Greens still best for Auckland transport

National and Labour have now both revealed their transport plans for Auckland.

National’s transport plan quite simply ignores Aucklanders. It’s a 1950s-era policy that continues disproportionate spending on a few uneconomic motorways, including the Puhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway,’ and promises no new funding for high quality trains and buses. It’s light on detail and heavy on tarmac.

On Labour’s, I welcome their change in direction down the right road with their announcement that they would fund half the CBD Rail Link.

However, the Greens would go further and would fund 60% of the CBD Rail Link and allow the Council alternative funding mechanisms like a congestion charge, land betterment tax and parking reform to raise their share. The Greens are still the best bet for smart transport solutions for Auckland.

The Rugby World Cup opening showed clearly the need to increase Auckland’s rail system’s capacity — right now if a train stops in Britomart tunnel it literally jams the whole rail system for hours. The link is smart and would double the capacity of the rail network, transform the CBD and allow further developments like links to the Airport and North Shore in the future. By cutting spending on uneconomic motorways, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway’ and the Wellington Northern Corridor, we can free up enough funds to pay for urgently needed rail projects like this and light rail to connect Wellington.

National Governments stopped progress on this needed piece of infrastructure in the 1950s and the 1970s and the best way to stop them holding Auckland back again in 2011, is to party vote Green.

26 Comments Posted

  1. James,

    You are not looking a the example of freight companies having the fiancial clout to start a shipping company across Cook Straight.

    Same scenario.

    Before they created Bluebridge they were totally reliant on the railways department.

    They will have the fiancial incentive to buy trainsets especially as the freight companies have the railhead to customer door infastructure.

    The infastructure that KiwiRail currently contract out to Toll Holdings.

  2. Gerrit

    Your idea seemed good at first until I thought a bit more about it. Your option of lease still doesn’t answer the fact that someone has to put a huge investment in trains and carriages in the first place. Someone has to own these trains, and the number of services hiring out trains would be small. This would be a result of the huge cost of owning and maintaining them.

  3. Would government upgrade say the Northland rail without knowing that a private rail operator would run a service and commit to a contract to do so?

    No operator would do so unless it were profitable and if it were, why not Kiwi Rail? If it were not, if government saw a reason to subsidise the line at a loss – again why not Kiwi Rail?

    Private operators apply where there is competition between them, not where there is not sufficient demand for rival operators.

  4. James

    The problem is that even that is a huge investment, and beyond the means of most small businesses.

    Not if you lease

    Cost of one new truck and trailer unit. Around $500K. Rail wagon around the same?

    Remember the freight companies can forward their wagons onto each others trainset. You may well end up with a seperate company that owns trainsets that the freight companies lease or contract to.

    If you look at the Bluebridge ferry ownership you see it is a quite a few freight companies that have chipped in to buy into and own the ferry company.

    Expect the same with rail stock.

    Also the freight companies pay taxes thus have the same ownership rights to rail as to roads.

  5. Kerry Thomas we can agree that the rail lines need improving.

    I am not against private companies using our rail system to run their own trains on. The problem is that even that is a huge investment, and beyond the means of most small businesses. You would end up with only one or two players using the rail system. I don’t see this as a problem, if they can guarantee prices for their passenger and freight services will be reasonable. Since the proposal is for government ownership of railway lines, this could be done, via a contract. I also have no problem with the government owning the passenger and freight services.

    I was also of the impression people who quoted double handling were full of it. For the exact reason of the bulk goods containers.

  6. Agree with Gerrit about providing good rail lines and allowing private competition to run on them. The infrastructure for rail needs to be improved though.

    The Northland line and the spur to Marsden point is an obvious one.

    Several private rail companies would likely keep local build a repair work going. Same as trucking companies do.

    With AGW and the likely future costs of oil it is daft having 100’s of trucks running between a depot in Auckland and a depot in Hamilton when the same thing can be achieved by rail much more cheaply and sustainably.

    Double handling costs are a red herring when most bulk goods now go by container. They are very little compared with the amount of goods in a container.

  7. Gerrit

    If it works for all of us, then I’m all for it. I still need convincing on the merits of your argument though.

    Through any of this, the public needs to have the ultimate say, since it’s them who will suffer when things go wrong.

  8. James,

    The answer is the cooperation between state and private.

    Instead of having purchased new locomotives and rolling stock from China, the state should have spend that money on upgrading the North Auckland Line (or the Napier to Gisborne one) and let those private interest keen to use the upgraded lines purchase the trainsets to run on the now improved lines. That is the win win situation.

  9. Gerrit

    Thank you for that clarification for me. I am not adverse to the rail network owned by government and the trains being operated by private interests, like we operate our roads. What I really want is for the network of tracks to be improved, ie like multi-lane highways with many tracks going to the same place, etc. I’m still skeptical of both sides of the fence, and I don’t see, at the moment, a solution which gives us entirely private rail, or entirely public rail as being the answer.

    As for the O Bahn efficiency, thank you anyway, I’ll keep it in mind.

  10. James,

    If you are willing to accept roads being owned by government, then why not rail as well?

    The difference is that roads are available for ALL private and public transport operators.

    Rail is not. I argue that the state should only own and operate the rail network like the road network and leave private and public operators to run on the network.

    Having the state own the rail network PLUS the trainsets means it is not the same as the state owning roads only.

