Rail transport

Roughan on rail

John Roughan says rail is dead, live with it.

Thanks to the national transport planners, the part of Auckland that is probably best served by public transport is the one part that has no railway. The North Shore’s busway is probably the fastest flowing artery in the region and it is about to get better. AT has posted out a plan to Shore households this month that simplified all bus routes into loops between busway stations. It looks ideal.

Transport planners can do so much more with wheels on roads that it is hard to fathom their attachment to iron rails. Trains have a romantic hold on the human imagination, mine included. Long-distance rail journeys are some of the happiest travel I have had. But the romance shouldn’t blind so many to its limitations, particularly in this country.

The narrow gauge railway system laid through New Zealand in the 19th century is a dog, not just for urban commuting but obviously for national freight too. The present Government put more than $1 billion into a “turnaround” plan for Labour’s renationalised KiwiRail in its early budgets. We have never heard where that money went.   Read more »

Bridges flips bird to Brown

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Len Brown exaggerates yet again the ‘need for the tunnel in down town Auckland with stories of crowded train platforms at Britomart.

Hints of wailing and gnashing of teeth and people unable to get home.

Britomart users may soon have to jostle their way through crowded platforms to get on to backed-up rush-hour trains, Auckland Mayor Len Brown warns, highlighting the “critical” need for the City Rail Link.

In the 12 months to April, rail use in Auckland increased 22 per cent, but Transport Minister Simon Bridges said there was still a way to go before usage reached the threshold at which the Government would consider helping fund the $2.5 billion project before 2020.

Mr Brown said the Britomart Transport Centre would face serious congestion problems by 2018 if the “stunning acceleration” of rail use continued – meaning a gridlocked city rail system and increasingly crowded platforms for passengers.

“At this rate, Auckland will meet the Government’s patronage threshold for financial support for the CRL early in 2017, three years earlier than projected. Growth has been accelerating since late 2013,” Mr Brown said.

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Green logic

Obviously what Wellington needs is more of those trains that aren’t going.

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Even Red Mike says rail subsidies are too much

Well even red Mike has worked out that trains cost too much money.

Despite being a staunch advocate for them Mike Lee is choking on his cornflakes over the exorbitant subsidy to run Auckland’s rail network.

Aucklanders facing a new transport rate are paying far too much to subsidise the city’s trains, says councillor Mike Lee, a long-time champion of rail.

Mr Lee, the council’s infrastructure chairman, has calculated that Auckland trains are costing ratepayers and the Government four times more to run than those in Wellington for each kilometre travelled by passengers.

He has worked out from figures published for each rail operation that the subsidy paid for every “passenger kilometre” travelled on Auckland trains last financial year was 65c, compared with just 16c in the capital.

Mr Lee, one of two council appointees to Auckland Transport’s board, says the proportion of rail operating costs covered by fares in Auckland declined to 22 per cent last year, compared with 24 per cent in 2012-13, and 50 per cent in Wellington.

“Government expectations are that farebox ratios should be 50 per cent, but Auckland has been moving in the opposite direction,” he said in a memo to Mayor Len Brown and fellow councillors as they debated a budget which includes a new targeted transport rate of $114 per household.

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Another billion to prop up Kiwirail

When is enough going to be enough?

Remember when Michael Cullen dropped $695 million dollars into the pockets of Toll Holdings in what he described as the deal of the century. It is rumoured that the anniversary of the deal is celebrated still by directors of Toll Holdings, such was the awesomeness of the deal for them.

It hasn’t proved to be the deal of the century for the government though, with National having to bail out Kiwirail twice already and now set to pump another billion dollars into what surely must actually be a failed business.

The government is looking at having to pump another billion dollars into KiwiRail over the next four years, Finance Minister Bill English says.

This is on top of the $1 billion the government has already invested in keeping the business going over the last five years, Mr English told a business audience in Wellington this week.

He referred to the long standing difficulties of operating a railway business in New Zealand of a long narrow country, difficult terrain and thin freight and passenger volumes compared with other countries.

