Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Goldfields restores Waitekauri bridge

This is from FRONZ Journal No.171

The bridge is a Howe truss, and typical bridges of this type which still exist around the country combine steel and wooden components. There are not very many of these Howe trusses left on active railways around the country, but there are a number in preservation.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Repairs on Napier-Gisborne Line Bridge 290 (Waipaoa River)


This article was clipped from the FRONZ journal No.169 September 2017.

This may well have been overtaken by the change of government and focus on possible re-opening of the Gisborne line by the Labour-NZ First-Green coalition government.

Labour's policy for this line stated it could re-open if found to be sustainable. There is no real information that I can find on what the policy being adopted by the coalition government is.

The situation for the line is that with its low level of viability almost since the day it opened the condition at any one time has been at a relatively low standard and this is simply a fact of reality of the priority for resourcing within the national railway network. If the new government chooses to increase funding to enable the line to be restored and maintained further, they also need to accept that the work does not simply consist of repairing the washouts which have occurred in multiple locations. This blog details the original four locations that were reported on when the line was mothballed in 2012 and more recent aerial photography has shown up quite a lot of other damage in places.

To ensure the line can continue operation, if it is fully reopened, the future maintenance needs will need to be addressed also. For the last 30 years long-term maintenance has been patchy, resulting in extended periods of closure to remediate problems. This makes it difficult to keep customers happy when the services can be disrupted for a long period of time. The areas that would need to be addressed include weatherproofing over a large section of the Whareratas part which needs extra maintenance due to being on unstable land, and the general condition of Bridge 290 which has been allowed to deteriorate since it was damaged by Cyclone Bola in 1988. The underlying background to all of these things is insufficient revenue if there is not enough freight being hauled to cover costs.

The question of forestry slash flowing down off the hillsides and blocking culverts also needs to be addressed with the forestry industry and there should also be a review of whether forestry over the Wharerata Hills should be commercially exploited, given the poor condition of some of this land the forests should be put into the conservation estate.

GCVR has had to undertake maintenance of the section they are allowed to run on over the last few years. The reality is that this situation is the same as for any heritage railway in the country, few of whom can expect to have their maintenance costs paid for free of charge.

The coalition government has suggested rail tourism is a means of helping to increase the viability of the rail network. It remains to be seen if this is the case. Certainly the services being operated would probably have to be put onto a much more commercial footing with more frequent operation to capture a volume of tourist traffic. The market for long distance trains travelling the entire length of the railway is probably going to be limited, compared to a daily train operation over a shorter distance.

Peketahi combined bridge being de-railed

This article is from the FRONZ journal No.163 published earlier this year.

The bridge as it stands was first constructed with the opening of the ECMT extension to Taneatua in the late 1920s and was a combined structure from the outset. With the closure of the branch line many years ago it has only been used for road traffic. It would seem rather unlikely the line will ever be reinstated and although technically just mothballed, with the passing years more and more of it progressively has disappeared. A section of track is currently operated by Awakeri Rail Adventures.

Sea Change shipping policy dusted off

So here is the right time to have another look at what is in this document, since it was put together by the previous Labour government nine years ago.

The heading on the introduction page reads as follows

"In New Zealand only 15 percent of our inter-regional domestic freight is currently transported by sea. For an island nation, with a long coastline and rugged landforms, this seems anomalous."

The key selling points of the strategy break down to:


  • Reducing greenhouse emissions due to the increased efficiency of coastal shipping over surface modes.
  • Resilience to increased fuel costs because of the higher fuel efficiency.
  • That shipping requires relatively little infrastructure compared to the expensive cost of building and maintaining roads or rail tracks. 
Key in the fuel efficiency argument is that shipping moves 90% of freight volume while producing only 5% of the CO2 output. Overall, shipping is about twice as fuel efficient as rail, and between 5 to 10 times more efficient than road transport.

The report suggests that by 2040, 30% of domesitc freight should be moving around the country on coastal shipping. Currently about 15% does, including the Cook Strait ferries.

The report also highlights that ports need to be rationalised. Shipping companies expect to serve a country like NZ with fewer port calls in the future, for example with maybe one major port in each island, but it might be that different shipping lines use different major ports.


That is about as far as the document goes in suggesting how more freight should be moving coastally by ship.

Both Labour and Greens have overall supported the SeaChange report. However, the specifics of each party's policies differ. Labour had at the recent election two lines of policy, one of which referred directly to SeaChange and the other promised a ports strategy particularly for the upper North Island. What Labour hasn't committed to is actually implementing changes like reorganising ports. The Greens policy is also light on detail in this area.


Friday, 8 December 2017

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [6]: Ports and Coastal Shipping

Comment

Coastal Freight Strategy

The Sea Change strategy was first introduced in the final year of the previous Labour government. It recognises that coastal shipping can play a much greater role in bulk freight transport around New Zealand than is currently the case. given the proximity of most major population centres to the coastline and the long thin shape of the country. A key aspect of this policy is that coastal shipping is likely to be competitive against rail transport for significant bulk freight between two ports and therefore the development of such services is a worthwhile alternative to expending significant funds on new rail development projects.

Let's look at an example: regional freight transport needs in the Eastland region. Historically a part of these needs for about 70 years was met by the now-closed Napier to Gisborne rail line. While significant the rail line has never carried large volumes of freight, partly because Gisborne is served by highway routes going north as well as south, and because of the major port at Tauranga not being equipped with a direct rail connection to Gisborne. A historical proposal to develop a rail line between Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty has never been realised and is unlikely to be in future. Hence when Labour has said the case for the line needs to be sustainable they are in some measure reflecting on the difficult economics of the Napier-Gisborne line and the viable alternatives.

The Napier-Gisborne rail line is difficult to justify the continued operation of because of high maintenance costs and a low level of population between the two extremities. It is possible that logging traffic out of Wairoa for shipping from Napier might be worthwhile by rail as this part of the route has been much easier to maintain over the historical life of the railway and is in much better shape than points further north where nearly all the maintenance cash has historically gone.

