

  5. I really shouldn’t bother and I am sure some troll will agree but here goes. I agree with the Govt pulling funding from the Interislander project this cost escalation has got to stop. We have seen it with light rail and lake Onslow. Wood and Woods should have put the kibosh on both these projects when it was clear that costs were getting out of hand. Ministers should set a figure a line in the sand for engineers bureaucrats and consultants. As soon as the figure is exceeded they should go back to the Minister and wait for a reevaluation before proceeding. For me this issue was my main reason for not supporting Labour at the recent election. Ministers need to know when to say enough is enough.
    The Napier Wairoa should never have being reopened just for logs. We have seen how a down turn in log price and volume has lead to Kiwirail losing contracts to cart logs from Wanganui to Wellington and New Plymouth. Exactly the same thing would probably have happened at Wairoa. Again logs from Otiria to Marsden Point would be just as vulnerable if the Marsden Point branch was to be built. All these lines must have a variety of customers to spread the risk. And there must be more stations/container yards where containers can be transferred from road to rail. We are still waiting for the container yard at Kawerau to be built 5 years after money was allocated for it by the Provincial growth fund.
    Getting back to the ferries it would be desirable if they can carry wagons certainly they need one rail enabled ferry to shift locomotives between the islands. My view is Kiwirail should be more multi modal.
    Having to road bridge is not necessarily a bad thing especially seeing as there are plenty of places around the country which are not rail connected. They could even have a small fleet of their own branded trucks not to compete with themselves but to bridge the gaps in the network and pick up and drop off containers to localities when there is not a sufficient volume to justify running a train. So I see a more lightweight railway especially away from the heavily trafficked main trunk and the so called golden triangle. Multi modal would give them flexibility because at the moment any new traffic requires them to invest in new infrastructure. Opportunities are lost while they try and get their ducks in a row. Final word they need to have more open Stations/Container yards. The Kinlieth branch would be a good example of how things should be done. And final final word better containers which are cost effective to cart freight on both rail and road are needed.

    1. Let’s get some perspective here, the cost of infrastructure is not just a NZ issue. For example…

      “Mexico’s Maya Train rail project opened partially to the public on Saturday (Sunday NZT), amid hours-long delays and huge cost overruns.
      The cost of the project has soared from original estimates of around US$8.5 billion, to as much as US$28 billion (NZ$45 billion).”

      “The estimated cost of the North East Link has surged from $16 billion in 2019 to almost $26 billion. A scarcity of materials and labour shortages have been driving up major project costs across Australia. What’s next? The major Melbourne freeway project is expected to be completed by 2028.”

      Note a scarcity of materials and labour has been driving up costs in Australia, of course, it’s going to the same or worse here. The Mexican example also had to cope with difficult ground conditions. Sound familiar?

        1. I think we have more in common with Australia where massive cost over runs have become the norm.

          “The cost of Sydney’s light rail project has blown out to $2.9bn, almost double the original estimate with New South Wales’s transport minister acknowledging the project has…”

          However in Australia they push on and complete these projects instead of throwing their hands in the air and wailing as happens in NZ.

      1. Cost esculation is one thing carrying doubling down and carrying on in as if it doesn’t matter is stupidity that is what I am accusing Labour ministers of doing. The should know when to say no.

        1. Yes numbers matter. Value for money matters. Knowing when you are being conned matters. Unfortunately Labour have been mathematically illiterate. The situation should never have got to this situation but it has. Labour needs to reflect on what went wrong with their infrastructure provision because they are unelectable and will never be able to advance a progressive agenda until they sort it out.

        2. Cost escalations during large projects are nothing new in NZ, the Clyde dam cost way more than doubled but it was pushed through and who remembers the construction cost now. And it was due to similar ground condition unknowns coming to light which required prolonged and expensive remediation.

        3. Should have pulled the plug on Transmission Gully. That went way over budget. But of course, roads are exempt from sound business practice and financial prudence. “It will cost what it costs”, Gerry Brownlee once said of one of National’s poor-business-case motorway projects when he was Minister of Transport.
          National’s philosophy: prioritise roads (and tax-cuts) above all else. Underfund everything else to pay for this. Witness the mess Labour inherited in 2017 after 9 years under National.
          NACTNZF-voting Kiwis either have very short memories or are too-easily suckered-in by rightwing propaganda.

    2. You are just trolling with no knowledge of the issues involved. Cost blowouts are very common and have been happening in New Zealand for centuries.
      In this case, the requirements for the new Wellington terminal are the key problem because of its location close to a major fault line.
      The log contracts in most areas are organised by regional councils to move the traffic to their ports. There is a lot more at play in the West Coast of Taranaki which has a port that does not receive the same level of service as other ports in NZ because it is the only West Coast port.
      Marsden Point is clearly intended for all of the traffic that used to go through Whangarei (which it replaced) and that includes containers, the port itself is setting up container services.
      Road bridging is a big constraint on freight volumes by rail across cook strait. Clearly you are completely out of touch with what road transport companies and Transporting NZ themselves have asked for – which is rail capable ferries inherent with the assumption of provision for increased volume of rail traffic across Cook Strait in future.

      1. The old the industry knows best argument don’t question the professionals that sort of thing. But in this case they didn’t do to well did they and Kiwirail may well find themselves Road bridging containers on and off there ferries and closing lines like Taranaki because they lose vital freight contracts but anyway they can pray for a change of Govt again which will bail them out.

  6. The opponents of rail bring up all the usual myths. These include our narrow gauge rail preventing faster trips, lack of population – and population density and that roads have a great economic return, despite evidence that projects such as Otaki to Levin do not. More roads are the answer. But in terms of passenger, they dont seem to realise many people cannot drive or choose not to drive. And with an ageing population more people will head into this group. This is especially a challenge in rural NZ as many of these places are well away from airports. As part of Save Our Rail group, I have been involved in community meetings in places such as Marton and Taihape, towns once served by trains. The opponents of rail say these people can catch buses. But even if buses go through these towns, they are not great for an aging population. Not easy to get on and off with a disability, especially the double deckers. No on board toilets. And you may have to wait for them in an open sided bus stop. Without trains many people are now stranded. Thank you Michael for all your work.

    1. I think other consideration people miss, is that we don’t have enough truck drivers currently, and how will we come up with more truck drivers to replace the trains.

      My understanding is that the local residents in Marlborough Sounds to more ferry transits as well.

      There is a limit to certain things (drivers, physical land space etc.), which the governments assessments fail to recognize.

    2. Autonomous vehicles will solve that “cannot drive” problem long before every person in New Zealand who can”t drive will have train tracks to their door. So in any case they’ll still need that last mile point to point transport service from the station.

      1. Autonomous vehicles working well for you, are they? Haven’t seen a single one on the roads in NZ yet. Might be waiting a while for that ride to pick you up….

        1. Are you doubting that autonomous vehicles exist, or just that you’d have to see one with your own eyes to believe in them? You can already travel overseas and see level 4 and level 5 vehicles being tested (assuming of course the people doing it are prepared to show you).

          Some would say you’ll be waiting less time to see an autonomous or rideshare vehicle in your neighbourhood than you’ll be waiting to see Auckland light rail or a new harbour crossing completed. Clearly the path there is to implement point to point rideshare services which are then cost optimised by becoming autonomous.

          But more generally autonomous vehicles are going to completely change how people think about using their vehicles, for example people will care much less about congestion when they’re not actively involved in driving in it but are rather already relaxing in their living room on wheels. Parking becomes less of an issue as you get out and bid your car to go find somewhere to park or something to do until you need it back. Traditional methods of trying to force mode shifts by making the driving experience worse are going to be come much less effective because autonomy mitigates the effects of many of them.