“You have to ask which parts of the business make sense,” he said    Read more »

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Despite warnings from Auditor General Auckland Council commits millions in loans for Len’s train set

Despite warnings from the Auditor General about staying works before having the means to pay for the rest of the Rail Tunnel – Auckland Council is about to start works down the bottom of town.

Big traffic and public transport challenges face downtown Auckland from construction starting in less than a year for the $2.5 billion underground railway to Mt Eden.

Auckland Transport disclosed yesterday that it hopes to start digging trenches across lower Queen St in January, meaning rerouting buses such as the Northern Express fleet.

That is expected to require the relocation of 16 bus stops.

The council body also expects to close the main entrance to Britomart Station, through the old Central Post Office, for about three years from March.

Temporary ticketing machines and gates will be installed at the eastern end of the station to cope with peak crowds of about 4000 passengers an hour.

Albert St, one of the main bus feeder routes into downtown Auckland, faces some disruption from October as a stormwater main is moved to make way for a pair of “cut and cover” rail tunnels to be dug from Britomart as far as Wyndham St in a package of early works likely to cost about $250 million.    Read more »

Schooling Auckland Council on transport

Bryan Leyland gives Len brown and his train spotter friends a real good tickle up on public transport.

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Mayor Len Brown is determined to commit Auckland to building a hugely expensive railway tunnel even though no comprehensive independent and objective economic analysis has been made on the merits of the tunnel and whether or not letting the city spread and developing satellite centres would be better.

Auckland Council has neglected its obligation to investigate and evaluate all options. Given the enormous amount of expenditure involved, this amounts to a serious dereliction of duty.

Overseas research on 44 urban rail systems revealed that the average cost overrun was 45 per cent and the number of passengers was half the predicted number. Have the economics of the Auckland tunnel been tested against 45 per cent higher costs and half the passengers? If not, why not?

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Right now, ratepayers subsidise 80 per cent of the cost of every train fare. If the tunnel costs blow out by 50 per cent it will need to recover at least $450 million in fares every year for capital repayment and operating expenses. If, as hoped, there are 20 million rail trips every year, they will need to recover $22.50 per rail trip. Most of this will be imposed on the ratepayers.

No one living on the North Shore will benefit from the rail loop but they will paying for it.

No one living in East Auckland will benefit from the rail loop but they will be paying for it.   Read more »

For a moment I thought that the Herald had turned against Len Brown

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But it wasn’t to be.

Darwin was actually calling and a trainspotter answered.

A man fatally struck by the steam train he was photographing did not realise how close it was to him because he was looking at it through his camera lens, a coroner has ruled.

On September 7, 2013, Gregory John Duncraft, a meatworker from Kaiata, was standing on the railway track near Kokiri when a Mainland Steam charter steam train struck him at 5.45pm, throwing him into the air.   Read more »

Welcome back to work, Len’s trains were stuffed as a special present for you

Len Brown’s train set welcomed people back to work by breaking down this morning.

A track fault is signalling woe for Auckland train commuters coming into the city this morning.

Auckland Transport said all lines near Britomart in Central Auckland may be affected by cancellations and delays up to 20 minutes.

The delays have been caused by a points failure outside the Britomart Tunnel.

The fault comes as many people return to work after the New Year break.

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Brown’s rail project an expensive “boondoggle”

Not Len Brown this time, but Jerry Brown, the Governor of California and his ill-fated rail project.

The similarities are astonishing though.

As California breaks ground this week on its new high-speed rail line, it is clear what the $68 billion dollar project amounted to: though the project will surely make unions, construction workers, and bond salesmen happy, it is little more than money the state doesn’t have for a train that its residents don’t need and probably won’t use. TheWashington Post reports on the project’s continued financial troubles, and it’s not pretty:

Voters approved a $9.95 billion bond aimed at funding the initial construction of the rail project in 2008, by a slim five-point margin. The Obama administration added another $3.2 billion in federal grants, and the legislature agreed in 2014 to provide funding through cap-and-trade taxes on greenhouse gases, which will add another $250 million to $1 billion per year.

That means the rail authority will have about $26 billion at best, less than half the estimated total costs. California High-Speed Rail Authority officials have said they expect advertising, real estate developments and private investors to fund up to a third of the total costs.   Read more »