    We would not tolerate a state owned trucking company to have exclusive use of our tarseal roading network? Or would we?

    I dont have information on O Bahn efficiency. I used it in Adelaide and was most impressed. The bus picks up at the end of the street, traverses the suburb to pick up and drop off, then glides on the O bahn at 120 k into town.

  11. Gerrit

    Having a state owned monopoly means that it is at the whim of state funding

    I accept the whims of state funding point you make.

    Government should only provide the steel road (like the tarseal variaty) and let private enterprise run their own trainsets to grow the use of rail lines.

    I don’t accept this statement. Private enterprise is just as reliable as the government in investing in such projects as rail.

    Rail is part of the transport issue which is the domain of the government, just like roads. If you are willing to accept roads being owned by government, then why not rail as well?

    Urban public transport would be far better served if the suburban raillines were converted to O Bahn bus lines.

    I find this to be an interesting alternative to urban transport, and am interested in seeing the data on the costs of such a system along with rail, etc. A independent study would be ideal, so if you know of such a study with facts, figures and some nice graphs, I would be interested in seeing it.

  12. Lack of investment in rail is purely due it being a government department instead of a private enterprise.

    Government should only provide the steel road (like the tarseal variaty) and let private enterprise run their own trainsets to grow the use of rail lines.

    Having a state owned monopoly means that it is at the whim of state funding and will NEVER get interest from private enterprise for investment.

    It will thus ALWAYS be a poor second cousin to road transport.

    The fact that it cannot operate “door to door” ensures it is always a bit player. The fixed terminals at the end of the railine are the barrier to efficient rail transport services.

    The railine would in fact be better ripped up and converted to a double lane tarseal highway (not open to private car usage) where private enterprise can run their trucks and buses. Trucks and buses can leave the highway at many points for local “door to door” delivery.

    Urban public transport would be far better served if the suburban raillines were converted to O Bahn bus lines.

    Busses quickly and efficiently move along the O Bahn and leave it for local pick ups and drop offs in each suburb without the passengers requiring a transfer.

  13. photonz1 I do take issue on the reason why successive governments, and companies have failed to run rail. No governments in the last few decades have invested enough, if any, into rail. There is a lack of rail services being offered due to lack of investment by governments and companies in the past. However the investment in roads has been huge, in spite of the topological barriers and population issues.

    We cannot do anything about the Tasman, and that’s an issue for both rail and road. We could have several rail lines going through New Zealand, like we have multi lane roads. We could have a excellent rail service if previous governments had had the fore-site to invest in rail. We still can.

  14. On rail, all freight has to wait for the last wagon to be loaded.

    The main line for most of the country is single lane – trains going one way have to stop and wait for trains going the other way.

    Our topography means train travel is very, very slow in NZ.

    There is probably no country in the world that have as many factors against rail than NZ (steep topography, two islands, spread out population, low population etc).

    That’s why despite decades of trying, the govt and experienced international rail operators have failed to successfully run NZ Rail.

  15. BJ,

    Rail is very poor and inefficient at distributing cargo and people door to door.

    Road is needed for the final “mile”.

    I’m not convinced that rail is more efficient then trucking and buses when consigning door to door.

    Triple handling of cargo invariably leads to more costs and damaged goods.

    A truck and one driver can for example drop of and pick up goods in a far wider distributor network then rail can.

    Rail has a place but measure efficiency door to door please.

  16. It is cheaper to build rail than roads.

    Easier to run electrified rail than electric automobiles.

    Rail can carry heavier loads more efficiently where it exists.

    Cultures that do not have a lot of roads and cars have done well with it.

    Our corridors of travel are not so wide. Rail uses less real-estate.

  17. Rail is not going back to the 1800’s, but Misanthropic Curmudgeon raises a good point. Is rail the best way to go? It is inflexible, in where it can go. As in, the trains can only go where the tracks can take them. Buses can go anywhere there is a road, which covers a lot more ground, including gravel.

    I suppose it depends on the on going costs, comparing how much it costs to maintain a railway compared to motorways. The problem is the issue is not black and white.

    We do need to tackle the issue of reducing how many cars use our roads, and rail does offer an answer.

  18. The Nats aren’t obsessed with tarmac, it’s just that they’re owned by the roading lobby. Still, it does show them to be honest politicians; they’ve stayed bought ever since the fifties.

  19. If National do build the puhoi to wellsford highway as they plan will it be known to the next generation as Joyce’s Folly or Joyce’s Mistake?

  20. The Rugby World Cup opening showed clearly the need to increase Auckland’s rail system’s capacity

    Actually, all it showed was that the motorway was a far superior way of getting around. I know, because I drove down it that night. It was empty.

  21. If National are a 1950 timer warp with motorways, what are you with a 1800’s technology?

    Every publica trasnport plan fr Auckland which features rail is a dog: buses are a far better solution for their flexiabilty, security of service, incremental cost structure, low capital outlay, and ease of rolling stick improvements.

    Installing rail in todays environmenst is akin to installling manual telephone swicthboards in the digital era: antiquated madness that works as a legacy system, but is not the way of the future.

  22. Seems that the Nats are just caught in a time-warp.. instead of looking forward, they are obsessed with more roads & more gas-guzzling cars..

    OR maybe they are just trying to ensure they have a nice new road to ride on, in their luxury Govt. limo’s ? “BOOOOOO”


Comments are closed.