As the new electric trains roll out over the coming year or so, a question we don’t know the answer to is what will happen to the old diesel trains Auckland no longer needs. Of course we will need to retain a few to run services between Papakura and Pukekohe until that section can also be electrified (which is hopefully soon) but the rest of the fleet will have no use. For some time the most likely option has been that they would be sold off, probably to a Southern African country like some of the old trains from Wellington were. One of the reasons for this thought is that while many people have had suggestions about using them in other parts of NZ to start services, there was no serious talk from other regions about starting rail services.
That could all change with the Envrionment Canturbury commissioners voting today on whether to investigate a starting a rail service from Rangioria to Christchurch. It’s a response to chronic congestion caused by the so much development occurring north of the city following the earthquakes.
Commuter rail services between Christchurch and North Canterbury are on the cards after pressure from frustrated drivers.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioners have been asked to approve up to $20,000 for an investigation into short-term passenger rail as a way to help alleviate the congestion into the city along the northern corridor.
The report said ”numerous enquiries” had been received from the public on the potential to use the existing rail track from the Waimakariri district.
Commissioners will decide tomorrow.
There is a chance also to buy old rail stock from Auckland Transport, which is upgrading to electric trains.
Traffic along the northern corridor has reached crisis point with buses recording 22 minutes from the old Waimakariri Bridge to the Chaneys off-ramp 1.2 kilometres away.
The growth has been attributed to the effects of the earthquakes.
Waimakariri District Council data now predicts nine years historical growth in just three.
There’s bound to be decent number of potential users of such a service. According to Stats NZ there are about 50,000 people in the Waimakariri District and more than half of those are in Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Woodend or Pegasus. Further as mentioned the area is growing fast thanks to the earthquakes pushing a lot of development away from the city.
From Rangiora to Christchurch it is approximately 30km which is about the distance that Papakura is from Britomart. Kiwirail’s Coastal Pacific service that travels between Christchurch and Picton (only in Summer) does that journey in around 24 minutes nonstop which is a fair bit faster than the hour and forty minutes mentioned in this article on the proposal. In reality it would be a bit slower than that due to needing to stop in places like Kaiapoi if it went ahead. The tracks also pass through some significant residential areas of Christchurch itself.
The biggest problem would be what to do with a train once it got to Christchurch. Like Auckland used to have, the nearest tracks are some way from the CBD and from the northern suburbs would require a Newmarket style end change. There are plenty of other issues too but I’m sure they’re ones that can be solved if there was a desire to do so.
If ECAN do decide to go through with a plan to trial some rail services it could end up following a very similar pattern to what happened in Auckland. The city has had some grand plans for light rail but can’t get any political support, at the same time there is rail infrastructure sitting in place but being largely overlooked by those in charge. Using some hand me down rolling stock to get services running patronage can be built up till future more substantial and upgrades can be justified.
If the online poll on The Press’ site is anything to go by, it’s certainly a popular idea with over 90% of all votes in favour of it. I would bet that Gerry Brownlee is unlikely to be one of those happy with the idea though.
Update, they voted to investigate it
Environment Canterbury commissioners have agreed to investigate commuter trains to and from the Waimakariri to help alleviate traffic congestion.
It is one of the options being investigated by a group led by New Zealand Transport Agency southern director Jim Harland.
The draft report is to be completed by June 13 and the final report earmarked to the council chief executive group by June 30.
ECan staff said it was a short-term solution for the six years it would take to complete motorway upgrades.