Gareth Hughes
Tuakau sits-in to get rail in

As the Herald reports, this weekend three communities in the Waikato – Huntly, Tuakau and Te Awamutu, staged sit-ins at their local train station. They were there to show their support for a passenger rail service between Auckland and Hamilton. You can see some footage of the sit-ins here.

The sit-ins had huge support with over 250 people attending the event at Tuakau alone – pretty awesome for a small rural town.

I wish I could have sat with them but I wasn’t able to attend unfortunately as I had a prior engagement talking about sustainable transport to students on Waiheke Island. I was in Tuakau reccently talking about the need for a commuter rail link  and I support these local communities and hope they will soon be successful in their campaign for a commuter rail service.

Their campaign has been bolstered by the recent news that patronage on Kiwirail’s 3 long-distance passenger services have reached a record high. In particular, the Overlander has had phenomenal growth of 24% in one year. And yes, this is the same service that in 2006 the government wanted to shut down as it said it couldn’t be successful.

Similarly, Auckland has also seen record increases in public transport patronage this year – with over 60 million trips and an increase of almost 12% in rail patronage in just one year.

Rail in NZ is on a roll and it will take is a little more investment to improve our services to a point where many NZers have a viable alternative to cars.

I just hope that the government has enough sense to recognize that and put funds into important rail projects in future – like the Auckland-Waikato rail service and CBD rail loop – rather than more white elephant motorways. Do you think they will?

23 thoughts on “Tuakau sits-in to get rail in

  1. People are great at demanding all kinds of things they never expect to end up paying for. Were any of these people willing to put their money on the line (boom boom) by buying annual passes that would fund the service? Do they even know what it would cost?

    There was a similar Hamilton- auckland ‘demand’ a few years ago as you well know. When tested in real life, the demand wasn’t there. What’s changed?

    PS I note you ignore the decline in the use of the most popular passenger network – Wellington’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3 (+2)

  2. I take the “Capital Connection” (Runs between Palmerston North and Wellington) to work from Paraparaumu and back most days, happy to pay the premium over the Trans Metro because I get a table to work at and a quieter ride (when will sound proofing be a high priority in public transport?).

    There have been some noises about shutting this service down due to fears the extension of the electric network from Paraparaumu to Waikanae will destroy the business. I don’t think it will, and I’ll continue putting my money on the table as my vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1 (+5)

  3. There was a similar Hamilton- auckland ‘demand’ a few years ago as you well know. When tested in real life, the demand wasn’t there. What’s changed?

    I would note that the Waikato Connection service finished at the same time as the Tranz Scenic network was sold off by Tranz Rail, and finished when the Kaimai Express and Geyserland services were also finished (what happened at the time was the morning Waikato Connection would form those two services and then when those two services returned to Auckland, it would form the evening Waikato Connection). Apparently, there were around thirty passengers a day from the Waikato at the time as well, which is not much different to the demand from Palmerston North for the Capital Connection run.

    People are great at demanding all kinds of things they never expect to end up paying for. Were any of these people willing to put their money on the line (boom boom) by buying annual passes that would fund the service? Do they even know what it would cost?

    Given that the Capital Connection has not needed a subsidy from day one, I would expect that you would see something similar with a revived Waikato Connection. Your major problem really is going to be getting a path into Auckland Station – from next Monday, it is at capacity.

    Rail in NZ is on a roll and it will take is a little more investment to improve our services to a point where many NZers have a viable alternative to cars.

    And what about buses, or are buses not good enough to have their successes trumpeted to the heavens? Given that it will be a decade before the CBD Loop is open, we are going to need lots of buses to enable our public transport system as a whole to cope.

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  4. @johnston

    185k passengers used the Capital Connection in the 12 months to June 2009. about 20% from PN. So that’s about 130 a day in and out of PN. The Waikato one had only about 60 a day in/out of Hamilton. The 2006 feasibility study did not have many more and said it would be up to a couple of million subsidy a year.

    The PN service would require a 400k subsidy if numbers drop

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  5. If Ontrack had not been merged with KiwiRail, a private contractor may well have seen the potential for a passenger service between Auckland and Hamilton, bought a trainset and started commercial service.

    As it stand now KiwiRail does not have to provide any service and effectivly has monopoly rights on a public highway.

    Open up the steel roads to any operator (provided it meets regulatory safety and operational standards) and see the rail network flourish.

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  6. So that’s about 130 a day in and out of PN.

