The North Island Main Trunk rail line between Auckland and Wellington is 680km long, mostly electrified, and low speed for intercity rail (80-100kph). It’s a major public asset, but woefully underutilised.

How can we work this asset harder, to deliver way more benefits for our country and our people? This post explores the case for seeking interest in a private-sector financed and operated passenger service on this line, by asking:

  1. Is an Auckland-Wellington passenger service technically and financially viable?
  2. If so, what are the regulatory or organisational barriers to making it happen?


The Line, the Market, a Model

For this exercise, I am assuming there’s no additional investment in the line beyond that already underway.

The line currently allows trains to run at around 80-100kmh – low-speed by international standards, but comparable to local highway driving. Upgrading the line to allow speeds that would be anywhere near competitive with flying (ie true High Speed Rail) would be wildly expensive, so let’s assume that’s off the table.

The train trip between the North Island’s two biggest cities takes around ten hours. This is only competitive for non-time-sensitive markets, i.e. for trips where journey time is not the critical benefit. The top end of this market, scenic day jaunts for tourists rich in time and cash, is relatively small. This market is already being served here by a Kiwi Rail subsidiary, which also runs two South Island services on the same model.

Happily, the ten-hour journey time is pretty much perfect for sleeper-trains. These need to take a whole night to get there: any faster, and they’d have to park up in order to not arrive too early.

It’s this sleeper-train market which is currently not being met, which is much broader than just tourists. Time spent asleep is not considered “lost” time, for time-sensitive business folk and other travellers alike.

Additionally, the cost of a sleeper-train ticket can replace a hotel stay, as well as covering the travel itself. So the potential market covers a wider price spectrum, including students and budget travellers.

I know (from personal experience) many business/government travellers prefer to fly the night before a morning meeting and stay in a hotel at their employer’s expense, rather than take the early morning ‘red-eye’, risking delays that may mean you miss important appointments, or affect your performance at them. Traffic congestion on the way to the airport is another growing stress point for peak time flyers.

Plenty of less pressed travellers will also prefer the economy (in both time and money) of combining sleep and travel. This is something I have enjoyed overseas, where these services exist.

In other words, unlike Kiwi Rail’s narrowly targeted scenic journeys, sleeper trains achieve the critical feature of all successful transit services: simultaneously addressing multiple markets.

Meeting all these combined markets depends on offering different price points and service levels in one train, which is standard on night train services around the world. Options range from reclining seats in open carriages (airline business-class style) through to private cabins with ensuite bathrooms.

Nightjet ensuite

There’s also a whole new market, given the demand for low-to-zero-carbon alternatives to flying – especially for companies and the government sector needing to meet their operational carbon budgets. Both generate a lot of travel between our country’s primary city and its capital, even in the Zoom age.

This push for more sustainable travel is behind the recent resurgent boom in Europe’s night-trains (a market that was previously declining), even between cities served by new high-speed services, led by Austrian State Railways OBB Nightjet .

North Island Electrification, map from 2021 Study, BECA/Systra

Carbon Economy

Hiding in plain sight is the opportunity to run an Auckland-Wellington sleeper train as a fully electric service from the start, as there are overhead wires already in place for all but two sections.

The missing sections are approximately 80km, south of Palmerston North to Waikanae, and around 70km between Hamilton and the soon-to-be-complete extension to Pukekohe. Ideally these should be wired as soon as possible. But until then, these distances are well within the range of battery bi-mode trains currently used around the world (see for example the Stadler Akku BEMU, which has a battery range of 150km, around twice the length of each gap here).

Battery bi-mode trains recharge under the overhead, as well as taking advantage of regenerative braking. The batteries also provide cover for any unexpected outages in the overhead power supply, reducing the risk of disruptive strandings. The two different overhead electrical power systems are a relatively common issue, and are managed by dual voltage systems on each trainset.

What this means is that fully electric services could be delivered in New Zealand through investment in rolling stock alone, increasing both the low-carbon value and the performance and appeal of night travel.

This is also important because only electric trains can use Waitematā Station (formerly Britomart). This is the ideal Auckland terminus for optimised city-centre-to-city-centre service, a key appeal of intercity rail. It’s a short walk to so many hotels, to the country’s densest employment market and largest university – and to every transit mode for further connection, including cross-platform transfers to AT’s Metro network, soon to become super powerful once the CRL opens.

The only network capacity constraints are within the two urban networks, in Auckland and Wellington, where competition for train slots is fierce because of the shared track with metro and freight services (and a failure to expand capacity as these grow).

However, a proposal suggested by Nicolas Reid (discussed below) only requires finding two additional train paths in each city per day, of which the outbound one is after the evening peak (after 7pm), when competing demand is lower. In other words, you could run six nightly services to each city per week, with the only scheduling issue being a single morning train path into each city.

Happily, some key work to upgrade the network will soon complete in Auckland, the more crowded of the two local networks. Extending electrification, adding the 3rd main on the NIMT, and rebuilding the track formation will all help with improving line speed, reliability, and – critically – capacity for the network.

Moreover, the networks in both cities already have a well-understood need for investment in more capacity. Adding sleeper services would only increase the value of the capacity upgrades that are already proposed in each city’s Rail Programme Business Case.



Opex not Capex

The key takeaway here is that sleeper trains do not require any investment in the network to speed up the route, nor added capacity. The only investment needed is in rolling stock and operations.

So this is not an infrastructure funding and delivery issue, but an operational one.

The plan here is that new rolling stock would be owned and financed by an operator, and capitalised into the operational cost over a sufficiently long concession period.

What might such a service look like? Here’s an outline of a proposed night train service and market model by transport planner Nicolas Reid. An operator may prefer a different balance of service offerings, depending on their view of the potential market.

This proposal assumes 220 passenger capacity on each train, with one service each way, six nights a week (skipping Saturday). This adds up to 624 services per year, for a maximum of 137,000 annual happy snoring riders.

Annually, there are roughly 5 million airline journeys between Akl and Wgtn. In order to fill two trains, six nights a week, you’d only need about 2.7% of current flyers to switch to the train. And that’s not counting current drivers, or bus users, let alone any further expansion of the market – for example, how many would-be trips are currently not taken by reluctant flyers?

However you look at it, this is a sizeable addressable market. A well designed, well priced, and well operated sleeper service on this model could likely, if anything, encounter too much demand. That can be met, too – in fact, it’s even easier to schedule additional later departing services, as they’d arrive at their destination mid-to-late morning when the local urban network is off-peak.

