Follow us on Twitter

How the rail network used to be

With us on the verge of finally having electric trains running around the network it’s worth remembering just how far we’ve come. Back in 1992 Auckland was reaching its lowest point ever after decades of neglect and was down to carrying only about 1 million trips a year and only heading in one direction In fact I believe there had already been suggestions of ripping out the tracks and putting roads in their place. At the same time Perth had just electrified their rail system and wanted to get rid of their old diesel trains that were no longer being used. Through some hard work and good luck (more on that story in a future post) Auckland managed to buy the trains to run on our network.

Darren Davis – who now works for AT – was advocating for PT improvements at the time and wrote this article about the upcoming introduction of these trains which helps to highlight just how far we’ve come.

Old Rail article

A couple of the key things that stand out to me are:

  • All of the stations had to have their platforms raised substantially to the height they are today – trains were definitely not for anyone who couldn’t climb up steps easily.
  • Some stations had no platforms at all and others had platforms moved.
  • There was talk about the need for integrated ticketing.
  • That the DMU’s were about 20% more efficient than the old locomotive hauled trains they replaced and that was one of the primary reasons for buying them. Remember EMU operating costs are about half again.
  • There was talk back then of a spur line to Manukau.
  • There were no weekend or evening trains.
  • Britomart was just a dream and plans for a casino at the old Auckland Railway Station and nearby land could have prevented it from ever happening.

And what was the result of all of this? Within a few years patronage had doubled back over 2 million trips a year. It was finally Britomart that saw patronage growth take off but I doubt we would have built the station if it hadn’t been for the increases in patronage seen from the buying of these trains. In effect they saved the rail network in Auckland and ended up kicking off a series of upgrades that have seen us substantially upgrade and improve the network to where it is today.

Historic Rail Patronage 1990 - now

35 comments to How the rail network used to be

  • Tom Jackson

    Speaking of development, I see the Ranui station platforms are currently being lengthened – any similar development around the network?

  • Luke Christensen

    So the history of integrated ticketing goes back further than the mid 2000′s, shows we’ve been trying for over 20 years!
    Hopefully this year.

  • Ian

    I’m amazed the Auckland system survived Rogernomics and Ruthenasia. They must have been looking elsewhere at the time.

  • Greg N

    You missed one (on the second page, at the end).

    “A desire to have a fully integrated bus,ferry and rail network (via a tendering process) – rather than (continue) as a random mix of operators, modes and services.”

    Leveraging the common ticketing platform to allow easy transfers between modes.

    So, that’s “state of the art” in 1992, – we still don’t have that in place yet (22 years on), but like the EMUs, its a coming – and maybe by the 25th anniversary, it might have arrived (the modes being integrated service-wise and also the integrated ticketing)?

    And what happening to CityRail – did they lose out to Veolia/TransDev?

    They did say the DMU’s were at best a “10 year stop gap” option, and here we are 12 more years on, and those DMUs are still running – well beyond their use-by date..

    • Cityrail was a part of NZ rail which were sold off when the rail network was. I believe the newly privatised Transrail planned to do double tracking and introduce something like SA sets to boost patronage but politicians at the time were fixated with converting network to light rail so fought the proposals. In the end Transmetro (as cityrail was then known and still is in Wellington) decided they didn’t want any part of the Auckland network so didn’t bid when the contract came up for renewal. Connex did and won the contract eventually becoming Veolia and now Transdev.

      And yes the ADKs especially are well past their use-by date

  • Matt, could you perhaps also plot on that graph the double tracking/DART period, the RWC, and the electrificaiton period?

  • Wow, look at all the “Light Rail” buzzwords. Why was “light” considered so superior to “heavy”?

  • Gary Young

    What will happen now to the old rolling stock as the EMUs are phased in? Is there any rail network anywhere that may want to buy third-hand vehicles?