        2. This sounds terrible.
          Massive induced congestion, doubling down on community severing roads, sedentary health issues, isolation mental health issues, fleets of autonomous cars looking for available free parking?
          I’d hope we’re smarter than this, but it probably sounds awesome to most bumpkins.

        3. Apologies to Guy M, smarter people than Derek. To be fair it creates some problems and solves some. But also remember ‘induced congestion’ is just latent demand, and people being less concerned with journey time will tend to make some of the current methods used to try and disincentivise driving much less effective. But additionally people will be less sensitive to congestion and traffic will flow more smoothly for a given volume of vehicles. Freight vehicles no longer bound by driver hour limits can more easily run around the clock and not make unnecessary peak time journeys. Autonomous vehicles with platooning and closer following distances at very high safe speeds have the potential to make much better use of existing infrastructure. Remember every trip is an economic benefit to someone or they wouldn’t be making it. Many people may be much likely to stay more involved with community and family if the effort of going to see them or engage in activities is reduced. In some cases barriers to actually driving (age, disability, intoxication and other forms of incapacity) are eliminated. Parents gain extra time as they can simply load the children off to school or leisure activities rather than be their personal driver. Leisure time for commuters improves because it begins the minute your commute starts. So there’s pluses and minuses there. These are not changes that will happen with first generation vehicles but one day driving yourself will seem as quaint as changing your own gears or cranking a handle on the front of the jalopy to start it.

        4. So what is the suggestion, Math, that we just sit around with the status quo until the magical self driving trucks and cars arrive?

          I look forward to some of the future you desire, but can’t we just do what every other developed country in the world has done in the meantime; build bus and cyclelanes and a decent rail network to compliment an ever expanding road network. It’s really not that hard if we just opened our eyes to what works overseas.

          The rest will just naturally evolve and find its place.

        5. ZEVs and autonomous vehicles will be reality well within the timeframe any major New Zealand infrastructure project takes from planning to completion. So it’s not about ‘waiting around’ it’s about not kicking off projects that are obsolete by the time they get delivered and directing the dollars in the right direction.

          And have you seen me argue against dedicated bus or HOV lanes? Nope. They’re much more flexible infrastructure that builds towards the future I mention with potential for a much greater environmental impact than cycleways and much cheaper to do than something like the CRL. They are also easily re-purposed as the world changes. e.g once you have cooperating autonomous vehicles the need for separate bus lanes to maintain flow goes away provided those unpredictable humans are not let into those lanes. Platooning also provides a huge throughput increase but is not as effective if the lanes are shared with human drivers. But guess what, you already built the bus lane and can change how you use it very quickly and move much more incrementally to that future as the technology evolves.

        6. @Math.
          You need to do some basic math. This hope in autonomous vehicles doing away with traditional public transport forgets one thing. Space & geometry. The basic advantage a train/bus has over an individual vehicle is you can cram in the peps a lot more than any other system can. Sure it’s not always pretty but it works. Big cities are still going to need these systems, but sure, other automated systems may exist along side them. If you start lampooning several units of something together at high frequency on dedicated routes you basically have just created a train anyway.

        7. Grant you’re missing two key factors. Buses can also be autonomous and platooning can reduce spacing and increase safe speeds dramatically.

          The individual buses in the platoon would run for practical purposes about as closely together as train carriages but the platoons need much less headspacing than trains meaning a lane of double decker platooned buses is highly efficient in the use of the line even compared to metro rail carriages if it can be run at anything approaching capacity.

          In a traditional busway updated to platooned buses the constraint is how quickly and where you can load people (the stations) rather then the capacity of the lane itself.

          Fortunately platooned vehicles also help there as loading doesn’t have to happen at fixed locations. Vehicles can load, enter the busway, join a platoon and exit at their desired point. Trains are not so good at having carriages dynamically enter and exit the railway, without severe unexpected consequences.

          Further you can blend automated cars, people movers, trucks and buses as needed providing a mix of traditional station to station and point to point services on the same line all very closely spaced compared to what any railway would attempt to achieve. And since the infrastructure is not in any way worse than alternatives if it is initially used as a manually driven busway it is a method that will be very easy to incrementally implement.

          Trains that lack any way to effectively bring in the seamless point to point element and can’t easily mix private, public and freight traffic on the same line. New Zealand has low levels of ridership compared to platooned busway capacity and low suburban densities. Forward looking busways rather than backward looking trains seem to be to better choice and also one we’re likely to see actually built rather than just talked about for decades..

        8. Darn, so we’re going to continue deforestation to grow rubber as we’re not going to put anything more on steel rails.

        9. Jezza fortunately rubber comes from trees and rubber plantations actually generate carbon credits. But also the majority of “rubber” for vehicle tires these days is synthetic.

        10. Buses already platoon without being computer driven. Platooning them on a busway won’t change the limitations. A two lane grade separated busway already has capacity for around 800-1000 buses per hour each way, it’s not the truck that creates limitations. It the stations, access points on and off and junctions/intersections that cause the limit.

          Theoretical applications of driverless buses won’t change that. If anything they’ll have to be slower and more cautious that human drivers, defaulting to false positives on potential failure states.

        11. Riccardo I think you misunderstand platooning technology with respect to autonomous vehicles and the expectation that they will be slower and more cautious than humans is not so. Experiments showing them substantially outperforming humans have already been undertaken.

          Platooned autonomous vehicles could ultimately exceed 10,000 vehicles per hour per lane. That’s a very large increase on capacity over today’s motorway lanes. No large group of non communicating humans can maintain a level of coordination in merging and maintaining spacing to make that work at highway speeds. In fact modern motorways give a good indication of exactly what humans can do safely and it’s not drive in convoy a fraction of a second from each other’s rear bumpers. I presume when you say platooning already exists you’re referring to bus and truck platooning where a leader drives and the following vehicle(s) either contain a safety driver or are level 4 automated. That’s clearly a simpler intermediate step. But that’s not ultimately going to work as well as full automation as it doesn’t address coordinated formation and dissolution of large opportunistic platoons in a safe and efficient manner.

          The thing about automated platooning is that vehicles can enter and exit the ‘busway’, join and leave platoons at speeds and spacing no human could safely execute at.

          You’re correct that you have to move loading and unloading of passengers out of the busway. No current station can handle loading and unloading a stream of buses spaced meters from each other’s bumpers going at 100kph. Further there simply are not enough customers in all of Auckland to justify running the busways containing only buses at anywhere near the possible capacity per hour even if every commuter switched to using them. You also have to move the loading away from a few limited points. In doing so you have re-invented a more point to point system where you use the busway for transit only and don’t do wacky stuff like put bus stations on motorway offramps completely obstructing the busway (looking at you western ‘express’ ‘busway’).

          Additionally platoons of personal and freight vehicles can use the same infrastructure to make best use of capacity. Ultimately the busway may extend to be several lanes wide to improve capacity. Now you’re thinking ‘that sounds kinda like another idea I’ve seen, heck we may have already built some of these multi lane automated mixed bus, freight and personal vehicle ways, we’re just waiting for the automated vehicles to take best advantage of them’

          There are still advantages of introducing platooning even if all vehicles don’t platoon and many of them are still manually driven. That makes it a technology that will be able to be incrementally deployed on existing infrastructure. It will provide ongoing capacity increases as more vehicles move from being human driven to being automated and platooning systems mature.

        12. Yeah I understand platooning technology with respect to autonomous vehicles. It’s vapourware, big tech bro promise that fails to scale. Yes they have level 3-4 simulations and tests for these things under perfect test conditions in a controlled environment. But no, they don’t have level 5 in a mixed traffic, real world environment, which is what the promise requires.

          Do let us know when they manage 10,000 vehicles per hour per lane, at a third of a second headways between vehicles… otherwise I think we need to focus or realistic proven solutions rather than ones that may or may not happen sometime in the guture.

