Why ignore an 11,000 strong petition for commuter rail?

As the Campaign for Better Transport reports, last week the National Party members on the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee where I sit, voted to not even consider the petition for a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.

Putting aside the fact that in most countries you might expect to find a commuter rail service between the 1st and 4th largest city, especially when they are only 120 kms apart….

It’s a pretty disappointing thing to do given that over 11,000 people signed the petition – i.e., almost 10% of Hamilton’s population. Representative surveys have also shown that 85% of residents support the idea. That’s a large proportion to dismiss out of hand. And, not surprisingly, many Hamiltonians are pretty angry about the committee’s decision.

The members on the committee claimed that they didn’t need to consider the petition because Hamilton’s local government has already considered introducing a commuter rail service and decided against it. But, actually, as one local Hamilton councillor puts it that is “complete cr*p“.

It’s true that the regional council – Environment Waikato – aren’t so keen on the idea of a Hamilton-Auckland rail service. But in Hamilton, as around the rest of the country (except Christchurch, of course), there are two levels of local government. The Hamilton City Council is all for the idea of an Auckland-Hamilton commuter rail service.

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand why David Bennett, the chair of the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee is so opposed to the idea of a commuter rail service. After all, the Capital Connection rail service between Palmerston North and Wellington is extremely popular and doesn’t even require subsidies.

Bennett says that trains are an outmoded method of transport and electric cars are the future. But his stance seems to ignore the facts – that there are a more than a million trips by rail in Auckland and Wellington every month while only a few hundred people own electric cars. And Ministry of Economic Development figures suggest that by 2020 only 5% of our vehicle fleet will be electric.

I believe that we can’t afford to wait until 2020 to reduce our emissions from transport or our reliance on cheap oil to get around. What do you think?

62 Comments Posted

  1. “Auckland’s problem is that the road lobby was too powerful when ‘Robbie’ wanted it to start a rail system. By now it could have covered the whole of the city instead of the few lines it has. For all the money wasted on motorways across the city Auckland could have a fine rail network with supporting feeder bus services. A lost opportunity which will be very hard to rectify.”

    Actually jcuknz, what killed the Auckland Rapid Transit scheme was the economic crisis that we had in 1975 – a number of roading projects that had been proposed by the Kirk/Rowling Government were also put on the back-burner at that stage due to a lack of funds (the Napier to Hastings Motorway was one of them), with a couple of other projects having their capacity cut (the Wellington Urban Motorway was one).

    By the time that the economy had gotten back on its feet, Muldoon was busy wasting money on methanol plants.

  2. Owen, I am trying to remember where I saw it, but I am pretty sure it was for either Auckland or NZ. I remember because I was quite surprised by it, as I naturally would have thought that improving technologies would mean that more people didn’t have to be “in the office” to undertake their work.

  3. jarbury,
    If youare going to interpret statistics you do have to know something about the analytical framework in which they sit.
    I work from home. But I am not a telecommuter.

    Similarly telecommuters do not work from home.
    A telecommuter is defined for statistical purposes as someone who goes to their place of employment at least one day a week.

    Similarly I would like to know what definition of Auckland and of “farming sector” allow you to reach your statistical conclusion which is wildely different from every trend analysis I am aware of.

    Please advise me of the statistic that says working from home has diminished over the past twenty years and what territory it relates to. Greece? Tonga? Iceland?

  4. Owen the stats I have seen show that the proportion of people working at home has fallen in the past 20 years. So much for telecommuting.

    Also, from memory only about 5% of Auckland’s jobs (or perhaps less) are in the farming sector so I doubt that has much of a role.

    I will believe the “magic technology” solutions when I see them. Don’t forget that we built electric cars 90 years ago and nuclear powered cars in the 1950s….

  5. Tevor29 writes:
    Cars will always have the benefit of flexibility, but trains running on steel tracks will always have lower rolling resistance losses. The best solution may be to combine the benefits of both.

    The problem with steel on steel is that as speeds increase a comfortable ride requires considerable weight. That is why low speed rail systems are called Light Rail. As the weight increases so does the energy cost of stop and start. Rubber on road (or rubber on rail even as with Skycabs) has the advantage of comfortable rides without high mass.