    • MFD

      There are many 1067 mm and metre gauge systems in Asia and Africa, some of which may be interested if the price is right. Regauging from 1067 to 1000 mm is usually straight-forward.

      • Gary Young

        So they don’t necessarily have to be scrapped or abandoned in a siding. Good. Do we know then if steps are actively being taken to seek out potential customers. I don’t imagine the old stock is collectively worth a huge amount of money but it would surely offset some of the current financial outlay.

        • bbc

          I’m sure they are, Wellington just went through a similar process so there’s precedent. However, it’s still many years away until they can all be taken out of service and some will probably be used for spares and or spare parts until we have a completely EMU fleet in 3 years or so.

  • Waspman

    If i recall correctly the late Phil Warren who was the head of the ARC was a big supporter and mover of PT and of integrated transport for Auckland back then and had a fair bit of influence. And it is around the time that there was some definite action to look at alternatives to cars cars and more cars. Ironically now some politicians have missed this point.

    Its hard to believe that just over 20 years ago a city as big as Auckland had such disregard for PT. The ferry’s were crap and only went to Devonport and Stanley Point (very occasionally), the buses had gone through some insane new market lead tendering system that saw our area served by 8 -10 seater taxi vans after 6.30 PM and on weekends and rail literally 3rd world using dilapidated 940′s and earlier rolling stock. Lucky we have had some politicians with vision and focus.

  • It’s amazing both how far we’ve come (although still have a way to go) but moreso how long we’ve been trying and fighting for it!

    Also amazing: Brush Script MT, a font that has been entirely wiped from the earth with the sole exception of the PB Technologies logo.

  • When government-owned CityRail made the decision to buy the DMU’s and begin rebuilding the passenger network, was it Labour or National in power?

    This was the same era that NZR set about rebuilding the national passenger network, with the Capital Connection, Kaimai Express and Geyserland Express all being started, and all the other trains getting refurbished carriages and a number of other trains at least trialled (Lynx Express, Night Southerner). It was all going so well until the shift to a freight focus.

    • Nick R

      The decision was really made by by the ARC, and it hinged on the opex saving over the life of a ‘temporary’ contract intended to keep rail ticking over for five or ten years until they had decided exactly what to do. Not sure if central government would have cared much either way about a stop gap measure designe to cut costs on something they expected to slowly disappear anyway. I get the feeling that the light rail supported saw in as keeping things going until they had the light rail scheme was planned and funded, while
      Those against it probably saw it as the means to defer and delay any progress. I wonder if anyone expected hexvy rail to take off?

      • Ross Clark

        @NickR – I was working in the funding section of Transit New Zealand in 1992 and went on to work for Tranz Rail, in its passenger group, after February 1996. The context is that the year before (August 1991) Ruth Richardson had cut the support for PT operations from $52m to $28m, and given us less than a year to organise what the new funding regime would look like (and also given the ARC’s reluctance to put in much more of its own money). The ten-year contract was signed up by Tranz Rail as-was; that was the only way that its passenger group manager could get the idea past his own management.

        @Geoff Blackmore – various ideas for longer-distance passenger rail were trialled over this time, but none of them could make any money and some of them lost a fair bit of money.

        Also, I wouldn’t sell the diesel stock – I’d keep it for new or experimental services. A railwayman never throws anything away!

    • Mike

      National was in power when NZ Rail Ltd made the decision to buy the Perth DMUs and begin rebuilding the network.

      As for disposal, Greater Wellington has sold the Ganz Mavag fleet, of a similar age to the ADC/ADLs, to South Africa, apparently to be used as loco-hauled carriages.

  • Mike

    Another small correction: I think they were introduced in 1993 rather than 1992.

  • Cam

    Mike – Geoff knows who was in power at the time he’s trying to prove a point. Geoff has a theory that National is pro rail and the only time there has been any positive devlopments for rail is when National is in power. He was taking a swipe at various posterslike myself here who disagree with this.