        13. Riccardo To anyone sceptical of ‘tech bros’, as they say ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. There’s plenty of work going on that if you’re not involved in it you may not yet see.

          The full promise of platooning requires level 5 autonomy and additional communication on top of that. But more basic implementations of platooning don’t require that. The older demos pre-date autonomous vehicles and were vehicles simply linked together for braking leaving human drivers steering the vehicles. Even that provides a fuel economy benefit and a capacity increase. Newer demos are of the following vehicles operating with level 4 autonomy while following a lead vehicle where a human is doing the driving. That does sidestep the problem of how you make the lead vehicle a level 5 autonomous vehicle as the human can handle the edge cases and lets you go live with an old school human driver in the lead vehicle. You then only need much simpler level 4 autonomy on the following vehicles. But like any form of technology it’s not going to spring out there in its final form. it’s going to continue to improve and evolve. So even a jump from 1k/vehicles an hour to 2k vehicles an hour with a fairly simple platooning system is a doubling of capacity.

          Trains (overseas not here) are about as performant as they are ever going to be with fully automated metro rail systems running with about 90 second headway. Automated and platooned vehicles have a lot more future improvement ahead of them in comparison.

          Much like Otto Lilienthal didn’t wait until he could build an A350 with a full fly by wire system before trying to fly and early adopters of trains didn’t wait until they had fully automated driverless EMUs before starting a metro line, autonomous vehicle pioneers are not waiting until it can deliver a 10,000 vehicle per hour platooned system before starting actually implementing autonomy and platooning in the real world. The technology will appear and improve incrementally not spring out there fully formed in its final state. But the big takeaway is that the infrastructure it runs on is essentially the same as what can be put in place now.

        14. Cool, let us know when anyone is using it in real life. After five or ten years track record we can consider it.

      2. Autonomous vehicles are not going to be a cheap option like mass transit will be. You are talking about long distances in many cases, this is not a cheap option by single passenger vehicles,

        1. Some driverless transport systems in more limited domains like rail and monorail are already deployed. And once bus automation hits the mainstream bus drivers will go the way of the dodo. So ‘Mass transit’ in the eventual future will be a strict subset of ‘Autonomous Vehicles’. Already in Auckland we have the problem of sending a diesel bus off peak to carry 0-3 people. The vast majority of buses in Auckland operate in the single or low double digit number of riders per service hour according to AT’s published numbers. In that situation it’s quite clear that a smaller shared autonomous EVs would be both cheaper to run and more environmentally friendly, capable of running more frequently and closer to where people want to be picked up from and go to. That of course doesn’t preclude running larger autonomous buses on trunk or popular routes where the number of riders is sufficient to support it. But now AT seems to see every problem as a nail to be hit with either a large bus or an EMU (build it and they will come, except mostly they aren’t) rather than considering whether the toolbox should be a bit more suited to actual levels of demand.

        2. There is one huge problem that autonomous vehicles will not solve on the roads. That is that single occupant cars, no matter whether they have drivers or not, are a very inefficient use of road space and are responsible for significant congestion. Mass rapid transit is not going to disappear anytime soon.

        3. Patrick actually platooning goes a long way towards helping with how well a particular piece of road can be used, vastly boosting capacity over the current ‘two second rule’ best practice. And it’s not either-or as multiple different sizes of vehicles can be used. A single rider diesel bus or a bus with three riders isn’t particularly efficient in lane space either and is an environmental disaster compared to the same number of people in modern EVs. Clearly for example at the right time of day the NX gets enough ridership to justify a bus. But a lot of its feeders even slightly off peak the buses used are all but empty and are quantifiably worse than other options. As I said it’s about picking the right tool for each job, rather than just having ‘must be a bus’ blinkers on.

        4. Math: Who is paying you to write this stuff? It looks very much like something that Treasury would put together.

          How about you publish the Safety-in-Design records for one of these truck platooning systems that you seem so fond of…or maybe the safety records of a system that has been operational for a few years.

          Finally; what are the problems that platooning trucks are the answer to?

        5. Avery T Deacon-Harry – He [Math] may be working for the Trucking/Transport lobby possibly ?

        6. Sure, anyone who presents facts or a future that challenges your worldview is a lobbyist for ‘Big Truck’

          These systems are on the way, they will revolutionise vehicle transport and start doing so well within the timeframe any significant New Zealand infrastructure project takes to plan, fund and execute. And initially they’ll be incrementally added on existing infrastructure by individuals and companies who see value to themselves by funding it. Just consider in comparison how long full main trunk electrification has been talked about for and how the business case for it stacks up.

        7. “they will revolutionise vehicle transport”

          but…what if we don’t want the vehicle transport system revolutionised?

          What if we just want to move stuff in a way that minimises GHG (and other) emissions and kills and maims as few people and animals as is reasonably possible?

          What if we want a solution that already exists and is proven rather than one that some guy on the internet says will happen in the future, is absolutely splendid, and doesn’t actually solve the problems that need to be solved?

        8. I think the basic flaw in all this is rolling resistance – there is less energy required to roll steel wheels on rail than there is to roll tyres on road.

          Trains just like trucks can be automated, but they already have all the benefits of platooning. It’s about having a quick transfer between modes (minutes/seconds, not hours/days), then trucks can transfer better to rail/boats/air where appropriate and vice versa.

        9. Avery, What do you think those problems are?

          Autonomous Electric buses are lower emission than diesel buses.

          The oft cited problem of capacity of roadways is helped by increased safe speeds, reduced following distances and platooning.

          Congestion becomes less of an issue because people reclaim time spent in traffic for other purposes. And also removing erratic human drivers smooths traffic flow.

          The problem of lack of available bus or truck drivers is solved by automation.

          Eliminating bus drivers also reduces the cost and environmental impact of services and makes smaller more point to point vehicles sized to actual demand more viable. (with associated cost savings and environmental benefits over sending a human driven electric bus out to pick up and transport three people and run a full route where for large sections nobody boards it, and it doesn’t take the three passengers quite where they want to go).

          It opens up the ability to provide better door to door or corner to corner public transport solutions which will further drive adoption.

          In some cases all it requires is existing infrastructure because it can use it better.

          Once they’re widely available people will also voluntarily go and buy zero emission autonomous vehicles simply because the value proposition to them is just so good. They may also find that owning one less vehicle and relying on shared vehicles works for them when that second vehicle is more of an inexpensive door to door on demand service. Eventually they may conclude that door to door on demand public transport has become so convenient that they don’t even need a vehicle at all. That future is unlikely to happen with buses and trains and their fixed routes. The last of the EV haters probably won’t be able to resist the allure of being driven around while they kick back with a beer and the game on.

          As they say, perfect is the enemy of good, and a fleet of rightsized EVs is definitely better for the environment than a lightly used fleet of AT diesel buses.

          State of the art situationally aware autonomous vehicles or vehicles with modern driver assist packages are already safer per mile driven than legacy vehicles without those features. Autonomy may not yet be perfect but the ability to stop for a child running into a road after bouncing ball or to not turn into a cyclist already exceeds a human’s ability to reliably do that. Most of the current issues are around vehicles being able to handle edge cases, not all the common ones. Level 4 autonomy in the confined environment of a busway will be widely deployed before full level 5 autonomy will.

          You seem to be starting with a favourite solution and then trying to decide how it solves the problems rather than starting with the problems and considering what the best future solutions will be and what people will actually adopt. If the answer is just a better train, or changing existing buses from diesel to electric it’ll do almost nothing to shift people’s behaviour and purchasing decisions. But autonomy will.

          Finally it’s not either/or. Where the volume of people going in the same direction supports it of course you use larger vehicles. But in New Zealand given the capacity and flexibility of a future automated busway you’re probably not going to end up with trains everywhere being the obvious answer to all but the most ardent train aficionados.