How about income? As per Nicolas Reid’s proposal, at 100% capacity you would be able to offer:

  • 1x first class cabin carriage (16 passengers)
  • 3x standard class cabin carriages (96 passengers)
  • 2x economy seated carriages (108 passengers)

The new Austrian OBB Nightjet sleeping car layout has 20 beds with ensuites:

For fares, using some pretty competitive ticket prices compared with flying, let’s say:

  • 16 @     $400 =    6 400
  • 96 @     $200 =  19 200
  • 108 @   $100 =  10 800

$36,400 per train x 624 pa = max annual pax income of $22.71m, or an uninflated $681m over 30 years.

At a conservative 2/3 utilisation rate, that’s $450m. Whether this sort of potential is sufficient to attract credible operators is a question we should be interested in discovering.


Governance

The key issue for an operator keen on this opportunity would be balancing price and service levels, and, most importantly, gaining regulatory approval and a long enough concession to justify the up-front investment.

A private operator would need to make a considerable investment in the two train sets, plus spares, as well as training and staffing, track access charges and other operating overheads, plus admin and marketing. There would also be food and beverage trade.

Testing the market for interest in, say, a ~30 year concession to run a sleeper-train service could be extremely interesting.

A request for proposal (RFP) would best be international, to attract experienced operators with strong balance sheets; this would require some upfront organisational investment, but that would be minor. The best way to stimulate competitive market interest may be some form of de-risking, e.g. guarantees of network access (subject to all safety controls, of course).

Another thing to test is whether further government support would be needed. This is, after all, public transport, and intercity travel is just as valuable an investment for citizens as intra-city travel is. However, based on my high level look at the numbers, my sense is that fare support would not be necessary.


So why hasn’t this already happened?

Currently, there is no obvious ‘owner’ of this possibility. This isn’t, for example, core business for Kiwi Rail, which is primarily a freight logistics SOE (although they could certainly bid). They already have enough on their plate, and I see their role as network operator, collecting line access fees and maintaining a safe and efficient network.

There’s no clear home from which to explore this market idea, even though a sleeper-train is public transport, because it is inter-regional – and our system is only set up to conceive and operate services within a single region.

Thankfully, the legislative context for this has improved somewhat recently. It’s clear that Auckland-Wellington is a critical route of national significance, and a night train would add low volume but highly useful resilience. For example, given a sleeper service, Ambassador Wang might not have been able to get to Auckland as fast as his cancelled flight, or as on Chinese HSR – but he could have got there, arriving refreshed for the following day’s commitments, after a great night’s sleep on the way.

In my view the natural place to launch an RFP for sleeper trains is the national land transport agency, NZTA Waka Kotahi. It’s an ideal fit for leading on this, as the planner and funder of the Land Transport system, with a clear interest in increasing the efficiency, effectiveness, choice and environmental performance of our land transport networks. Rail is Land Transport, after all, and exploring this is exactly consistent with the agency’s own Investment Hierarchy:

It would also be a way for NZTA Waka Kotahi to deliver benefits at low or zero public cost, reducing congestion pressure on urban state highways and local roads, especially for journeys to airports in the morning and evening peaks, and on urban sections of State Highway 1.

And it would certainly be a useful case study for exploring a more commercial side to the NZTA Waka Kotahi model.

There is a clear market opportunity here, and a promising economic opportunity, with considerable external benefits for the nation. Given appropriate regulatory settings and ambition, a private-sector model could very well succeed in delivering the goods (or rather, passengers).

This is a vision we should all want to explore, if for no other reason than to make more and better of an existing public asset, and to spread the cost of its maintenance and renewal.

This is a moment for innovative, proactive leadership from our institutions; a legacy in the making.

Otaki Station, with refreshed platform, new track, including bypass line, and expressway beyond. Feb 2024. There are ongoing incremental improvements to the NIMT, especially in each city, that continue to improve the potential for greater asset utilisation.
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128 comments

    1. Sure so long as you are happy to arrive around 2am and walk around in the cold and dark looking for your accommodation.

  1. Rather than having the two trainsets parked up during the day they could ditch the sleeping car and run a daytime AKL-WN trip, serving multiple additional markets such as Hamilton to Palmerston North. So much potential here to “sweat the assets”.

    1. I’d prefer to see the trains doing 1-2 journeys in the regional role. AKL-HAM and WLG-PNR, allowing for delays in the network to not have as great an effect on the following evenings service.

      1. I think this is the place to begin – go where the people are then plug the gaps later.

        If you get regular services during daylight between Auckland and Hamilton (and ideally Tauranga) and Wellington and Palmerston North, its not so much of a stretch to bridge the gap in between, even if it is in stages.

      2. There is a priority to connect Hamilton and Palmerston North with 2 return services per day with the central regional connector train services that will allow the ability to travel from Auckland to Wellington on subsidisied ‘tap & travel’ train services with changes at Hamilton and Palmerston North.

        1. Is there? That’s the first I’ve heard of that proposal, is it being put forward by Horizons and Waikato RC?

    2. No need to ditch the sleeping cars, use them in the day too, the bunks fold up into seating. At least that’s how sleeper trains anywhere else in the world work.

      Some people would like the idea of a private seating cabin during the day too.

  2. Waka Kotahi isn’t going to be the lead agency under this government. To start within the next 3 years and take advantage of joining in the order for new Wellington-Wairarapa trains would need a new company. I’d be willing to invest in it, though I’d like to see estimates of costs, as well as income.

  3. Business travel is often booked no more than 2 weeks in advance for flights and accomodation. Hotel costs in both Wgtn and Akl central are in the $275+ per night often $350+. if there’s an a small event on. Morning and end of day flights are in the $500+ return range. This makes even a first class ticket a viable alternative.
    From Auckland to reliably make a 9:30am meeting in Wgtn means you need to be at Akl Domestic at 6:40am for a 7:30 flight, so you could be waking up at 5:30am or earlier.

    1. what a hellscape lmao

      I fly on ATRs from Christchurch often, no security, no bags, show up 15 minutes before boarding. No appreciable road congestion at any time. Parking a 100 meter walk from the regional terminal. Book a couple months before for $70 each way. More populous city than Wellington, and a busier airport with more destinations.

      1. There is heaps of “last minute” travel that “needs” to happen. While the “doomsday” circumstances may not occur in your case, they certainly occur often enough.

      2. Any reason to expect an operator wouldn’t manage revenue and offer advance purchase and last minute pricing that is different, just like airlines?

    2. A bunk bed in a hostel in Wellington shared with strangers can be had for $50 and up and that’s essentially what the train is offering as it’s ‘first class’ offering unless you’re travelling with family/friends.

  4. I can’t help but think that separating track maintenance/development and slot scheduling from Kiwirail into a government agency, leaving Kiwirail as just an service operator isn’t part of the solution here.