    Thanks for the update – the last I had read, it had only been half a carriage load out of Palmerston North. This clearly means that if the service is provided, then you can expect to see reasonable growth.

    I might also add that Palmerston North was never meant to be the terminus of the Capital Connection – the proposal was for Levin, but the service got extended to Palmerston North because it had locomotive turning facilities.

    The 2006 feasibility study did not have many more and said it would be up to a couple of million subsidy a year.

    Given that there are currently several hundred commuters from the Waikato to Auckland, I would suggest that the potential is definitely there. The other thing was that the Waikato Connection only stopped at Huntly and Hamilton – it really needed Te Kauwhata, Ngaruawahia and Tuakau to make the run viable.

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  7. Wow this is interesting, my brother who lies in NZ was telling me about this yesterday.

    I would love to do something similar in this country, it’s just people aren’t willing to band together for change. I guess everyones just lazy–who knows.

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  8. @john-ston 8:10 PM

    Given that it will be a decade before the CBD Loop is open, we are going to need lots of buses to enable our public transport system as a whole to cope.

    Yes, we will, john-ston. But buses are in many places not a long term solution, as they get delayed by the gridlock just like anything else on the road unless there are dedicated bus lanes. And if you are going to build a dedicated bus lane, then you may as well build a rail line.

    Making Britomart a terminus station was a shortsighted idea in the first place – we’ve just got to convince the powers that be to get the CBD loop happening as quickly as possible.

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  9. Hey, and with that level of support for passenger rail in Tuakau, wouldn’t it be worthwhile extending a couple of the Pukekohe services each morning and evening to Tuakau as a trial to see if the support actually does translate into passengers? That would ate least give some idea of the demand for a northbound service between Tuakau and Auckland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 (+1)

  10. @insider . I think it’s a bit weird to point out the recent decline in patronage in Wellington as an example of rail’s lack of popularity when it is so clearly linked to the low punctuality/reliability of services they have had there over the last year. Probably also GWRC rapid increases in fares? Although not a Wellingtonian so not really sure…

    When they have finished fixing up their signalling system (which I introduce is the cause of many of the punctuality issues) and introduced the new trains I would be v surprised if patronage in Wellington doesn’t increase again.

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  11. @Lucy I thought it was weird that someone claiming rail was on a roll would miss probably the most important recent data point in passenger rail.

    Becuase it not only relates to the largest single rail market in NZ, it also demonstrates how susceptible to competition rail is, even with a well established and willing customer base. You’re assuming service will improve and passengers will respond. Could be they will be much slower coming back than they were to leave. That’s almost a business maxim.

    @toad and johnston

    The 2006 study said the vast majority of likely customers were from Pukekohe so extending the service may not attract enough to cover the costs. The success of the Pukekohe service ironically may limit expansion.

    http://www.ew.govt.nz/PageFiles/2322/hamiltonToAucklandCommuterRailStudy.pdf

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  12. HIgh speed broadbank networks across the country will do more to alleviate traffic congestion than anything you can do with rail – which is quite unsuited to the new urban economy.

    Sun Microsystems in San Jose employs 34,000 people and 19,000 of them telecommute.
    That is a lot of cars of the roads. The savings in energy are massive and the life/work balance is hugely improved – especially for career women who want to take time out to raise children (they don’t have to take time out) and the Sun Microsystems telecommuters who telecommute 2.5 days a week save $1700 a year in gas alone.

    PRofession women have been a major driver of telecommuting in the US and more people now telecommute that in the US than use all forms of public transport.

    But Green parties everywhere seem fixated on trains even though they fail to deliver any of the claimed benefits while telecommuting delivers on its obvious benefits and more.

    When you pit 21st technology against 19th century technology its really no contest.

    Modern economies are driven by network connectivity rather than size and have been since the 1940s but the power of the Broadband network looks ready to make the rest pale into insignificance. The integration of the labour force with enterprise of all kinds now knows no bounds.

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  13. Making Britomart a terminus station was a shortsighted idea in the first place – we’ve just got to convince the powers that be to get the CBD loop happening as quickly as possible.

    Toad, not only that, but we need to convince the powers that be that we need a four track CBD Loop – a two track one (i.e. the one currently proposed) will probably only allow for an additional two railway lines before it is overwhelmed (i.e. about twenty years).

    But buses are in many places not a long term solution, as they get delayed by the gridlock just like anything else on the road unless there are dedicated bus lanes.