          You have to ask yourself are you throwing sabots into the newfangled machinery and trying to go back to the comfortable solutions of old. After all ‘Rails’ are just a first generation implementation of a vehicle that steers itself using the tech of the day.

        10. Freddy trains ‘platoon’ in a very old school implementation, but what they currently lack is the very dynamic implementation that will come to vehicle platooning, where platoons can quickly assemble, disassemble and re-form using dynamic information of who is headed in a particular direction and can consist of diverse vehicles in the platoon.

          However people are thinking about dynamic platooning of trains at cruising speed, ironically to break down exactly the bottlenecks I’ve identified for you. But it’s substantially less advanced than vehicle platooning and is still constrained to only switch carriages to places that rails actually run (and requires that the carriages you switch at least include some form of motive power in the platoon that splits off). Traditional trains of unpowered carriages will still take minutes or hours to re-platoon. I expect you’ll see a platoon of buses, trucks or other vehicles proceeding down a busway in New Zealand before you can expect to see a platoon of dynamically and virtually coupled EMUs doing similar things on train tracks (or in fact the need for them to do so given ridership numbers and the lack of diversity of rail line destinations).

          And I agree: when you can pre-make a large platoon of rail cars all going to the same place, electrify the line and ditch the diesel locomotives to get the train back on par with the platooned ZEV bus or truck from an environmental perspective. Then you do have an advantage from the lower rolling resistance. Still compared to all vehicle traffic in New Zealand it’s something of a niche use case. Still there’s no implementation today where the middle three cars of a train detach and divert to a distant destination meanwhile the rest of the train continues. Or one where another carriage joins an existing train running at 110kph then detaches when closer to its destination while the carriage immediately behind it re-forms with the train and continues on it’s way, or where a truck trailer or container gets dynamically yeeted onto a train flatcar running past at 110kph only to be yeeted off again as it passes the closest point rails go to it’s ultimate destination scoring a perfect landing on a truck headed there. Nope, that all takes pre-organisation, planning and time to do. Nor is there a way where such a train runs directly to a destination where there are no train tracks.

          Autonomous vehicles that run on both road and rail as needed have been proposed. But really that’s just an autonomous bus or truck with extra steps.

          In short it still points towards dynamic train platooning being less likely to be a general solution in New Zealand compared to bus and truck platooning.

    3. This is very true. It took only six months from the time my father was too old to drive to the time he was no longer capable of getting on and off a bus. I feel deeply sorry for old people and the many others stuck in small towns, or even further out without the money to keep a car running. The removal of public transport from large sections of the country is a tragedy of neo-liberalism. What is worse is that so many people do not know there was an alternative.

  7. There are four regions whose regional share of GDP is rising. Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Canterbury.
    Canterbury is the second largest regional economy after Auckland. If the capacity of the transport connections between NZs largest and fastest growing regions are constrained then this will significantly increase costs and undermine opportunities in NZ.

    1. Yet the response of the Canterbury local government leaders to the ferry cancellation has been muted at best. The Christchurch Mayor seems to think it will bring back the Lyttleton Wellington ferry.

      1. Canterbury lacks cohesive local government. There are a variety of local entities that bicker amongst themselves… a bit like Auckland’s fractured local government arrangements for most of its history.

        1. I think NZ needs to get over it’s culture of centralisim.
          Wellington doesn’t always know best. It is often incompetent. It is often an unaccountable echo chamber….

        2. Wellington voters returned a largely left-of-centre, green-leaning set of MPs. “Wellington” is not the problem. It is MPs from other parts of the country who get themselves elected then dominate the Wellington-based parliament who are the problem. Don’t blame Wellington. If it was up to Wellingtonians we would likely have a Labour/Green Govt now, giving Labour another term to progress its policies after the major setbacks of Covid-19 and other significant happenings that derailed things. NACTNZF is not the answer to get NZ back on track.

        3. Wellington as it’s own place and people are fine. I am.not criticising them. But NZ is a highly centralised run country. Much more centrally run by capital city institutions, bureaucrats and politicians than countries we like to compare ourselves, such as, successful countries in Europe.
          Imagine if the the Jacinda govt instead of handing Auckland light to NZTA to bugger up had given infrastructure funding resources for Auckland Council/AT to build LR. Imagine the same solution for the Wellington region and other local governments for 3-water infrastructure…
          NZ would be a very different place if Labour actually believed in localism…

        4. Yes imagine how much better we’d be if Helen Clark etc had gotten out of the way of the older mostly rural councils and allowed them to sprawl as much they wanted to. And who needs these dumb water standards, if some rural council in Canterbury wants to let farmers pollute upstream to their hearts content why is central government always getting in their way?

        5. I’m spending too much time here so probably won’t check back so I’ll just say. I don’t disagree that perhaps the previous government was overly supportive of centralisation. However despite was Steve Joyce may say , keeping things locally doesn’t always mean better decision making either especially when their decisions have a substantial effect outside their local environment they don’t care about when when there’s a lot of self-interest, money and the self-governance systems are poor. (Yes Joyce did partially acknowledge this with his support for an independent regulator for water standards, but I doubt he’s that concerned about the effects of sprawl for example.)

          While central government and politicians can easily be bamboozled, it’s far easier when you have people with often very little political experience or knowledge of the things they’re making decisions on taking advice which is also a lot more limited and where there’s a lot of money pushing them to make certain decisions (and in such environments a small amount can got a long way). Local elections also tend to have terrible turnout compared to general elections exacerbating the problem since a few special interests can overwhelm the wishes of the majority. And I’m not convinced giving more power is going to drastically improve turnout instead I think there’s a good chance we’d get terrible decisions with these greater power and perhaps these will eventually push enough turnout to make a difference but it will be too late in a lot of areas by the e.g. 9 years for this to happen.

          So while the previous government may have gone too far in the direction or centralisation, we should be wary of excessively localism too. There are plenty of examples where local governments made terrible decisions with significant effects outside their local environment, and plenty of other examples where this would likely have happened if central or regional governments had just let them had their way.

          For all the flaws of the current Auckland Council, do you really think we’d be better under the much more localism older system? Your earlier post seems to suggest you don’t. For that matter, do you really think we’d be better if we had an Auckland Council but the Rodney or the rural parts had been allowed to stay out of it (as was pushed for at the time) and almost definitely allow way more sprawl?

        6. I think if NZ local councils had the revenue sources of a typical European country then Mayor Robbie would have built his Auckland rail transit system in the 70s and Wellington plus at least Christchurch but probably Hamilton, Dunedin, and Tauranga would have better systems.
          Also in Canterbury we would have less polluting farms if National had not abolished Ecan. Both Labour and National are equally as guilty of excessive centralization in my opinion.

        7. Even if Robbie had the revenue other revenue sources how was the Mayor of a small fraction of Auckland ever going to built the Rapid Rail system? Robbie was the mayor of a strip of land along the Waitemata that extended from Avondale to Glen Innes. He was all hot air.

        8. Fair call Miffy. It would have taken local government amalgamation as well as local government funding reform for Auckland to have achieved earlier and better rapid transit.
          But my underlying point is correct. NZs obsession with centralization has come at a cost.

    2. We must remember that the national rail network which includes the ‘rail’ link between the North and South Islands, crosses through currently 13 (14 once Gisborne is reconnected to the network) of the 16 regions in the country that has a potential population catchment of nearly 80% of the countries population.

      Rail is about passenger, freight and lessor extent heritage.

      1. But at one or both ends of the rail journey (ignoring those businesses which are directly connected to the rail network) the freight gets loaded on a truck. For the low volume and short distance routes it’s better to just keep it on a truck the whole way.

        1. Nation freight movers also move freight from depot to depot by large trucks, then unload – store – sort -store – then reload in smaller vehicle for local end of journey.