    I’m sure he’s right and Ruth Richardson was a massive rail public transport fan and did all sho could to ensure it survival.

    • tuktuk

      Cam – I think the point that Geoff is making is that when National has been in power there has actually been investment in rail, very targetted to be sure, but nonetheless considerable investment which has enabled Auckland’s electrification and rejuvenated the freight network along core strategic routes. The problem with the current government is that they are also heavily investing in uneconomic RoNS with the outcome being roads that will make it more difficult for rail freight and “metro” passenger buses, trains to compete in future. These roads in some form or another will negatively affect the country’s economic balance sheet for decades to come due to their fundamentally bad business case.

      My understanding is that the DMU purchase was led by the then NZ Rail passenger management. It was a clever technical and money saving measure that saved the Auckland network. I might surmise to say that the then passenger management team were flexing their muscles in a way that hadn’t been possible in the past under more direct government day-to-day management and were therefore able to sail under Ruth Richardson’s radar!

      The last Labour government did invest heavily in Auckland rail, and in Wellington’s new Matangi trains, but almost nothing in the national network until the last 6 months or so in office. This situation could change dramatically with a future Labour/Green/New Zealand First coalition, but they have yet to get into power.

      • Luke Christensen

        Labour put $200 million into Ontrack, and paid for a lot of the major rail rebuilding projects in the mid 2000′s.
        Remember tried to buy Tranz Rail in 2002 when was minutes from bankruptcy, but Toll trumped them, and govt didn’t want to get into bidding war.
        Big issues was not wanting to invest too much while they were fighting with Toll over track access charges, hence just buying Kiwirail in the end.

        To their credit National was convinced of the Kiwirail turnaround plan, probably after some lobbying but the major users. Apart form issues over minor lines Kiwirail has been doing well with container and domestic freight, and winning lots of new traffic. So not too many complaints to be had.

        Labour were very skeptical of Auckland rail in the first two terms, but Mike Lee and others eventually dragged Cullen around. Did seem to be a baby boomer issues believing many of the myths about Auckland and passenger rail.
        Now however the senior people are very different, and much more enthusiastic about urban public transport.

        Note National also governed over the successful early stage of privatization, which totally took rail off the radar from 1993 until 2000.

    • I don’t think it’s left wing vs right wing so much as it is the baby boomers versus all generations since.

      All the Baby-Boomer-In-Power governments up to both the previous Labour government and the current National government are to various extents subscribers to the “Roads are universally Good and Cars are Freedom! Anything I can’t personally drive or drive on is a waste of money” mindset. Once that changes, the NZ transport scene will change for the better too.

      That’s my idealistic look at it anyway.

      • Mike F

        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1312/S00151/winston-peters-speech-to-rail-maritime-transport-union.htm

        Most people dismiss New Zealand First and Winston Peters however I believe most people would agree on their transport policy ?

        • Greg N

          I think some plagiarism is going on here! – I got a “I’ve seen that term before” when I read the “Railways of National Significance” line in that speech :-)

          I believe the term “Railways Of National Significance” was used first in this very blog, by me during December 2012, (if not earlier than that)
          See: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/12/15/some-things-never-change/#comment-54660

          So my post predates Peters use of the term by 6 months at least.

          I think I’ll have my lawyer contact Mr Peters, for an acknowledgement/credit at least going forward :-P
          Like any politician would ever do that.

          At least it seems someone in Peters speech writing team reads this blog once in while.

          And yes, I think this shows that this Blog is at least 6 months ahead of the rest of the countries MPs when it comes to articulating sensible future transport policies.

          • Not bad. But what is really needed is IoNS; Infrastructure of National Significance. The question should not assume the answer at the start. All corridors and needs [freight and passenger] ought to be analysed in a ‘mode-blind’ way and allowed to yield the best result or results for that need or place.

            The current policy starts with the assumption that the answer to every question is always a road. This is clearly limited, visionless, and ideologically led.

