Tranz Metro celebrates 70 years on the Johnsonville Line

Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of electrified commuter service on the Johnsonville Line into Wellington.

The line itself dates back to 1885 and was the main line north from the capital until 1937, when the Tawa flat deviation was opened to all rail traffic.

In the early 1930’s rail management considered closing the bypassed Johnsonville Line. However local residents campaigned to keep their vital link to the city of Wellington. The idea of using electrical multiple units was put forward and accepted. These would be the first of their kind in New Zealand.

The first train ran on the 2nd July 1938, arriving at Johnsonville at 3.50pm for an official opening ceremony carried out by Minister of Railways, Dan Sullivan and Wellington Mayor Thomas Hislop.

“The electrification of the Johnsonville Line was a trailblazing moment for commuter rail in New Zealand,” comments Mr Parry. “Tranz Metro now takes around ten thousand cars a day of Wellington’s roads and the Johnsonville line has had a big part to play in the clean and green nature of Wellington.”

It seems that Wellington area residents have been fighting for sensible transport solutions for at least seventy years. The fight continues today over plans to build the Transmission Gully motorway at a time when oil prices are rising and car use is declining. Let’s hope the politicians listen to the people again this time.

16 Comments Posted

  1. BP. It is unfortunate that so many greens confuse the motorcar with it’s propulsion unit. All of the worst problems associated with the motorcar will be solved simply by doing away with the internal combustion engine. Regenerative braking even cleans up waterways by reducing the amount of heavy metal laden brakedust. It’s not as though the motrcar led to an explosion of road building. In 1900 we had 50,000 miles of 66ft wide roads. Today we have 90,000km of mostly 22m wide roads. A 10 per cent increase in land area in 100 years.

  2. john-ston, Of course the other perspective is “How many years (or decades) of 15% growth will be needed before rail matches the popularity of buses and how many years (or decades) after that till it matches the popularity of the horseless carriage.

  3. I think the real fundemental disagreement between the protagonists here is the question of how widespread private car use will be over the next few decades. We all have opinions, all based on reasonable grounds and reasonable expectations and beliefs.

    Going to be interesting to watch this one play out…

  4. Sure, but it is still subsidised, indicating the economics don’t actually work too well.

    Not dismissing it – I think we need a mixture, for a variety of reason – but some greens are pretending the private car isn’t a significant part of the foreseeable future.

    It is.

  5. “It’s quite simple, isn’t it? Car use has grown, indicating people like traveling by cars compared to the available alternatives. So long as cars are affordable to run, people will continue to use cars. I have shown how cars can remain cost effective to run without oil. The technology is already here, and is in production.”

    So has public transport use; rail usage in Auckland went up by 32% in 2005 and 15% in both 2006 and 2007 and is set to increase by that amount again in 2008. What has retarded bus growth has been a lack of extra capacity on popular routes, such as the Botany 68 which often is standing room only from Botany Town Centre. In fact, most peak hour trains in both Wellington and Auckland (in our case, the Southern and Eastern Lines, the Western Line trains are often full of air).

    Therefore, wouldn’t someone with logic suggest that we need an increase in public transport capacity?

  6. PS: As an aside, it should be noted I’m not advocating all car, all the time.

    I particularly like the way Holland manages roading. Deflt is a charming old city that is mostly pedestrianized and bike is the best way of getting around for short, frequent journeys. Cars are routed around the outside of the town on big motorways.

    It is the best of both worlds.

  7. Ari

    >>You don’t really establish any good argument for personal transport remaining viable, fyi.

    Perhaps that is due to cognitive dissonance?

    It’s quite simple, isn’t it? Car use has grown, indicating people like traveling by cars compared to the available alternatives. So long as cars are affordable to run, people will continue to use cars. I have shown how cars can remain cost effective to run without oil. The technology is already here, and is in production.

    You haven’t made a case why that should change. Your **entire** argument is based on the idea oil will be very expensive thus making cars unaffordable, yet I’ve addressed that issue by demonstrating electric cars can and do have lower operating costs.

    The only issue remains how we increase electricity generation, but New Zealand isn’t short of options in this respect. Again, it may make use better off in the long run, because we will be more self reliant and less affected by what happens in the Gulf.

  8. The fight continues today over plans to build the Shell Gully motorway at a time when oil prices are rising and car use is declining.

    Yep, Transit’s website has traffic counts for every year since 1975 and guess what, for the first five of those years Wellington motorway traffic numbers were static but over the next 25 years they increased by 100%. Just because we are again seeing static traffic counts (no actual reduction uptil 2007) doesn’t mean we won’t see a resumption of traffic growth. Despite the refinery expansion levy keeping petrol prices high in New Zealand until the mid-80s traffic volumes actually grew by 25% in the early 80s.

    http://www.transit.govt.nz/technical/traffic-volumes.jsp

  9. “It seems that Wellington area residents have been fighting for sensible transport solutions for at least seventy years.”

    That is a rich comment to make. Wellingtonians have had it very easy over the last seventy years; they had lines electrified for them, new rolling stock coming when it was needed and so on.