    Also if a car jumps off the road it does not matter much. (See all those car chase movied in San Francisco) but if a train jumps off the rails you have a disaster. Another reason why high speed trains have to be heavy and are called Heavy rail. Electronic guidance systems now mean you do not need the rail. We just have to lay down the transponders or the guide wires. The guide wires have the advantage they can re-charge electric cars as they drive using Dr Boys technology he developed at Auckland University and is routinely used to guide mobile vehicles around factory floors etc.

    Steel rails have a long future for long distance heavy freight haulage. Just as container ships are unbeatable for carrying similar loads long distances by sea. But steel rail’s future for short distance passenger runs seems short indeed. (Except where they already exist and are part of a total expensive network of infrastructure as in New York Commuter/subway systems.)
    Light weight, flexibility, comfort at high speeds, enhanced machine intelligence and communication, combines to favour rubber on road.

  6. Postscript

    There are no weekend trains in or out of Pukekohe. That is an insult to those who need them to work in the weekends.

    What are Joyce and Key doing about that. I know Joyce visited Pukekohe a couple of months ago. I know that Key visited the business community for lunch and according to the local paper they would be very happy with what was happening in super city. Does that mean that freight may go through on weekends or the workers, business needs to operate, may be able to use the trains on weekends?

  7. I’m sure there are innumberable posters on the blog who can quote figures and problems to me until midnight; the fact remains. If the will was there it would be done.

    It seems that this country has not progressed at all. Robbie has been beaten once more by the commandant of local government. Give me a minus 1 for that too like my May 8 6.06pm post. The truth hurts.

    Franklin is being attacked by those who stand to benefit from subjugating it. Franklin won’t gain a 21st century rail system or even to Auckland’s standards. A pox on Hide. Make that 2 negatives. At least I’ll know it’s being read!

  8. Running cars on CNG (methane) is part of an interim solution, as the vehicles do not need extensive modifications and can still run on petrol for occassional long journeys into regions without CNG refuelling. It is only sensible when coupled with a strategy to reduce use of CNG for fixed applications (heating, water heating, electricity generation or industry, etc). It can also be part of a longer term strategy if we develop ways of producing CNG from renewable resources, such as a combination of biomass and hydrogen from off-peak renewable electricity generation.

    Cars will always have the benefit of flexibility, but trains running on steel tracks will always have lower rolling resistance losses. The best solution may be to combine the benefits of both.


  9. The latest reports I can find on vehicle ownership per family in the Auckland region say that about 17% of families (households) in the region own three vehicles.
    They note that in many cases a third vehicle is likely to a trade vehicle. Of course the Auckland region is hugely rural so many of those trade vehicles would be associated with farming activity.

    If there are three adults in a household pursuing different careers in different locations then it is easy to see that they may require three cars to optimise their time and income opportunities.
    A household in Takapuna might have a woman working in Devonport, a man working in the CBD and a young person attending University at Massey.
    As I say my wife and I have never had the need for two cars but I have worked from home for most of life.
    Telecommuting is having a major impact on commuting patterns especially where the planning laws allow for remote office centres.

  10. You said: “The Waikato Connection was tried and failed, with an average 12 passengers per day south of Pukekohe.”

    Yes, in 2001. For better or worse the population in areas south of Auckland has risen substantially since then. The price of fuel is also rising. The modelling doesn’t show that only 90 people would ever consider using the service.

    It shows that on average there would be about 90 people to use the service each weekday, i.e., about enough to get 75% occupancy and make the service viable. In the future, as it grows in popularity you might expect to see more.

    I agree with Jarbury that the biggest issue is whether they can fit a train from Hamilton into the timetable of trains entering and leaving Britomart in the morning. If the service stopped at Newmarket that would make it less viable.

  11. A point to raise with libertyscott, I don’t believe the Capital Connection will no longer be viable once the electrification to Waikanae is operational. I have checked the passenger numbers myself. Even if all passengers who board the Capital Connection at Waikanae (and also from Paraparaumu) went on to the electrics there would still be enough people to fill two of the Silver Fern railcars (as in 2 2 carriage units with 4 carriages total,192 seats). So unless for some reason the Capital Connection becomes unpopular at stations north of Waikanae I doubt it will no longer be able to operate commercially.