        2. Trucks are efficient up to 250 mtrs being ‘local’ delivery/pick up.

          A 30 wagon ‘container’ freight train equates up to thirty MAX50 double trailer B Train trucks depending on truck configuration, off the road reducing potholes, road wear, environmental pollution, emissions, road deaths/injuries and traffic congestion. Currently, the road transport industry is having a growing driver shortage shortage.

        3. “ignoring those businesses which are directly connected to the rail network”

          Why ignore them? Decades ago many businesses were connected to the rail network and many could be connected again if the will was there.

          NZ Steel transports billet from Glenbrook to Otahuhu by rail. in the early evening a 20-tonne-axle-load billet train departs Glenbrook for the short journey to Pacific Steel.

          In contrast, when NZ Steel imports Indonesian coal via Ports of Auckland they use convoys of H-plated dump truck and trailer vehicles (Gleason and Cox) in spite of there being rail all the way but a few hundred metres (thanks to the genius decision to remove track from the bulk terminal some time in the past).

          Gleason and Cox seem to have very low safety standards. Last year my family and I (while pedestrians on Quay Street ) had to take evasive action when one of there vehicles ran a red light after exiting the port.

          Rail is the best option to decarbonise long and medium distance freight in NZ. The technology is mature and well understood. It can readily be electrified at high efficiency levels with respect to trucking…and our new government is looking to dismantle a large portion of it.

        4. Avery T Deacon-Harry – NZSteel still gets coal from the mines at Rotowaro as shown here and they do it most days of the week

        5. Avery you seem to be supporting my comment not disagreeing with it since I mention low volume and short distance and non rail connected businesses you mention long and medium distance and rail connected businesses. And my point was not to ‘ignore’ those businesses but rather to state that they’re the ones the rail use case really works well for.

          In any case Glenbrook is going to radically reduce its reliance on coal. Eliminating half of the coal going to Glenbrook turned out to be a smarter way of dealing with it than sending it by train instead of road. Sometimes you have to look a step or two ahead rather than thinking what legacy solution to apply.

        6. I may have missed it but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that rail should be used to distribute freight from the Progressive warehouse in Favona to Countdown Glen Innes, that will always go by truck.

          However, if truck drivers weren’t allowed to do 13 hours of driving in a day, which is insane, a lot more would go by rail between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

        7. Jezza you have to expect that in the future drivers will drive less. In the first instance they’ll hook into lead driven platoons where only the front truck needs to actively drive, perhaps taking a shift each. Then drivers will disappear from the following trucks. Eventually none will have a human driver. Anyone thinking that hours a human can drive will be a constraint in the future isn’t looking ahead.

        8. You have to be doing a lot of traffic over a good long distance to justify the extra capabilities needed for rail which (for coal) needs special wagons, special siding and loading/unloading facilities, a tip truck needs none of these extras.

        9. There are numerous differences between a billet train moving internally and coal movement off a ship. Those trucks are loaded directly from the ship and they just run a constant shuttle back and forth until they have moved all the coal. It is a highly time sensitive operation. Plus the fact they can outsource it and the trucks can be used for other things compared to needing a special dedicated fleet of rail wagons.
          The billet train looks like one very large train a day, not time sensitive, can all be bulked into a single operation, where moving the very large volume all in one go is economical.

        10. How on earth is the coal supply, which is dependent on shipping from Indonesia, which due to a number of circumstances can be easily delayed by a day or two, suddenly so time sensitive from the port to Glenbrook?

        11. Coal is brought in on a ship. The turnaround time for the ship from the port is very important. Once the ship comes in it must be unloaded as rapidly as possible so it can leave again.

        12. I really shouldn’t bother but here goes as boredom is settling in. Unloading a shipload of coal would require a dumping hopper and a conveyor belt to take the coal to a very large shed adjacent to the wharf from there it could be loaded by front end loader into wagons alternatively more conveyors and elevators could be used. Compare this to a line of trucks each waiting for the contents of the ship crane buckets to be dumped into them. And then at the destination the coal needs to be bottom dumped out of the wagon into a hopper and conveyed to an overhead for discharge onto a heap. Discharge for a truck and trailer can be as simple tipping it onto the ground where it is pushed into a heap by front end loader although I suspect Glenbrook has a receiving hopper and overhead conveyor for truck discharge. All this activity requires huge amount of land and investment for capital and maintenance. Its one of the reasons why Kiwirail doesn’t cart fertiliser any more. But it can be done see the installation at Mount Maunganui for coal to the Huntly power station.
          Back in the days of LA wagons and sidings on the wharf things weren’t so difficult as the wagons could be loaded directly from the ships bucket. Still it would require some good management to have the wagons in the right place at the right time. Wagons could be unloaded by a digger or some installations had wagon tippers. The only other alternative would be to load the coal into special containers on the back of a truck then transfer them to rail wagons for the trip. But double handling lower gross weight and slow turnaround makes this pretty uneconomic except for longer carts.

      2. Gisborne will never be reconnected. The Eastland Coast is not sufficiently densely populated to support even the current highway links well, let alone a rail corridor as well, especially with the geological problems they have.

  8. This was Huntly last Wednesday shot between the arrival and departure of the Te Huia and with the number of Wagons that were on the 4 Trains and the goods they were carrying , just think of how many trucks they took of the road between Hamilton and Auckland/Glenbrook Steel Mill . And in this Country don’t the Fat Controller and his Minions realise there is a thing called a Driver shortage , ;-

    1. David, the PM was a t**t when he initiated the mess that Air NZ is now.

      God help all kiwis in NZ going forward, especially those keen for a cleaner, fairer NZ as your not going to get it.

      It seems the Turkeys have voted for Christmas back home.

      Thanks for the video, it’s very close to my spiritual home.

    1. Kiwirail need to front up and explain which part of the port upgrade is costing so much. Reidy still hasn’t really done that.

    2. Brendon Harre – It is to do with the upgrade of the Wellington Interislander Terminal where there is some land reclamation that is required,

      1. Is land reclamation a necessity or a nice to have?
        Is there some way of keeping the new ferries and not spending billions on port upgrades?

        1. Bremdon Harre -Yes, for the future standardised fleet. The Aratere the only rail enable ferry and is 186 meters in length but the proposed new ferries are 220mtrs in length allowing for increase rail freight capacity, so upgrading of the Wellington Interislander terminal is necessary.

          I am not sure why you are oppose to increase freight capacity on the national rail network link between the North and South Islands.

        2. I am in favour of increased rail capacity in the rail fleet. I am just wondering if there is a less expensive way to achieve this goal.

        3. I hope they look at replacing the current 1 rail enabled and 2 non rail enabled with 3 rail enabled of the same size or slightly bigger than the current ships.
          The Aratere takes 32 rail wagons each trip and the new ferries were planned for 50 wagons per trip. However 50 is a strange number as the max fully loaded domestic trains are around 35 to maybe 40 at a real stretch. So the new ferries would require two trains to arrive and shunting in the yard to fully utilize them.
          That just increases work and things that could go wrong.
          Best to get new ships similar to the Aratere and maybe stretch them to 35 wagons. That would be a win. And the land side infrastructure could stay the same.

        4. @Mrb
          You clearly have no knowledge or experience of how the rail freight services have been handled with the Picton ferries in the 60 years we have had the ferry services. All that is required in Picton is enough sidings to hold the outgoing and incoming rakes of wagons. These are shuttled to Spring Creek (Blenheim) where the actual work of splitting and combining trains takes place in the expansive marshalling yards there. Rail ferry operations have worked this way for decades, considering that in the mid 1970s we had four rail capable ferries in operation at the same time.

        5. The current terminals are not wide enough for the bigger ferries. The Aratere is a very narrow ship for its length, this came about because the terminals are only very slightly wider than they were when the Aramoana came into service. Increasing the width of the terminals for bigger ships has been a buck passing exercise for the last four decades.
          But you also have the unavoidable fact that earthquake resilience in Wellington is a big factor in the costings involved.

