Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Track to the Future

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  • Danielle,

    can I haz mah Southerner back

    I really liked that train route! They had Devonshire teas...

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    I liked the Northerner in the 1970s when it had those phenomenally cute little biddy private bedrooms with pull-down bathing and loo facilities. (Can we have them back?)

    Put them in planes, too!

    Since Jul 2007 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The last TGV line built cost EUR4bln for 400km. So maybe NZD12bln for the Auckland/Wellington line.

    There are 9mln domestic air trips a year. So the $700mln annual interest on an Auckland/Welly TGV could be funded by an $80 levy on each flight / rail trip.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    This is all good news, the rail buyback that is. After selling to Fay, Richwhite and friends for $400 mill, buying back the network for $1.00 and getting paid $48 mill since 2004 that means we got the whole deal for around $70 mill. Who said Labour cant make money? ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    It would at least be worth looking at what we'd need to put in a TGV link between Auckland and Hamilton

    TGV is not cheap

    i hope the govt will take this opportunity to look at how the rail system can contribute to our country's transport needs as a whole. (although, wouldn't it have been better to conduct the study before we lay out $665M?!)

    if cullen doubts whether the rail system can be run economically, should we be running it at all? Or, if he factored in carbon costs, and a clogged up urban road network, would rail then be economical? Because if it isn't, why bother? Just build more busways and stronger pavements

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    My flatmate in 1990/91 took the Vulcan Railcar for a tour around the South Island. He had rail buffs from around NZ & further a field come out of the woodwork for that one.
    http://www.canterburyrailsociety.co.nz/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=4

    Let's not forget Ferrymead supplies Wellingtons trains at the moment.
    http://www.ferrymead.org.nz/

    I applaud Cullens move here, absolutely!

    If my cousin marries her girlfriend there will be crass and tasteless jokes, all very off colour - so no change there - they're a good match.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I liked the Northerner in the 1970s when it had those phenomenally cute little biddy private bedrooms with pull-down bathing and loo facilities. (Can we have them back?)

    Of course, daleaway -- but wasn't it a bugger that no enough people actually used the over-night service to keep it viable. You know what building a sleeper car from scratch costs, and what kind of occupancy is going to justify the expenditure?

    I think, when push comes to shove, "we" are going to be a little more interested in paying for hospital beds (and competent staff to care for the people in them) than folks having their own Murder on the Orient Express moment.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    Nope - and in fact it does the opposite: it's an offence to deny or impugn the validity of a lawful marriage (a clause which IIRC was driven by anti-Catholic bigotry in the early C20th, and which we should do away with as it is an affront to free speech).

    Ooh.. ooh... cant we just use it to bash Mr Wishart over the head a few times before we abolish it? Please?

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Rich: The engineering difficulties and low volume probably rule out Auckland - Wellington. But with Hamilton rapidly becoming an exurb of Auckland and the space in between being relatively flat, it might be worth linking those two. However, it would cost billions. Might be worth it if oil prices rise too high, though.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The last TGV line built cost EUR4bln for 400km. So maybe NZD12bln for the Auckland/Wellington line.

    And the rolling stock, silly physical restrictions like that honking great volcanic plateau in the middle and the practicalities of intergrating any high-speed service with the rest of the network? There are certain physical and financial realities nobody is even thinking about, and that scares the crap out of me.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Long distant passenger trains aren't coming back, but passenger movement has to be the answer to urban congestion and intensification of urban dwellings.

    The bulk of it has to be in direct competition with truck on our roads.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Does anyone know whether tourist trains - like the Orient Express, the one that crosses the desert in oz, etc - are profitable?

    The old steam trains that get an outing here, always seem well-booked and some of the rail routes are stunning. The old Napier-Gisborne trip was fabulous, round the coast. Ditto thru National park, the Raurimu Spiral etc - I loved those trips as a kid. Those 'rail excursion' style trips, linked to tourist sites & accommodation could be a real asset. And get some of those campervans off the road & cut down the congestion on some of the well-used roads.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    When the line was being put in around the turn of the 20th Century, the engineers employed by the Liberal government costed putting a camber on the line, to enable trains to travel faster around bends in the track. The cost of bedding this in proved too expensive, so the track was laid flat, limiting New Zealand rail speeds ever since.

    An infrastructure classic.

    Remind me why we shouldn't start installing fibre for that other network?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Plz Mistuh Cullenz, can I haz mah Southerner back.

    (also, if you could see fit to work out why in the new millennium we can't get a passenger train that can go faster than either the old Vulcan railcar or a steam JA-hauled passenger train)

    Heat. Took the Southerner from Chch to Invercargill once. Because of heat expanding the tracks, we had something like a 30k speed limit. Longest trip of my life. Still, when it was running that train was my choice of transport home for the holidays. So much nicer than the bus.

    My family did the Transalpine last year, it was choice.

    My opposite-sex partner and I have a civil union. We had the choice. I should still have had the choice if my partner happened to be a woman.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Hills. And bendy bits. And shitty track. If you want fast trains, you need straight, level track, which would mean a significant capital investment.

    Let's be very clear. It certainly would in some places. It has always been NZR practice to operate only at 90km/h, but in some parts of Canterbury were happening. It may be that to attain 120km/h speeds on a regular basis the lines would need to be maintained to a higher standard, but it would seem a good start.

    A TGV-esque service would be fantastic. The French are lucky that they have a wider gauge to start with. While the cost of new TGV lines are expensive, they can also happily run on normal lines (at much lower speed). I went from Paris to to the Ruhr (via Dijon and Strasbourg) a couple of years back, and some times the trains were doing 295, but on the windy bits they were just back on normal track doing whatever they could reasonably.