  12. @Owen, the figures of 4 cars per family came from a recently released study (NZTA or LTNZ from memory) stating Auckland now has well over 3 cars per family and is heading for 4…

    I’m not in nineteenth century thinking I just realise what works and what doesn’t and the limitations (both in fossil fuels, climate wise and environmentally) our world can handle…

    Firstly we have been promised the road trains, etc that you talk so much about for 70 years now, electric and hydrogen cars have massive insurmountable problems, in resources, energy use, etc, etc and the 08/09 MED energy report quite clearly stated in the first paragraph of the executive summary that NZ’s gas production will peak in 2013, that is without trying to fill every car in the country with the stuff…

    The car industry has been promising for decades that the magic technology fairy will come along and save us, but where is the developments that break our oil dependence..? We are one recession caused by the production ceiling into peak oil, how many more till these magic cures come along..? How much government debt are we going to have to incur in the meantime..?

    The bottom line is you can think I’m a dinosaur all you like but I believe in proven technologies, namely an integrated public transport system, that are more efficient and are more economic that cars on motorways, I don’t believe in investing in motorways on the pipe dream promises of future car technologies…

  13. Auckland is similar to Vancouver with its Skytrain … just a single track stretching across the city. Whereas in the ‘home of the automobile’ … Los Angeles … they are expanding their rail network and from a user’s point view to get from LAX airport to the city [ and AMTRAK ] costs about a dollar fifty or so compared to $30 by hirecar [the only alternative I know of ]. probably more by now.

  14. A problem for the change from road to rail is the availability of rail. I remember the London situation where rail lines converged on several termini in central London from where buses and the Underground took people to their workplace. As a schoolboy I used the train to go to school and was permitted to visit my aunt in central London on my own, such was the system safe and easy to use.
    Auckland’s problem is that the road lobby was too powerful when ‘Robbie’ wanted it to start a rail system. By now it could have covered the whole of the city instead of the few lines it has. For all the money wasted on motorways across the city Auckland could have a fine rail network with supporting feeder bus services. A lost opportunity which will be very hard to rectify.

  15. libertyscott
    Quite why Pukekohe was dragged into supershitty auckland city I don’t know either. Yes I do. To pay for the debts that Auckland shitty city has piled up. We don’t want to be in your super shitty city. We get absolutely no benefit from having our assets stolen by Aucklanders. We’re not impressed and efforts are being made to have our own vote. This is something Rodney Hide should have done. It was bad enough having to pay rates for places in Auckland that we might only visit once a year. But now we’re being forced to join that corrupt place where Banks and his cronies Hide and Key run their scams, I and thousands more will probably start visiting all the free places. Then the mayor will place a charge on everything and Aucklanders will know what it means to pay for other people. We have no decent public transport to or from Franklin. We have no benefit from having our assets stolen and sold off by the CCOs that masquerade as council controlled entities. What a joke.

  16. I have heard from ARTA that getting above 20 tph in and out is potentially quite problematic, even with bi-directional running.

  17. I am pretty sure that with bi-directional signalling that 24 trains per hour would be capable into Auckland – that would theoretically allow us the six trains per hour on the legacy lines and two trains per hour on each of Huapai, Pukekohe and Onehunga; we could substitute a Pukekohe run for the Hamilton run.

  18. My biggest concern about a Hamilton-Auckland commuter train is whether Britomart has the capacity to handle it. By the end of this year there will be 10 minute frequencies on the three main lines plus 2 tph from Onehunga. That’s a total of 20 tph during the peak hour arriving and leaving Britomart.

    Apparently that is pretty damn close to its capacity, and there’s no real way to increase the station’s capacity until we get around to building the CBD rail tunnel.