    Truth be told, they are going to need to be a significant part of any long term solution. Even with all the rail proposals that are being thrown out there, it is likely that about a quarter to a third of all public transport patronage will be by rail in the coming decades – that means that the majority of our passengers will be on buses.

    We might as well take the opportunity to ensure that buses are made convenient for passengers – it is no good having an hourly frequency on Marua Road, to Green Bay, to parts of Mangere or Bucklands Beach.

    And if you are going to build a dedicated bus lane, then you may as well build a rail line.

    Not necessarily; I can see large parts of Auckland where a dedicated bus lane is justifiable, but the traffic will simply not be enough for a railway line. Sandringham Road, Mount Eden Road, Remuera Road and Tamaki Drive immediately spring to mind, and no doubt there are others.

    Hey, and with that level of support for passenger rail in Tuakau, wouldn’t it be worthwhile extending a couple of the Pukekohe services each morning and evening to Tuakau as a trial to see if the support actually does translate into passengers? That would ate least give some idea of the demand for a northbound service between Tuakau and Auckland.

    One of the chief problems with that idea is the track infrastructure – after Pukekohe, the next crossovers are at Mercer, so for such a trial to work, you would either need to timetable in some wrong line running (which given the amount of freight trains using the line, I don’t think it would be viable), or construct a crossover in the vicinity ot Tuakau (and that could easily cost a million dollars), or run a service to Mercer, which would not only add about an hour to the overall round trip, but would also be empty for half the time.

    The 2006 study said the vast majority of likely customers were from Pukekohe so extending the service may not attract enough to cover the costs. The success of the Pukekohe service ironically may limit expansion.

    I am aware that with the 2000/01 Waikato Connection run, it was largely based on Pukekohe patronage, however, even then it does not necessarily discount the viability of a Hamilton run. About half of the passengers on the Capital Connection board at Waikanae or Paraparaumu and yet that service makes a profit.

    When they have finished fixing up their signalling system (which I introduce is the cause of many of the punctuality issues) and introduced the new trains I would be v surprised if patronage in Wellington doesn’t increase again.

    I would also be surprised if patronage did not increase again. Indeed, I would even be willing to suggest that Wellington’s rail patronage might be higher than that of Auckland this side of the CBD Loop.

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  14. Owen McShane has dribbled garbage again.

    I expect McShane to also add that cars are 20th century technology, so stop building roads.

    Rail has progressed from horse drawn, to steam, to diesel and now the worlds fastest land transport with electricity. It is the 21st technology that small town right wingers can not get to grasp with for some reason.

    Who ever says the Waikato connection won’t work again is also the same type of people who said rail would never work in Auckland. Short sighted thinking will not build this country or see it move forward.

    And McShane, following your right wing principles, if high speed broad band is so amazing for this country why aren’t private companies rolling it out without the Government having to subsidise it. You’re a subsidy lover – strange for an ultra right winger???

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  15. J R
    I shall try to ignore your ill mannered name calling and focus on the issue.

    Cars actually became the major land transport network for families after the second world war and so was part of the post 1940s growth in networks.
    Electric trams preceded diesel rail. And rail is a major contributor to the freight network in countries like the US and Australia.
    We are actually talking about the most effective way to reduce congestion on the roads. Retrofitted rail has failed to reduce congestion in any city where it has been tried.
    Telecommuting does. More importantly, telecommuting increased individual opportunity and reduces inequality.

    In the US High Speed Broadband has been rolled out without subsidies or tax breaks.
    New Zealand has always had a problem with private funding of infrastructure because of our size and low population and the State has had to step in – sometimes wisely, sometimes foolishly. Once the infrastructure is in place, I see no reason why the operating costs should not be borne by the users and maybe even repay the capital to the State either by revenues and taxes or by selling the network to the private sector.
    Rail will serve a few and essentially aims to make the best off better off. Broadband can serve everyone and will increase incomes, reduce costs and reduce inequality, especially for women, and the handicapped and the aged.

    If you spend a little less time on abuse and more time on analysis you might change your mind.

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  16. The people saying an Auck Waikato link will be a challenge are the consultants to that famous right wing think tank Environment Waikato. A hot bed of laissez faire capitalists and anti public transport activists if ever I saw one.

    And how is rail going in Auckland? Paying for itself? Got a significant share of daily journeys?

    Just cos you dream it, doesn’t mean it’ll work. Just cos you question it, doesn’t mean you don’t want it to work.

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  17. @insider.

    Why expect rail to pay for itself when it is competing against another mode (private cars) that are massively subsidized? And that has received huge amounts of investment over the last 50 years while rail has received almost none until about 10 years ago.