  9. And with the PGF money this is happening North of Whangarei and I hope it’s locked in so he can’t get his crubby finger on it and turn it into roads like he has done between Napier and Wairoa ,;-

    1. And I bet they are 1st to complain if they aren’t running when they want to take themselves and their car to Wellington and beyond .

  10. The essential problem of the ‘economics of rail’ is that half the costs of the system are tied up in provision of the infrastructure; a proportion which is far higher than for roads (where 15 or so percent of a truck company’s cost base is made up of RUCs) or even aviation (20 percent or so of your airline ticket is made up of the cost of the airport, terminal and air traffic control). This means that there is absolutely no scaleability; and the essential issue is that of a mode with a very high fixed cost element, operating in a market which does not have the strength to meet those costs from its own commercial resources.

    1. But the operating cost should be less, one train carrying 50 containers using 1 driver and 2 diesel engines along with significantly lower fuel consumption.

      1. Zippo – in theory, yes; in practice, not so much. The other cost issue is that of the ‘last mile’ – how to get what you are shipping from the railhead to the final customer. Double-handling costs money – a lot of it.

        1. The thing is the trucking companies also double handle. From a B train long haul truck to a class 2/4 for the final delivery and vice versa. This is why Mainfreight has built and is building massive distribution centres throughout NZ, many with a rail connection. The real problem with rail has been a lack of capacity with not enough serviceable wagons and locos to carry the potential freight. So onto trucks it goes.

        2. Zippo – There is another company that needs the Same as Mainfrieght and that is the Warehouse with their large Disitrubution centre in South Auckland next to the NIMT . At Ruakura Kmart have one next to the Inland Port which has taken a large number of trucks of the roads mainly from Tauranga , and the Warehouse could do the same from the Auckland ports .
          Also Coke has it’s own siding to move their product around the Country at Syliva Park which under the Eastern Line rebuild is still open .

        3. I wonder if a lot the cost and lack of options for alternatives is down to Wellington being quite constrained geographically.
          If we were to take rail directly on the ferries, then a container transfer yard nearby would be needed anyway, so can’t imagine that being any more efficient? Do they take non container rail wagons much or at all across the strait?

        1. There is already one rail ferry. Freight volumes on the Auckland to Christchurch supply route. So it is not unreasonable to invest in more rail capacity for the ferry link.
          But clearly something went wrong at the individual project cost level. But the underlying idea of improving the rail network connection along the supply chain route is sound.

        2. Rail freight movements from the North Island to the South Island of New Zealand are almost a rounding error for KiwiRail. Most rail freight is intra island.

    2. Ross I am far from convinced that Road User Charges for the freight industry reflect the actual costs imposed.
      Vehicle weight and wheel loadings very very largely impact the durability of both the road surface and road bed.
      Therefore maximum loadings, and their frequency here very largely dictate the required construction standards and costs of maintenance for road wear and tear. I doubt the RUC fully factor these costs, almost entirely due the road transport industry.
      Sure providing required road vehicle number capacity, and it’s related speed of transit is dependent on total vehicle movements.
      At the moment I suspect there is a cross subsidy from light vehicles to the freight industry.
      And the requirements for very considerable additional funding from both Council Rates and General Taxes is confirmation that Road User Charges fully fund the road transport industries infrastructure requirements is a dangerous myth.

      1. There is cross subsidies from light and heavy road users but we must remember, when the indirect coasts of environmental pollution, emissions, maintenance, road injuries, deaths, noise, etc are factored in, roads are not economically viable as they are in essence bottomless financial pits as oppose to rail which has very small indirect costs plus being sustainable and environmentally friendly in relation to passenger and freight that can be carried.

        1. Regardless of recent government changes the transition to ZEVs has already reached critical mass. In the life of these ferries you need to be comparing ZEVs with diesel trains outside the areas of track that are likely to electrified in the next 30 years. Autonomous vehicles will dramatically reduce vehicle deaths especially when combined with removing cyclists and pedestrians from the current vehicle infrastructure. So most of the problems you mention are legacy ones, not ones that exist if you look at the world as it will be not as it has been.

        2. Math – Autonomous vehicles need dedicated road infrastructure which is going to cost. Who is going to pay for it?

          Our cities are are not designed for autonomous vehicles.

        3. Autonomous vehicles are designed to run on standard motorways and city streets. It’s just a simpler, essentially already solved problem if they have a dedicated corridor.

          Also Tesla doesn’t do level 5 autonomous driving yet, they’re level 2 system even with ‘Full’ self driving. They have what is more like a sophisticated driver assist system and are not leaders in the field. While Elon may have lofty goals for true level 5 autonomy I’d be personally a little surprised if the current vehicles ever achieve that. The “recall” you speak of is to make sure people are more aware they need to pay attention even in so called ‘full’ self driving mode and is actually being handled by sending out an over the air software update but because its a safety issue it gets called a ‘recall’

      2. Thanks for your comments … I suspect that RUCs on the core parts of the state highway system do cover the road costs of heavy vehicles, simply because the underlying pavements are stronger (a heavy load on a strong pavement incurs hardly any maintenance costs). If there is cross-subsidy, and I am open to that argument, it is to that part of the road network which does not have any railway network in parallel – so it cannot be said to disadvantage rail.

        I would certainly agree with any road pricing initiative which would iron out the current averaging – much more precise.

  11. Sam Stubbs was on LinkedIn welcoming the cancellation news and threw in the comment (paraphrasing) that its “another example that rail based transport solutions in NZ are unaffordable”.

    He got plenty of retorts pointing out the inequities of road funding and the true costs/subsidies. But I am guessing he probably doesn’t read the responses.

    It was like talking to my old man; cars and roads pay their way, rail is just a boondoggle for a few.

  12. Seriously time to reevaluate the Clifford Bay option. Shouldn’t be as earthquake prone, cuts the travel time between Wellington and Christchurch by around 3 hours, protects the Sounds, less emissions, less costs, safer, better productivity.

    1. If you’re planning to spend billions on a ‘100 year’ solution then doing it right by eliminating Picton and the sounds and the speed limits and extra travel time they impose definitely merits reconsideration.

      1. Clifford Bay is shallow.
        Too shallow to get ships close to shore.
        The proposal was a combination of a dredged channel and a long causeway.
        The operability of the port in this extraordinarily exposed site in such a challenging environment was already very questionable without the undoubted challenges of climate change being accounted for.

        The dredged channel and breakwaters would require ongoing and indeterminate but substantial maintenance.
        The causeway would considerably seperate the shore marshalling from the ship.

        The would considerably slow the unloading and loading sequence for rail and road vehicles and any foot passengers, especially in the frequent gale conditions of such an exposed site.
        Foot passengers would even be required to be bussed out to the ship.
        There would be a high chance the operation would exit this market entirely, to a residual Picton Wellington service or to air transport.

        1. Shore marshalling is not an issue for rail at all. There has not been any real shore marshalling of rail freight close to the ferry terminal for the past 50 years in Picton. They just shuttle the wagon rakes to a big freight terminal 22 km away where they split/assemble trains.

      2. Ok maybe not quite 3 hours, but the shorter route is going to be less affected by congestion especially around the terminal than the existing setup. I’m not sure if they included that in the time calculations, slow traffic versus free flowing traffic etc.

  13. The national rail network, which includes the Cook Strait ‘rail’ link between the North and South Islands, is New Zealand’s second national strategic land transport asset, currently crossing 13 (14 regions once Gisborne is reconnected to the network) of the 16 regions in the country, connecting our main centres with provincial cities, semi rural and rural communities, with a potential population catchment of nearly 80% of the country’s population.