  19. Jeremy,
    Thanks for the kind thoughts about my mental state.
    I do not know where you get the notion of four cars per family.
    Of course as families reform into multi generational households then some of those students return home and bring their cars with them. Much of NZ’s apparent high car ownership is because so many farm or rural households have cars, and utes, and other varieties of vehicle for the different tasks. I have always managed with only one car but then I have worked from home for all but six years of my working life.
    Cars are the vehicle of the future and may well be powered by electricity or gas. Both can be charged up at home off domestics supply overnight and that gives quite enough energy in the tank for most daily trips.
    The electricity can come from nuclear or geothermal power (actually nuclear too but so is solar power).
    However the electric train you talk about is likely to be made of cars that are electronically trained to self drive in convoy because this avoids the need for a modal transfer. I have seen remarkable demonstrations of self drive cars and of course you can already buy cars that park themselves into a parallel parking space.
    No mean feat.
    You need to stop thinking of vehicles as stand alone units and start to think of them as more like bees that can swarm – and which communicate with each other and draw down information from all manner of sources.
    Think electric drive drain, drive by wire, GPS, cellphone, Internet and then design a transport system.
    Try to break out of nineteenth century systems thinking.

  20. For me Owen, the question isn’t over urban heavy rail vs. commuter heavy rail vs. light rail vs. bus vs. cycling vs. walking vs. car, it is about car dependence vs. the rest…

    The case for cars is strong up to a point, as I often say, one car per family is an economic miracle, four cars per family is an economic disaster, and we already – in the main – have the infrastructure to handle a car per family, the economic case after that point is a joke and the spectre of carbon pricing and peak oil just add to the urgency to change, this must be obvious to you as any rational person who has an interest in transport, yet you continue to push uneconomic and dangerous policies and when I read your posts I can’t help but to think, “Where would one find a drug to make one so delusional”…

  21. @ Lucy great point – this economically makes a compelling case.

    It’s true, the old service didn’t have great patronage, but a few things have changed in the intervening years – Auckland now has a downtown train station Britomart, a new Newmarket station, and the price of petrol is considerably higher.

    Some things stay the same though like Auckland’s congested motorways that can make the drive between Hamilton and Auckland frustratingly slow sometimes.

  22. “And how can ninety people justify the investment?”

    What investment? All that needs to be done is that the windows on the Silver Fern need to be replaced, and we could have a service up and running tomorrow (we could even have the train using an existing path into Auckland, with that train being pushed down by four minutes) – for a cost of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, we could have a profitable passenger service up and running.

    “But in the end why spend millions on a commuter rail between Auckland and Hamilton.”

    Simple, because if the Capital Connection is anything to go by, you would get a return for the money spent.

  23. LucyJH makes this challenge.

    (It is hardly a genuine question seeking information. Fortunately my students were better mannered.)
    “If rail is so crap Owen how come rail patronage in Auckland is at an all time high (see ARTA business report for March, 2010) but vehicle numbers on state highways dipped sharply in 2009?”

    At first these figures look like a strong endorsement of rail over vehicles. However, an investigation (a very simple one) shows that the rail patronage is at an all time high but begins from a very low base. If you provide a service where non existed before you are bound to break a few records if only because it is not possible to have negative patronage. AS with overseas studies you will find that many of these new transit passengers have moved from bus to rail rather than from car to rail.
    The downturn in vehicle travel in 2009 has virtually “NOTHING” to do with transfers from car to rail. Remember commuter trips account for only about 10% of all trips in a typical metropolis and often less.
    It was simply the result of more careful planning because of less income and of course the unemployed stop commuting. In other words there was no statistically significant causal connection between the decline in vehicle trips and transfers between modes.

  24. As I see it we have built our environment to suit the car and it will be very difficult to change this to suit the new electricity based situation. As with anything new I see a drawback in the cost of electric vehicles for the ordinary person. I would love an electric car but don’t even think about it becuase of the cost.

  25. Jeremy
    OVer the last fifty years I have studied scores of schemes for rail systems and their final performance.
    You might like to look at the Christchurch street car studies. I cannot recall one where the final stats showed higher occupancy that projected and lower costs than projected.

    So maybe we should turn this around and ask you to come up an example. In the New world of course. There are routes in Hong Kong where they did outperform as one would expect. For the general role of commuter rail go to:

    Of course Transit is a wicked problem and the figures depend on where you draw the system boundary.

    For example recent work shows that the standard BCR for highways hugely underestimates the downstream benefits. Have a look at the retrospective analyses of the benefits of the US interstate system. Probably th best investment every made by the Feds.

