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Mighty River Rail: A Fresh Future?

Looking at a number of separate but current issues got me thinking about the possibility of the return of passenger services on the existing rail lines through the Waikato. These include:

  • The potential appeal of well connected and well designed satellite towns.
  • The difficulty of retaining vitality and that appeal in many existing country towns.
  • New challenges and opportunities for a number of Waikato towns caused by the rerouting of SH1.
  • Population growth pressures on Hamilton and Auckland and the poor quality of recent ex-urban spread.
  • The existing rail lines and legacy stations in the Waikato.
  • The coming availability of Auckland’s current diesel passenger trains.

Starting with the last point I would like to stress that I am not proposing a Hamilton-Britomart intercity service. This idea has a great many practical problems in particular the crowded condition of both Britomart Station and the Auckland network, it is simply too hard to fit additional services through the Auckland network without more track and the CRL to free up station space at Britomart; so no time soon. But also the fact that the market for such a direct service is unproven and likely not large, especially as it would not be competitive with buses using the motorway for price or speed. The billions being spent in the Waikato countryside is speeding the road route there and even if the Auckland network can jam up at anytime for any number of reasons [I spent a loathsome hour getting from Otahuhu to the city on SH1 last week], it still will be hard for the existing rail route to be competitive. At least until such a time as it could run reliably and directly through the Auckland network at speed.

No I have another suggestion that is to embrace the available resource of the line by going instead for coverage and local connectivity. But it starts in Auckland still. The plan is for Auckland’s new electric trains only to reach as far south as Papakura so a few of the current diesel trains will remain as a shuttle service from that station south to Pukekohe. This system will be in place in late next year and Papakura station has been upgraded to facilitate its operation as a transfer point between the two rail systems.

So the first idea is simply to extend the coming southern shuttle between Pukekohe and Papakura south to connect with the towns of the northern Waikato already on the line. Even just extending those services south to Tuakau, the next town on the route to Hamilton, and then to the growing town of Pokeno would cost very little and offer an opportunity to test the idea. But I’m sure the people of Ngauawahia and Te Kauwhata would be pretty keen on the service too going on information from previous intercity proposals, and if a service goes that far it would be crazy not to continue into Hamilton. It would then have anchors* at both ends and not just be an appendage of Auckland’s system. On one hand then it would just be extending the Pukekohe catchment and on the other offering those country towns the chance to redevelop the areas around their stations as well as an additional way to travel within the wider region. Politically and financially it would require the Waikato Regional Council to work with AT and agree on the details. Let’s assume that’s not impossible.

As the line to Pukekohe is likely to be electrified and intermediate stations added this service could then terminate there instead of Papakura and become a much more intra-Waikato one, still linking into the big and frequent Auckland network at that network’s southernmost point for further connectivity. So the possibility arises to take the service south to all the points on the line to Hamilton and even beyond, so say:

  • Pukekohe
  • Tuakau [apparently has .5mil budget set aside for a station]
  • Pokeno
  • Te Kauwhata
  • Huntly
  • Ngaruawahia
  • Te Rapa [new station at The Base mall]
  • Frankton [Existing Station]
  • Hamilton City [The surprisingly already extant underground central city station]
  • Claudelands [new station Hamilton East]

No new track. Simply station and safety upgrades or reinstatements of legacy stations and two new at grade stations in Hamilton.

Ngruawahia Stion

By not trying to race between the two big city centres the added stops become an advantage rather than a disadvantage. It would be as much about travel between any points on the line as end to end and be a tool for regional placemaking. And of course there then is the option to include Te Awamutu to the south, and Morrinsville and Cambridge to the east for more of a pan-Waikato network.

The Waikato District Council could slowly build up a programme using the onetime opportunity of Auckland’s Diesel units in much the same way that Auckland did with Perth’s, assuming it works sufficiently. It’s a low risk chance to grow something new in the Waikato in part taking advantage of Auckland’s proximity by plugging into that bigger network but really focussing on its own region. Particularly to do something for the towns along the route.

Below is a strangely nostalgic map from NZTA designed to promote their massive programme of highway building through the Waikato countryside all this decade; trying to make costly heavy engineering seem all cosy and approachable like something in a kid’s book [particularly 1960s- just like the whole RoNS idea].

Curves.ai

Other than the attempt at cute and the apparent use of the current SH1 entirely by cyclists in the future [!], the key thing this map tells us is that pretty much all the towns on the current route are about to become bypassed. So in as much as they rely on passing traffic for business and vitality that game is up, or soon will be. But also of course in as much as their centres are severed and made unliveable by the heavy traffic speeding through them there is an opportunity too for these places. The scale of the works is more apparent in this version:

Waikato Expressway

Waikato Expressway

A reinvention for the likes of Huntly and Ngaruawhaia is going to be required, but this work usually never happens when NZTA leaves town, although surely there is an opportunity and a need to reorient these places from being focussed around the traffic that used to race through them. It will be up to the local communities and the District Council to unlock the possibilities made available by SH1 going. The chance to restitch their mainstreets back together, calm the remaining traffic; in short make place; to build a new identity and economy in these communities. Could the return of a rail service linking these places, anchored by the two big metropolises, have a role in this? The currently unused stations could certainly be a focus for redevelopment, cafes, information centres, markets etc. A focus for the rediscovery of place and character.

The rail line is less direct than the new road precisely because it connects all these old towns like pearls on a string; so I suggest don’t fight that essential characteristic of the route, use it for local interconnection and not as an attempt to imitate the highway which will soon completely bypass these towns as it expressly designed to avoid them to better serve interregional movement.

North Waikato Line

Above is a rough outline from Papakura south. It is clear that Tuakau and Pokeno could easily be served as Pukekohe extensions, then there is a bigger jump to the old towns south of Pokeno to Hamilton which would make it much more than an extension of the Pukekohe service. And finally a possible third stage east and south of Hamilton out to Morrinsville, Cambridge, and TeAwamutu. So three stages:

Waikato Line

The first stage should gain support from those advocating country living. We are often told that Satellite Towns are a great way to get the best of all worlds; right in the country, but with the social hub of a village centre, and connection to the employment, education, and action of the big city. But to get this the detail matters enormously. Quality of place takes work; those three boxes all need to be properly ticked. Here, I suggest, is a mechanism to help achieve this work.

For example look how they are marketing the spreading little north Waikato town of Pokeno:

Pokeno

Note the mention of rail right in the same sentence as the state highways as a selling point for Pokeno, yet there is no rail service, and no plan for one either. I agree it would be great if there was. Not least because it would give the town an opportunity to develop as a real Satellite Town, not just a piece of displaced sprawl as it seems to be becoming now. The station and surrounding amenity could become a village centre of the kind at the heart of the successful country Satellite Towns around overseas cities.

The TVOne report linked to on the website above is worth a look. It is a good showcase of the often confused thinking, particularly by those that consider themselves experts, on the issues of urban form and the role of transport infrastructure in shaping those forms.

Here’s a quick look at the easily available Hamilton City Stations. Hamilton being the other anchor* of this line.

Hamilton City Stations

The triangle is the existing Hamilton Station at Frankton, the rectangle is Hamilton’s big secret, the country’s first underground urban station, currently unused [edit]. And the line a rough position for an East Hamilton station, around Claudelands, with good residential walkup and next to the Claudelands Convention Centre. These are about a kilometre apart. There is a good opportunity to add a station at the back of The Base at Te Rapa, and a more difficult option for one between that and these three city stops perhaps at Forest Lake Rd. Although the surrendering of rail land for a duplicate highway through there has squeezed the corridor and added to the severance both of which would make this more difficult and expensive. So it goes. However this little urban network alone could be quite useful; Claudelands to The Base certainly looks handy, nicely balancing Ngaruawahia to the city say.

While it is the case that the forces associated with the massive road build currently taking place in the Waikato have been strongly opposed to any rail revival in the region I think for them to continue that now this would be to misunderstand the potential and the purpose of this project. As conceived here it is complimentary to the huge highway system. It is to serve those communities left behind by the Expressway; to help them develop into stronger entities in their own right. To help mitigate the shock of the departure of the highway and to take advantage of the new possibilities that must be found for these places. This project is no threat to the vast sums being spent on highways.