In the Gisborne region there are many forests that are nowhere near a rail line and will not benefit from any developments on the NGL, unless it is considered necessary to ship logs south to Napier for export or processing. At present several processing facilities exist or are being built in Gisborne for the export wood trade. Logging is a bulk freight that is quite cost sensitive and it is not a given that all the logs should be transported to Napier for shipping when coastal freight services can be and in fact are currently operated in conjunction with Port of Tauranga. Logging ships often call into Gisborne to load from empty before heading north to Tauranga to finish loading and head to their overseas destination because Gisborne has limited shipping draught. Logging traffic through Port of Gisborne has developed in a major way over the past 30 years and volume continues to increase.

Likewise some of the other types of traffic that have been touted for the re-opening of the NGL are currently being handled by ship, these include the squash traffic to Japan and kiwifruit from the Gisborne region. The latter in particular has followed the international trend of eschewing containerised transport in favour of specialised reefer ships owing to the increased efficiency and resulting eco-friendly advantages. This means the alternative of railing containers of kiwifruit to Gisborne is not as guaranteed as some claim. At present reefers come into Gisborne to take a full load of kiwifruit for overseas markets. These are other examples of how coastal shipping can be more viable than rail.

Port of Tauranga is well placed to serve the Gisborne region from coastal shipping services. It has in recent years operated a coastal container service from Timaru making that port able to compete for international freight against Christchurch and Dunedin. As the same ships currently sail past Gisborne on their route between Tauranga and Timaru it would be easy to implement port calls at Gisborne to shift containers of freight to/from Tauranga, or alternatively have a separate weekly service in operation. There are currently no container services operating at the Port of Gisborne.

Ports Strategy

A national ports strategy is a long overdue concept. It is unlikely however that a Labour government will be willing to rationalise the major ports as there is likely to be significant political cost in so doing.

This policy addresses some of the following considerations:

  • Calls for Northport to be developed as an alternative to Auckland and to take over all the freight transport from Auckland.
  • The need for the larger regional ports to invest in development to handle larger ships and other significant financial expenditures.
Currently in the North Island the major freight ports are at Northport, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington and Taranaki. Taranaki is the only one of these which does not have any container services at present. In addition, Port of Gisborne is a significant regional port in Eastland. 

Due to agitation at local level in Auckland against the increased development of the port in the Waitemata Harbour the Auckland Council has been forced to consider alternative sites for a new port and this has also led to the situation where Northland interests have suggested the port at Marsden Point could replace the existing Port of Auckland operation. However Auckland Council is not likely to agree to such a strategy and is looking at sites within the Auckland region as being more suitable. Relocating the port of Auckland operations to Northport would impose additional haulage and environmental costs due to the greater expense of moving freight in that volume by rail and would also require massive investment in the rail link between the two centres totalling billions of dollars. This has to be contrasted with the alternatives of coastal freight transport which of course is how most freight already reaches Auckland. 

For the rest of the North Island it is a question of how best to serve areas and which port they should be served from. The key question here is the service of the area from Tauranga to Wellington. At present Port of Tauranga competes with Napier and Napier competes with Wellington. The west coast up to Taranaki is a different scenario altogether, and is impacted by the relative lack of shipping services up that side of the country. Because most of the ports in New Zealand are on or close to the east coast, shipping services can prioritise the east coast for movements between ports and therefore east coast ports have an advantage. This would be also a major consideration should Manukau or another west coast site be chosen as an alternative for the Port of Auckland in the future.

The competition between Tauranga and Napier is evident in the proposals by Napier to reopen the Napier-Gisborne railway line to move freight to and from Gisborne. Gisborne has long been served by road and rail transport alternatives from the north and its position roughly between the two regional centres as well as its own significant port operation (not seen anywhere else in NZ at present for this size of population) makes coastal shipping via Tauranga a viable alternative to Napier based shipping services. Napier also lacks significant freight infrastructure such as full container cranes that means their throughput of handling containers is slower than ports like Wellington that have the historical high volumes of container volume and resultant infrastructure.

Given the existence of viable rail services between most regions the following rationalisation of ports in the North Island is realistic:
  • International container ports for the North Island be at Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington as these centres already have the infrastructure developed or in place to handle large shipping volumes. Auckland is subject to the development of an alternative West Coast site.
  • Feeder services by coastal shipping or rail from secondary ports or centres such as Napier, Gisborne, Northland, Taranaki, Palmerston North and Hamilton.

South Island:
  • The West Coast of the South Island has never had a viable international deep water port development. It seems unlikely the government will agree to fund one in future. Rail is a very expensive alternative given the long distances involved that limits the economic potential of the West Coast. However successive governments seem to accept that the West Coast is not going to be a future economic centre of major importance that justifies a port development.
  • Rail development between Nelson and the West Coast makes more sense than New Zealand First's proposed Picton-Blenheim route. This would give access to Port of Nelson for freight volume from the West Coast. However there is no distance advantage for the West Coast compared to Lyttelton. This means that a rail link for Nelson is very unlikely to ever be developed.
  • There are three major East Coast ports all competing for freight. It is questionable that all of these facilities are needed and Lyttelton should be prioritised over the Timaru and Dunedin ports given the need for facilities for new large container vessels. 
  • Port of Nelson is in a different position as they have no rail link to any other port. Coastal services from this port to other ports such as Picton and Wellington is quite viable to serve either Nelson or Marlborough regional freight needs.


Ports and Coastal Shipping

Labour will:
  • As part of a national freight strategy, develop a national ports strategy with a particular focus on the upper north island.
  • Refresh and move to implement the ‘Sea Change’ strategy to revitalise Coastal shipping.

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [5]: Walking and cycling

Comment
Urban cycling and walking (pedestrian) facilities are often the poor cousin in roading projects in cities and towns. It is highly desirable to have these facilities prioritised to allow these alternative health and environmentally friendly modes to be developed.

There also needs to be policies that address the regional cycleways which remain under threat from rural councils with limited foresight to the tourism benefits that these projects have brought.


Investing in walking and cycling


Our communities are more vibrant, liveable places when people can move around them on foot or by cycle. Active transport is good for our health and good for our environment. 
Yet, the amount people walk and cycle has fallen over several decades. Worse, as walking and cycling has decreased it has become more dangerous for those that do, with 28 pedestrians killed this year and the risk of being hit by a car per kilometre travelled rising for cyclists.
Good infrastructure can reduce or eliminate the danger by separating people who are walking or cycling from motorised traffic. In recent years, some good progress has been made on this. Auckland’s Lightpath has become an iconic example of modern, safe cycle and walking infrastructure. The share of trips taken by bicycle or on foot is rising in Auckland.
More projects like that are needed around the country to further increase the number of people choosing active transport.