    But in the end why spend millions on a commuter rail between Auckland and Hamilton. The people who might use it can drive or take the bus. They are not trapped. Given they have these choices buy invest millions in rail for the benefit of a very few rather than in say pre-school education for the very many?

    Where do your priorities really lie?

  26. I don’t doubt that electric cars are the future for individual transportation but so are electric trains for longer distances and mass transport. London has been using them for decades as other major cities. In the case of Hamilton to Auckland one uses an electric train for the major part of the journey and then transfers to a resident Auckland electric car for the rest of the journey. Some would say a bycycle would be better. Of course an electric car was used to get to Hamilton station carpark too.

  27. But how many out of the ninety would use the one trip at one time both ways.

    And how can ninety people justify the investment?

  28. David, while you raise a valid point, remember that the costs of mechanical inefficiency (or the benefits of mechanical efficiency) are absorbed by the user. For example, if someone chooses to ship by truck instead of rail, they would expect to pay more to ship by truck and bear that burden.

  29. David Bennett is the worst performing MP in Parliament, I’ve heard he is quite good in person at taking questions, hard to believe as when taking calls in Parliament he looks like he might have trouble bathing and clothing himself…

    @Owen, are these stats you point out some of the stunning results we can expect from the Centre for Transport Studies (or whatever you call it)..? Also known as Owen’s shed..?

    I mean seriously:

    “Such reports always do but the actual loadings are always way below the projections and the costs are always way up.”

    Do you have a sweeping generalisations generating machine..?

  30. Jarbury: Let’s get that BCR study audited. Nothing like a government agency producing a report saying what it wants to justify getting money from another government agency.

    The Waikato Connection was tried and failed, with an average 12 passengers per day south of Pukekohe. If the demand existed, an express bus service could be trialled which would better fit the volumes, be more environmentally friendly and less costly (and faster). Quite why Aucklanders should want to encourage a commuter sprawl south of Pukekohe is rather bemusing as it would go against the whole planning philosophy of the region, but I can imagine why Hamiltonians would want it. It would help support property values if Hamilton is sold as being a commuter city. Nothing to do with transport though, unless it is cargo cult dream to pour a fortune into high frequency passenger rail from Hamilton to Auckland, rather than into education, health or letting people spend their own money as they see fit.

    The fact the Capital Connection has been a commercially viable undertaking is the difference, although that is about to disappear because the Waikanae component will be replaced by a subsidised high frequency service (which admittely I had a hand in supporting in a previous life).

  31. I believe that the National Party is beholden to the Road Transport industry. Therefore it is a waste of time pointing out the many advantages of rail and the fuel efficiency of rail compared with IC engine driven road transportMechanical efficiency is not even considered by treasury. Treasury is solely concerned with direct economic cost.

  32. LOL, Lucy nails Owen with a cost-benefit ratio of 1.9 for the Waikato Comumuter rail proposal (how does that compare with the Puhoi-Wellsford road’s BCR?????) so what does he do… go off on a bizarre tangent talking about light rail in Portland.


  33. Owen, have you not noticed the reasonable level of patronage on the Capital Connection? Well over four hundred passengers per day, and there is only one return service per day. I agree that higher frequency is a pre-requisite for even higher levels of patronage, but that doesn’t mean that people will not use the system if it has only one return service per day.

  34. Sorry patronage of any transport system does not work like that.
    People want to travel when they want to.
    Rail has the disadvantage of not giving point to point like a taxi does.
    So it has to compensate by frequency.
    Rail works when you do not have to worry about a timetable but just go to the station and wait no more than a few minutes for the next train.

  35. The only rule this government and their supporters on this thread are interested in is their own needs, their personal profit, with no thought for those who don’t or can’t drive for all sorts of reasons.

    This government is a selfish government and the longer they leave rail transport improvements the more expensive it becomes. Auckland super city is a perfect example of ‘private greed over social good’, the business card of nactional.

    Pukekohe rail station has passenger cars spilling all over the roadsides, with no park and ride facilities. I know Franklin people want to use the trains. People who don’t get out of their cars yet try to tell the train passengers how they should think are part of the new patriarchal daddy military state.