    Kiwirail are only going to maintain/develop the tracks to the level they require (or is forced on them) and they aren’t interested in passenger services, so it really needs to be separated into an entity that is open and treats other operators equally.

    Unfortunately WK/NZTA don’t have the culture to give rail the love it needs and I can’t see this government providing the funding to a new agency to fill those electrification gaps and add the capacity required (let alone clear the deferred maintenance backlog).

  5. This is one of the services that our group The Future is Rail (formerly Save our Trains but we might have to become Save our Rail Ferries soon!) is promoting. We believe for the reasons that Patrick sets out that this would be a commercially viable service. Greg Pollock, an independent consultant with experience at Transdev and Metlink, has been promoting a night train named ZZZERO, as in “zero emissions” and “catching some Zs”.

  6. I think NZTA/WK is primarily a state highway builder specialist. That is there 100 year history (state highway act just had its century anniversary). NZTA/WK funding base is either motorists (fuel taxes and road user charges) or milking governments that promise roads of national significance or infrastructure upgrades.
    New Zealand’s alternative transport networks need there own funding model and there own specialized organizational structure(s). Something like the regional French transport model. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5GqCK_LsFw&t=1560s
    KiwiRail clearly lack the incentives and expertise to be involved in developing metro train services for Auckland and Welington. They are also a major block on developing regional metro services in other cities – like Christchurch.
    We need stronger alternative regional transport initiatives that will develop millions of traffic movements.
    This proposal from Patrick is fine. But it is a sideshow. It is a few hundred movements per day.
    If Wellington and Auckland had strong, well resourced alternative regional transport entities then they could co-invest in an overnight regional train company connecting there regions.

    1. Critical transport policy organisations. Such as this website need to analysis where the last government went wrong with its urbanist agenda. It promised to upturn the system to turn old towns into new cities. To turn our urban areas into proper places like our young folk find attractive in Brisbane, Sydney, London…
      But that didn’t happen our cities are not proper places – overseas they don’t promise to regularly close down metro service for decades. Why the failure? I think their extreme centralisation was the problem.
      https://www.interest.co.nz/public-policy/125989/brendon-harre-circles-back-and-expands-his-analysis-why-central-and-local

      1. It doesn’t require a huge amount of analysis. They were elected in 2017 when they weren’t in anyway ready for government, thus they had a pile of ideas but not a lot of skill and planning going into implementing them.

        Frustratingly they had a communicator who could have easily sold a capital gains tax, improved urban housing and transport and many other things but for whatever reason she was never willing.

        1. So who on the progressive side of politics is doing the analysis of how to implement a pro-urbanist agenda?
          Or in 3, 6, 9 years time when our current conservative coalition comes to an end will NZ repeat the mess that the Ardern government made?

        2. that about sums it up. The 2017 crew look positively experienced and prepared compared to the current lot. It is a worrying pattern that one side or the other governs for a bit get voted out and either lose a lot of experience at the ballot box or people move on. We seem to end up with inexperienced leaders scrambling to learn on the job.

        3. Steve – the issue isn’t so much the experienced politicians retire, that’s been happening for years and often a clean-out is needed. The main issue is opposition parties are no longer doing to policy leg work to be ready for their next stint in government.

          It happened in 2017 and as you say it’s happening again now. It kind of made sense in 2017 as Labour had no expectation being in government until about seven weeks before the election.

          The current government I think were just very disorganised when they were in opposition.

    2. I don’t see it as a sideshow in the slightest. It is a pragmatic step forward to demonstrate the untapped demand for rail travel. It would provide options for people choosing to live without cars or choosing not to drive on our unsafe roads, enabling that trend to increase. (Don’t underestimate this; talk to people who wish to travel regionally by train and you’ll realise the issue is one of equity and access.)

      It shouldn’t meet resistance from the government as it doesn’t require their investment. At the same time, it should be compatible with their values around letting private business take the risks and profits.

      The only thing in its way is that the government’s capture by the road freight, road construction, fossil fuel and automotive industries may be stronger than their actual values. This is their chance to show whether they are pro-business or corporate puppets.

    3. I think that is a bit unfair. KiwiRail is the primary reason that Auckland has the trains that it does now. That last ditch effort to save the Auckland Suburban Service has certainly gone a long way.

      But KiwiRail now has little “skin in the game”. There is no incentive for them to be better as they are just a network provider for Auckland.

  7. Your proposal doesn’t seem to include the capital cost of purchasing new sleeper carriages, building servicing and maintenance facilities etc, which could easily exceed $100m depending on the number of carriages purchased. Also basing your assessments on the new OBB NightJet cars in Austria is misleading as these European loading gauge standard track gauge cars are 26m long and would not be able to run on the KiwiRail network even on narrow gauge bogies. A better reference case would be the NZR Silver Star sleeper cars from the 1970s which at 19m long and 2.9m wide are probably still the optimum dimensions for sleeper cars on the NZ rail network. The December 2023 issue of Linesider Magazine had a detailed article on the Silver Star cars.

      1. Sleeper trains are complex relative to the number of people carried per carriage, particularly if toilets and washing facilities are required in each cabin. I would be sceptical on basing any assessment on the Te Huia carriage costs which were essentially a refurb of the old ARTA SA /SD cars. I am not convinced that the business case for new sleeper services will stack up but would be pleased to be proven wrong by some solid analysis which includes the capital and operating costs as well as revenue estimates

        1. The beauty of a market model is that you don’t have to be convinced about a ‘business case’. Only the operator does.

    1. Uh what difference does it make. You just have eight shorter cheaper carriages at 19m long instead of six at 26m then. Same length train and capacity.

      1. My point is that there doesn’t seem to have been any serious attempt at estimating the capital costs for a sleeper train service- I expect that, however it is funded, the viability of the project wont stand up

  8. ” innovative, proactive leadership”

    Well, you should have suggested this before we had a Government of culture warriors who want to deliberately downgrade trains and all other green initiatives, to “make the lefties cry”

  9. Agree with other commenters that NZTA Waka Kotahi is the wrong agency. They built roads, they have no interest in rail; they would ignore it even if they are pushed to do it, but the current government surely would not push it. And this project needs someone to push it, it won’t eventuate out of thin air, otherwise there would be already a night train…

    Kiwi Rail would also need pushing, they certainly would make life difficult by either rejecting any morning slots or asking for high fees or both.

    And while in theory there might be some international operator who might bid, I doubt that e.g. NightRail would bid, NZ is too far away and too small of a market to make sense for them. A company like Transdev might bid, but a night trains is certainly not their speciality.

    So I won’t hold my breath.