    Trains rule. Honestly. I can't understand why people would take a bus over a train (assuming they're similarly priced). It's so much more pleasant sitting round a table playing cards or going for a stroll than spending 40min at a tearooms in some crummy town for the bus driver's rest stop.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Trans-Alpine must make a profit otherwise it would have been axed.

    Now there is snow on the hills they have a $114 return fare.
    http://www.tranzscenic.co.nz/promotions/promo2.aspx

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Still, when it was running that train was my choice of transport home for the holidays.

    Same. In the mid-90s, they used to have special deals for students in the holidays ($35-40) from Dunedin to Christchurch. They had great seats, arranged in 4s round tables, so you could sit round and play cards, chat, etc. with a bunch of friends. Had a lot of fun. Sometimes we'd buy the children's play packs and do colouring in. Other times, we might have had an extra ingredient in the coke bottles we brought on board. They were good times.

    Of course, having said that high speed train is unrealistic, if they could get a train to around 300km/h from Christchurch to Oamaru, then even if it had to do a go-slow for the final leg, that would be freaking choice. It's not exactly demanding terrain (although the river bridges would be expensive).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    BTW, there's an interesting question forming in my mind: Is fiscal conservatism the political equivalent of this lot? I'm not surprised the obvious questions aren't being asked, but it's a little troubling nobody really seems to care.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish.MacEwan,

    I've used the example of rail tracks and rail services separation extensively to support structural separation of telecommunications generally and Telecom specifically, thus I have a personal investment in thinking the structural reunion of rail, even under the control of the Government is no great thing.

    Structural separation of rail has a chequered history, in the UK it was a disaster when both layers were private and seems to have come right with the non-profit collective model on the bottom and competition on the top.

    The flaw, as I see it, in the NZ implementation was the State took over the rails and then inflicted a monopsony on itself by granting exclusive service rights to Toll. Always a dangerous move. Solid Energy I imagine is one customer who would love to have paid OnTrack and run their own trains. Those on the East Coast might have found a way to fund services without having to meet Toll's ROI.

    As you note,

    We can hardly pretend that the railways and ferries were doing well before the National government sold TranzRail

    and we have no guarantee, but certainly a well founded suspicion that once rail is vertically integrated again, it will behave like most, nay all, vertically integrated transport network operators. At least we know we're going to be subsidising rail.

    Odd isn't it, just when we cleave Telecom into three, we cleave Rail back into one.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think, when push comes to shove, "we" are going to be a little more interested in paying for hospital beds (and competent staff to care for the people in them) than folks having their own Murder on the Orient Express moment.

    While there's some truth to the "if you get A, you can't have B", it's not always a binary choice as you've put it. The reality is probably that we can have A, B, C, D, and E, but not P, Q, R and S. And trains aren't just for entertainment, they're a possible (part) solution to various environmental and transport problems. Certainly worth investigating.

    The last TGV line built cost EUR4bln for 400km. So maybe NZD12bln for the Auckland/Wellington line.

    Presumably it would be cheaper if we rebuilt on top of existing infrastructure. There's already engineering, bridges etc in place, some would be fine for high speed trains, others would need work, and lines would need to be relaid the entire length. So, to pick a figure out of the sky, maybe 9 billion instead of 12.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The Swiss are throwing a high-speed railway under the Alps.

    The TGV is rated to a 4% gradient. The Raurimu spiral has a maximum grade of 1:52 and, per-wikipedia a straight-line replacement would be 1:24.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Graham,

    Doesn't our narrow guage tracks have something to do with why our trains don't go faster?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Slevin,

    The cost of bedding this in proved too expensive, so the track was laid flat, limiting New Zealand rail speeds ever since.

    Not only that but whoever it was also decided that we would use a narrower gauge than the UK, not just limiting speeds but the range of territories from whom we could import gear and tech. Thus, when the Hutt Units needed replacing they had to some from Czechoslovakia (I think) and were too long (or high) for the Johnsonville line tunnels.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    While there's some truth to the "if you get A, you can't have B", it's not always a binary choice as you've put it. The reality is probably that we can have A, B, C, D, and E, but not P, Q, R and S. And trains aren't just for entertainment, they're a possible (part) solution to various environmental and transport problems. Certainly worth investigating.

    Kyle:

    It might be worth "investigating", but not when you have a whacking great chunk of public money expended on the downlow As Colin Espiner puts it:

    The question, however, is whether the government can do a better job. And so far we’re completely in the dark. The Government has released almost no detail about its plans. We don’t know who will run the trains in future, under what structure, how much the taxpayer will have to invest, and whether or not it will be required to make a profit.

    We haven’t even seen the agreement signed with Toll this morning, or the Cabinet papers authorising Cullen and the PM to negotiate the deal. I’m told we’ll get these in due course.

    Funny, isn't it, how we tend to get rather pissy (and rightly so) when local government or corporates pulls this crap. I'd certainly be more than a little pissed off if this is how a Key-lead government intends to operate.

    BTW, if environmental concerns are involved what a shame Toll still has possession of the Tranz Link freight forwarding operation -- and it's rather large truck fleet.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Craig:

    I'm not surprised the obvious questions aren't being asked, but it's a little troubling nobody really seems to care.

    What, whether the money could better be spent giving tax cuts to the rich? I think the answer to that one is "no". As for other options, remember that in government accounts, its fiscally neutral - they simply swap one asset ($665 million in small-denomination unmarked bills) for another of equal value.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

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