          • Greg N

            You mean that the current policy is one that leads to RUINS? – that is “Roads that are Unsustainable, Idealogical,and Nationally Suspect”

            Of course, these transport decisions need to be made in a mode-agnostic way.

            Unfortunately we don’t play on such a balanced playing field, nor are we likely to in the future, whichever party forms the next Government – much as we’d wish it were so..

            So we do need to have someone sticking up for the “little guys” – the Cycleways, the Railways, The coastal shipping ways.

            Otherwise they’ll get trampled in the traffic as yet another johnny-come-lately RONS project gazumps a raft of “mode agnostic” and better transport decisions.

    • Mike

      Thanks, Cam, but I was answering a factual question factually.

      And it is a fact that National has had a pretty good record with respect to rail, eg establishment of the Railways Corporation, NIMT electrification, DLs, AKs, Auckland DMUs, Auckland electrification. However, as others have pointed out, that’s largely in the past, and RoNS, Gisborne etc are in the present. A sensible transport policy would be looking at mode-neutral corridors, as the EU is doing (on rather a larger scale), incorporating road, rail, canals, coastal shipping as appropriate.

      It would have been very good if Clifford Bay had been looked at in that context.

  • Greg N

    In todays Herald (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11184944) there is an article about the scramble for the Epsom seat, now that Rodney Hide has confirmed he is not going back to Epsom or Act.

    The last paragraph is interesting as it relates to the supposed National Party insider tipped to run in Epsom, Matthew Hooton, the Herald quotes him as follows:

    “Hooton,once a National Party insider and former ministerial adviser, told the Herald on Sunday this weekend that John Key’s administration was the “most interventionist government” since Robert Muldoon lost power in 1984.”

    I don’t know if thats good or bad news really, but I think we all agree thatGovernments like Muldoons tended to have a habit of intervening to preserve the status quo and pander to the Roads trump everything brigade.

    Which is seemingly why with this Government we got things like RoNS, unconventional Convention Centre deals, CERA and Warner Bros movie deals as examples of modern Government intervention.

    Its amazing we even have a Auckland Commuter Rail network left any more to run anything on, given the constant patterns of “dicking with it when its not needed” and “ignoring it when intervention is needed” from politicians on all sides, particularly from Muldoon onwards.

    By the next election later this year, since 1975 – when Muldoon first came to power as PM – a period of time of 39 years will have elapsed.
    Since 1975 NZ has had 5 changes of Government (National: 9 years, Labour: 6,, National: 9, Labour: 9, National: 6* – still in progress)

    The majority of the time its been a National (or National Led) Government in power (62% v 38%, 3 terms as Government by National versus 2 from Labour)..

    So you’d have to agree from that that despite the rhetoric to the contrary, from some quarters, that the overwhelming majority of the scope for intervention and actual intervention really has been from Governments from Nationals side of the house. They’ve had 3 goes at Government, so had 3 chances (versus Labours 2) to undo the previous governments changes if so desired. And they have had plenty of time to implement their changes and/or to protect the status quo.

    Looking back at Darren’s column and earlier, it seems that as Muldoon and his successors did fiddle, the Auckland rail network, if not the entire country, transport-wise, burned.

    We really need to do much better than this, Auckland and NZ Inc as a country and society can’t afford another 39 years of protecting the “status quo” like we have seemingly done for most of the time since 1975.

    We simply don’t have that much time on our side (or another world-scale Maui Gas-field right offshore) to allow yet more “bread and circuses” to distract us from the need to change our thinking and do things better. Repeating past mistakes is a luxury we can no longer afford.

  • Riccardo

    When do we get the ADLs back? Barnett has published a Perth transport plan including an extension to Byford. We could have that tomorrow if we had some DMUs to run it with. There aren’t any 3’6″ DMUs anywhere in the country.

  • Riccardo

    Whoops, except the Australind cars but not really suitable for suburban traffic.

Leave a Reply