    The more likely scenario during my lifetime is that the rail lines will be removed, since with the removal of rail ferries quite a bit of freight will move to roads. This could mean that rail will fall further behind in cost competitiveness (where cost does not include externalities, and I mean, who cares about those? certainly not business and not this government and not the vast majority of New Zealanders).

    1. Unfortunately I agree the most likely scenario is long distance passenger rail will cease to exist in New Zealand fairly soon. Decades of decline has resulted in the bare-bones offerings we have now, and this decline shows no sign of turning around. Actions of both major political parties recently have made it pretty clear that private cars, freight trucks and airplanes are their priority for transport. They won’t make any moves to change the structure. It takes real pro-rail leadership from the top and overseas expertise to reverse NZ’s course…where is it?

  10. Okay $108 is the right price that I would be willing to pay and I believe most of the population would agree. But it will still need to be economic because its doubtful there would be a subsidy in the current political climate.
    On the other hand could our network provide a reliable service. I believe it would need to run 52 weeks including public holidays to be acceptable to the public. I suppose you could have bus replacement between Pukekohe and Britomart and Waikanae and Wellington during metro shutdowns. Would the safety police allow the trains with there lithium batteries into Britomart or would they be considered a fire risk so they end up at the Strand. Would three trainsets be enough or would four be required. Remembering back to the days of the Silver Fern railcars NZR struggled with only three.
    Hopefully a modern set would be more reliable but batteries are still an emerging technology. Could the trains be integrated into Te Huia and Capital connection timetables by dropping off the sleeping cars and making a return day service between Wellington and Palmerston and Auckland and Palmerston North.
    Apart from that go for it if a company can be found who will take the risk.

    1. I see how it might be useful, but they old problem with cars persists: It would take up a lot of space (a full carriage) for marginal benefit. Just a wild guess, but you would not be able to fit more than 20 cars on one carriage compared to 108 people in an economy class carriage. If we take the pricing from this article (100 NZD for the cheapest tickets) you would have to sell the car tickets for 500 NZD in order to achieve the same income. And I think my 20 cars are a generous suggestion per train car.
      In addition to that, this sleeper train would be an alternative to flying, not so much to driving, so people would need to continue with public transport or a rental car at their destination anyway.
      Given the huge range of acitivity options in both Auckland and Wellington CBD’s with good connections to some areas outside of the city (e.g. Waiheke or Piction), there is no immediate need to take a car on the train anyway.

  11. I find it curious a standard railcar could make the run in 8hrs 29min back in the sixties or something and post curve easements/electrification the best that can be aspired to is ten hours. Progress?

    1. The railways hadn’t been privatised then. Lots of the maintenance equipment was sold off. Kiwirail still hasn’t caught up with the backlog. Also most of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe is being rebuilt and has 40, or lower limits.

    1. If it was because of the name change then that really is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face! I doubt Patrick would be that pathetic though so the real reason would be interesting to see.

  12. The tiny scale is the issue. Moving 220 people a day won’t make a dent in climate change and it won’t transform many peoples lives, so its hard to see any government minister or government department having the time and budget to implement it.

    1. It wont make much of a dent at current levels or flying and driving – but all dents will be useful – and hopefully through other policies driving and flying emissions will also be coming down. But what it would be useful is to start rebuilding a network of passenger rail. And depending on where it stopped – it would give some people along the way who have limited mobility options – for example Marton – better opportunities to travel.

    2. Yeah it’s spending a lot of money (even if you’re just buying new rolling stock) to make a small dent in a hard to shift emissions source.

      It makes no sense to be doing emissions reductions projects like this – let’s be real, emissions reduction is the primary motivation behind these proposals – when there are still so many easy wins to drive the limited emissions reduction budget into like electric arc furnaces and EV rebates. You can argue about the details but I think you have to get pretty far down the list of proposals before electric night trains are the best you can do in terms of value for money.

      Of course with national running things even EV rebates are off the table and we might as well daydream about a zero-emission wellington to auckland teleporter – more exciting, and about as likely to happen as these night trains.

      1. Value for whose money? Did you not read the article well enough to notice that this would be self-funding?

        We could let the market decide. Let’s simply require aviation to repay all the substantial subsidies it’s been given and cover the enormous ongoing externalities it’s currently imposing, and on top of that, to reduce volumes in line with the sector’s seemingly-forgotten commitments. The ticket price would then leave most people with no options but driving. Additionally, we could start making drivers pay for all the costs they’re imposing, too, which would price driving between the cities out of the question too.

        Or, we could establish a night train now, at no public cost.

        1. I prefer the former, as that would make a substantial difference. Taking the stick to thousands of people will work much better than giving 220 people a carrot.

        2. The former is a goodie. But it won’t happen without growing the number of people who agree with taking those steps.

          The best way to do so is through demonstration of the viability of rail. Someone may only take the night train once – or even just have a friend who does – to become convinced that rail is a good enough option that aviation and driving should have to pay its way.

        3. I dont believe that there is anyway that this proposal would be self funding but am happy to be proven wrong. I expect that any organisation seeking to establish and run a sleeper train service will be wanting to be subsidised by the government

    3. 220 is a touch more passengers than the jets Air NZ flies on the route, so about the same as flight full of people.
      And it’s 220 each way, so 440 a night, same as two flights.
      And thats the starter with just one train each way a night. If its successful you can make it four trains each night, or or six, or more. It scales up easily.

      1. You also have the option of adding more carridges first. Increases revenue without increasing costs much compared to another whole service.

        Or is 6 carriages the max that you can fit in the terminus stations?

  13. Fast efficient modern railcars would be the go, then able to be additionally utilised on country routes much like the 60’s…. Wr had better passenger services with much less population than we have now .. and it’s nothing to do with small pop look at Norway ..

  14. Something for the NZ Superfund?

    Under government questioning recently on proposed legislative changes, one of their executives said they would love to invest in more NZ infrastructure projects “especially roading, but it would have to fit with our sustainability mandate”.

  15. Excellent article but there are a couple of points I think are worth mentioning.
    1) Even if the section of the NIMT between Te Rapa and Pukekohe is eventually electrified, there are incompatibilities in the two systems. Both are 25 kV AC but as the systems currently stand, an EF locomotive running on the central NIMT system wouldn’t be able to roll through into the Auckland system which is currently set up for electric multiple passenger units. There are settings such as prospective short circuit fault current, single and multiple unit capacity, instantaneous demand and so on. These would need to be addressed for other locomotives to be able to use the network, and similar issues apply for any unit that is set up to operate in the Auckland area going the other way into the central system.
    2) Britomart shouldn’t be the main terminal for Auckland. As it stands, diesel and steam hauled services must use the Strand platform which is just a stone’s throw from the old Beach Rd railway station. It would make more sense to take back ownership of this facility and make it the main Auckland station as it has space for parking, Intercity buses to arrive and depart from, room for taxis etc. All it would require is a light rail connection into Queen St (which used to exist) and this would facilitate people being able to easily transit between the Beach Rd station and the CBD.
    Britomart isn’t the place for an integrated transport centre. It would be better just to keep it as another stop on the Auckland passenger network.

    1. As I understand it from previous posts, the NIMT can easily be upgraded to the Auckland standard as can the EFs (although by then they’d be due for replacement anyway).
      Alternatively the gap can be closed and a small gap (like 1 metre) between them can serve to prevent EFs running in the Auckland network while allowing newer trains to use both (not ideal of course).
      The more interesting part is do you extend AC from Palmy south, or extend DC up to Palmy.
      AC is superior, but DC would allow the existing Wellington fleet to operate further.
      Long term it might make sense to replace the whole DC network to AC I believe that was costed at around $200m to upgrade.

    2. 1) Patrick wrote in the article: “The two different overhead electrical power systems are a relatively common issue, and are managed by dual voltage systems on each trainset.”
      2) People travelling by train between one city and another don’t need parking at the station; that is an inefficient model. They need access to the public transport network. Those who wish to park a car can do so at another node on the network and make their way to Britomart (or Puhinui or Pukekohe, or wherever the train stops next) by public transport.

  16. Is / are Freight trains an issue stopping night trains from working? I sometimes live near the main trunk line and hear the freight trains go up and down the tunnels towards Paekakariki – there are maybe 3 trains each way each night? Would that cause a disturbance to a swift running of sleeping tourists? It can be fantastic to pull into a siding to let a few thousands of tonnes of freight go past in the night – it can also be a bore to have to pull into a siding and wait for some hours till there is a chance to move again. While a gently rocking train is the perfect vehicle to lull you to sleep, there is nothing quite as quiet and weirdly disturbing as a passenger train parked in a field at night, with no lights on.

  17. New Zealanders don’t have a culture of sleeping with strangers, at least in this sort of way. I wonder what the cultural resistance to sharing a sleeper would be?

    1. Except for camping, and hiking, and backpacking/staying in hostels.
      Might be more accurate to say some NZers wouldn’t do this. But some NZers won’t move out of cars either, no matter what. We’re not talking about them, but those that would if given the chance.

      1. It would also appeal to a lot of tourists, especially those on a budget(?). While that might not contribute to a dent in flying but create additional demand, it would support the financial viability of the service.

    2. Mate.

      Did you not travel at all in your 20s? I bet as a nation we’ve some of the highest numbers of youth hostel users per capita in the world. Also if your down the back it’s no different to sleeping on a commercial flight from Auckland to Asia, Middle East etc except your seat will be infinitely more comfortable.

    3. Good idea Martin, let’s turn a 1hr flight into something marginally less uncomfortable than a 10hr international long haul flight. That’s really going to be popular with the business travellers the author thinks this will attract.

      Also international business class travel gives me a lie flat bed (so the sleeper seats need to be at least that) and someone who keeps dropping by with included food and alcohol. The prices are set at a level that keeps the riff-raff separated down the back of the plane. It’s not a totally bad experience but not one you’d choose if a different one hour option existed.

      Give me the choice of an hour long flight elbow to elbow with strangers in an economy seat or a 10hr nap with them in a lie flat bed and I know which one I’ll pay more for.

      Business traveller’s choices are mostly driven by company travel policy. Hardly anybody would pick this option over a flight unless it was mandated as the only option. And if it were mandated people would avoid work travel like the plague quickly resulting in flights being allowed again.

      So lets be realistic, the target demographic is retired people travelling in pairs, families travelling together booking out the whole cabin, backpackers avoiding extra spend on that hostel bunk and those with an uncontrollable need to virtue signal in their transport choices.

      1. We? Are you starting a company to do this? Representing one in some way?

        A real world example was given of OBB Nightjet, who claim very high load factors but they admit they can’t cover costs from ticket revenue so need subsidies. And thats with a much broader network and customer base much more predisposed to train travel. This seems like the kind of thing a company might give a crack for a while, realise they can’t make a business out of it on fares alone and start campaigning to be allowed to latch on to the public teat.

        1. Not sure what your implying there, aviation fuel is tax free which is a massive massive subsidy and Air NZ in particular rorts kiwis not living in CHC, WLG, AKL.

          If all airlines had to pay the true cost of fuel, we’d all be travelling by train.

      2. I’m talking about the normal class seating. If you’ve got the money pay for a refunding business seat or a first class billet when you can sleep in your own bed. Point is we’ve all done this in air travel using seats in all classes that are less comfortable then seats in trains. I work in commercial aviation for an airline much larger then Air NZ yet use trains as much as I can which is easy everywhere but NZ pretty much.

        1. In 2024 if it’s not a lie flat seat in long haul business class it’s just a mis-named premium economy seat.

      3. Then main point is the time difference. The proposal here is one uncomfortable hour in a flying sardine can vs 10hr in something typically less comfortable than a good long haul lie flat business class seat unless you stump up for the sleeper cabin. You can put up with just about any smelly, creepy or overly chatty seat neighbour for an hour. Trapped in a train with them for 10hrs is a different matter.

        it’s also not a question of whether an economy airline seat is less comfortable than a sleeper train seat or sleeper train cabin, it’s whether one hour in one is more bearable than 10hr in the other.

        I might make a different choice if you were offering a 350kph capable train that would take me only slightly more time than the plane all things considered but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

        1. Yes exactly, the question is whether one hour in an economy airline seat, at the times of day that they fly, combined with the associated airport access, egress and check in time… is better or worse than ten hours in a sleeper cabin overning, with the associated train station access, egress and check in times.

  18. The issue is KR. A private operator can’t trust access to slots, or that the network is reliable enough for their train to get there everyday.

    A long-term agreement for access to Britomart and Wellington stations is probably the easiest hurdle. But you still run into the issue where KR chooses who gets the slots, while competing for the slots. Might be fine day to day, but if maintenance comes up or track capacity is reduced somehow…

    You’d also need some sort of partnership with local bus companies, as if the line has a closure, you can’t just go ‘oh, not our problem, find your own way’.

    It’s all doable, apart from the KR/track access bit, which is too much of a risk. How can you trust the org to give you the slots under all circumstances when they are also a direct competitor for those slots at points. Plus the track maintenance issues, but I do think that’ll be solved (or at least improved significantly) at some point.

  19. Seems like an ideal opportunity for Air New Zealand. No, seriously. They have experience selling journeys that take this long, involving cabins that have beds and various classes of seating. I think the price points that Patrick is proposing might be a bit unrealistic (too high), and the benefits perhaps overstated (I travelled by the Overlander from Wellington to Auckland once, and did not arrive well rested: seated rather than a sleeper car). Before going too far down the track someone would need to do at least a rough calculation based on known costs of the proposed rolling stock (something must be known about this in rail circles). One problem with the idea is that at sub 3% of air trips, it is unlikely to actually impact on the number of planes that fly back and forth. On the other hand, when the catalyst event occurs that forces us to reduce fossil-fuel use (someone’s scenario planning must describe this catalyst event, yes?), having such services already in use would enable faster expansion.

  20. Thanks for that reminder. This article says, “max annual pax income of $22.71m”. That article says, “the operating cost of the night train service would be $21.6m each year.” With inflation since 2021, the operating cost is probably still more, unless Kiwirail is willing to address that issue that, “costs are very high by international standards”. With those figures the service would run at a loss and not cover the $21m to refurbish the coaches and locos. A solution might be to double the size of the train.

  21. Currently taking nightly Wgtn-Auck return bus trips several times a year to cut emissions. Its fairly brutal if you value sleep. Those bus passengers (many the poor of NZ, already leading with low carbon travel) would pay around $100 for this service. I like the idea of using Air NZ expertise and would be good branding for the airline to be involved. Start modest with good fold-down sleeper seats. That was the overnight service post Silver Fern as I remember, before even that was terminated. If this govt continues the requirement for agencies to report and reduce emissions, or offset within existing budgets (see MfE Carbon Neutral Government Programme), that provides a base market (although I see everyone in govt tiptoeing away from that commitment). One issue is whether businesses/govt agencies would have to pay for time away from home. Maybe a luxury ‘night-jet’ overnight electric bus is better to lead the way. Something soon please. We are heavily socialised on air travel in this country and we have to cut the cord asap.

  22. This post is one that I find myself referring to very frequently, and it is only right that I acknowledge how much I value it. It is my firm belief that you will continue to provide products that are exceptional in comparison to the overall standard here.

  23. Overnight train services between Auckland and Wellington are nice to have and would need to operate on a commercial basis. NZ Transport Agency will not fund two over night services as it would deemed to be non essential.,

    If this country is serious about passenger train services across the 13 regions that currently have rail connectivity, it would need be frequent regional/inter-regional passenger train services that is jointly funded by regional councils and funding from NZ Transport Agency through the National Land Transport Fund and cash fares.

    Currently, the national rail network is a ‘closed access’ predominately freight network and would the network owner – Kiwirail Holdings Ltd will not allow an external commercial passenger train operator accessing the network.

    The priority is to re-introduce frequent regional/inter-regional passenger train services.

  24. I would happily do a sleeper train from Auckland to Wellington AND then the return trip to avoid the traffic to get to/from airports (plus parking costs). If the price was the same (or even better, less), it’s a no-brainer to me

  25. This doesn’t seem well thought out to me. A clear market opportunity? Then why has no company stepped up to do it? There’s nothing stopping them as KiwiRail does not have a exclusive right to passenger operations as they do freight.

    In the coming months it’s going to emerge that KiwiRail faces a financial crisis. They require something like $30b over the next 20 years to keep functioning and they are not receiving anywhere near that in revenue. Labour allowed the business to become reckless with spending, and many projects such as the electric locomotive refurbishment authorized in 2018 (none are yet in service as of February 2024) were advanced without any business plan at all.

    The current government are going to reign in the spending in a big way. They have already started with the ferries, and they will move to rail once they get their head around the aituation via a review of the business.

    There’s a very real risk of network closure, for the simple reason that the costs of rail now far exceed the benefits.

    Advocating for more loss-making passenger operations (and they do lose money if they don’t have a subsidy) on the cusp of a major cutback of rail in New Zealand seems to me to be a bit tone deaf to reality.

  26. My main concern for sleepers would be the quality of the track and therefore quality of the sleep for any passengers.

    Having taken a sleeper in the UK, you really notice bad sections of track so unless these trains involve the best quality suspension/ride quality etc it could be a problem

  27. Can I provide some context to our discussions about sleeper trains, by looking at the equivalent service in Britain, which connects London and Scotland. (Disclosure: I work for the holding company which oversees its operation).

    https://www.sleeper.scot/

    The numbers – some statistics (year to March 2023, most recent data available in the public domain)

    Annual patronage 305,000
    (3.24m rail journeys between Scotland and London in the same year)
    (5.27m air journeys between Scotland and London in the same year)

    Annual fare income £28.05m Avg fare ~£92/journey
    Total reported costs £58.11m Avg cost ~£190/journey
    Annual subsidy £30.06m (fares less costs) –
    Avg subsidy ~£98 per passenger

    If you log onto the website, it will give you an excellent idea of the sleeper product, what it costs to use, and what one gets for it. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Ross

      Thanks for this, super interesting.

      On this route over a third of plane/journeys people choose train, 38%, so clearly people do choose this option, refuting any claim that all that matters is travel time. 3.24m journeys is a significant amount of carbon not emitted too.

      And a fare-box recovery ratio of just below 50%, that’s a lot better than our infra-city PT providers are achieving.

      1. Hi Patrick, to clarify:

        About travel time – between Edinburgh and London, the LNER trains run in 4h20m (some at 4h40m, one or two at four hours). Between Glasgow and London, the trains are 4h30m. What also help is service frequency – for Edinburgh, it’s something close to thirty trains/day!

    2. Comparison with subsidy just for the carbon emissions of a flight between London and Edinburgh:
      – Shortest flight distance 539km. https://www.distance.to/London/Edinburgh
      – Carbon dioxide equivalent for domestic flights 0.246 kg/passenger km. https://ourworldindata.org/travel-carbon-footprint
      – USD800/tonne CO2e. If this seems high, consider that if society continues to use aviation when there’s a low-carbon alternative, as in this UK example, then we will have no alternative than carbon capture. I’ve used a central estimate of the cost for carbon capture from https://about.bnef.com/blog/liebreich-net-zero-will-be-harder-than-you-think-and-easier-part-i-harder/
      – 0.79 pounds stirling per USD

      Subsidy involved with the flight emissions alone = 84 pounds stirling.

      This is much lower than the full subsidy because:
      – The radiative forcing figure accepted officially, and used in the emissions data, will need to be adjusted up according to the science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2020.117834
      – Climate damage from aviation is much more than just the fuels burnt during the flight.
      – The subsidy to aviation is much more than just the climate damage, including subsidies to airports, aircrafts, airlines, aviation research and urban planning mistakes due to airport derangement syndrome.

      1. The cost of train travel is not taking into account the loss of productivity incurred in the extra time needed for the journey.
        While flying does emit a lot of CO2 compared to electric trains, it is still an efficient use of carbon expenditure.
        Often there are no credible alternatives. No one wants to spend 4 months on a boat between NZ and Europe when you can fly there in a day.
        The carbon reductions do not need to be like for like, the CO2 emissions from flying can be offset with carbon savings elsewhere. Flying is not the problem, CO2 is!
        Between aircraft efficiency improvements, synthetic biofuels and carbon capture, people can continue to enjoy guilt free flying.
        Welcome back Patrick – I guess the cosy job at NZTA has come to an end with the new Government. No more Wellington fish restaurants for you.

  28. First, the Hamilton train station is atrociously placed. Investment on returning it to Queens St is a necessity. Why bother to take an enfeabled route otherwise. Car better by far.

    Second, link Huntley and Tauranga via Morrinsville.

    Third, one train to downtown Auckland, please. No switching.

    1. The Northern Explorer and Te Huia train services do travel into downtown Auckland using the The Stand station.

      Due to these trains are haul by diesel electric locomotives, they are not allowed to enter Auckland Britomart station.

  29. I admit, I got bored half way through this long BS post, so I can’t claim to have read it all.
    However, why would anyone want to subject themselves to a ten hour trip on a night train when the alternative is a 40 minute flight.
    The GHG savings would be minimal as the emissions cost of the rolling stock is significant.
    Far better would be to introduce a 10% SAF mandate on domestic flights and pass on the increased fuel costs to the passengers. If you work on 18.6L per passenger per hour on an A320, then the additional cost of 10% SAF would be roughly $4.50 ticket extra.
    SAF gives a 85% GHG reduction compared to fossil fuel.

    1. Also runway catapults and/or taxi tugs.

      You could save a tonne or so in reduced fuel load, making room for payload.

    2. Yes Chris is right! Makes no operational sense to operate a ‘night train’! same goes for continuing the Te Huia! Te Huia should be defunct! To be running an Auckland- Hamilton rail service, should be running every 30 mins, 45 mins or even a hour from Britomart. Not operating from the Strand and run two weekday and one Saturday service!

      In Australia for example in Brisbane (sister city of Auckland), you got Brisbane-Gold Coast line which is nearly the same distance as Auckland-Hamilton and same topography. Also Brisbane-Gold Coast line runs every 30 mins, 7 days a week and is electrified. Another example would be in Melbourne too, they got Melbourne-Bendigo line operates every 45-1 hr, 7 days a week with same topography.

      It makes no sense to be operating a Auckland-Hamilton service that runs 2 times weekday, Saturday one service. What needs to be done, is to only electrify $430 million Pukekohe to Te Papa without any work on the tracks for time-being and laying extension tracks. Do work on the tracks and laying extensions after 2030 or something. Now should be the focus on bringing more electrified passenger rail services in NZ and not neglecting rail!

      From an economic point of view, it makes total sense to be doing an electrification $430 million Pukekohe to Te Papa right now during a ‘cost of living crisis’. Would open up the housing market and would lure people moving to Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Taupiri, Ngaruawaiha situated on Pukekohe to Te Papa electrification cause they see the benefits of moving, public transport convenience, frequent service and not solely relying car for commute. Would also be good for Hamilton, would grow the economy by tourism, family outing, meet & greets, good for people living Pukekohe to Te Papa electrification who work in Auckland meaning they’ll spend on businesses in Hamilton.

      With-it, purchasing more EMU units for regional passenger rail would be faster and operationally feasible to operate. So commuters can travel faster between cities. We just need to start electrifying lines without any work on the tracks and laying extension tracks, electrifying lines should be main priority!

      1. Yes currently just a starter service. Needs Improvements like dual mode trains so we can go right into Britomart. Absolutely agree with electrification end upping the frequency.

        1. Where do we think there is more demand; people wanting to get between Auckland and Hamilton by train? Or people wanting to travel from those northern Waikato towns To Te Rapa and/or Hamilton central and back?

          Te Huia should have been an intra-Waikato service with regular services through out the day.

          It could be extended to Pukekohe for a change to the Auckland metro service. Let the latter build demand before extending certain services north.

        2. Not sure, they should have some data on that from current patterns. Opening more of those northern Waikato towns will have an interesting on usage.

        3. It not just about opening up usage on North Waikato, it’s about opening up the whole Waikato! Auckland-Hamilton will obviously terminates at Frankton station. But if you got off at Rotokauri Station and caught the M bus service to Transport Centre, you’d be able to connect to bus services to Cambridge, Morrinsville, Te Awamutu Raglan and even far as Taupo. Also services all bus services serving Hamilton area. But should ideally be a regular bus service from Frankton Station to Transport Centre.

          There’s definitely demand for frequent EMU units for Auckland-Hamilton. You got Te Huia, people ride it but not enough people! You got, Intercity buses, they always have full buses to Hamilton and not exactly comforting journey due to lack of comfort, spacing & body mobility exercises over rail. Lastly you got the option of commuting by car, there’s already enough people driving by car. It’s time we get people choosing rail over cars not for reducing emissions, but for reducing amount of cars on our roads which creates bottlenecks. Just need funding for EMU units for Auckland-Hamilton and electrification $430 million Pukekohe-Te Rapa to go ahead!

      2. Luring people to move to Huntly and Ngaruawaiha sounds unconscionable. Also I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Gold Coast but there are reasons to go there from Brisbane. Hamilton from Auckland not so much.

        1. Cheaper land value and house prices are conscionable! Huntly and Ngaruawaiha bring exactly that! Perfect for those travelling from Hamilton to Auckland who are able to ‘work from home’ or have flexible work.

          Heaps of people go to Hamilton for more localised purposes, family, meetings & hangouts. But sure Hamilton not in the best shape, takes time to vitalise a city.

  30. Chris, this is indeed a great solution. That is until you read Air NZ’s Sustainability Report that shows the miniscule amount of SAF that they think they will be using by 2030.
    Whenever I read something that says, everything will be ok if we just tweak the status quo, I become enormously skeptical: first because why hasn’t it happened already; and because the challenge is to be net zero in just 26 years requires phenomenal change.

  31. Or we could try a solution that works extraordinarily well elsewhere. Italy has a user pays model for roads, such that motorists pay the true cost of their autostrada. The result is that tolls average about $13 per 100km.
    One of the consequences is that an extraordinary number of people travel by other means. On some intercity routes 50% of travel is by rail. Could trains depart every half hour as they do from cities like Florence?
    Hard to imagine that it would work here of course where user- pays seems to be a concept that is only a talking point.

    1. Plane tickets start from $60 each way, $100 if you don’t plan ahead and a short period of discomfort compared to hours of discomfort in your ‘business class’ ‘sleeper’ seat or cabin. With plane you can leave the morning and be back in your own bed the same night with the only nights you need to pay for being the ones you would have still needed a hotel for it’s a multi day trip. The product is really niche: people who like slow and uncomfortable travel or really don’t like spending time with the family and will do anything to avoid it up to and including turning a half day business trip into a two day long extravaganza of discomfort.

      It seems like an operator could make a small fortune doing this provided they started with a large one.

      1. If you plan 2 weeks out at the moment the cheapest you can get with Air NZ is $188 and that arrives at 10pm so an extra night’s accommodation is needed.

        The cheapest with Jetstar is $109 and again that arrives in the evening. There’s a couple of red eye flights for $149 though if an early alarm is more appealing than a night sleeping on a train.

        I agree the market is reasonably niche, however that is all it really needs to be when you’re looking at trying to take around 3 % of existing air traffic.

        1. Yes, he’s not counting the discomfort of driving & parking at the airport with the earlier check-in time etc.
          It’s also likely to take more from new & the existing bus patronage.

        2. Grant you’ve still got to get yourself to a train station with your luggage and park if you went there by car. If it’s Britomart or the Strand that’s going to take a lot of people longer than just going to the airport. If the train stops anywhere on the way security of property is also an issue, better be waking up at every stop in those sleeper seats. Then you need to go tired and dishevelled to your business meeting on arrival (unless of course you woke early to queue to bathe on the train or stumped up for a compartment with a shower that is proposed to cost 6x-8x the price of a budget flight for a roundtrip). To me a good night’s sleep followed by an early alarm and an evening flight home would be preferable to two nights of broken sleep in a somewhat reclined train seat or even in a shared cabin.

          And you can fly Auckland Wellington and back for $155 total a couple of weeks from now with flights giving you the whole business day in Wellington if you pick your day. If you chose dates nearer the easter break you might not find cheap flights so easily but generally with a modicum of advanced planning you’ll get a return flight for less than the proposed return trip on this train. Also any sensible train service provider will also manage revenue so will change more for bookings at last minute and busy times.

          So it’s an uphill battle to attract business customers, even the price sensitive ones.

        3. I would envision if this product got off the ground it would be with Britomart as a terminus by using battery bi-mode trains as the post mentions. I think a stop in Puhinui wouldn’t be out of the question so I personally could easily transfer from the AT Metro network via train at either station. No car needed.
          When I look for flights I get $233 round trip with cruddy Jetstar or $335 AirNZ two weeks out from now at least and only small carry on bag at that. Looks like more even at $311 for early morning flight from Auckland.

        4. Google harder on the flights. I now get $102 round trip on Tue the 19th with slightly less sociable flight times, about the same as one way in the proposed sleeper seat, let alone the cost of the “nicer” options like booking out a full cabin.

          Like anything there’s a customer somewhere for this product, I suspect mostly virtue signallers and those who have a morbid curiosity about what travel might have been like in the old days.

        5. wrt “get yourself to a train station with your luggage and park ”

          I didn’t realise that many people lived in the airport?

  32. In many overseas passenger rail systems with much bigger population bases, the costs are subsidised. AMtrak and BR come to mind.
    Part of their problems are compounded by having freight trains on the same tracks and taking priority. The high speed rail systems in Japan and France are dedicated passenger systems. US proposals are for shared use so they are on the back foot before they even have a service.
    Some of the characteristics of Te Huia include:
    1: 2hrs 40mins scheduled timetable (can drive it in 1hr 30mins and have transport at both ends).
    2: There is no single chip card to pay fares for the range of services needed to get from an Auckland suburb to the Hamilton CBD. There are too many councils and vested interests to make this happen.
    3: While the current timetable might be adequate for the market, frequency and reliability are what matter to the user.

    Although Japan is not really a appropriate example, some commuter services operate with average 5min frequency, are highly reliable and have an incredibly flexible fare system. By my recollection, the high speed trains between Tokyo and Osaka ran every 6 to 8 mins and can cover the 600km in 2hrs 50mins. The longer trains can carry about 1500 passengers and variations from the timetable are measured in seconds.

    And just a note about NIMT electrification – most of the system is 25KV but the commuter bits at each end are low voltage – not something to just join up. Of course dual (or even triple) system locos are available but the cost might make the eyes water.

    1. Only Wellington has low voltage DC.
      Auckland is is AC at the same voltage as Hamilton to Palmerston North.
      So just a gap in the high voltage system from Pukekohe from Te Rapa.
      What is becoming urgent is the track work between Pukekohe and TeRapa.
      Duplication, Curvature relief, and trackbed stiffening.
      This, in conjunction with the third and fourth mains through South Auckland would have enormous benifits for both freight and very much enhanced passenger services between Auckland and Hamilton, and then on beyond.
      But don’t expect anything from this government.
      Such actions would depress all important motor vehicle sales, and the targeted political donations that result.

  33. A sleeper train from Auckland to Wellington, stopping at all station where book passengers get on and off is a great idea. The beds need to be small so many people can sleep on the train to minimise the costs. The idea been that it competes with buses services. We must be careful that public money is not used to compete with the privately own bus companies. The idea is great. Even with diesel locos from Auckland to Hamilton, and Palmy to Wellington it would still be better than buses, as long there are lots of passengers on board.

    1. “… it would still be better than buses, as long there are lots of passengers on board.”

      If there are lots of passengers, how many toilets will there be? How many people, and how small will the beds need to be? Will passengers have to share beds?

      1. Years ago we travelled in the Red Kangaroo sleeper class, ie 2nd class, sleeper across the Nullarbor two nights to Perth.
        Ours was 2 berth, daytime two seats opposite and a hand basin, nights two bunks. A toilet and a separate shower cubicle were at each end of the carriage. No room for anything much bigger then two small overnight bags . Main luggage was checked into the luggage wagon.
        It was a bit like sitting in a cupboard.
        But there was a lounge, cum dining car, buy onboard food and drinks. This was shared with the “sit ups” in the reclining seats carriages. These were very largely Australian pensioners redeeming their annual heavily discounted train pass. “Fogies on Bogies”
        Without the pensioner subsidy, this class no longer exists on this service.

        There was also the Kangaroo Gold Class, in bigger ensuite cabins, fully catered, but significantly more expensive.

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