This is a very different argument than that for improvement and extension of the Auckland network for which there certainly is growing demand of significant scale, but I can imagine local people getting behind such a proposal. So a good first step would to hear their views here and if supported then to work towards getting some real analysis done. After all this is not a detailed proposal more a bit of free thinking. After the low hanging fruit [and admittedly Auckland centred] first stage I concede it gets trickier:

  • What sort of frequency would be required for a meaningful service?
  • Could such a frequency be justified by the ridership?
  • How to set the ticket price to stimulate uptake but also help fund operations?
  • How do you balance economic value of place and social quality against financial costs?
  • Is this the best stopping pattern?
  • Are the trains available? Suitable? Affordable?
  • Will KiwiRail be cooperative?

And finally is this the kind of thing that the people of the Waikato want?

Thanks to Jon Reeves and CBT for additional information

* Anchoring. Here is Jarrett Walker:

“So transit planners are always looking to anchor their lines.  Anchoring means designing a line so that it ends at a major destination, so that there will be lots of people on the vehicle all the way to the end of the line.  A line with strong anchors at each end will have more uniform high ridership over the whole length of the line, and a much more efficient use of capacity overall.”

111 comments to Mighty River Rail: A Fresh Future?

  • If this happens, let’s take a lesson from the NZTA and its predecessors, and not build it as one big expensive project, but in stages.

    Can you imaging NZTA’s predecessors justifying and trying to fund the Waterview Tunnel and whole SH20 route at the same time as it was starting on the Mangere Bridge in the 1980s? No? They were clever and staged it bit by bit in initially more affordable chunks, saving the massive cost of the biggest part of the project for when all the other bits were already in place and open, making not continuing with the tunnel look stupid.

    - Do Pakakura to Tuakau and perhaps Pokeno first. Then wait. Let that build up some demand for a rail service from the next towns south <i.Then connect down through to Huntly. This will then start to build demand for Ngaruawahia to be joined up, and by then we’re so close to Hamilton it seems silly not to include them too, even if that is the expensive end (like Waterview).

    • * typo: imaging -> imagine

    • Yes stage it, exactly what I’m suggesting. But it’s not in anyway comparable to Waterview, or any new motorway, the capital works required are tiny by comparison, the financial issue is the operating costs.

    • Bryce P

      Yeah, I think Pokeno is a given just by the development that is occurring there. I love the idea. As it happens, I am using my car less and less, other than when required to do so for work (I carry a bit of gear). I have relations in Hamilton that I never really get to see because I just can’t stand the drive now. A frequentish service and family pass on a train would inspire me to visit. I’m sure there are some staged works that can happen on the NIMT to raise speed limits and shave off some travel time for rail passengers.

      • The question mark over Pukekohe electrification is perhaps a blessing in disguise. Would be far easier to extend the Pukekohe shuttle to Tuakau and Pokeno than it would be to either extend electrification or start a new shuttle.

        • Yes, there is a one-time opportunity here.

        • Bryce P

          Agree. Perhaps some delay in extending electrification could be justified and then, instead of just taking it to Pukekohe, take it to Pokeno?

          • No I think there’s a chance to get this Waikato plan started to Tuakau and Pokeno before electrification and then flip it south once the EMUs reach Puke. Or extend south before if that’s want the people of the Waikato want. No need to delay doing the right thing for the Auckland network, this will fit around it.

        • Bryce P

          And I know some of this is being worked on but a busway to Kumeu / Huapai is going to be needed very soon. Don’t simply put it on the shoulder. It will need a busway. Likewise to Silverdale. Development and traffic volumes on these roads are ever increasing and next links to these places need to be quality PT links, not extra traffic lanes.

  • Adam

    This is brilliant, I wounder what is the best way to get this proposal to the people in the areas?
    Pokeno is going to become a nightmare, the motorway coming into Auckland is really bad already with Karaka, adding Pokeno traffic is just going to make it worse.
    A transfer at Pukekohe before heading into the city is really needed as an option. Plus this will really make Pukekohe the place to be in the weekend with easy access from both the South Auckland and the Waikato.

  • Bryce P

    The Pukekohe train station is in the wrong place too. Needs to be right in next to the shops.

    • What’s in the wrong place is Waikato University. Like all 1960s greenfields campus it was sited with active disregard for all forms of connection except private car; and then it’s not that great for that either. Thankfully Auckland’s move to the ‘burbs was mostly resisted and now even the bit that was done has been undone. Both Christchurch and Hamilton city centres have been hugely damaged by the fashion for suburban siting of these great movement and commerce generators.

    • Barney

      It appears to me that the Pukekohe shopping centre is setting up at beside the train station

  • The suggestion of a station in east Hamilton is a good idea. One of the problems with the old underground station is that is is a single track, single platform. There are no passing opportunities between Frankton and the Cambridge branch junction. I think that would make it operationally impossible to terminate trains there, as doing so would mean blocking both directions of the East Coast Main Trunk for fifteen or twenty minutes. With even hourly service you’d take the ECMT out of operation 1/3 of the day.

    At Claudlands there is plenty of room for a two track station. So trains from Frankton could stop at Hamilton Central, dwell for just a minute or two, then terminate and layover at Claudlands without blocking the main line. If you didn’t do it I imagine you’d have to only go so far as Frankton.

  • JimboJones

    What frequency are we talking? Hourly? Half hourly? Or just run at peak? Would there be a need for higher frequency between puke and papakura than the rest? What time is the last train?

  • ejtma

    I think this is a good idea and one that could be established without great cost. The only addition I would have is to carry onto Mercer and construct a Park and Ride at the same time, as it would make/encourage the people from South who commute to Auckland to switch to the train. We have people drive from Hamilton most days for meetings, and they talk about 3 hour journeys. The train would have to represent a time saving and be regular enough they could get to where they need to go through the day, although I suspect usage would mainly be in peak hours.

  • Barney

    Please don’t write off a future full electric service and duplicate tracks Auckland to Papakura. and also a station at Drury.
    Do the same thing with the Helensville line with a causeway following the N/W Motorway to Kumeu. Sell off the land in the valley from Kumeu up to Helensville (whatever it is called) for housing development and you will have the entire development paid for and Auckland’s housing problems solved for years to come.

  • Graeme Brown

    If the third leg of the triangle at Frankton were to be built could operate a useful service Morrinsville – Te Awamutu and Cambridge – Ngaruawahia (or Huntly) with interchange at Claudelands or Frankton as a suburban service for Hamilton greater urban area. Would feed in well to service further North as outlined above.

    • Indeed, given the distances you could probably run those hourly with four trainsets and crews. Interchange would be difficult, no opportunity for pulse timing the connections due to the trackwork and platforms, so you’d be best to offset them by half an hour… which is a long wait to transfer.

      Having said that you might be able to timetable say an inbound Te Awamutu train to meet the outbound Huntly train at Frankton, and vice versa. That could be quite useful.

  • Rob Mayo

    Its seems a good idea to have the DMUs run between Pokeno and Papakura from 2016 and delay the implementation of OLE between Papakura and Pukekohe by at least 5 years but how do the BCRs including putting in stations at Tuakau and Pokeno, stack up compared to extending the OLE to Puke (without putting in new stations at Drury and Paerata)?

    I personally dont see the need to extend the service from Pokeno south. Drove out to Tuakau / Port Waikato yesterday and was in Pokeno last week – hadn’t been to those places for over 20 years. Tuakau is a large town now and that whole Pukekohe-Buckland-Tuakau area seems to have experienced a fair degree of population growth in recent times. I was amazed at the size of Tuakau College for example.

    The cost of establishing and operating a DMU service between Pokeno and Papakura could be worth it if the numbers stack up.

    An alternative may in fact be for AT to purchase several 25kva 2-car EV-E301 BEMUs – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EV-E301_series and run those from either Papakura south or from a station further north on the electrified network. EV-E301s have a 50km range on battery power and can be charged at a station on the non-electrified section of the network, via a freestanding solid bar overhead conductor rail plugged straight into the local power grid. These BEMUs also charge their batteries while running on the electrified sections of the network. All batteries on a single EV-E301 BEMU can be charged from near flat to full capacity within 20 minutes. Given that the rail line distance between Papakura and Pokeno is under 50km, perhaps the BCRs of station re-install at Tuakau and Pokeno along with the purchase of say 2-3 EV-E301s might stack up more favourably compared to running DMUs between Papakura and Pokeno and/or electrifying Papakura-Pukekohe?