    Unfortunately, the national rail network is under utilised, as the network owner/operator, Kiwirail (Kiwirail Holdings Ltd) operates the network as a ‘closed’ access’ predominantly freight network but also is a train and ferry operator, restricting the potential growth of the network.

    Unlike its bigger cousin – the State Highway network, the national rail network is sustainable, environmentally friendly, has a few human deaths and injuries and is cheaper to maintain.

    If the national rail network is an ‘open access ‘national land transport network like its bigger cousin, the economic, environment, population spread and social values to the communities that are located on or near to the network, are great especially as New Zealand’s population grows.

    The Public Transport Forum New Zealand has a interesting discussion article called ‘It is time to reform rail in New Zealand’ at:

    1. Thanks for sharing. It would be good to have more detail on the expected benefits of opening up the rail infrastructure to more operators.

      A few questions I have:

      1. If there are new routes or improved frequencies that could be served profitably, why isn’t KiwiRail already doing this?

      2. If the desire is purely to encourage efficiencies via competition, isn’t there a risk that KiwiRail loses economies of scale and becomes even less profitable?

      3. One of the key challenges is underinvestment in the infrastructure; how would having a non-profit entity managing this (under NTZA) be more effective than the status quo?

      I agree the current setup isn’t working and needs to change, but until there are clear answers to the questions above it will be a hard sell.

      Would love to hear the perspectives of folks with more knowledge on this!

    2. I have similar thoughts to David S. I’m always very wary of private involvement in things especially when there is naturally IMO limited competition possible given the risks of privatising profits while socialising costs.

      To be clear I’m not completely opposed to more private involvement in the rail network but I’d have to be convinced it would be better. Even if it is something that can work, IMO history with increased private involvement in rail in NZ and elsewhere is very mixed; and our history of private involvement in things is also very mixed. And frankly I’m not sure I trust our current government nor the previous one for that matter, to do it right. I’m not denying there can be a lot of bureaucracy, waste & inefficiencies, tunnel vision etc that comes from government

      Above, we’ve already covered cross-subsidies to the trucking network. We’ve also discussed how by no means does the National Land Transport Fund (and so ROC etc) even cover all road building and maintenance. Especially the former when it comes to big ticket items like the RONZ. It seems to me there’s a strong risk the same situation will arise with the rail network. There’s a strong risk of cross subsidies for infrastructure from Kiwirail or some other state entity who’d likely be tasked with running the routes which may be less profitable but are still important, to the for-profit companies. Kiwirail will then be blamed for being unprofitable while all these private companies are able to succeed.

      But also it’s likely there will still need to be regular capital injections, the government and private train operators aren’t going to pay for all new infrastructure and maintenance. I’m not saying this is inherently wrong, we accept that for-profit companies are going to make money off the backs of infrastructure and other things the government is paying for, and these for-profit companies are hopefully paying their fair share of tax in NZ and at least there’s GST from whatever they’re selling. But the acute problem with rail is that there remains very strong opposition to said capital injections unlike with roads where governments of whatever stripe are still generally quite willing to fund them with wide public support.

      So it’s particular important we minimise these capital injections, but if the for-profit companies are taking more money out of the system than currently, the situation gets worse. There needs to be more money going into the system. This may happen if they’re able to expand the network, improve operations etc in ways which won’t otherwise occur but the question then becomes why? Is it because of unsolvable issues of bureaucracy etc? In that case then maybe it’s necessary. Is it because government refuses to provide the funding for these things, and the companies are willing to fund them at their own risk? If there’s no other way then maybe it’s necessary but if there is another way, we’re just going down this path due to political preference then I’m not convinced that’s a good things. Especially since “own risk” tends to IMO be very limited in these things.

      Also, with a lot of private involvement comes lobbying, PR campaigns etc from these operators. We already have an under investment in maintenance . It seems to me there’s a strong risk private operator will push for minimal maintenance to reduce costs to them both financial and in terms of disruptions. Financially they assume the government will eventually be forced to pay. I can imagine the ads ‘we’re going to have to shut down your network because of unreasonable costs imposed’. But also even more so than government since delayed maintenance will mostly be felt many years from now, they won’t care since it’s too long away and they might have quit by then.

      And a related issues, I don’t want to get too much into the fairness of the Te Huia sanction and the politics. Let’s just assume it was fair, would it have happened if it was a massive for-profit company at fault? Some might think it more likely they’d pushback against that, but I’m not convinced. I actually thing again considering all the lobbying, PR etc, they’d be much more likely to make the political decision it wasn’t worth it.

      I’m also concerned about private companies pushing back against more involvement for Kiwirail (or whatever) especially if they are entirely state owned and get reasonable funding for operating unprofitable routes, saying it’s unfair that the government is competing against them. I mean we even see it occasionally with TVNZ despite it getting very little that isn’t given to private operators. And I recall perhaps in 2010 someone who owned some sort of coupon like company complaining very vocally about something NZ Post was doing involving coupons. No one cared because their business was too small and it wasn’t something someone in media decided to push, but I can easily see a train operator who will naturally be a big business able to push something whether to the public or a right leaning minister.

      Speaking of NZ Post, I’ve seen it claimed that DX Mail is canibalising their marketshare in the profitable routes, and they can do this because NZ Post is required to operate the unprofitable ones at the same cost. The reduced frequency is also a factor and while it may be easy to blame NZ Post for this I wonder if similar issues apply. Even if NZ Post could have kept up frequency in certain areas while reducing it in others, this have gotten enough pushback that they reduced nearly all or all deliveries. I’m not sure how true this is but these sort of issues are why I’m wary. And NZ Post has focused a lot on parcels with online deliveries which seems to have been fairly successful but also might be a reason for DX Mail’s success but anyway this has warded off the risks they’d be blamed for being unprofitable while DX Mail is able to be successful. But still there are a lot of tales like this where government operators are blamed for being inefficient when they’re in no way competing in the same environment and heck in areas where they do try and compete they’re prevented.

      My final point is that what works best with the massive interconnected roading network may not work with rail which is always going to be much more closed with far less competition etc. The barriers to entry for example are very different, someone can own a $3000 car and operate as a delivery driver for Ubereats etc with only really needing a car licence. (Yeah Uber etc are massive companies but some small local restaurants operate their own delivery services.) I’d note that while our intertown/city bus services are more or less completely privately run, AFAIK in Auckland we’ve abandoned private companies having any real involvement in bus routes. AT decides the routes and tenders out to private companies to operate them.

      1. You have raised some valid points.

        Nobody is proposing ‘privatisation’ of rail in New Zealand. What is being proposed is to start treating the national rail network (track, tunnels, bridges, signalling, train control. etc) as New Zealand’s second national land transport strategic asset and make the necessary investment to make the network more resilient to increase capacity for both passenger and freight rail services across the country’s current 13 regions that have rail connectivity with a potential population catchment of nearly 80% of of the country’s population.

        Currently, there are two government ‘owned’ entities that is responsible, other than the rail safety regulator – NZ Transport Agency, for rail in this country, being –

        a. The New Zealand Railways Corporation (NZRC) being a ‘not for profit’ statutory corporation that owns approximately 18,000 hectares of railway land. NZRC was established to support KiwiRail by providing a long term lease of its railway land, giving KiwiRail the commercial benefit of the land and supporting the government’s investment in rail services.

        b. Kiwirail Holdings Ltd being (Kiwirail) a ‘for profit’ State Owned Enterprise operating as the rail network operator but also a train and ferry operator.

        Currently, the network is operating at 36% of the available capacity and the only major train operator using the network is Kiwirail.

        By reforming the national rail network to an ‘open access’ network, with NZRC being both the land owner and network operator will allow increase train movements of freight and passenger services across the network regardless of trains operators who will be paying track access and train control fees.