Labour will:
  • make it easier and safer to walk or cycle in our communities by committing more funding to urban cycleways, active neighbourhoods projects, and the Skypath on Auckland Harbour Bridge.

To do this, Labour will renew the current Urban Cycleways Fund for a further three years. This $100m fund has helped to fund projects such as the Lightpath and Nelson Street cycleway in Auckland and is set to be exhausted by the middle of next year. This extension will mean another $100m is available for the following three years for modern cycleways, separated from traffic.
Labour will also establish a new ‘Active Neighbourhoods’ Fund to complement the Urban Cycleways Fund with $15m a year to invest. This will invite contestable applications for smaller community level projects that will encourage walking or cycling at the local level, for example around schools, shopping areas and community facilities, or public transport hubs.
To create a step-change in walking and cycling accessibility for Auckland, Labour will commit up to $30m for Skypath – a walking and cycling shared path on the city side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The current government has said it supports this project, but has failed to provide the funding needed. 
These projects will mean people can walk and cycle separated from the dangers of motorised traffic. They will save lives and give people confidence that they and their children can walk and cycle in safety.
Countries such as the Netherlands and Germany have shown that investment in safe, separated walking and cycling paths leads to increases in the number of people choosing those transport options. That’s good for our health, it’s good for our environment, and it’s good for our communities.

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [4]: Manawatu Gorge

Comment
None



A fresh solution for the Manawatu Gorge


The Manawatu Gorge Road is iconic and a crucial link between the lower North Island and the East Coast on State Highway 3. But it has become increasingly unreliable and expensive to maintain. It is time for a permanent replacement that travellers and freight companies can rely on.
In the past decade, the Gorge Road has been closed 17 per cent of the time (equivalent to one day in six). Maintenance and clearing slips has cost $40m in that time. This equates to $14,000 per day the road is open, or 30 cents per vehicle/kilometre, compared to 2 cents per vehicle/kilometre for the state highway network as a whole.
With the latest slips and the threat of more to come, it is not clear if the Gorge Road could ever be reopened. If it was reopened the expense of keeping it open would only continue to mount.
While the Saddle Road is used by most traffic when the gorge is closed, it is not built to handle heavy vehicles, and its grade increases wear and fuel costs for trucks. The Saddle Road also sends high amounts of traffic through Ashhurst.
Although the need for a permanent replacement for the Gorge Road has been clear since the 2011/12 closure, the current Government has continued to refuse to commit to a solution. That leaves the local economy losing $62,000 a day every time the Gorge Road is closed – that has cost a total of $37m over the past decade.

Labour will:
• commit to funding a permanent, resilient replacement for the Manawatu Gorge Road. This is most likely to be the proposed Te Apiti route, subject to the final decision being made by NZTA
• make the process of building a new road as quick as possible to restore a quality link.

A new road is the only solution that will preserve the vital link from the lower North Island to the East Coast. It will be built as quickly as possible, using the powers available to the Government to speed up consenting and planning, and ensuring funding is immediately available.
The new road will be designed to handle the particularly high level of heavy vehicles that use the route, with grades that trucks can handle.
In 2012, the Te Apiti route was estimated to cost $120m and have a Benefit:Cost Ratio of 1.5, making it the most affordable option with the best return on investment. Options for a tunnel and bridging were assessed as much more expensive. Experts will determine which route is finally chosen.
This investment will be funded from unallocated capital set aside in the Budget.

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [3]: Regional transport

Comments
This policy recognises that even State Highway 1 improvements outside the main centres have been defunded. This has become a theme of National administrations. For example whilst large amounts are being spent on fixing State Highway 1 in North Canterbury after the Waiau earthquake, the option to improve SH1 is being missed (e.g. hairpin bends between Hundalee and Kaikoura) except for some areas that have been directly quake affected.

What has been evident is how regional roads such as lesser highways have been affected as well. For example the new bridges across the Waitaki River at Kurow, the Ashley River bridge at Rangiora and the Waimakariri River bridge at Bealey on SH72 to Arthurs Pass are examples of major projects of this type that should have been given much greater priority. State Highway 2 between Napier and Gisborne is another highway that needs significant improvement, the Matahorua realignment that was approved by Labour towards the end of its previous term probably would never have happened under National, while the Devils Elbow south of Tutira is long overdue to be addressed.

The road toll is likely to have increased significantly as a result of this failure to address roading needs in the regions over the past nine years. There are also a number of regions where heavy traffic such as logging trucks operates on unsealed roads that are not fit for purpose and which create significant health risks for local residents from dust.


Regional transport funding


Our regions’ roads are coming under increasing pressure, particularly from heavy traffic and tourism. Funding has not kept up with need. Roads are poorly maintained and in need of upgrading.
The road toll in the regions has risen sharply in recent years – up 40% outside of Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury in the past three years.
Despite this, NZTA funding outside the three main centres has been effectively stagnant for nine years.
Important regional transport projects are struggling to gain funding because only $70-$140m a year is set aside for them in the current Government Policy Statement.

Labour will:
  • make more funding available for transport projects of regional importance by doubling the funding range of $70-$140m to $140-$280m.

This funding will be available for transport projects outside major metropolitan areas which show a regional economic benefit. Projects will include upgrades of regional state highways or, in partnership with local government, significant regional roads.
Labour is keen to work with councils to co-fund projects that would otherwise be delayed or not be built at all.
All regions will be able to benefit from this additional investment. There will be a particular focus on improvements to fix accident black spots and reduce the road toll.

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [2]: General Rail Transport

Comments

The best parts of these policies include:

  • Regional rapid passenger rail in the Golden Triangle
  • Commuter rail to Christchurch
  • Improvements in bus services in North Canterbury
  • Halt de-electrification of the NIMT
  • Develop a congestion-free network for Wellington
  • Investigate the North Auckland line spur to Marsden Point and upgrade the entire route to take trucks off the roads.


