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Using the SA fleet post electrification

The Herald today has an article on the rail shutdown, mainly just talking about similar stuff we mentioned in this post. However at the bottom of the article are some interesting comments by Mike Lee around the CRL and in particular what we do around rolling stock.

Mr Lee said it took a concerted campaign by the former Auckland Regional Council, which he chaired, to convince Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen in 2008 to support electrification on the basis that “rail would go onwards and upwards forever in Auckland”.

It was ironic that the “kicker” argument for electric trains was that the underground rail extension could not be built without them, yet Auckland was now having trouble convincing the Government of that project’s merits.

But Mr Lee believes an extension of the electrification project to include electric locomotives could boost the economic case for a rail tunnel, by enabling Auckland to retain some of its rolling stock without having to buy a second fleet of new trains in addition to the 57 on order.

He is annoyed Auckland Transport has included more than $300 million of extra trains in an inflation-adjusted cost estimate of $2.86 billion, resulting in a predicted return of only 90c for every dollar invested in a new rail tunnel, and says that without them the project would more than break even.

That could be achieved by using electric locomotives to haul existing passenger carriages by day, and freight to and from the port at night, reducing emissions and noise through residential suburbs.

Mike seems to have a fascination with retaining the existing SA trains and hauling them around with electric locomotives as this isn’t the first time he has mentioned it. I wonder if it is purely as a result of him trying to do everything possible to get the CRL built by reducing part of the cost like the article suggests or if it is perhaps because the ARC had to fight hard to get the money to buy and upgrade the trains in the first place. In fact the original plans for electrification were to buy 38 EMUs and then an additional 13 electric locomotives to pull around the SA fleet. In 2011 Auckland Transport did the sums and found that long term it was actually cheaper just to buy the extra EMUs we needed due to things like simpler and less maintenance costs along with the fact the SA trains would have needed another refurbishment or replacement in a number of years. But there was another kicker as well, as part of the original CRL business case said:

KiwiRail has advised that the fire rating of the existing SA/SD carriage trains is not compatible with extended operation in tunnels. Therefore, the assumption used in the CBD Rail Link study is that all services will be operated using Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), either those currently being procured by KiwiRail or those bought in subsequent batches. It is understood that KiwiRail‟s current technical specification for the Auckland EMU‟s requires that these trains must be compatible with the CBD Rail Link.

So in reality the suggestion by Mike isn’t really a valid one although I guess at least he managed to get across the point that the $2.86b cost is not the tunnel alone but includes a whole host of other costs, a break down of which is below.

crlcore-costs

It does still leave the question open about what will happen with the SA trains post electrification. They aren’t really suited to long distance travel due to their door configuration and lack of toilets. There also doesn’t appear to be any other cities in NZ even considering using rail for passengers that could use them to get started. My guess is they will be sold overseas, perhaps to a developing country in Africa to be used there although just how much we would get for them is unknown.

As a side note, I actually thought it was a shame that it didn’t seem to be considered as part of the Christchurch rebuild. The rail network travels through quite a few neighbourhoods and satellite towns so with a short Britomart type extension could have seen the network extended closer to the CBD but I guess Gerry would never have approved of that.

24 comments to Using the SA fleet post electrification

  • Peter M

    A really interesting question is whether we need as many new EMU trains with the CRL now that it seems the East Facing Connection will happen and the stupid Inner West interchange won’t happen. Also we may want to keep adding to the EMU fleet post electrification to get as many trains up to 6 car sets as possible, which could also significantly reduce the number of additional EMUs needed at the time of the CRL.

    • Who do I thank for that piece of stupidity (the inner-west interchange) no longer happening (well better not): (“seems the East Facing Connection will happen and the stupid Inner West interchange won’t happen”) – no serious who do I thank.

      As for EMU numbers – isn’t Council looking at purchasing another 2-3 EMUs more with Pukekohe Electrification gathering steam (yeah pun right there) at the moment?

    • Steve D

      Was that announced just recently? Great news if it’s true.

    • [citation needed]! It’s great news if it’s true, but given the long history of Auckland getting the cheapest, shittiest, nastiest possible “solution” to any transport issue I hope you’ll excuse my scepticism.

  • Greg N

    BR:AKL_Admin01:
    “As for EMU numbers – isn’t Council looking at purchasing another 2-3 EMUs more with Pukekohe Electrification gathering steam”

    And

    Matt L:
    “It does still leave the question open about what will happen with the SA trains post electrification”

    Well heres my prediction right here:

    Council/AT will buy some Electric Locos, and use (at least initially) the SA carriages on non-CRL journeys e.g. on the Papakura to Pukekohe electrified line extension as they can’t be operated in the CRL tunnels.

    It will avoid spending $ on new EMUs (initially anyway), and give a electric option to Puke PT users (and maybe eventually Swanson?)

    I note Mike Lees comment about freight haulage too:

    “That could be achieved by using electric locomotives to haul existing passenger carriages by day, and freight to and from the port at night, reducing emissions and noise through residential suburbs.”