    • Why not simply an EDMU? The battery thing is a bit unproven, while DMUs that can run under pantograph power are very common.

      • Rob Mayo

        Operational inefficiences and ongoing running costs of both EDMUs and DMUs, were the reason the RTRI and JR/JTREC invested 10 years of R&D to produce the EV-E301. That BEMU is designed to replace initially all JR East’s large EDMU/DMU fleet in the Kanto region over the next 5 years. JR Hokkaido have already earmarked the EV-E301 for deployment in 2015 to replace DMU services running 50km north and east of Sapporo. Likewise, JR Kyushu plan EV-E301 deployments from 2016. The battery use thus Nick, is not unproven and as we all know, Japanese rail operators do not do anything by halves nor without investing some years of research beforehand.

        • Mike

          According to Wikipedia there’s only one EV-E301 train in regular service, for just over a month, and that operates on 1500V DC not 25kV AC and requires a special charging facility (see the photo on Wikipedia) – you certainly can’t just plug it “straight into the local power grid”.

          So getting one suitable for Auckland would take a bit of development! In the meantime, there will be plenty of SA/SD sets and DMUs going spare.

          • Rob Mayo

            The first revenue service BEMU began on the Karasuyama Line in March 2014 correct. There is only one unit deployed because the Karasuyama Line only needs a single train for operation.

            I should have explained a bit more clearly that there is a special charging station at the end of the line and that does connect directly into the local power grid. It of course does not use the standard 100V domestic supply to power up the unit’s batteries in 20 minutes – the current supplied from the local grid is much higher than that.

            JTREC can manufacture BEMUs in both 1500DC and 20/25kva. 1500DC is what the majority of JP electrified rolling stock run on except for in the northern part of Honshu / southern part of Hokkaido where 20kva is more prevalent and where JR East plan to roll out the EV-E301 next – likely in 2015. So, there is actually very minimal development of the unit required for use in Auckland.

    • MFD

      “Its seems a good idea to have the DMUs run between Pokeno and Papakura from 2016 and delay the implementation of OLE between Papakura and Pukekohe by at least 5 years”

      Why is it a good idea? Pokeno-Papakura is around twice as far as Pukekohe-Papakura so for a given level of service it is going to cost around twice as much. The extension of a DMU service to Pokeno is going to service 15% more people for a 100% increase in cost and the bulk of that population (Pukekohe/Paerata/Drury, ie Auckland ratepayers) gets a second rate service (diesel with transfers) instead of an extension of the electric service from Papakura and AT gets the high maintenance costs of a few geriatric orphans (the ex-Perth DMUs). Why not a bus service to Papakura station for the residents of Tuakau and Pokeno until such time as it makes sense to extend the wires to Pokeno?

      • Rob Mayo

        Which is why I am suggesting that a BEMU deployment may well be worthy of consideration in regard to service extention from Papakura (the current end of the electrified network) south. It may well be that the first terminus of the service is at Tuakau rather than at Pokeno as judging from my drive around that area yesterday, there is certainly enough catchment from Buckland and Tuakau townships to justify it.

      • MFD, I would have though a more limited number of services would be extended, particularly around commuter and school schedules. So not a doubling of opex. Anyway, extending an existing service is clearly not twice the cost of an existing one as it wouldn’t involve a whole new driver shift etc… But yes a cost analysis would be done and the WDC’s interest in funding it measured. As for station upgrades, I’d be seeking contributions from Pokeno developers etc. and as for any service from there south to Hamilton I think it would be a good idea to seek Tainui’s interest in say a branding exercise etc… Why not PPPs for opex as well as capex?

        • MFD

          A shuttle service from Papakura is presumed to dovetail with the electric service. The proposed DMU shuttle to Pukekohe is for a service that meets alternate electric services in the peak ie. every 20 minutes. Based on the current timetable and estimates of ca 18 km by rail from Papakura to Pukekohe, a further 18 km to Pokeno, 1 minute dwell at stations and 5 minutes to crossover and change ends at the terminus stations a Papakura-Pukekohe-Papakura cycle time is 41 minutes and a Papakura-Pokeno-Papakura cycle time is 81 minutes. The corresponding number of DMU sets is thus 3 and 5. It may well be 2 and 4 at a pinch but AT’s numbers for the Pukekohe service (4) suggest 3 plus one out for maintenance. My spreadsheet modelling of the timetable indicates that sending even a proportion of the Pukekohe services on to Pokeno necessitates 2 extra sets with attendant crew so from a frequency standpoint it seems to be all or nothing (unless the frequency of services to Pukekohe is to be further degraded). Given the 3 DMU sets required for the Pukekohe shuttle an extension to Tuakau looks almost doable, however. It would require installing crossovers and the associated signalling at Tuakau and they don’t come cheap. For Pokeno a bus service to Papakura seems to offer lower cost a faster service and a greater frequency of trains to link to.

  • Donald Neal

    The route I personally would use would be the one between Hamilton and central Auckland. Change at Newmarket would be fine. Oh, well…

    Most important decisions about a Great Waikato Railway are in fact internal to Hamilton. The purpose of any heavy rail design likely to attract enough passengers to justify its existence would be to reduce the use of cars or permit people to not use cars. One simple step would be to close Knox St car park, which is very central, and replace it with a park and ride facility to the east of the city served by trains between that park and ride facility and, say, Frankton.

    As a standalone question, the best place for such a new parking facility might be the junction of the ECMT and the Matangi branch. With more up-front money available, putting it on a new university branch line is probably the better idea.

    There are viable paths over flat land between the existing East Coast Main Trunk within the Ruakura research centre and parts of the main University of Waikato campus either east or west of Silverdale Road. The simplest answer would be to build a station at the northern edge of the campus on Ruakura Road at the end of a new branch around a kilometre long. More convenient for passengers but harder to do would be to build a station in what is now car park to the east of Hillcrest Road.

    That, combined with park and ride custom for the city centre, may well add up to a permanently useful line. A similar park and ride facility at Collins Road or further south (Ohaupo? Te Awamutu?) would act as the terminus of a Hamilton-based south line. And that line as far north as Te Rapa is electrified now.

    This is expense beyond the original question because generally speaking, simple and cheap isn’t likely to reach the numbers needed for heavy rail to make sense. For a start, the largest of the towns around Hamilton is Cambridge, and it doesn’t have an existing rail line.

    The exception would be to look at the one regional route which currently supports a half-hourly bus service, which is Huntly-Hamilton. Extend the existing Huntly internal bus service to provide access to one or more stations and run half-hourly trains Huntly – (Huntly south?) – Taupiri – Hopuhopu – Ngaruawahia – (Ngaruawahia south?) – Horotiu – The Base – Te Rapa/Forest Lake Road – Frankton – City Centre – Claudelands.

    You may find female passengers in particular less than keen to use the existing city centre station. One alternative would be to build new platforms at the junction of Tristram and Bryce Streets to the west of the river and in what is now the Knox Street car park on the east bank of the river. In the latter case pedestrian access to Claudelands Bridge could easily be built onto the platform.

    Another more impressive but harder to do option would be to build a platform out from the western river bank integral with Claudelands rail bridge. That would be something nearer to building an attractive structure for the sake of it. The city’s long-proposed but still non-existant pedestrian bridge may be an example of what happens to structures like that in Hamilton.

    The site of the former Claudelands Station would need to be used for train parking whether or not it served as a stop for regular services.

    That would be a worthwhile experiment using three ex-Auckland diesel trains, and all of the limited new infrastructure would make sense as part of something bigger later.

    None of this has any direct relevance to whether trying services from Pukekohe southwards is a good idea.

    • Bradley

      Your right Cambridge doesn’t have a rail line, but there is a designation along Victoria road which is preserved with the Waikato Expressway (it is clearly marked in some of the images on the project website, including space in the underpass). The real issue with Cambridge is that the Matangi branch line is in very poor shape, last time I checked the speed limit on the line was 20km/h which isn’t going to work for a passenger service. So major work needs to be done on that line, including barrier arms on a few of the level crossings like the one inside Matangi where people like to race the train.

      As for timings, don’t use the bus timetable as a starting point, Cambridge currently has 5 buses a day to Hamilton, Morrinsville 3. In both cases they are timed for students going to high school and retirees going shopping. The last bus leaving Hamilton for each of those towns leaves at 5:15pm, stay late at work and it is a long walk/taxi ride home.