Questionable parts of these policies include:

  • Given the many studies that have been done on urban passenger transport in Christchurch it should have been possible to commit to a much greater level of commuter train service development. (Around $200 million would be needed to fund full development across all of the Christchurch rail network)
  • Reopening the Napier-Gisborne line is questionable given its poor track record its entire life of high construction and maintenance costs and low traffic volumes, and the availability of other transport modes such as coastal shipping to provide an alternative and much less costly means of moving large volumes of freight out of Gisborne. Labour's policy adds the condition that the service must be sustainable, which seems to recognise that the Napier-Gisborne line could well struggle to make a viable business case.


Rapid Rail in the Golden Triangle


The ‘Golden Triangle’, comprising Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga and their surrounding regions, is home to two and a half million people, our two largest ports, and our largest airport. The regions within the Golden Triangle account for half of the economy.
The Golden Triangle’s growth is set to continue with a further 800,000 people projected to be living in the area by 2043 – accounting for three-quarters of  New Zealand’s population growth in the next 25 years and lifting the Golden Triangle’s population to three and a quarter million. 
To make the most of this growth, we need the cities and towns to be connected with a fast, reliable transport system to move commuters, tourists, and freight.

Labour will:
  • create a passenger rail service linking Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga and, if justified by demand, upgrade it in stages to a rapid rail network throughout the Golden Triangle.

The Regional Rapid Rail report lays out a plan to create a regional rail network based around the existing lines with fast passenger and freight services that will take pressure off the roads, re-vitalise small towns on the routes, and super-charge economic growth in the region.
The plan lays out three stages, starting with a passenger service that will offer a journey time of three and a half hours from Tauranga once per day, and just over two hours from Hamilton four times per day. Trains will go through to Auckland’s Ōtāhuhu station, where passengers will connect to the Auckland commuter network. 
To support the first stage of the Regional Rapid Rail plan, Labour is committing $10m of capital funding. An additional $10m of operational funding will be allocated over five years.
Following proof-of-concept in the first stage, and if demand justifies it after an independent business case, Labour will look to invest in the second and third stages.
The second stage would see new tilt-trains, and upgrades of stations, signals, and crossings to allow greater speeds. In the third stage, new lines would be opened extending the network to Rotorua and regional towns, and a new tunnel would be constructed through the Bombay Hills. Ultimately, a network with speeds of up to 160km/h for passengers and freight, connecting Tauranga to Auckland’s Britomart station in two and a quarter hours, would be achieved.
Our rapid rail solution for the Golden Triangle underlines Labour’s commitment to funding 21st century transport solutions to cater for population growth and economic development in New Zealand.

Investing in public transport for Greater Christchurch


Labour will invest in infrastructure to support the long-term growth and prosperity of Greater Christchurch.
Cantabrians have seen dramatic changes in the years following the earthquakes, with unexpected population growth in some areas and significant economic development in others. After nine years in office, National has failed to make the investments needed to keep up with these changes and a growing population.
This is causing increasing congestion in the city. Congestion now adds 29 minutes a day to the average commute. Only three per cent of commuters in Greater Christchurch take public transport to work, compared to seven percent in Auckland and 12 per cent in Wellington.
It’s time for additional public transport infrastructure to reduce congestion on our roads and better link major centres of population with central Christchurch.

Labour will:
Commit an additional $100m from the National Land Transport Fund in capital investment to Greater Christchurch multi-modal public transport, including commuter rail from Rolleston to the CBD as a first step. We’ll work with local authorities and other partners on a 21st century strategic multi-modal transport plan for Greater Christchurch.
Restoring commuter rail in Christchurch has been proposed since before the earthquakes. The shift in population and resulting congestion has increased the need to utilise the existing rail tracks as an inexpensive means of boosting Greater Christchurch’s transport capacity.
The first step will be a commuter rail service between Rolleston and the CBD. Rolleston’s population more than tripled between 2006 and 2016. Traffic volumes on the Southern Motorway are rising at five per cent a year.
The Rolleston to CBD commuter rail will use the existing rail corridor with new and renovated stations, with double-tracking where needed. The first step will see rail come into the Addington station with buses available from there to the rest of the CBD. This will be a permanent service, not the expensive temporary service that has previously been considered. The network will be expanded over time as suitable.
Along with commuter rail, the $100m investment will be available to support infrastructure for buses and bus feeder services as determined through consultation with local councils. These investments will ease congestion and open up areas like Rolleston, Rangiora, Kaiapoi for residential and commercial development. In combination with KiwiBuild, these investments will spark revitalisation of suburban town centres.
As the upgraded commuter rail systems in Auckland and Wellington have proven, there is huge latent demand for this option. With congestion worsening in Greater Christchurch, now is the time to unlock the railways for commuters.
This forms part of Labour’s plan to take a breather on migration and speed up infrastructure investment throughout the country until our cities can cope with demand.

Wellington network plan

Labour will:
  • Develop a Congestion Free Network plan and fast-track a feasibility study on rapid transit to the airport, which considers light rail. 

Regional and long-distance rail

Labour will:
  • Instruct Kiwirail to retain an electrified network between Hamilton and Palmerston North and work on an evidence-based plan to progressively electrify other key parts of the network.
  • Re-open moth-balled railway lines where community and business support exists, and there is evidence that the service would be sustainable, notably the Napier to Gisborne rail line.
  • investigate a rail line to Marsden Point and Northport and upgrading the North Auckland Line to take pressure off the roads in Northland.

Labour's 2017 campaign transport policies [1] - Auckland Transport

Here are the detailed policy promises for transport made by the Labour Party in the 2017 election campaign.

Auckland Transport

Probably the best parts of this policy are:

  • Light rail from the CBD to the airport.
  • BRT from Howick to the airport
  • Increasing the electric train services etc
  • Increasing cross town bus services
Questionable aspects of the policy include:
  • Auckland Regional fuel tax. This should be called what it is - a rates increase by another name, since almost everyone depends on motor vehicles to move around the city at some point. In addition, economists have estimated the tax will cost everyone an average of $10 a week and that it will be a regressive tax affecting the poor. Congestion charging should be implemented instead.

Auckland’s population grew 14 per cent between 2008/09 and 2015/16, with a 16 per cent increase in state highway traffic volumes and a 35 per cent increase in public transport boardings in the region. Yet spending via the New Zealand Transport Agency on new and improved transport infrastructure in Auckland hasn’t increased.
Congestion has worsened dramatically in recent years and costs Auckland nearly $2b a year. Average speeds at peak times have fallen nearly 10km/h since 2014. Delaying projects that would reduce congestion is a false economy. The cost of doing nothing is too high for Aucklanders and for business.
It’s time to accelerate investment in Auckland transport.

Labour will:
  • Build light rail from the CBD to Auckland Airport. This will be part of a new light rail network that will be built over the next decade with routes to the central suburbs, the airport, and West Auckland, and will later be extended to the North Shore
  • Build a new Bus Rapid Transit line from Howick to the airport, starting with a bus service which will connect Puhinui and Manukau train stations to the airport in one year
  • Invest in more electric trains, electrification to Pukekohe, and building a third main trunk line urgently between Westfield and Papakura
  • Build a range of significant cross-town bus priority routes including New Lynn-Flat Bush, Point Chevalier-Botany, Silverdale-Whangaparaoa, and Howick-Glenfield
  • Allow Auckland Council to collect a regional fuel tax to fund the acceleration of these investments, along with infrastructure bonds and targeted rates to capture value uplift.

These projects will ease congestion, reducing wasted time and fuel costs. They will make our biggest city an even better place to live. Getting more people on to high-quality public transport will unclog our roads.
Rail to the airport is crucial for Auckland’s future growth. Waiting 30 years is simply not an option given the congestion that exists on the roads already. A world-class city in the 21st century needs a rail connection from its CBD to its airport.
This policy revises the Auckland Transport Alignment Plan and adds additional projects laid out in the Congestion Free Network plan. In total, there will be an extra $3.3b investment, comprising both new and accelerated projects over the next 20 years.
Light rail network and heavy rail improvements will be brought forward from the second and third decades into the first decade. Light rail to Mt Roskill will take four years to build, with the lines through to the airport and West Auckland completed within a decade. New bus improvement projects will also be carried out in the first decade. In the second decade, we will expand the light rail network to the North Shore.
Costs will be avoided by building the airport and North Western routes as light rail from the start, rather than initially doing bus improvements. Some lower-value projects will be delayed and the cost of the East-West Link will be reduced by adopting an option with a better benefit to cost ratio, saving $1.2b.
Labour will invest a net $2.1b extra in Auckland transport infrastructure. These increased investments and the existing funding gap in the ATAP will be met with new funding sources. A Regional Fuel Tax is forecast to raise $160m a year at 10 cents a litre. Labour will give Auckland Council the ability to use new methods of funding infrastructure, like infrastructure bonds and targeted rates.
Labour's Improvements to Auckland Transport Alignment Plan:
Projects accelerated to the next ten years: 
  • Light rail - CBD to Central Suburbs and airport
  • Light rail - CBD to West Auckland 
  • Bus Rapid Transit - Howick to the airport 
  • Third rail line - Westfield to Papakura 
  • Additional electric trains 
  • Better value for money East-West Link
New projects in the next ten years:
  • Bus priority route - New Lynn to Flat Bush 
  • Bus priority route - Point Chevalier to Botany 
  • Bus priority route - Silverdale to Whangaparaoa
  • Bus priority route - Howick to Glenfield
Projects accelerated to the second decade:
  • Light rail - CBD to North Shore 
  • Further rail improvements 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Maori Party's "IwiRail" proposal (2017 election)

There is not much available about this policy, it was detailed in the policy launch at the below site.
http://www.maoriparty.org/iwirail_launch

Overall, the policy appears to borrow significantly from New Zealand First's regional development policy proposals.

The detail in the policy is really limited to comments about rail lines in Gisborne, including a proposal to connect Gisborne to Kawerau with a new rail line. This is likely to be a rehash of the ancient Gisborne-Opotiki proposals (which became in part the Moutohora Branch, closed in 1959).

The Moutohora Branch proposal was canned in 1959 by Labour. It had been under serious consideration for decades at that time. The government of that period essentially sent the signal that it would not ever be a priority for completion. Although from time to time the proposal is refloated, it isn't very likely to ever happen.

The Māori Party unveiled a new plan today aimed at supporting isolated communities and businesses in the regions to get their goods to market, create jobs and open up opportunities for them to participate in the country’s economy.
“Rail was built to bring people together and to get goods in and out but that’s not happening in the regions. For far too long our regions have suffered and our people have been forced to move overseas. We say its time to stop the braindrain – bring on IwiRail,”says Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“Rail was built on the backs of our ancestors, on Māori land,” says Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox. “One of the key focuses of IwiRail is to bring back the 15,000 rail jobs and apprenticeships which existed before the Labour Government put a hatchet to rail in the mid-1980s,” says Ms Fox.

“This is a gateway of opportunities for iwi because it’ll bring them to the table and unleash untapped potential – potential good for not only Māori, but this nation and its economy,” says Māori Party president Tukoroirangi Morgan.
The plan has the potential to inject $1 billion into the regions and create faster and better connected rail links to boost tourism and job creation.

Connecting Gisborne to the East Coast Main Trunkline in Kawerau and bringing back the moth-balled Napier-Gisborne rail link alone could bring back more than a thousand rail jobs to the coast, according to Mrs Fox.
“The increased economic activity projected for the IwiRail network, which will include a high-speed rail corridor, could indirectly generate thousands of new jobs across our regions by 2025,” says Ms Fox.

About $350-$450 million will be needed to make the plan happen and Mrs Fox said that’s more then possible as that’s only 12% of what the Government currently spends on transport.

NZ First’s “Railways of National Importance” policy platform (2017) [3]

Here are the last few bits of the programme and the statements of what Kiwirail should be structured as.

11. New suburban services
New suburban passenger train services will be investigated for Christchurch, Dunedin, Tauranga and between Hamilton and Auckland.
This includes an initial investigation into establishing suburban passenger train services in Christchurch, Dunedin, Tauranga and between Hamilton and Auckland using Auckland’s surplus diesel rolling stock immediately following the introduction of electric services in Auckland.
For Christchurch this could cost up to $200 million. There's doubt that Dunedin is big enough to warrant suburban train services being reinstated after a 35 year gap.
12. Rail siding grant scheme
New Zealand First will introduce a grant scheme to encourage greater use of rail transport by industry and by distribution centres, where the cost of installing or re-commissioning rail sidings will be met 50/50 by the businesses using the rail siding and the New Zealand Railways Corporation.
New Railways structure proposed by NZ First
KiwiRail would be restructured by splitting it into three new  organisations:
1. New Zealand Railways Corporation - owning and managing rail land, tracks and infrastructure, stations and rail-freight centres, shunting yards, workshops, train control systems, managing and maintaining the rail network, allocating access to the rail network for rail operating companies, setting rail training standards and qualifications, and acting as the rail regulator and licence agency.
2. Kiwi Rail - operating rail passenger services between all main centres, and operating the Interisland ferries.
3. Rail Freight – a new State Owned Enterprise operating a commercial rail freight business.
To have a commercial rail freight business implies open access or competition for rail freight operations. This will see the same challenges as currently occur in road transport where intense and rapacious competition between operators see safety standards widely flouted and accident rates increasing. Kiwirail is already under pressure to cut costs and such a move will not do anything to reduce this pressure.

Overall, the policy on "Railways of National Significance" seems to have limited reporting and detail available. There have been a few speeches by Winston Peters referring to it, but as I noted the detail appears to be missing in action.

NZ First’s "Railways of National Importance” policy platform (2017) [2]

Again these are the statements of what these projects are, from 2014. I have not been able to find any detail anywhere about the policies; unlike other parties, the NZ First party does not have detailed policy documents on its website.

Now looking into more detail of various RONI projects. My comments are basically unaltered from three years ago.
1. North Auckland  and Marsden Point Line
Northland needs good rail connections to the rest of New Zealand if it is to grow. That means upgrading the Auckland to Whangarei line. Good rail links to Northland means developing a rail link from the main line to Marsden Point port, which has great advantages as a deepwater harbour that does not require dredging. There is also plenty of land for expansion.  There is great scope for it to serve as a container port and take pressure off Auckland and Tauranga. The potential of the Port of Northland for the region, as well as for the country as a whole, is being strangled by lack of an effective rail link.
2. Rolling Electrification Programme
New Zealand First proposes an on-going rail electrification programme to use the skills and expertise built up in the current Auckland suburban rail electrification project. The first project will be to extend electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe. Other potential projects to be investigated include electrification between Auckland and Hamilton, Hamilton and Tauranga, and extending electrification north from Waikanae and from Upper Hutt to Masterton. Many other projects for electrification would follow in later years:

- Lyttelton-Christchurch-Greymouth.
- Christchurch suburban area.
- Picton-Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill.
3. Regional Opportunities
Funds will be made available for smaller capital investment opportunities that KiwiRail is unable to fund given its current funding constraints.
In particular, $4m will be used reinstate the Napier –Gisborne line as soon as possible.
The long term costs of reinstating the Gisborne line are much greater than this relatively small amount for a one-off reinstatement. 
4. Cook Strait Ferries
The Cook Strait Ferry service and vessels will be funded for upgrades to ensure a high quality fast reliable and safe service for freight and passengers.
5. Auckland-Pokeno-Paeroa-Te Aroha-Tauranga-Whakatane
A new line to be built along the rail formation between Pokeno-Paeroa-Te Aroha, a new line to be built between Te Aroha and the western portal of the Kaimai tunnel and a new line to be built between Awakeri and Whakatane, all combined creating a shorter and more direct rail route into the Bay of Plenty.
The Pokeno-Paeroa line was never more than some formation works as it was never brought into operation. The same (small) saving in distance over the existing route to Tauranga could easily be achieved by the much cheaper expedient of moving the existing ECMT junction from Frankton to Taupiri. Awakeri-Whakatane is basically the old siding to the Whakatane Board Mills, but also needs the reinstatement of the Taneatua Branch to Awakeri.
6. Auckland-Hamilton-Tokoroa-Rotorua-Taupo
A new line to be built between Kinleith-Rotorua-Taupo primarily for forestry traffic, as well as for general freight and passengers.
7. Nelson-Blenheim
A new line to be built between Blenheim and Nelson, completing this long proposed project for freight and passengers.        
Nelson never had a through railway at any time in its history. 
8. Auckland International Airport
A new line to be built to link the Auckland International Airport with the rail system. The proposed new integrated terminal at Auckland (like that built at Christchurch International Airport) is already being designed to accommodate a rail terminal within the building.
Debate continues over the best railway system for Auckland. Light rail is a viable alternative as it is difficult to get airport passengers to use public transport.

9. Auckland City Rail Link
Build the Auckland City Rail Link tunnel project under central Auckland as soon as possible, jointly funded with the Auckland Council.
Already underway in Auckland City.
10. Northland
New lines to be built to link the rail system with ports in Northland between Oakleigh and Northport at Marsden Point, and Otiria and Opua in the Bay of Islands.
Marsden Point and Opua are two different systems. Opua is a much smaller port, why would rail to there be important.

NZ First "Railways of National Importance" (2017) [1]

This is a post about the 2014 policy. It is a republishing of a previous article with some updates by me. I have not received any new information about the policy as it is difficult to find very much about it. Below is the actual statement of policy as it was listed in 2014. The next part of this series will address some of the points raised.

  • New Zealand First will ensure that none of New Zealand’s railway lines and other strategic railways infrastructure will be privatised, and will remain under state control and ownership to ensure that public service rather than commercial objectives is the paramount consideration.
  • New Zealand First’s vision includes passenger train services along all rail routes between the main centres, with connecting coach services linking outlying areas or running services between centres which don't have a railway line. These services would provide a mixture of accommodation standards and fares to make rail services more affordable for New Zealanders to use e.g. half the carriages to be high standard premium fare similar to that provided on current KiwiRail tourist focussed trains such as the Northern Explorer and Tranz Alpine services, and the other half of the carriages being basic, affordable economy fare intercity market, e.g. railcars would have one premium carriage and one economy carriage. The Silver Fern railcars, former Overlander carriages and Silver Star carriages could be appropriately refurbished and upgraded locally in railway workshops to operate daytime regional Intercity services. Fast modern railcars and new carriages, New Zealand built where possible, could later be purchased for certain routes.
  • As a state-owned enterprise, KiwiRail is currently heavily constrained because it is required to pay for the maintenance, renewal and upgrade of rail infrastructure through the revenue generated from its freight and other businesses.
  • New Zealand’s rail network is a national asset that must be developed to optimise its long term role in support of New Zealand’s economy and of an efficient and cost effective multi-modal and well integrated transport system.
  • New Zealand First will develop a programme of railways of national importance (RONI) to ensure that better use of our railway network and services are achieved, with improvements and extensions where there is opportunity to significantly reduce dependence on the roading network, especially for heavy freight and bulk freight services, but also where passenger services can be redeveloped to attract sufficient demand over time.
  • To this end New Zealand First will not require the whole cost of development of new railway tracks and services, and of electric reticulation, to be met by revenue generated by railway service charges; and these will instead be met in whole or in part by a combination of Land Transport Fund funding and crown grants.
  • The Land Transport Fund funding will be achieved by reallocating funding from the current RONS $12 billion plus programme. An initial budget of $400 million would be created by reprioritising Roads of National Significance (RONS) projects that have low or marginal benefits.
  • The rail routes listed below would form the basis of the core transport network between the main centres with daily passenger and freight services, and with the tracks being upgraded or new lines built as required, together with new transport interchanges between trains and buses, and freight hubs in all the main centres:
    • Auckland-Whangarei-Opua
    • Auckland-Pokeno-Paeroa-Te Aroha-Tauranga-Whakatane
    • Auckland-Hamilton-Tokoroa-Rotorua-Taupo
    • Auckland-Wellington
    • Wellington-New Plymouth
    • Wellington-Gisborne (via the Wairarapa line)
    • Nelson-Blenheim
    • Christchurch-Greymouth
    • Picton-Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill.

Briefing to Incoming Minister: Kiwirail

The Government has released the BIM documents that show the information that incoming ministers have received on various portfolios and areas of responsibility. This is a summary and commentary on the BIM for Kiwirail, which can be read here.

The Kiwirail BIM is a straightforward document that sets out the history of the organisation and its achievements to date. The most relevant part for policy formation for the incoming document is best located in the sections headed "Challenges" and "Opportunities" on pages 16-17.

The listed challenges include :

  • Digital disruption, including big data, smart data, AI and automation.
  • North Island population growth resulting in increased demand for commuter services.
  • Shifts in international freight flows.
  • Volatile international commodity markets.
  • Environmental and sustainability issues.
  • Reinstating the Main North Line after the Kaikoura Earthquake to its full capacity for customers.
  • Ageing rolling stock impacting the reliability of services.
  • Alignment with unions on strategic priorities to drive productivity.
  • Shareholder alignment on rail policy and funding mechanisms.
  • Competitively servicing the market and providing resilience across Cook Strait.
  • Building risk based systems and worker participation to deliver a step change for health and safety performance.
  • Attracting and retaining talent in a competitive market to mitigate Kiwirail's ageing workforce.
  • Growing use of passenger rail
  • Crucial need of a long term funding profile to support longer term decision making on simplifying the business, standardising assets  and investing in people to support growth strategies.
A summary of the key points could include: the need for funding certainty (subsidies), commuter and passenger service capability, maintaining rolling stock, attracting young people to work for Kiwirail.

While opportunities include:
  • Domestic freight market modal share growth
  • New freight sectors such as fuel transportation
  • Inland hubs/IMEX ports
  • Maximising property less revenue and divesting non-rail required land
  • HPHE with unions to drive productivity engagements
  • Regional commuter rail services such as Auckland to Hamilton
  • Common user terminal approach for Cook Strait ferries
  • Auckland Network Integrated Operating Model
  • Highlighting Kiwirail's sustainability story and contribution to regional economies
Some of the issues which are not mentioned and which should be brought into the debate include: Whether the achievements of key development strategies like the Turnaround Plan and Commercial Review have the right balance in terms of commercial strategies and policies for Kiwirail. Examples of key decisions that have been included in these challenges that are open to question include:
  • Reducing capacity in the rail freight ferry operations by choosing not to replace withdrawn rail ferries
  • De-electrifying the North Island Main Trunk
  • Large scale contracting out of key maintenance services such as locomotive and rolling stock overhauls and track construction and maintenance.
It remains to be seen whether the current board is capable of revisiting some of these decisions should the government choose to highlight some of these issues. Kiwirail would probably say the previous administration failed to guarantee enough funding to ensure the historic operational models of these services could be maintained.

The operation of commuter services is largely driven through local government administration of the development and partial funding of them although NZTA funds a percentage of these services. At present Kiwirail does not operate many of these services but does provide the infrastructure they run on.

During the term of the previous administration only a few rail lines were downgraded or stopped operating. Key among them was the Napier to Gisborne line and the North Auckland line. The PNGL is to be considered for re-opening while funding for an upgrade of the North Auckland route has already been announced. The government has announced a focus on regional rail development but it seems unlikely lines like Rotorua Branch and SOL would be re-opened in future.

Kiwirail has claimed that non-rail related land should be divested. A key question is where this land is located. Anything that is either a present day or former rail corridor should not be divested.

Kiwirail is only of a number of transport modes in New Zealand and it remains to be seen what the best fit on a case by case basis will be for a range of different options including road and sea transport.


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Why the Auckland regional petrol tax is a total crock

As we all know the Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff has championed the idea of a regional fuel tax to fund transport projects for Auckland Council. This was rejected by the National government but Labour has kowtowed to the demand. Frankly it is a total crock and the question is why pretend that it is not just another rate under another name. The issue is that everyone will pay it regardless of their circumstances. It has been estimated that it will cost motorists $500 a year each which is about $10 a week. For some people on low incomes that will be a struggle to pay.

But not only that, people who live close to the city limits will be able to avoid paying the tax by driving across the boundary to fill up their cars, and in fact new petrol stations are being set up just outside the Auckland Council boundaries for this very purpose. So it is indeed possible to avoid paying this extra fuel tax.

The question should really go back to the increases in fuel taxes under the National government (another of their broken promises about taxation). Labour has kept very quiet about the fact that by cancelling Roads of National Significance projects they are still collecting this massive windfall of petrol tax that National imposed to pay for these projects. They should actually be funding the transport projects in Auckland themselves now that they are not building so many motorways there.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The St Asaph St controversy and why adding cycle lanes to an existing road can fail

There has been vast controversy over the redesign of Christchurch's St Asaph St to add off-road cycle lanes. A part of this, and the heated discussion over Wellington's Island Bay cycleway, illustrate how difficult it is to add these off road cycleways to an existing road with driveways coming out onto the street where parked cars and buildings close to the kerb can block visibility of the cycle lanes for vehicles turning into and out of these driveways. 

The answer of the traffic planners has been to try to force drivers to slow down by making the turns ever tighter to get in and out of these driveways. This is simply likely to cause problems with vehicles driving over the kerbing if they can't get round the corners. The result will simply be a lot of money spent unnecessarily on repairing these kerbs.

There appears to be insufficient traffic enforcement as a car yard in the street had parked many of their vehicles illegally at the time I visited the site, such as on top of traffic islands. Handing out a few tickets would solve that one. The biggest issue that has not been addressed is the narrowness of both the parking lanes and the traffic lanes.

The design process is appalling but typical of transport planners who try to socially engineer traffic behaviour all over Christchurch. An example being a roundabout which completely blocked the view for traffic by having trees and shrubs planted in the middle, this was supposed to calm traffic for a safer driving experience. 

In order to fix the issue at St Asaph St, quite simply, is to have:
  • On street parking, if there is any, only one side of the street (the right side as you drive down it). Does not impede the view of the cycle lane, and does not require a buffer zone between parked cars and cycle lanes (to allow for people to get into and out of cars) which saves space.
  • Off road cycle lane only on the left side of the street. 
  • Make sure those trees planted next to the cycle lane never get big enough to block the view of cyclists in the lanes.
  • Make sure the footpaths on that side are wide enough so that cars coming out of driveways have a reasonable view of oncoming cyclists and enough time to stop. Put up caution signs at all the driveway entrances and exits.
The cycleways along the side of Colombo St work much better, and one of the key reasons is there are no car parks alongside them and no driveways going off the street into premises. When you go down St Asaph St it is quite a different design, and those differences have not been fully appreciated by planners. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

NZ First proposed relocation of Port of Auckland


The biggest problem for this proposal is the current state of the rail line to Northland. However all relocation proposals to some extent especially an alternative, the Firth of Thames, are affected to some degree. (Firth of Thames is better than the alternative Manukau because it is on the same side of the country as Tauranga)

Basically the Northland line would have to be doubled which includes all the bridges and tunnels unless these are left as single track sections, but this increases the costs of signalling all the transitions from single to double track. How Tauranga wins at present in competition with Port of Auckland for freight in the Auckland region is that the Auckland to Hamilton line except for a short section through the Whangamarino Swamp is all double tracked and has been for 50 years.

I have no idea of the claims that it will cost this amount or that amount. The new Marsden Point line that is proposed will be another cost.

Essentially this proposal is like suggesting we should close down Port of Lyttelton in the South Island in favour of Picton. There is a rail network but it makes no sense to move the large volumes of freight the extra distance by rail unless there is zero alternative. I don't think the arguments about Northland being closer to shipping lanes matter that much. It is still cheaper to keep the freight on the ship and unload at Auckland than moving it by rail because the rail line would have to be engineered for extremely large and heavy trains to be able to compete with the large container ships that will be coming to NZ in the future. 

Port of Tauranga can already compete effectively with Auckland without needing more money spent on rail line upgrades (OK, they have had some financed already by Kiwirail which means taxpayers probably contributed to it) and coastal shipping to Northland from Auckland is a viable alternative to rail that doesn't require the expenditure on the tracks. It's almost totally guaranteed that if Northport takes a lot of the existing Auckland freight that large amounts of that freight will go by road. Because for example to move the vehicles you will need to equip special trains with special wagons that don't exist now, which is all a waste of time and money when all that is needed is for the ship they are being transported on to go to a different port. Rail falls down when special wagons have to be purchased for a particular traffic. It is true that you do need special car transporter trucks but there would be companies building them in NZ whereas rail wagons would probably have to be built overseas and shipped to here.

Some political parties have got sensible approaches to coastal shipping as an alternative to rail, because our population distribution is mainly near ports (Hamilton and Palmerston North being among the few exceptions) meaning coastal shipping is viable and even the likes of Mainfreight are saying they want to keep it as an option on the Lyttelton-Wellington run. It has to be remembered Mainfreight got their start by using coastal shipping to undermine what was then the NZR rail network. Fast forward and Kiwirail still has a monopoly, but only on rail itself.

Undetermined reasons: Are Robinson helicopters too dangerous?


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Historical railcar photos

 Can't remember where I got this but I suspect it would be something like Archives New Zealand facebook page or something like that. What I am sure of it is it is one of the small Leyland railcars, probably the "Midland" railcars as they were known in NZ. The impression I got was that Leyland in the UK which was a truck and bus company, and this was in the 1930s, actually did produce standard drivetrains for railbus chassis for people that wanted to build their own railbuses (because essentially that is a description of our early railcars). Photo would be from Hutt shops.
 Another Hutt shops photo with several different Leyland based railbuses under construction. To be exact you have a couple of the Wairarapa railcars on the right and something smaller like a Midland over to the left rear.
This is a Fiat railcar and it shows how the Fiat engine was slotted in underneath. The Fiat engine used in these railcars was a six cylinder inline engine arranged to be horizontal so that it would fit underneath the floor of these railcars. This arrangement was similar to the Wairarapa railcars (although the arrangement for them essentially put the a standard design of engine under the cab / baggage compartment floor rather like modern vans or forward control trucks) and a departure from Standards and Vulcans which sacrificed length for a separate engine room.

Friday, 9 June 2017

New rail bridges at Ohau Point

According to NZTA's newsletter, 
Six new road and rail bridges are being built near the largest landslides that came down near Ohau Point north of Kaikoura. The bridges are being built to span areas where loose material from slips high in the mountains is being washed down to the coastline. As construction ramps up, five crews will be working on all six of the bridges. Next week piling cranes, piling hammers and a drill rig will begin arriving on site to install piles for the six bridges. They will be built at road and rail level with crews digging down to between 4m and 6m to create a space under each bridge for the material to flow out under. Each rail bridge will be 12m long and 4.6m wide, while each road bridge will span 18m and be 12m wide. 

Now from this I assume this means three rail bridges and three road bridges. The article doesn't say exactly where but it seems likely these three flows shown just south of 214 km. Basically out of sight to the left you have Bridge 116 and Tunnel 19. So I guess these may well be 116A, 116B and 116C but we will see what Kiwirail choose to call them.