    This government will do anything to keep New Zealanders downtrodden as a low wage economy (as we are advertised to foreign investors) and forcing us to pay all the expenses associated with cars and environmentally destructive roads keeps us poor. With that ‘poor’ patch sewn on our jackets, we will never have autonomy over our lives and our rights.

  36. “The service is expected to attract ninety rail passengers a day.
    Not an hour – a day.
    The numbers do not stack up and we would be destroying wealth by providing the service.”

    Owen, the seating capacity of a Silver Fern Railcar is 96, so therefore we would be able to run a full railcar from Hamilton to Auckland in the morning and a full railcar from Auckland to Hamilton in the evening. The Capital Connection manages to make a profit, in spite of the fact that it is locomotive hauled, and in spite of the fact that the majority of its passengers come from Waikanae and Paraparaumu (i.e. it runs more than half empty for the majority of its journey).

    A revived Waikato Connection would be able to make a profit, and it is only because of the poor cost accounting systems at Kiwi Rail that there is a “need” for a subsidy.

  37. If rail is so crap Owen how come rail patronage in Auckland is at an all time high (see ARTA business report for March, 2010) but vehicle numbers on state highways dipped sharply in 2009?

  38. Unless they have a reliable, reasonable speed link, it isn’t worthwhile! I live 100 km from work in Perth, and commute by trains. It takes the same travel time as by car – slightly longer than by motorbike! The link from the country to the outskirts of Perth are by modern, high speed railcar – even with the crap state of track maintenance, it travels at 100-110kph. Similar units run to Kalgoorlie, timetabled at 100kph average – they can run at 160kph! In the Perth metro area, we run very efficient and regular electric units. A new 70km line has been put in ,south to Mandurah, at a huge cost, to much derision by the Liberals and claims of “it’s a white elephant, it’ll never break even” etc, but is booming, with patronage increasing by leaps and bounds – it’s a great success! It’s all very well saying “build houses next to work”, but, it doesn’t always work out that way. I prefer commuting by fast, comfortable train, even during the weekend, when I want to go into town, and so, it seems, do the majority of those who have access to same.

  39. Such reports always do but the actual loadings are always way below the projections and the costs are always way up.

    Consider this:
    * If rail transit is so good, why has transit’s share of commuting fallen from 9.8 percent before Portland built rail to 6.5 percent in 2007? Why did the actual number of transit commuters fall from 2000 to 2007, when the number of auto commuters grew by more than the total number of transit commuters?

    * Rail transit did not revitalize any Portland neighborhood. Subsidies led to virtually all of the redevelopment that took place along rail lines.

    * Light rail means light CAPACITY transit. Buses would move people away from an ice hockey game far faster than trains that can carry only 300 people at a time every 3 minutes. World cup promoters take note.

  40. I look forward to hearing more about how Stephen Joyce reads the OECD and other reports. From his reply to Gareth it seems his argument is that we’ve always been car-based, so we should never change, whatever BCR or anything else shows.

  41. Not that report as such but the one I saw was commissioned to advise on that report.
    May not even be around now.

  42. There simply isn’t the employment density at either end of the line.
    Residential density is largely irrelevant to the success of rail transport in cities.
    Employment density counts. This is why New York (which has Manhattan) operates the only profitable commuter rail system in the US in spite of having a lower urban area density than Auckland.

  43. Someone commissioned a report a few years ago.
    It’s somewhere on the web – if I stumble on it over the next few days I shall post it.
    It’s a gem. When the real numbers are such a disaster they invent all manner of benefits such as increased health from walking from the car to the station etc.

  44. 90 a day seems a bit high for a 60kph service once a day. But it was much the same argument Union Steamship put forward for not improving their Wellington-Picton service. NZR saw the opportunity and put on a fast frequent ferry. Union Steamship went out of business. It’s a pity NZR didn’t see the same need for their trains.

    20,000 won’t find the train suits their needs, but a fast frequent service integrated with feeder buses would serve a good proportion of them, especially once we’re past peak oil.

  45. The service is expected to attract ninety rail passengers a day.

    Expected, by who?