        Under these business models, the government still retains ownership of both the national rail network with a 100% ownership and Kiwrail with a 51% shareholding ownership,

        Like with the State Highway network, there will still require investment to make the national rail network to be more resilient like the $7.3 billion in upgrading of Wellington’s regional rail network, the $3.2 billion upgrade for electrification and track speeds up to 160kph for the rail corridor between Pukekohe and Te Rapa and the $1.1 billion to complete the electrification on the North Island Main Trunk, East Coast Main Trunk line and the Wellington to Wairarapa line, installing high capacity signalling and travel control systems, etc.

        At least the national rail network will be earning revenue to help to pay for upgrading and ongoing maintenance of the network unlike to State Highway network, which in essence a bottomless financial pit.

        1. The tried and true lose money on every freight and passenger movement but make it up on volume strategy. Combined of course with asking the ratepayers and taxpayers for any shortfall that strategy delivers.

        2. Math – I say the same for roads, that lose money on every vehicle movement using ‘volume’ strategy with ratepayers and taxpayers paying more for the shortfalls the strategy delivers.

      2. The rail network and the barriers to getting onto rail make a comparison with the airline industry much more relevant than road haulage. And here we clearly see a lack of competition outside of Auckland-Christchurch and Auckland-Tauranga. Existing road freight operators have already made substantial investments onto Auckland-Christchurch and Auckland-Tauranga rail alongside their road haulage operations and do not have the volume of freight outside those areas to warrant building more sidings and sheds to move freight on rail.
        I severely doubt that there is actually incentive or desire for road transport companies to run their own trains because the economy of scale that exists for Kiwirail hauling freight from a number of companies amalgamated into one train service will not be there for the smaller operators who currently load to/from rail.
        When this argument first surfaced under NZ First a few years ago, they were being backed by elements of rail heritage operators who wanted the freedom to run their own steam trains. These would not have generated enough revenue to pay their way on network which they barely do now.

    3. The PTF is also calling for vast investment in rail to bring it up to a capacity more like the highway network that carries 90% of the freight volume. This is never going to be realistic.
      The rail freight network even on its current level of infrastructure is capable of carrying significantly greater volumes without that requirement of the level of investment the PTF is calling for.
      Contrary to what they propose, increasing the volumes of freight being hauled is the greater priority compared to the assumption that upgrades are a prerequisite for getting new services in place. Rail is never going to be able to compete with just-in-time road based haulage simply because trains operate on fixed timetables and it takes time to load and unload at terminals. Rail is best optimised for long distance bulk haulage not high speed time based competition with trucks.

  14. I think the PM have a hint at what could be in store for the future at the opening of the new bridge on 25A when he said that future major works could be carried out as PPPs even if it meant tolling the highway. Taken to the extreme that could mean private partnerships on all major highways, and I can’t see any potential partners coming on board unless there is no competition, simply because outside of the major areas there wouldn’t be enough traffic to warrant their investment. So in essence that would mean shutting down rail.

    1. I think it’s an open question whether many of them will get any takers even if the rail network is shutdown, unless government does the classic PPP is taking the risk (but if they don’t get enough from tolls we’ll top them up, howevers let’s not talk about that).

  15. Welcome to SH1 north out of Auckland and the new Penlink and for that matter the fares on the Interislander for all those who now consider it a vital but not free part of SH1. Oddly though there are no tolls on Transmission Gully, the new Hamilton expressway or the Waterview tunnel. You’d think they’d all be good little earners.

  16. I think a key issue in the road-rail debate is the impact and cost of heavy trucks on the roads and I’m doing some reading on this, as I live near Northport and there is a lot of logging truck traffic – 2 million plus tonnes of logs are carried by truck per year. Can someone provide a link to a report that answers the question as to whether or not road user charges (RUCs) cover the cost of truck impact on roads and thus cover cover the coast of building and maintaining roads to carry trucks?

    It may not be generally known that the impact of heavy trucks on the roads increases exponentially with increases in axle weight see (ESAL = equivalent single axle load):

    From this report:
    “General Observations Based On Load Equivalency Factors
    1. The relationship between axle weight and inflicted pavement damage is not linear but exponential. For instance, a 44.4 kN (10,000 lbs) single axle needs to be applied to a pavement structure more than 12 times to inflict the same damage caused by one
    repetition of an 80 kN (18,000 lbs) single axle. Similarly, a 97.8 kN (22,000 lbs) single
    axle needs to be repeated less than half the number of times of an 80 kN (18,000 lbs)
    single axle to have an equivalent effect.
    An 80 kN (18,000 lbs) single axle does over 3,000 times more damage to a
    pavement than an 8.9 kN (2,000 lbs) single axle (1.000/0.0003 ˜ 3,333).
    A 133.3 kN (30,000 lbs) single axle does about 67 times more damage than a
    44.4 kN (10,000 lbs) single axle (7.9/0.118 ˜ 67).
    A 133.3 kN (30,000 lb) single axle does about 11 times more damage than a
    133.3 kN (30,000 lb) tandem axle (7.9/0.703 ˜ 11).
    Heavy trucks and buses are responsible for a majority of pavement damage.
    Considering that a typical automobile weighs between 2,000 and 7,000 lbs (curb
    weight), even a fully loaded large passenger van will only generate about 0.003
    ESALs while a fully loaded tractor-semi trailer can generate up to about 3 ESALs….”

    1. What you are referring to here is known as the fourth-power rule – that is, that pavement damage is (roughly) a function of the fourth power of the load. It’s been recognised in road engineering for many years. The RUC system does reflect this in its structure. Also, RUCs contribute about 40 percent of the money going into the NZTA WK fund.

  17. Unfortunately we have a triumvirate set on reversing even the smallest progress that has been made in this backwater we call our motu.

    Rail is so obviously the best answer to our transport issues that it makes a grown adult man break down in tears to listen to the stupid men that have taken over parliament.

    We had Jacinda Ardern for five years, then she was Helen Clarked. We continue to be an ignorant, misogynist society despite one hundred and thirty years of suffrage, not to mention Te Tiriti.

    I could not even look at the front page of the Herald this morning as there was a bald buffoon with a gaping mouth on the front cover; apparently the current prime minister.

    So shameful to have been born here again, after half a decade proudly with a strong female leader; we are back to the colonial era with waspy, neoliberal, nincompoops 🙁

    1. In 2023 is insulting someone because of their baldness part of your credo?

      Perhaps focus a bit more on the policies of those that you don’t like rather than their appearance. To do anything else would be as you say, ignorant.

  18. Any road can be made strong enough to stand up to pounding by heavy truck traffic. But they aren’t cheap to construct and they don’t pop up overnight (look at a kilometre a year average, more if the ground under the road is crap) . And then the question is if our country of 5 million can afford them.

  19. FYI – Toll doesn’t operate in New Zealand anymore, that whole network was either bought out or has gone independent. They’re known as National Freight Logistics NZ or Team Global Express now. Though i’m sure some legacy branding is still up on buildings and older trucks.

  20. And you have a number of Person here thinking that roads are the be all of moving Freight and Humans around , this is now happening on the East Coast after the Flooding

    So the likes of Fester Luxon “the Fat Controller” and his Side kick Simpleton Brown should have another look at Rail as the only thing that slows a train on hot day is the heat not melted roads .

  21. Hi there,

    Good day to you!

    I just wanted to tell you that I need a guest post on your website. Could you help me with that? If so, Please tell me the TAT, Price, Link, and give me a sample.

    I look forward to your positive response.

    Thank you!

  22. In the ever-evolving landscape of the insurance industry, staying informed is crucial. Whether you’re an insurance professional, a consumer seeking advice, or simply interested in the latest industry trends, blogs and websites are invaluable sources of information. To help you navigate the vast sea of online content, we’ve curated a list of the 15 Best Insurance Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2024. Get ready for a journey into the world of insurance knowledge and insights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *