Sunday, 15 November 2015

It took 10 years to fundraise the more than $60,000 required to relocate the classic railcar...

In the main centres rail heritage projects are quite big and well supported, but in rural areas like most other things, funding is very hard to come by.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

NZTA now able to consent local authority cycleways

So here we have the conflict exposed between central and local government over the development of projects like cycleways. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Rail ferries - miracle or myth?

NZ was very late to introduce a rail ferry service. The Aramoana didn't enter service until 1962. Prior to that, freight was carried between the North and South islands by other coastal shipping services, most notably the Union Steamship Company's overnight ferries between Wellington and Lyttelton.

In NZ central government has tended to focus on running the state owned railway network for its own political priorities competing against regional interests. There have been many cases where the state railway network has been used to undercut the operations of regional ports for example. This is a key driver in the present competition between many regional ports around New Zealand and drives the debate over the reinstatement or suspension of the Napier to Gisborne railway line, although in all these present day cases central government is taking a back seat and letting the different ports slug it out amongst themselves for the traffic.

At that time NZ Railways had a long distance freight near-monopoly although there were significant levels of exemption and the exempt services used shipping to move freight between the islands. The introduction of the rail ferries was highly dependent on the NZR freight near-monopoly to guarantee its success and also enabled the reach of this near-monopoly to be extended by making it easier for NZR to keep freight on its network as they became their own coastal shipping operator. This therefore was a time when NZR entered a new era of undercutting regional freight services. The Wellington-Lyttelton ferry services are a key example of this, within 14 years of the commencement of the rail ferry operations, the Union Company wrapped up its overnight service and sold off the last ship the Rangatira.

Things have changed a lot since deregulation with lots of freight going by road and also there being another competing ferry operation. Kiwirail has phased out all of its rail ferries except the Aratere although there is a lot of container freight being transshipped at Spring Creek and Wellington onto road trailers to be loaded on a road ferry for the Cook Strait crossing. Coastal shipping has taken over from rail many years ago for things like bulk petroleum and cement products. Coastal shipping can compete effectively with rail and road transport and New Zealand is fortunate to have most of its population located close to major ports.

The potential for coastal shipping to offer viable alternatives to land transport has been highlighted in the policies of Labour and the Greens which propose it as an alternative to investment in land transport infrastructure, whereas NZ First proposes an increase in rail infrastructure.