    Why would Auckland < --> Hamilton not work, when Wellington < --> Palmerston North does? If anything, I’d expect auckland/ham to work better, because auckland is bigger than wellington and hamilton is bigger than palmy.

  46. Hi John

    @A1kmm: I agree it isn’t sustainable for all of us to commute 120 km daily. But I also think a lot of people who use this service wouldn’t necessarily be those who commute daily. This is definitely the case with the Capital Connection where many trips taken are not commuter trips. It might just be those who take the train up for a meeting once a week or to see family or something like that.

    @John: Your link is broken. I agree that there are probably about 20,000 thousand people per day moving between Auckland and Waikato region. However, for a lot of those people train travel just won’t be suitable (e.g., maybe they work in an industrial zone of South-East Auckland which is completely unreachable by train). I think the possible patronage is enough to justify a commuter service but definitely not hourly services.

  47. The service is expected to attract ninety rail passengers a day.
    Not an hour – a day.
    The numbers do not stack up and we would be destroying wealth by providing the service.

    Wasting all that money means a huge number of people do not get their hip replacements and eye surgery and or shortened waiting lists for cancer treatment.

    Given the low loading the fuel efficiency is dreadful.

  48. @ John – Hear, hear, great points.

    Did anyone see my questions to the Minister of Finance – well Transport too yesterday?


    I can’t believe Steven Joyce put Auckland up as an example when I asked him – “can he name any city in the world that has eliminated congestion and enhanced economic productivity by widening motorways and attracting more cars into crowded urban areas?”

  49. “it simply would be a waste of money to consider hourly trip between cities- cities are cities for a reason, people do their primary business within that city”
    Unfortunately not true. About 18,000 vehicles a day travel between Hamilton and Auckland (see data booklets at http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/state-highway-traffic-volumes/index.html). Allowing for rather more than 1 person per vehicle, that’s equivalent to a 300 seat train every 20 minutes day and night. The problem is the Overlander takes 2 hours 20 minutes to cover the 140km at an average 60kph. It takes about an hour and three quarters to drive from Hamilton to Auckland. The waste of money is that around $2bn is about to be spent on the Waikato Expressway to cut the SH1 Taupo-Auckland journey by a further 35 minutes. If that money were spent on the railway we’d have a much faster, safer, cleaner, sustainable system with less global warming.

  50. stephensmikm, there is a once return service between Palmerston North and Wellington per day, with five return services between Masterton and Wellington (with six on Fridays, and two on Saturdays and Sundays). The main problem with these services is the fact that they are locomotive hauled, and thus use a huge amount of fuel – the proposed Hamilton service would use the Silver Fern railcars, which use a much lower amount of fuel (something like a hundred litres between Hamilton and Auckland would be possible).

    I am definitely in favour of a Hamilton service, and if we don’t get one this year, then we will probably have to wait another decade, since a path will not be available for a Hamilton train (and taking a path away from a 500 seater train will not exactly be a popular idea). It can certainly work, and if operated properly will not require a subsidy – in fact, I believe that the proposal would not have needed a subsidy if it wasn’t for the awkward nature of Kiwi Rail (Tranz Scenic would have to pay Kiwi Rail for items such as siding access, in spite of the fact that the two are the same).

    “If we replaced the present tracks with a bullet train or TGV line the Auckland-Hamilton commute by rail would take about 20 minutes non-stop.”

    Lloyd, or we could take the Queensland Rail approach – they are working to realign the line between Caboolture and Nambour over the next two decades, with a push to allow for 160km/h trains to use the line. Even a 130km/h service will do Auckland to Hamilton in a decent amount of time, provided that you have a clear path in Auckland and that your stations are spaced widely enough.

  51. @Lloyd

    A rail link from Hamilton to Auckland should run at least once an hour all day with decent connections to public transport and that should be done before one more cent is spent on highway one between those cities.