      Fix the bus timetable first so that workers can make use of it and them you will start to get the demand required to push for a train service. Look at the traffic numbers for the Waikato Expressway and you will see just how many people commuting from those towns into Hamilton each day.

      I think this is great idea and could be setup for 1/10th what is being spend on the Expressway, but the business case doesn’t stack up yet, fix the buses as a first set to prove to the powers that be that people will use it and it will happen.

  • This is the best article that has ever appeared on this blog, thank you Patrick. It defines perfectly how rail should be used in these areas, at least for the forseeable future. However, the biggest hurdle to new long distance or regional train services in New Zealand is the lack of a mechanism that allows it.

    - There needs to be a national transport strategy covering all modes, and one that is based on best international research, includes environmental and other external factors, is unbiased, and untainted by politics, that sees funding responsibly allocated to each mode.
    - There needs to be an ability for other operators to use the rail network. A freight company that overcharges for providing passenger services to another party is a no-goer.

    • Simon C

      Agreed Geoff. It was a pity the separation of Ontrack and Kiwirail Group wasn’t maintained and Kiwirail just became another transport provider without worrying about maintaining the infrastructure. Then a separate organisation like Ontrack could just be a non-profit organisation solely focusing on maintaining rail infrastructure and charging any licenced transport provider that wants to establish a passenger and/or freight service for usage of said infrastructure. Take Kiwirail out of the infrastructure maintenance and user charges picture and there could be other interested parties that come to the table. If I was in an incoming government that would be one of the very first things I would do.

      For a good example of what Patrick is talking about check out the Biwa Line connecting Osaka and Kyoto with the Northern part of Shiga Prefecture in Japan. The beauty of this line is all the rural dormitory towns and small cities along the line including one I lived in for two years. It serves many commuters who work in Osaka and Kyoto (1hr and 30min journeys respectively and 20 minute frequencies in peak and about 30-40 min off peak including every second service being a limited stops express), especially many young families who can’t afford a house in Kyoto or Osaka but also generates heaps of trips between points along the line. The Waikato could eventually become a mini version of this line.

  • Luke E

    A potential Claudelands Station should be undergrounded; development above the station could be used to fund the capital works involved with this. It would be similar to New Lynn, or Manukau; an organisation (I suppose HCC?) would purchase the surrounding land (which is currently light industry, primarily automotive, which would be a poor mix with a rail station), underground the station, and costs would be covered by selling off the development rights above it. This would work particularly well in Claudelands; Hamilton in general is in desperate need of higher density housing, and Claudelands in particular could use some accommodation to service the arena. A lot of Claudelands is, however, a heritage area. Building above the rail line would avoid issues around this. This development would better connect the Arena to the little town centre, and revitalise the area. Gosh, there could even be bars in the development for people to go to after events at the Arena!

    Undergrounding would fix the conflict between the railway line and Heaphy Terrace that currently occurs (which I remember being told is a project that in itself has a high BCR), and could easily be achieved by re-connecting Claudelands Road to Brooklyn Road (temporarily, or permanently, either way). The station should have three tracks; two for passenger services (with side platforms, I suppose) and the third for freight. This would allow for future capacity in the network, which would be an issue if Tainui’s inland port goes ahead. The single rail through the city centre would still be an issue. I believe there’s space for three lines all the way through the eastern side of the city; the new Wairere Drive bridge was constructed with space for three tracks. Another station could be at Ruakura, which HCC has earmarked to be a transport interchange; buses from the University could shuttle to a Ruakura station rather quickly.

  • Scott Osmond

    I am sure I read that electrification Papakura to Pukekohe would cost $105m. How about we put that money into some DMUs built by CAF and looking just like the AT EMUs but with a toilet, rather than try and keep the old Perth units running. Then we have options to run them south from Papakura to wherever and – heaven forbid – north from Swanson to wherever. How many new DMUs would we get, 10 or so.
    Using money that is already planned but reallocating it to get more people on a wider PT network makes sense surely.

    • Rob Mayo

      Buying new DMUs goes against everything AT is doing by electrifying the system – have one set of rolling stock to maintain from one supplier – equipment that is cheaper and more efficient to run. CAF manufacture DMUs yes but like their competition, they want to move away from diesel powered units and base all of their product offerings on electriic power.

      JTREC is the only company in the world that has successfully brought BEMUs into production in recent times and given that both CAF and JTREC source the electric motors for their EMU / BEMU rolling stock from Mitsubishi, a CAF-JTREC alliance to produce BEMUs for markets outside Japan would benefit both Auckland and other cities in the southern / northern hemispheres struggling with how to cost efffectively extend and manage their electric rail network investments.

      • doloras

        This is (a) mode fetishism; (b) a slap in the face to everyone in Pukekohe who wants electrification and is paying Super City rates.

        • Super city rates don’t pay for electrification, you need to direct your beef to treasury and taxes.

          • Neil

            Which is why we should be pushing to complete the electrification of the whole line Auckland to Hamilton, not as a “Transport” issue but as a “renewable energy” program while we still have experienced design and construction teams together.

          • TheBigWheel

            Neil.. +1

            The vision, and the excellent suggestions in Patrick’s post (and even the conversations they generate) represent a possible means to this end.

        • Rob Mayo

          No mode fetish here Dol, merely suggesting that BEMU purchase and station upgrades (for at least Tuakau) could possibly produce better BCR ratios and patronage growth ROI.

        • At no point do I advocate delaying electrification to Puke; much less slapping anyone’s face. Furthermore isn’t this offering more service and options to the people of Pukekohe? Or do they only ever look north? In fact it would make Puke into a regional hub; drawing people up from down the line as much as send themselves off to the big smoke. Where are all these advocates of the ‘polycentric’ model then?

      • Mike

        RM: If AT’s policy is to “have one set of rolling stock to maintain from one supplier”, surely they’d buy the existing diesel version of the new electrics, as operating in fleet service in Ireland, rather than a completely different and largely untested train from Japan?

        (BTW there’s no such thing as a 25kva EMU – I think you mean 25kV.)

        • Rob Mayo

          Mike, the measurement of power for AC powered EMUs is actually kva (kVA to be precise) – kilovolt ampere. More correctly, 25,000 Volt Ampere Alternating Current power supply (25kVA AC).

          As for BEMU vs EDMU or even DMU, that’s a discussion that AT will have with CAF at some point (sooner rather than later possibly) in regard to the most appropriate solution for maintaining one fleet type from one supplier for both the electrified and non-electrified sections of the network.

          Given CAF’s close tie up with Mitsubishi – as already mentioned, they supply CAF with all the motors for their EMUs…and the fact that Mitsubishi are the principal supplier of motor and LI battery technology to JTREC/JR East, a CAF-JTREC BEMU manufacturing tie-up may make sense, if not for NZ, then certainly for other markets outside Japan that have the need / wish to leverage the technology advances the Japanese have made in this particular area.

          • Fascinating technology Rob, and it is clear that we need to be electrifying as much of the country’s infrastructure as fast as is possible to reduce our extreme vulnerability to imported oil supply shocks and price rise, as well as to reduce carbon emissions and carcinogenic Diesel exhaust, but I guess those are questions for a second stage.

            Here I am interested in exploring what could be done, near term, and with as little capital outlay in things like rolling stock and new track as possible. Really taking the lesson from Auckland’s experience; after all the AKL network was only saved from total shutdown by the actions of a few incredibly clever and farsighted people and the good fortune that Perth’s old stock was available, cheap, and of the right gauge.

            Can’t we explore repeating that for our sister city to the south? Or do we not have the imagination to try something new? It seems to me that there is a resource there lying dormant that could be re-awoken, just like Auckland’s has been. And maybe I’ve got it backwards and it’s at the Hamilton city end that it could work best, but because of the numbers I think it might take both the connection north to the edge of AKL’s network, the intra city movements of hamilton, plus the towns of the North Waikato to get something going.

            But it would have to be considered as a placemaking project not purely a transport one, and I can see that as having interest and value, but it would have to driven by locals…. However the state of the rolling stock is probably better than it was when AKL got them and the delivery could hardly be easier!

          • Rob Mayo

            Yes Patrick, I certainly agree that for the very near term (from Q1-Q2 2015 to at least 2017) it is best to look at what rolling stock is immediately to hand that could be used to establish a connecting service between Papakura and Tuakau/Pokeno. Do things cheap and cheerful with the initial monetary outlay being on station install at Tuakau and Pokeno. The typical AKL station build like at Morningside for example – 1-2 shelters, would not necessarily be required for Tuakau and Pokeno. The platform build would be the same as for other stations but the shelter design could be simpler and more longitudinal canopy-oriented. Best to get the service up and running first with ‘new’ stations and ‘old’ trains.

            Although I do like the idea of spending $100m on electrifying Papakura to Pukekohe with new stations at Drury and Paerata, I can’t help wondering however if that money would be better spent on new stations at Tuakau and Pokeno, an upgrade to the station at Pukekoke and the purchase several 2-car hybrid EMU (EDMU or BEMU). It would be interesting to know how much under $100m that would be and of course what the BCR is.

          • Mike

            Rob – agreed that the kVA is the measurement of power, but there isn’t a single EMU that operates at a voltage of 25kV that takes power as low as 25kVA – that’s just one amp (basically nothing).

            Units of many different power consumptions operate at the same voltage – it’s the voltage that’s the defining factor, which is why they’re called 25kV (not 25kVA) AC and 1500V (not 1500W) DC units, etc.

            This is the terminology used by AT, KiwiRail, CAF, JNR, Mitsubishi – you name it!

          • Rob Mayo

            Well, I stand corrected on that point Mike, thank you. I will ensure that I use 20/25kV in future.

          • MFD

            “I can’t help wondering however if that money would be better spent on new stations at Tuakau and Pokeno, an upgrade to the station at Pukekoke and the purchase several 2-car hybrid EMU (EDMU or BEMU).”

            Why this fixation with EDMU or BEMU? A shuttle service from Papakura will be under the wires for no more than 200 m. According to your figures above a BEMU has a range of 50 km on a 20 minute charge, At an average 75 km/h (including stops) a BEMU is out for charging for 20 minutes of every hour.

            As I noted above, a service to Pokeno with the 20 minute peak frequency planned for Pukekohe will require 5 DMUs (plus one for maintenance) so it will need at least the same number of new units of whatever technology. With extension of the wires to Pukekohe a 10 minute peak service with no transfers is the result, together with services to Drury and Paerata (an area identified for future growth). Why constrain Pukekohe to a degraded service and deny any service to Drury and Paerata so that Pokeno can get a service out of all proportion to its size?

          • Rob Mayo

            The advantage with BEMUs is that they run on the OLE as well as on battery therefore services can start well in an electrified section of a network and continue on up to 50km into a non electrified section until need of charging. You could run a 4-car set from Britomart right through to Pokeno in the weekday and on weekends if you wanted to. As the OLE infrastructure gets extended, the BEMUs can be redeployed to extend service reach further out.

            I like the BEMUs because they are an environmentally friendly hybrid solution under a one fleet management policy and they can be easily reused /redeployed thereby prolonging the life of the asset. A good ROI.

            As to how many BEMUs would be required for services from the southern end of Auckland’s electrified network, I am not a rolling stock management specialist so cannot comment there.

          • Greg N

            Rob these BEMUs sound interesting technology, wondering what the cost of a set of BEMUs for the Papakura to Pukeohe line would costs versus the price of 3 car EMUs and electrification cost of the same line.

            Recall recent discussions here that electrification with OLE costs a few (3?) million dollars a (double) track-KM – so on that basis the cost for electrifying to Puke would be what $75m? (based on the fact that Puke is about 25 or so km from Papakura).

            And then you add in the cost of the extra EMUs needed to run on it (which you’d buy on top of the OLE) and you’re up for the thick end of $150m half of which is OLE. That $150m could buy a lot of BEMUs I’m sure.

            So, if you could get the same number of (CAF) BEMUs with similar passenger capacity as the assumed (CAF) EMUs you’d have to buy for it for not too much more $$ then you could defer Puke electrification and run the BEMUs on that link on the savings by not electrifying short term.

            And when that link is eventually electrified, The BEMUs could be redeployed to serve out at Swanson to replace the non electrified DMUs/loco hauled SAs that are planned to be used there. Thus removing the diesel operations for passengers completely within Auckland. So BEMU investment is not wasted.

            And as you say as they work like EMUs when running under OLE, its only when they leave the network do they need to be running on Battery power alone so the key thing is the distance they need to run on battery.

            As for needing to be out of service recharging for 1 hour out of 4, a large chunk of that time is incurred anyway at each end of the link in turn around mode anyway so if it can charge while waiting at Papakura and then a partial top up at Puke, You won’t need to be taken out of service for 20 minutes after each run – maybe 10 minutes an hour?

            And if you ran the BEMUs into Britomart and back out, you could either replace completely, or at least partially free up some of the EMUs that would run the same service to Papakura and then the BEMUs continue to Puke from Papakura on Battery power, part tops up at Puke and comes back to Papakura then runs into Britomart and back out – like what we do now with Puke services.
            This means the BEMUs recharge is mostly done while running on the OLE – time which is “not wasted” being idle and which kills two bird with one stone.

            Sounds like an interesting idea worth exploring in detail.

          • Rob Mayo

            Exactly Greg N. Spot on. The more I look into the BEMUs that have recently been deployed into revenue service in Japan (the rationale, R&D and their intended roll out in other parts of the JP network over the next few years) and given the already close tie-up between CAF-Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi-JTREC, the more I believe it would be worth exploring their potential for use in Auckland, particularly given their redeployment ability, as the various ends of the electrified network extend in the coming years.

            The immediate short term intention as being discussed here in this blog thread is of course to use the current DMU fleet to extend the planned shuttle service from Papakura-Pukekohe to Papakura-Pokeno potentially and that is certainly a good and practical idea.

            However, as you and I have both picked up Greg, for the NZ$75-100 million cost of extending the electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe (incl station easblishments at Drury, Karaka South and Paerata, a station upgrade at Pukekohe and purchase of extra EMU sets), what would it cost to do station builds at Drury / Tuakau / Pokeno, a station upgrade at Pukekohe and purchase enough BEMUs to run a service at acceptable frequencies during weekdays and weekends? Is it well under $100 million or well over? I have no idea but surely it would be worth finding out.

            CAF have established a market beachhead in the southern hemisphere with their presence in NZ. Picking up on the work the Japanese have done, the CAF markets for BEMUs are Australia, Malaysia, India and then North / South America. What better place to test a CAF-Mitsubishi-JTREC developed 25kv BEMU for those markets than in NZ.

          • MFD

            “You could run a 4-car set from Britomart right through to Pokeno in the weekday and on weekends if you wanted to”

            “A” 4-car set? How is a 20 minute frequency to Pukekohe and on to Pokeno going to be maintained by running “a” 4-car set from Britomart? A single unit would be really pushed to maintain a service every 3 hours. It’s going to need every alternate train on the Southern line to be one of these BEMUs and, since the distance is significantly greater, the number of BEMUs on the Southern line will have to be greater than the number of conventional EMUs. To match a 10 minute peak frequency to Pukekohe post Papakura-Pukekohe electrification would require every train from Britomart to Pokeno to be a BEMU and require almost twice as many sets as the number of EMUs identified for the service to Papakura (It’s around twice as far by rail from Britomart to Pokeno as it is from Britomart to Papakura).
            Good idea? I think not.

            “I am not a rolling stock management specialist so cannot comment there.”

            All it requires is a copy of the timetable (available online), an estimate of distances from a map (eg Google maps) and some simple calculations.

          • Bryce P

            Just run the BEMU’s to Manukau. Britomart bound passengers can transfer.

          • Rob Mayo

            The only reason I listed Britomart Bryce is I doubt a southern link from Manukau will be put in. Britomart is quite a way up the line though so starting the BEMU service from a point in the Southern Line somewhere north of Papakura but not as far north as Britomart would be good if it’s possible.

          • Bryce P

            Ha, I keep forgetting about the lack of a southern link (I know Ben Ross will remind me again). It would make a pretty good finish point.

          • Greg N

            North to Manurewa or Homai is all thats needed, that trip gives the BEMU a full top up (from Papakura to Manurewa and back would be at least 25 minutes “On the Grid”) so would ensure the BMU is fully charged bythe time it returns to Papakura. And there is a lot of passenger traffic between Manurewa & Papakura and stations in between so its a worthwhile diversion.
            Either that or you leave the BEMU at Papakura for 20 minutes to charge back up before it heads out, which means you’d need an extra 1 or 2 BEMUs for the shuttle.
            So that the BEMU parks up, and the one which spent 20 minutes charging up, then takes the return trip, and the once the 20 minutes is up, you use the just charge up BEMU for the next shuttle after that one.

            Of course, ADL’s are the current plan for the Papakura to Puke link.

          • Bryce P

            The only reason I include Manukau is that I expect most Manukau station patronage to be inbound to Manukau in the AM and mostly from the South (once the Uni opens). This would allow the Southern trains to bypass Manukau and save some valuable time.

          • MFD

            Sure, you could operate BEMUs north of Papakura but it would have no benefits for almost all passengers. Any interchange with EMU services would not be a “cross-platform” as proposed for the DMU shuttle at Papakura) but would involve a wait for the following service. You could fully charge them at Papakura but with a range of 50 km they couldn’t make the trip to Pokeno and back (ca. 72 km by rail) without an additional charge (15 minutes at Pokeno?). Still not a good idea.

            Electrify to Pukekohe (with the corresponding additional stations in identified growth zones) and a diesel service for Pukekohe-Hamilton; “Anchoring means designing a line so that it ends at a major destination, so that there will be lots of people on the vehicle all the way to the end of the line”. Pokeno makes a lousy anchor.

          • Rob Mayo

            It’s not the greatest cross platform setup at Papakura unfortunately – there’s a bit of a walk from platform 3 to the Pukekohe shuttle service bay at platform 4. Getting from platforms 1&2 to 4 is quite an effort especially with no proper canopy shelter along the way.

            Granted its best to anchor lines at either end but I cannot see a Papakura to Hamilton service happening – there’s just not enough appetite for it in the Auckland and Waikato Councils for the forseeable future. Better to focus on extending the current Pukekohe service a couple of townships south to begin with. That is something a lot easier for people to get their heads around.

            The service just needs to happen and as Patrick has stated, there is a window of (DMU) opportunity currently to make it a reality.

          • The electrification of Papakura to Pukekohe line is desirable and inevitable. Extension of services further south is desirable but not inevitable. Here is an opportunity. These units enabled the rebirth, or perhaps more accurately the creation, of a market in Auckland from one that was almost dead, gone. It seems likely that they could do it again somewhere else where there is an as yet not quite destroyed legacy rail line. That could be the Waikato, that could be Christchurch, or it could be both. The key ingredients it seems to me are an incremental low capex slow build up of services with reasonable expectations and patience, imagination, creativity and an accounting of external economic and social benefits beyond simple transport effects.

            Both of these areas have smaller populations than Auckland, but the rail system in Auckland is not widespread and hardly reaches the whole population, in general Christchurch does not have Auckland’s geographic constraints except in a few places, including the wide rivers to the north that are now restricting the easy auto-dependant ex-urban growth as desired by the government. Here’s an interesting answer to that restriction. The bigger problem is the need for better placement of city destination stations. I can see a work round involving cheap short term stations and bus and bike interchanges and some creativity. If the people want it.

            Likewise with the Waikato, there’s an incremental plan above, if the people want it.

            Just remember, not so long ago the idea of completely rebuilding the Auckland passenger system would have been preposterous, yet that is now almost done and it is on the verge of an ambitious extension and a future of dramatic growth. This only has been possible through the patient construction of services and demand. I can’t see why that also can’t happen in these other places too, it just needs some vision and careful and realistic planning. One foot in front of the next.

            The careless abandonment of this inherited infrastructure is not inevitable. Those that give it new life will be thanked in the future.

    • Ian

      There wont be enough of a population south of Papakura or north of Swanason any time soon to warrant electrification of the lines. Better to do as Scott suggests and get some decent DMUs into the fleet. These will enable extension of existing services with modern vehicles at a much lower cost. Furthermore if the crowd that wants stations everywhere can be kept at bay, then some pretty reasonable speeds and times can be achieved.

      • But why not plan ahead instead of jus reacting? Towns like Houten in the Netherlands have been built to help the nearby city of Utrecht deal with growth and allow people easy access to the jobs in the bigger city while living in a small town:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houten
        http://caa.org.nz/general-news/houten-a-new-town-cycling-paradise/

        Instead of designing yet more auto dependent towns like Marsden City or Pokeno, let’s design small towns around cycling and rail. It worked well in the 1940s for Wellington until National scrapped it in 1949.

        It is great to see people agitating for these kinds of satellellite, rail-linked developments but as long as we have myopic road-obsessed people like Brownlee and Joyce pushing the buttons there will only be one result – dumb 1950s style auto-dependent sprawl, not smart, 21st century cluster and connect.

  • Mike

    “Hamilton’s big secret, the country’s first underground urban station, never used.”

    It has been used, by the Kaimai Connection and the Geyserland to/from Tauranga/Rotorua in the early 1990s, but it closed before those services were withdrawn, on the grounds of vandalism.

    The Warehouse has been built on top of it, blocking its passenger access.

    • Yep, as I understand it the initial resource consent required TWH to agree they’d open it up again (at their cost) if required, but that ended up being removed and it’d now be a huge taxpayer/ratepayer cost to do it.
      The current Hamilton Central shopping centre is pretty much dead, it’d probably be easier to open up their basement and provide access to the station through there. Might even be able to convince the owner to get involved, put the ticket station etc. inside the mall and it might give some new life to the mall. There’s also (paid) underground parking there that’s usually fairly empty.
      I think it’s fairly important to have something central for transfer to/from city buses.

    • Steve N

      I remember stopping at the underground station when I took the Geyserland service way back then. The lighting was pretty dim, and it didn’t look like a nice place to wait for a train. From memory, the tunnel exits directly onto the bridge crossing the river.

    • Was the central station not used when first built? Passenger trains still used the line until 1968, so when was the station built?

      • Mike

        The underground line through Hamilton opened on 1 September 1964, so presumably the station opened then, closing when Rotorua passenger trains were withdrawn on 12 November 1968, reopening with their reintroduction on 10 December 1991 and closing again in the mid/late 90s (before 2001).

  • Kevyn

    Patrick, “Below is a strangely nostalgic map from NZTA designed to promote their massive programme of highway building through the Waikato countryside all this decade; trying to make costly heavy engineering seem all cosy and approachable like something in a kid’s book [particularly 1960s- just like the whole RoNS idea].

    Curves.ai

    Other than the attempt at cute and the apparent use of the current SH1 entirely by cyclists in the future [!], the key thing this map tells us is that pretty much all the towns on the current route are about to become bypassed. So in as much as they rely on passing traffic for business and vitality that game is up, or soon will be. But also of course in as much as their centres are severed and made unliveable by the heavy traffic speeding through them there is an opportunity too for these places.”

    Perhaps they copied the idea from their Dutch counterparts. But for a motorway to turn a State Highway into a bicycle freindly country road as the map implies, NZTA would have to adopt the Netherland’s three tier rural road classification and speed limit system. Most Dutch motorways have 120Km/h speed limit whereas on National Highways the limit is 100 and on regional roads the limit is 80.

    wSince the 1950s, Whenever a motorway has been constructed in the Netherlands, usually between major towns and cities, the existing two-lane National Highway reverted to being a regional road. The more direct route and higher speed limit of the motorway attracted most of the motor traffic away from the rural road, which, when combined with the slower speed limit and closely spaced villages, helped maintain cycling as a popular transport choice in rural Holland. Returning the village main streets to the residents helped keep the villages populated which provided the larger towns with a convenient workforce and retail market which made it easier for local manufacturing and food processing to modernise without having to follow the workforce to specialised industrial cities. New Zealand may have gone too far down the road of concentrating manufacturing in the big cities, and our villages are generally rail siding distance apart rather than walking/ox-cart to market distance. But the general Dutch concept of motorways as a device for saving rural roads and communities if a whole system approach is taken has some merit and could be made to work in NZ if (big if) a tiered speed limit system was introduced. In the Waikato it would be particularly advantageous for rail commuting because the alternative of driving between these towns on the ex-SH1 would be slower.

  • Malcolm M

    Well done Patrick ! I remember a sense of disbelief when visiting the newly-finished grade separation project in Hamilton for the first time in 1965, while migrating to Australia, and being told “Here’s our underground railway”. And to think that nearly 50 years later it still functions as no more than a freight rail underpass even though it passes through the midst of the main street and had a station built.

    One of the best ways to put a case like this is to look at successful analogies elsewhere in Australasia. The most comparable I am familiar with is Bendigo, which has a similar population to Hamilton of 150,000, and an hourly train service to Melbourne. Bendigo appears to have a similar level of CBD employment to Hamilton. When the hourly service was instigated from Bendigo in 2006, the 2-car trains became so full that overflow buses were required, particularly for a service departing at 16:30. This is now changed to two services. With an hourly service, one of the keys is to choose arrival and departure times that suit a particular portion of the market. Here is the current timetable as a guide to what can be achieved with only an hourly service.

    Arrivals
    8:16am workers and schoolchildren
    9:17am shoppers
    thereafter at approximately hourly intervals

    Departures
    16:02 school children (school finishes 15:20 but allowance needs to be made for bus transfers)
    16:20 shoppers
    17:25 workers
    thereafter only 2 more services in the evening

    Departure times close to the half-hour are more suitable than those on the hour. Many of those using the service are from towns between Bendigo and Melbourne, the closest of which is Castlemaine (7,000).

    Another analogy is the Gippsland line serving Traralgon (24,000), Morwell (14,000), Moe (9,000), Warragul (14,000) and Drouin (10,000). About half the patronage on the hourly train service is between stations in Gippsland rather than from Melbourne CBD. The trains can seem quite empty when leaving central Melbourne, then fill up by the edge of the Melbourne metro area. So the regional services could start at the end of the metro network without much loss of patronage, as you have suggested for Hamilton, and without the operating costs and business risks of running the service through the metro area.

    • Sailor Boy

      Interesting insight here. Looks to be entirely doable if done well.

      Msybe approach it as a trial and then if successful it becomes a place making exercise.

  • Richard Horner

    As far as Waikato passenger services are concerned has the possibility of a modified alignment by cutting and tunneling under the Bombay hills been considered? This would shorten the distance by some ten kilometres and make train travel competitive with the road. The existing line would still be viable for Pukekohe services and coal to the steel mill. I suggest such a development would have a far higher benefit rating than either the Wellsford motorway or other road developments. So would the Marsden Point Branch line and north upgrade for that matter as well.

  • tuktuk

    A great post. I think the key ingredient of a co-ordinated re-vitalisation strategy for the towns between Hamilton and Pukekohe is critical. This needs to be well thought through and with the right sorts of incentives for people to live in these towns. I wonder if a Mighty River bicycle trail could also be an integral part of plans between Papakura and Hamilton? There has been some coming together between Auckland Council, Environment Waikato and other key northern local bodies in recent years to discuss regional growth and transport. Something like this needs to be championed as a joint initiative. If this can be achieved, then the way is open for central government to take an interest. Unlikely to be the current one, but certainly a possibility with future central governments.

    The other point is that this cannot be a short term trial as has happened too often in the past when experimenting with rail between Auckland and Hamilton. There is an important relationship between community growth and transport links, especially distant from the jobs, education and health facilities of the big cities. And, this is certainly the case for towns between Pukekohe and Hamilton. Any rail links must be seen to “be permanent” and all the players must understand that should they wish to proceed, it is for the long haul. The returns on investment will occur in 10 years as new growth patterns take root. Note also, that even though point-to point-speed is perhaps not absolute priority, maintaining a competitive speed is – this means maintaining rail track to operate a consistent 100 km/ph (ideally 110 km/ph) line speed winter and summer – no “Heat 40s”. All these factors may make it more desirable to look at a shorter length of operation, but done at higher frequency, with a view to committing to that level of service over that 10 year time frame.

    I have always thought that opposite the Mercer Service centre might be the best rail terminus for the moment. It is a real beacon on the motorway and with plenty of potential for safe and secure park and ride. And perhaps also a good connecting point for frequent bus shuttles from further south.

    • Yes thanks; Kevyn, Malcom, tuktuk. All good thoughts.

      Primarily this is a thought experiment connecting the the lose ends of our underused rail resource, our careless semi-abandonment of existing towns, and a whole lot of wishful thinking around ideal ways to live that is disconnected from what we actually build.

      More than anything I think it highlights the limitations of how we use NZTA. Essentially our transport infrastructure investment arm is just a big project management organisation. They’re very good at building things, but there is a huge disconnect between that process skill and any sophistication about the outcomes. What happens on the old route? No real care is given to that by any institution with any real power or funding, or at least not compared to what NZTA routinely burns through.

      The religion of vehicle journey time above any other outcome, especially land-use impacts etc makes it a very blunt instrument. Sort of autistic. And likely to be hampered by many unfortunate unintended consequences.

      After all, as Brent Toderian likes to say: ‘Your best transportation plan is your land-use plan.’

  • Jon Reeves

    Great post Patrick.

    The key to making this a success, as I experienced while engaging with communities along the line for the CBT Waikato Trains NOW! campaign was, get them all on board. Major users, a part from from Hamilton were Te Kauwhata and Tuakau. The Huntly community also showed alot of interest in rail services, but the other two always saw large turn outs at the public meetings and station protests which I organised.

    I totally agree, while Britomart is at capacity and the CRL won’t be completed until 2021( yes, we will all vote for a change of Govt. this year), regional rail services in the Waikato into either Pukekohe or Papakura would be a great start.

    I have made a submission to the Waikato Regional Council last week that they now get back on track for Waikato Rail. The Waikato District Council is trying to pull the $500K they had set a side for a new platform at Tuakau. So pressure is now being mounted on WDC not to do that, mainly by locals in Tuakau and the business association there.

  • Greg N

    There was comment on Radio NZ this morning that both Huntly and Pokeno are booming and that Huntly needs more industrial land (something I never thought they’d run out of to be honest but there you go).
    So these towns at least are moving ahead, by-pass or not. So yes, its a timely idea to bring these smaller towns “along for the ride”.

  • Mike

    Better get onto it Waikato, Christchurch may be wanting those old DMUs as well! http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/transport/9967916/Traffic-delays-force-commuter-rail-services-probe

    However it’s likely that there would be enough to share. I hope both of these get off the ground.

    • As much as I love rail, I think the bus lane idea would be far more effective in getting people into the city. A full BRT system is what Chch really needs, similar to what you see in Brisbane.

      Of course that would require Christchurchers to give up a small part of the road, which will be a major issue.

      I do think cycling and buses are the future for Chch, especially with the rail station relocated to Addington, a disastrous move in my opinion.

      • Well, and yet there is the rail resource sitting there underused…. It’s not train or bus, but just like AK it can be both. You start that comment like gnome from the MoT; all fixated on mode.

        • Thye big problem is the station in Addington. It is really tucked away and there is no real scalability. It is a long way from the CBD to walk (though an easy cycle) so people will have to change to bus anyway. Though even if it was still on Moorhouse Ave it would be a fair slog to the new business areas like Victoria Street.

          I acknowledge that money would need to be spent on bridges and roads to get a BRT working but I just think that would be a better system for Chch. And just like on the Northern Busway, if its is a success you have a light rail path ready to go.

      • Greg N

        And another bridge crossing on the Waimakariri river which runs north of Christchurch, and which is in every way acts as a big constraint as the Waitemata harbour does to Auckland.

        Putting buslanes on the old Waimak bridge (the non-motorway bridge) as they propose is a non starter really as its only a one lane each way bridge, so you can’t make it have bus lanes.
        Yep, you can put buslanes leading up to/away from it, but you know what they will turn into – yep Fanshawe Street all over again.

        You could make one of the two lanes each way on the motorway bridge a buslane (or a T2 or T3 lane if you must) but that requires the buses run on the motorway there to use them.

        A commuter train service from Rangiora in to the city might work, but the sort of peak capacity they’re going to be able to add won’t deliver more than 12 months worth of traffic relief as they keep building new houses out north of the Waimak river so further adding more traffic to already constrained crossings.

        • Steve D

          > only a one lane each way bridge, so you can’t make it have bus lanes.
          > Yep, you can put buslanes leading up to/away from it,

          How about traffic lights, working in a similar way to ramp lights for the motorway? They’d cycle to keep the bridge itself clear. Cars would only be allowed across once there’s space on the other side for them. Buses would use the lanes up to the bridge, head straight on, and then get the bus lane again on the other side.