    Which indicates that Mike Lee (at least) wants to replace diesel freight locos with electric ones, at least in the isthmus area, where some of the intensification is supposed to take place (along the rail corridor) in the Auckland Plan.

    Using Electric locos for freight has been discussed and dismissed by others on this board as impractical, but maybe Mike Lee has different advice or at least a different vision?

    Regardless – the purchase of electric locos or extra EMUs for Puke line electrification does not in any way relate to the CRL, so must be kept out of the equation.

    And why the cost of removal of diesel freight locos from the network is considered part of the CRL costs (as indicated by the Mike Lee comments) is a dumb idea as these add-ons are not actually required for the CRL to be built or used as no diesels will ever see the inside of the CRL.

    The same could be said of the extra EMUs needed for the Onehunga line once it is double tracked as indeed the double tracking of the Onehunga line itself is also not strictly “CRL related” – but relates to gaining other “WEBs” over the whole rail network though.

    Lastly it appears based on the CCFAS report, that the CRL has the least “negative” BCR of all the options considered – removing these extraneous costs on the CRL link itself to get the BCR at least above 1 (as Mike Lee mentions) means it can be changed from a non-starter to a no-brainer.

    Longer term what to do with the old SA carriages is to stop using them altogether as they are well past their design and safety lives by now.

    • bbc

      If the section between Papakura and Pukekohe is electrified then they will simply continue the EMUs all the way to Pukekohe as they do now with the diesels, the idea of the shuttles is premised on the electric section ending at Papakura. So there’s no need for the SAs except there. I’d like to see them being used on a Hamilton to Auckland run or perhaps if we get a change in government in 2014 we may see trains in ChCh who knows.

  • Rob Mayo

    Agreed. Stop using the SA carriages as soon as possible once all the EMUs have been delivered as part of the current order from CAF. The SAs are well past their use-by date and should all be sold to overseas buyers.

  • Jamie Walton

    The comments on the Christchurch Transport blog a while back was that Christchurch would use Auckland’s old rolling stock (at least as an interim measure) to restart suburban rail services in and around Christchurch. They could be transported entirely by rail. Too easy?

    • bbc

      Any such plan would require National to be kicked out at the next election, they’ve put the brakes on any non-road based transport funding down there.

  • It’s pretty clear that keeping the SAs would be a false economy- saving some capital cost but then incurring a whole lot of higher running costs and system inefficiencies.

    I’m sure Mike Lee understands this so is really talking to a political imperative; the business case for the CRL does load the cost with various additional burdens that has the effect of making it look very expensive, he is trying to find ways to lower that headline figure. As shown above the CRL itself is 1.8billion, yet it has other costs added to it, is this reasonable?

    No motorway project includes the cost the vehicles that must be bought to use it, nor the fuel these machines use, nor the burdens on the surrounding local road systems. And of course not the wasted land use and capital costs of expanded parking infrastructure. The fantasy implicit in our current policy of aggressively re-committing the nation to road freight and car passenger transport is that there are no additional running costs in this choice. This is, of course, a foolish self-delusion.

    In 2011 we spent 7.1 billion on fuel imports [of which nearly 2/3 was used on our roads, the rest mainly for air travel, surprisingly little on the farm] and 4.8 billion importing vehicles. Not only do we never look at these costs when evaluating projects there also other simplifications allowed for road projects.

    The Waterview project is quoted as being below 2b in cost, yet the necessary improvements to SH16 and the construction SH18 take the total for the piece of the motorway jigsaw up to around 4billion… do we ever hear this figure?

    The additional batch of EMUs quoted above won’t be needed until they’re needed; my understanding is that the 57 EMUs that we will have operating by 2015 will be sufficient to run the CRL [In fact they will run more efficiently with the through-routing of the CRL than before it is open]. So that cost is both a long way in the future and dependent on demand growth. In other words if we find we need to order more EMUs that will be because of the run-away success of the CRL after 2021…..

    Is it really reasonable to count it now?

  • Alphatron

    The original CRL benefit cost assessment included patronage related benefits for a 30 year evaluation period. Analysis of patronage growth forecasts (which are quite likely to be conservative) showed that additional EMUS would be required from about 2030 to handle the peak demand. Therefore the costs of a second batch of EMUS were included in the costs of the project (but assumed to be ordered in around 2028) so the costs were discounted back to 2010 dollars in determining the present value of benefits and costs for the project. Arguably these costs could have been excluded from the BCR calculation but only if there was no growth in patronage related benefits after the capacity of the first batch of EMUs was reached.

    • Greg N

      Ok, so what you are saying is that extra EMUs are needed by 2030 due to induced demand by PT users (flocking to PT in increasing droves) sometime after 2028. So as a result the “cost” of that demand in 15 years time needs to be included due to the “30 year window” for the project evaluation time frame?

      But since when did any roading project (RoNS included) ever take account this sort of “extra” induced demand some 15 or more years in the future in the orignal cost estimates?

      And if there is such a roading project I’d love to hear about it.