    – Have you thought about the huge cost of that, the train’s passenger quantity
    Wellington only has about 4 at best Trains to Masterton and Palmerston Nth – usually two because there is no benefit to having more – it simply would be a waste of money to consider hourly trip between cities- cities are cities for a reason, people do their primary business within that city so live within a reasonable distance to it, the route could be exploited by superannuation beneficiaries, empty carriages, huge expense thanks to its new found place within the NZ govt

    I totally agree better rail service in NZ is needed, not for personal travel through but for Industrial and commercial enterprise – to link the ports of Tauranga and Auckland trhough Hamilton by rail would be to remove the huge burden of Lorries that make the roads need so much upkeep and decrease travel times for people – if you lessen the burdens without damaging the economy , isn’t that the best approach 😀

  52. Why ignore? Simple – they’re there to play politics, to use parliament’s power and resources to further their own agenda. They may only get another year, and don’t want any side-shows.

    They have the power and will abuse it while they can.

  53. I live in Pakuranga and work in Pukekohe, which is at the end of the Auckland rail commuter system. It takes me as long to drive to Pukekohe from home as it does to travel to Pukekohe by rail from Panmure, my nearest station. If I went the other way it would be much faster by rail than car due to the traffic. It would still be the same if all the cars were electric powered. Also of note is the fact most electric cars only have short ranges and hybrids driven at motorway speeds are generally no more efficient than internal combustion engines. Long distance rail makes more sense than local rail from many viewpoints.
    Unfortunately there are problems both with the rail timetable, the station infrastructure and connections to public transport at both ends that make the travel generally slower by car
    Local bodies and Railways management still do not see rail passengers as needing to be welcomed by the rail station as a gateway to their town, city or suburb.
    A rail link from Hamilton to Auckland should run at least once an hour all day with decent connections to public transport and that should be done before one more cent is spent on highway one between those cities.
    Anyone who owns property within reasonable commuting time of a station should immediately find their property values jump. The capital gain at Tuakau, Pokeno, Huntly, Mercer etc. would go a significant way to pay for the service, especially if development is encouraged at those rail-side towns.
    OK lets dream. If we replaced the present tracks with a bullet train or TGV line the Auckland-Hamilton commute by rail would take about 20 minutes non-stop. Do that in an electric car!

    PS I am sure the Hillside team could build those trains too!

  54. @toad

    Actually I wasn’t sure of Parties were in that committee so I had to query whether Labour was also in support of the petition or any of the other parties ( Having since now learnt only Mr Hughes MP , Labour and National sit on that committee), I wasn’t making any judgement on the process merely the voting scheme of other groups

  55. @stephensmikm

    For this:

    The Labour and Green Party members support the petition of Sue Moroney and 11,499 others requesting that the House of Representatives ask the Government and related transport agencies to establish a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.

    We wanted to hear a submission from the petitioners so that we could consider their proposal. We also wanted to hear a response from the Ministry of Transport, so that the committee could assess the viability of such a service being established.

    We note that in the last term of Parliament, the previous committee heard a similar petition on recomissioning a rail service to Onehunga, which resulted in the Government agreeing to fund that service.

    We are concerned that the view of 11,500 citizens has been dismissed by this committee, without the committee having access to any information with which to make this decision.

    – i.e. for informed democratic process, rather than the authoritarian ideology of “we have the numbers in Parliament and on this Committee, so you can all stuff off”.

  56. David Bennett: “The Green Party should be representing new ideas and seeing the vision of the future. It should be a party that tries to take this Parliament towards some goals and ambitions that Parliament is not ready to move towards. That is the whole idea of what one expects from a Green Party.”

    So what then should we expect from the likes of National?

    The rest of what he said is as equally laughable.

    Trains a technology that is going out of business? That is ridiculous. Look elsewhere in the world and it is obvious how wrong he is. My sign from Saturday remains completely relevant.

  57. the National Party members on the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee where I sit, voted to not even consider the petition for a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.

    May I query what the others voted for?

  58. I think that in this case, electric cars are more of an excuse than a legitimate reason.

    It is, however, worth considering the flip-side as well. 120 km is still a long way to commute. Getting people there with less environmental damage is good, but stopping the commute would be better. The fact that so many people feel they have to live that far away to work their Auckland jobs shows another problem which many Green policies will go a long way to solving (urban intensification to build homes closer to where people work, and a capital gains tax to reduce land speculation and reduce land prices so people who work in Auckland can afford to live here).

  59. They’re likely to ignore (and discredit) a march of 50,000 -I wouldn’t hold out hope on a petition of 11,000

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