    Compare this with Auckland. Auckland saw two electrification proposals cancelled, with a third one on shaky ground. We saw rolling stock being promised and then cancelled (that one occurred in the late 1970s IIRC). We saw the closure of our network proposed twice and its replacement with busways or light rail mooted, an idea that was not completely gotten rid of until the late 1990s. We have had to put up with ancient rolling stock for the better part of fifty years, first with the A carriages; then the ADKs, ADLs and SX set.

    Wellington has not had to fight, they have gotten everything on a platter. No one has seriously suggested closing the Wellington network ever.

  10. BP: Oil doesn’t need to run out before we need to have moved on from individual cars with oil-based petroleum. It just needs to dwindle in available so that it gets too expensive for widespread use in New Zealand.

    I also doubt electric cars would be cheaper than oil was in the early twentieth century, but I can certainly see them reducing the cost of personal transportation in the long-term. However, if this is our solution to peak oil, that also makes our energy strategy much more important than before.

    As for the Johnsonville line- have to agree it’s run down. I really hope they do something to replace the carriages now that it’s back in State hands, although if National wins, I don’t see that being likely at all.

    I’d be tempted to call the current situation a technical recession given how small it is. Given all the external factors involved, achieving a mere technical recession is actually a pretty good result.

    You don’t really establish any good argument for personal transport remaining viable, fyi. Mostly, you’ve just appealed to tradition. There have been plenty of good arguments that personal transport is at risk on this blog, you’ve largely just refused to engage them.

    OutInFront: I’d say New Zealand isn’t doing too badly on managing its population, although I’d agree that in the very long term our growth levels are unsustainable, especially if we plan to allow more migrants in. (although at the moment, there’s roughly twelve times more population growth from births than from migration)

    I’m still hopeful we’ll actually convince people worldwide that we could benefit greatly from negative population growth, but if not, you’re absolutely right.

  11. >>It looks like NZ is about a millimeter away from a recession

    We’re already in one.

    >>banking on growing private transport is a sound strategy

    Why not? Personal transport has been around since the horse. We simply built a better horse (and cart). That genie will not be going back in the bottle, nor should it.

    There is no need.

    >>demands for more land to be paved for cars

    Yes, which will be great. Our roads are rubbish and we have a ton of land. We don’t even have a highway between Wellington and Auckland yet.

  12. BP: Your “self evident” assumes a lot of “business as usual” over the next couple of decades, and if business was to continue as it had from last year on, then all would be well.

    But this year doesn’t look the same as last year.

    It looks like NZ is about a millimeter away from a recession. As a low wage economy, the majority of travelers in NZ won’t benefit from eleccy cars ’till we get the Japanese cast-offs, so nothing fast will happen there either.

    NZ could well get caught in a pincer movement so beloved of warring generals, where we cant afford to stay as we are, but cant afford to change.

    This is why I’m unconvinced that banking on growing private transport is a sound strategy.

  13. One thing is clear: as populations grows, public transport is the only infrastructure that makes long term sense and can be sustained into the future.

    The private car will always result in congestion and demands for more land to be paved for cars – electric or not – to drive on.

    Eventually we will have to get rid of the stand-alone home,too, as countries like Singapore and Taiwan have increasingly had to do. If we refuse to control our population, we will end up NEEDING to build the high-rise tower complexes to house everyone affordably. Hopefully, like Singapore and Taiwan, the land that used to be covered by hundreds or thousands of single private dwellings can be converted back into public space with trees, lakes, forest and other amenities. Living in a good quality apartment in a tower complex with public transit at the door, surrounded by several hundred acres of green space with lakes and forests sounds like a much better option than peering into my neighbours kitchen on our respective postage stamp sections.

  14. >>given the existing state of the NZ car fleet

    Most of the existing New Zealand car fleet will be in the crusher within twenty years. That isn’t a long time frame.

    Oil isn’t running out in the next hour. We’ll always need roads. People will always want to get from A to B and we don’t have the population to support mass transit except in the big cities, and then only for certain types of journeys.

    It is looking increasingly likely that the high oil price will be the best thing that has happened to the motorist, as we’ll soon have cars that are significantly cheaper to run, quieter, and generate less pollution. We’ll also be more independent of the effects Gulf politics, which can only be good.

    Those are the facts. It isn’t difficult to pick what will happen, but the ideology of the Greens prevents them from seeing many things I would consider self-evident.

  15. Electric cars are almost here, and car use will enter a second golden age.

    Maybe, or maybe not, or maybe not yet; given the existing state of the NZ car fleet, I don’t think we are even close to thinking a mass changeover to electric is a possibility.

    We do live in awkward times; knowing just what infrastructure to invest in for the next few decades is hard…

  16. My wife uses the Johnsonville line. I used to use it to go to school. It is great, but run down. Could use some work.

    >>e fight continues today over plans to build the Transmission Gully motorway at a time when oil prices are rising and car use is declining.

    Eh? How is that “fight” connected? We’re fighting FOR Transmission Gully, and it is long overdue, as we only have one route out of Wellington, and it is rubbish. Electric cars are almost here, and car use will enter a second golden age.

    Best you live in 2008 frog, rather than the 1930s.

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