          • Greg N

            Its a very long bridge (500 metres I recall), so the cycle time will need to be long from the time the light goes red at the “entry end” until the car exits the other end of the bridge.

            The issue I’d see is that the bus lanes leading up to (and away from) the bridge would be clogged, and the roads that feed it are not always 2 lanes wide currently, so you’d need to widen the road first for a bus lane each side, then implement some sort of bus priority on the bridge.

            But it may be easier to build a second bridge.

          • Steve D

            > so the cycle time will need to be long from the time the light goes red at the “entry end” until the car exits the other end of the bridge.

            It’s not a “cycle”, in the sense of controlling conflicting motions. It’s a rate limit, like motorway onramp lights. “One car per green”, with buses allowed to ignore the lights. It’s still one lane each way, so cars coming the other way are unaffected. You allow a car on for every spare space there’s a car for on the far side. I don’t know how it’d be automatically implemented, but worst comes to the worst, you can pay a guy to look on a webcam for a couple of hours a day, pushing a button when there’s a space. It’s the same principle as not boxing the intersection – you go when there’s a space on the far side.

            Just controlled by signals, since you can’t see the far side.

            > bus lanes leading up to (and away from) the bridge would be clogged,

            Clogged with buses? I don’t get it.

            > the roads that feed it are not always 2 lanes wide currently

            Yes, having a look around courtesy of El Google suggests that it would also be a major piece of work to widen those approach roads to have room for a bus lane. A new bridge would also allow pedestrian and cycling access, which AFAICT looks to be impossible?

    • Greg N

      I’ve got no problem if the old DMUs and SA sets head south to help Christchurch out.

      But bear in mind there are currently no facilities in Christchurch to maintain these so any work require them to go to Dunedin (if they have any capability left) or ship them north again for maintenance.
      Longer term yes they could move the maintenance resources to Christchurch for the next few years as they replace the old sets.
      And it done provides a good excuse for AT to push for the Pukekohe to Papakura line to be electrified sooner than later – if the trains can truly help out in Christchurch.
      And I can’t see Waikato getting its shit together soon anyway, so might as well have the trains being used to help Christchurch out better than sitting idle.
      And maybe it will cause Waikto to sit up and take notice and act sooner?

      • bbc

        I doubt there’s the money or will to keep them in NZ, I’m quite sure they’ll be sold and then shipped overseas.

        • Who on earth to?, is there another NZ out there with Cape gauge track and a political establishment with an anti-rail fixation? Remember Perth were going to scrap them, before Ray came along with his cunning plan.

        • Greg N

          Theyre re worth more to NZ Inc kept in a running condition and kept within NZ than siply sold for scrap which is what they’d end up being sold for.
          So yep Christchurch and/or Waikato have a once in a lifetime chance to make use of these now.

          • I’m not that familiar with Canterbury, but a route like say Rangiora-Kaiapoi-Papanui-Addington-Sydenham [Colombo St to connect with city buses] looks pretty long, what’s that about 40km with a fair bit of clear running.. Perhaps if they are thinking of only running peak services to start with how about the Silver Ferns, fast, comfy… currently unemployed…?

  • Checking out Christchurch Rail assets and here is the Addington Station from Google: This, my friends, is a portrait of auto-dependency:

    Looks like a side of that junction was removed, was there never an east-north facing track? Seems like all NZ cities are devilled by el cheapo rail networks that require inefficient manoeuvres.. Not ideal having that station only on the south-north line. Here’s a chance to start again perhaps…?

    Not an easy place to serve with buses either. as there could always be a South-North service so long as at the mid point there was a frequent and fast bus connection east to the city [and on to the coast?] and west to uni and other ‘burbs…? A fast Rolleston-Rangiora commuter line with bus and bike-way connections.

    I’m warming to this: A Riccarton Rd station and interchange…. waddayareckon?

    Or use Auckland’s DMUs and continue on from the Sydenham station to a Polytech Station and all the buses on Ensors Rd, another at Garlands, and on through the tunnel to Lyttelton via stop at Station Rd [!]….

    That’d help knit the city back together… Twist Len’s arm to gift the trains to the city- least we can do.

    • There was definitely an allowance for the missing leg of the junction at least. Right up until about 2006-2007 this whole area was reserve. Basically everything you see there, the big box, the carparking, the multilane arterial road, all gone in the last five or six years.

    • Greg N

      Patrick the main bottleneck is north Canterbury, (basically anything north of the river crossings), you have two stations north of there you can use – Kaiapoi and Rangiora. Both are big growth centres.
      As for stations south of the river you have the list. above.

      I’d say put a station near Riccarton Road, say between Riccarton Road and Kilmarnock St to the north, gives connections to the traffic/buses on Riccarton Road (which is bit like how Gt North Road is for Westies here).And then terminate in the Middleton Station area.

      Don’t suggest you run trains further east or south of there, a lot of people work in this area who live north of the bridge.

      You could run a train in from West Chirsthucrhc (Rolleston way), its double tracked there at least to Burnham where the tracks split west and south, and a lot of people moved out there too after the quakes.

      I’d point out that the rail network was really well connected in Christchurch – it was KR or its predecessors that moved the station out of town (from Moorhouse Ave) to where it now and sold off the land for big box retail around Addington when they closed the workshops there. Author of their own (and Christchurch’s) misfortune.

    • Greg N

      This was on Checkpoint on RNZ tonight (link to audio here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2593492/new-christchurch-rail-service-considered)

      Basically the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan?) is considering tomorrow (Thursday 24/4) a proposal to bring in a commuter rail service from Rangiora to Christchurch.

      The key point is that the rail is just one of the things that will need to be done to fix the traffic issues, and if they go for commuter rail then they will have to put feeder bus services around it at each end to ensure that people actually use it. They said they may start with the Coastal Pacific train which is currently idle over Winter (and in Christchurch now), so could be used as a interim measure.

      The other point was that RNZ correspondant said that Auckland old Diesel trains are now freed up due to electrification – which is not quite true.
      They will be come free in the next 18 months, but right now we don’t have too many spare train sets we can give them.

      Anyway, will be interested to hear what the Canterbury Regional Council decides to do tomorrow.
      Reality is they have to do something, and the Government may have to come to the party since they under the CERA act allowed all this building work to happen in the last 3 years without thinking the land use impacts through fully.

    • Bryce P

      Why on earth would you allow a rail reserve like that to be built over? What a silly decision.

  • DavidM

    there is also an opportunity to extend the Pukekohe to Papakura shuttle service to Manukau. there is only the small section that is missing at the Manukau end. this would provide the service from south of Manukau to Manukau.

    • Yes there is, but then what is the running pattern for this once the line to Papatoetoe is electrified? Is it a good idea for travellers from further south to be diverted to Manukau and back out again on their way north? Especially as there are certain to be more heading further up the line than to MC? Perhaps a better compromise to serve that smaller number of MC bound southern line travellers to transfer to train at Puhinui [annoying I know to head backwards again] or to bus at an earlier station?

      Or do you imagine an EMU shuttle Papatoetoe-MC continuing after electrification, so all northern bound travellers have to transfer still? If so I suspect this would undermine the case for electrification.

  • davidm

    It is always said that additional services can not be provided because of the bottle neck at Britomart. The currently proposal is for people from to disembark the EMU’s at Papakura to board the new electric system, so no additional services than the current schedule provides. I was suggesting that the EMU train’s could continue and terminate at Manukau, adding addition services to the southern end of Auckland. if travellers are wanting to go to Papatoetoe or further north they catch the trains which go north and not the manukau line. just like currently travellers heading further south than manukau from britomart don’t catch the manukau trains.

    increasing the frequency of trains over the network.

    • No, doesn’t your plan actually just increase the frequency between Papakura and MC? So just between Papakura-Takanini-Te Mahia [unless closed]-Manurewa-Homai-Manukau. Papakura and Manurewa might justify the extra services but probably not the others. Your point about Britomart is good; but there would still need to be capacity from Homai or MC north or you’re just shuffling people a little bit up the line.

      I think if becomes clear that there is increased demand at these stations and much less so further north then this could be a good solution, especially if there is extra capacity on eastern line services out of MC. Always hard to add capacity to parts of lines, but it is true that the O-Line does add capacity to the southern north of Penrose, and the southern stations are among the busiest after Britomart and Newmarket.

      We are expecting new station boarding data soon so will run posts with analyses of it.

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