      What normally happens is that the road builders plan on the traffic levels (for a new road) being X in Y years time), then at some point (Y-5 or Y-10 usually), the X value for traffic is achieved “too soon” – so what do they do – well they then go back to NZTA and say we need to widen said road as its way more popular than we imagined it would be, but growth is good right, so that must be ok that we underestimated demand originally?

      So why is ok to under-estimate demand for roads but we have to over estimate the demand for trains?

  • Alphatron

    I suggest that you read the NZTA Economic Evaluation Manual for more information on this

    • Greg N

      Regardless of whether NZTA follows its own rules in the EEM consistently or not, as Patrick said above:

      “…In other words if we find we need to order more EMUs that will be because of the run-away success of the CRL after 2021…..
      [so] Is it really reasonable to count it now?”

      To which I agree whole heartedly – so in a nutshell tell me why do we need to include future purchases of EMUs in the CRL cost now before its even built?
      And only as it seems, you say – n case passenger projections are too conservative – when the same is not required of analysis of road projects (such as the collectively and individually, way more expensive, RoNS) now?

    • Yes Greg this is my point; the fact that we are including new vehicles in 2030 in the capex cost of a project that is finished and opens 10 years earlier seems intentionally or not a way to lumber that project with ever higher and unreasonable cost. You can argue that a railway is no use without trains but then nor is a motorway without cars and trucks, are they ever accounted for road costing? In the same way the Herald has decided electrification costs must also include the line to Manukau, and the other to Onehunga, new stations and double tracking of the western. Why? Why not throw in the construction of the eastern line in the 1930s? Will the cost of Waterview reported in the Herald include that of the Mangere bridge? or the rest of SH20? SH16? The CMJ?

      We will be able to run a more efficient service pattern with the 57 EMUs that we will already have with the CRL when it opens but I am confident that we will need and want to get more to run an even better and more frequent service after it opens because of its huge success. A success that will improve Auckland. If we find that we are filling another 300 million worth of trains each day it will because we will have a thriving city and less expensive road and bus network. This sort of ‘congestion’ on a grade separate Transit network is a boon not a problem as it is on a motorway.

      I might add that some preliminary math done by the team here show that the efficiency of the electric trains will lift operating cost recovery considerably and depending on other factors such as passenger numbers, tickets prices, and staffing levels [as well as the impost of government charges and interest] fair-box recovery may well approach 100%. So really instead of handwringing to cut capex spend and retain old bangers the greater target should be to increase efficiency in delivery and growing the appeal of the service.

      But we really need to understand how to evaluate these things better: In London they are running trains through 150 year old tunnels and in some cases still on Victorian track. The 1.8billion cost of the asset is a bargain for what it achieves for the utility of the network and should be amortised over a far greater period than 30 years. The opex is where we should be focussed on service and systems improvement and cost control.

      More new electric trains?: a sign of success and a money saver not a problem to avoid.

  • MFD

    Mixing electric-locomotive-hauled trains with EMUs on frequent services is asking for trouble. The acceleration achievable by an SA set with an electric loco is considerably less than the EMUs (it’s a simple Newtonian calculation involving loco and train masses, tractive effort and number of powered axles). The SA sets would degrade the entire timetable unless they were used on a dedicated route with no EMUs, even than, that route would be compromised.

  • grant drabble

    Have talked about this before, can use SA fleet from today,
    Hamilton,tuakau,puke,papakura,m/rewa to manukau and return.
    Service will be well loaded from day 1.
    No tunnels to worry about, much needed boost to akld train pax
    numbers immediately.

  • Luke E

    An Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga service is an absolute must, but it should be done in style, to appeal to tourists. The SA cars could be used on a Waikato regional rail network, with services from the commuter towns, like Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Ngaruawahia etc. going in to Hamilton, with some new inner city stops added to flesh out the network, such as at The Base, Claudelands, and the university. But of course Hamilton is so roads focused it won’t happen for a long time.

  • dan c

    So its cheaper to buy some electric locos and use existing carriages. Yet its cheaper to buy new emus than continue with the old stock. A conflict between short term and long term thinking.

    Until such a time as transport planning in this country takes a long term view, it would seem sensible, as the business case only looks at short term benefits, include only the costs that makes sense in the short term.

    If when AT/kiwirail come to buy the locos they want to do an adhoc long-term reassesment and find emus the better option, all well and good.

  • Jeff H

    Certainly support Mike Lee’s move to have freight trains from the port eventually hauled by electric locomotives. With the power system in place it seems to make sense to use it and the environmental benefits from the reduced noise and pollution in the city area are also obvious.

    Re the SA trains I’ve heard that Dunedin (where they were built) would love to get their hands on some to run suburban services to Mosgiel and Port Chalmers. Hopefully these trains will again serve their purpose as precursors for passenger rail development in other parts of the country as they have done in Auckland.

    • dan c

      Surburban services to port chalmers? You realise the total population there is 3000? And half of those probably work across the road at the port.

  • MrV

    As far as the SA sets go we need to construct a new rail line to the nearest high cliff face and then drive them off it, preferrably with one of those past-use-by-date diesels attached.
    Or maybe we could donate them to Chch and see if they can resurrect something useful.

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