    The government has never bothered to do a comprehensive study of which transport mode is actually most self-sufficent in terms of paying it’s own costs but the best we have is the Rockpoint report – which found that private vehicles (particularly trucks) pay less of the costs that they impose on society than any other mode.

    Rail is currently a small percentage of total trips but the percentage is growing very rapidly as people respond to the improvements brought about by the investment that started earlier this decade.

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  18. Why expect rail to pay for itself when it is competing against another mode (private cars) that are massively subsidized?

    Except Lucy that if you look at a commuter from Hamilton to Auckland, they would be using the State Highway network which is fully paid for by road users through petrol tax.

    And that has received huge amounts of investment over the last 50 years while rail has received almost none until about 10 years ago.

    There was a perfectly valid reason for that – from about the 1950s, NZR was losing a fortune every year because of inefficiencies brought about by government ownership such as Locomotive Assistants and Guards on freight trains. On the other hand, the State Highway system benefitted from the increased demand for roads and the associated increase in fuel tax revenue.

    I would also note that a large part of the “investment” in roads was in things such as sealing and doing minor improvements to the alignments of existing State Highways. These sort of things would not have posed a threat to NZR had it responded correctly. Instead, it tried to maintain itself as a 19th Century railway until well into the 20th Century.

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  19. As most of you probably know the US has a highly efficient rail freight system – it carries a higher percentage of freight than any European country.
    So they know how to run railways. The author of this paper is a rail fan and warns that the US President’s plan to have High Speed Inter City rail running on the same tracks could prejudice this jewel in the crown.
    http://www.newgeography.com/content/001768-high-speed-rail-fast-track-to-nowhere

    This is always going to be a problem if we mix freight and passenger rail on the one system with only one track.
    In the hey day or rail in Auckland the passengers rode on trams tracks along the roads and the freight ran on heavy rail tracks.

    ONe way to manage this conflict is to run the freight trains at night but this will not be popular with all those people being encouraged to live near railway stations.

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  20. ONe way to manage this conflict is to run the freight trains at night but this will not be popular with all those people being encouraged to live near railway stations.

    Another way of managing the conflict would be through constructing additional tracks (either alongside the passenger lines, or on a separate network) to enable the freight trains to operate unimpeded by passenger operations. The Perth commuter system for instance, has a completely separate freight network and does not allow freight trains on their passenger lines. Sydney has a separate freight system, designed back in the 1920s which has unfortunately not kept up with the growth of that city, hence the peak hour curfew. Brisbane has taken the additional tracks approach by quadruplicating and triplicating the North Coast Line as far as Northgate and Petrie respectively, with plans to extend both in the coming decades (as well as quintupling some of the existing quadruplicated section).

    This is always going to be a problem if we mix freight and passenger rail on the one system with only one track.

    Or even with two tracks, as we are going to find out in Auckland in next year (there will be passenger services every five minutes between Puhinui and Westfield Junctions, which will likely make peak hour freight operations impossible). That is why we really need that section of line triplicated, if not quadruplicated in the near future.

    In the hey day or rail in Auckland the passengers rode on trams tracks along the roads and the freight ran on heavy rail tracks.

    Also back then, there wasn’t much in the way of outer suburban passenger services. In 1923 for instance, there were only twelve trains a day to Papakura, five trains a day to Papatoetoe and four through services to Onehunga (there were also six shuttle runs). Even out west, you only had five trains a day to Swanson and ten trains a day to Henderson.

    Obviously at the time, there weren’t a huge number of people living in the villages and towns that are now suburbs of Auckland.

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  21. I am still amazed at McShanes narrow minded view point. Thank god he lives in the middle of no where, though I personally thought he might like live next to a motorway and suck in those fumes…or perhaps he has?

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  22. J R
    You don’t get anything about the modern world do you?
    I do not live in the middle of nowhere.
    I live on a wonderful property near the Kaipara Harbour with my wife and my dogs, chooks, ducks and a few thousand trees and plants we tend. We grow our own fruit and vegetables and our own olives for olive oil.
    But I also live in the middle of a world wide research network and my essays are published here in NZ and in the US, Canada and the UK – along with my five children’s books.

    Why would I want to live near a motorway? I walk twenty metres to my office from the front deck. And we have never needed more than one car because I work from home.

    The air is wonderfully clear. I used to have to live near a major library. Now I have the world’s largest library on my desk.

    When will you join the modern world?

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