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Blood on the Tracks

Written By: - Date published: 10:27 am, July 10th, 2015 - 127 comments
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First up, a rare thing; mild praise for the National Government. In ignoring Treasury’s advice to do fully to KiwiRail what the troika is doing to Greece, Bill English has thrown our rail network a two year lifeline. This is a very good thing. Well, a step in the right direction, at least.

Without a rail network, all our goods would be moved via roads. And our roading system is already struggling to cope with the damage done by trucks as it is. Much like the dairy industry, the road transport lobbyists are determined that they should not have to compensate the taxpayer for the damage they cause. Both industries rely heavily on disguised subsidies from you and I to repair and maintain the infrastructure and environment that they so gleefully corrupt. Both claim to be vital to the NZ economy, but both are parasitic in nature.

Without rail, NZ would be entirely dependant on a form of transport that is nearing its nadir. The coming generation is likely to be the last that thinks energy inefficient and polluting trucks are the answer. They’re actually part of the problem.

Rail Leaflet_web

Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford is correct when he says KiwiRail is effectively two seperate businesses, freight and lines, and that the pair should be treated differently.

The freight business absolutely should be expected to run profitably, but, as Twyford says,

“the lines are as much part of our national infrastructure as the roads or the water supply. You shouldn’t throw economic rationality out the window but this is infrastructure for the nation”.

We’ve invested nearly a billion dollars into KiwiRail since it was effectively nationalised by a forward thinking Labour government. It’s not profitable overall and, yes, it’s costing us millions each year. But that’s an investment that pays the kind of dividends that Treasury hates to acknowledge.

Twyford sums it up perfectly.

“This proposal by Treasury for the Government to consider actually shutting down the rail network is just nuts and it shows that Treasury doesn’t really understand transport economics and they certainly don’t get rail.”

Treasury is still locked in a 1984 Freedmanite free market mind set. They are only focussed on the bottom line, not the benefits investments like Kiwirail bring. And it’s not just Kiwirail they want to kill off, these weirdos also reckon the actual Kiwi bird is, ahem, “not aligned with overall Government priorities”.

Libertarians? Doncha hate ’em?

Here’s a thought. We could save ten million bucks a year by closing Treasury and hiring a couple of daleks. The effect would be pretty much the same. Crush, Kill, Destroyyyyyyyy!

National have given Kiwirail a two year grace period. Like the troika’s threat to Greece, this period is supposed to be spent finding internal economies (ie slash and burn). Expect job cuts, service reductions and a return to the regime of minimal maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. The same recipe that got our railways into the mire in the first place.

I’m kinda angry about this stuff. I grew up a couple of blocks from a railway workshop and some busy marshalling yards. When I crossed the railway bridge to go to school, hundreds of railway workers would be walking toward me as they went to good, constructive jobs. Now my old suburb and the one on the other side of the river are bywords for unemployment, drugs, gangs and apathy. The apathy mainly being from our ‘local’ Tory MP, who actually lives two hundred kms away from the city he represents, in another province altogether. He’s completely disengaged from the history of rail in that city, just as Treasury are disengaged from the future of rail in New Zealand.


We can’t just wait for the next Labour led government to give our rail network a viable future. This current administration need to be looking a lot further out than two years. They need to see the big picture and instead of letting rail limp along, they need to be looking at new lines, extensions to the old ones, re-opening of the Napier/Gisborne line, and electrification, electrification and electrification.

We have the bones of a truly great transport infrastructure already. We need to invest heavily to build and rebuild rail. We need to own our future or else we are truly trucked.

Last words to Phil Twyford:

“This proposal by Treasury for the Government to consider actually shutting down the rail network is just nuts and it shows that Treasury doesn’t really understand transport economics and they certainly don’t get rail.

To shut down, even to contemplate shutting down this valuable part of our nation’s infrastructure, is barmy.”


127 comments on “Blood on the Tracks”

  1. BM 1

    This site here has a lot of interesting truck information


    After having a quick browse I can see why the government emphasis is on trucking and not trains.

    • Skinny 1.1

      Without bothering to read your snake oil link to the National Party’s largest political donators the Trucking Lobbyist Group, we know how unbalanced the playing field is and that further carving up of state assets were always on the cards. Of course the public won’t tolerate a repeat of last disastrous privatisation scam National done.

    • philj 1.2

      This is PR spin from a self interested corporate lobby group. Where is the balance representing the common good? Where is the real costs of trucking and the cross subsidy that it receives? The entire system needs changing, that is obvious but current thinking is more trucks and highways. Signs of a rudderless ship me thinks.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        Where is the real costs of trucking and the cross subsidy that it receives?

        Yep, get rid of the huge subsidies that trucks receive and long distance trucking would disappear overnight. This is why I support road user charges for all vehicles properly set for mass. 0.1 cent per kilometre for the average one tonne car, $10 per kilometre for a fifty tonne truck.

        Trains will, of course, remain the same price as now as they don’t receive any subsidies.

        Signs of a rudderless ship me thinks.

        Nope. National definitely have plans and those plans are to cement in place the systems that benefit their donors no matter how much it costs the community.

        • philj

          Cheers DTB.
          You misunderstand my point. I am saying the ‘captain’ knows where he is going, but his rudder has fallen off, and possibly the propeller too! Regards.

    • John Shears 1.3

      A set of charts and comments from the trucking lobby , really??

      Some of the data is believable , perishables for instance but that used not to be the case. I was personally involved in sending about a ton of perishables from Wellington to Auckland , every week, by rail. Product was produced on a Monday loaded on Tuesday before 11am and ready for pickup and delivery in Auckland on Wednesday morning at 8am. That was in the 1960’s before the Trucking lobby became powerful in long haul traffic.

      There were equally efficient services out of Wellington on a daily basis to lower NI towns by a combination of rail & truck.Parcels Rail was another very efficient service , Auckland to Wellington as an example delivered in Wgtn city by 11am next day in the 1970’s.

      In the late 1990’s I could ring my supplier in Rotorua place an order before 11am and be unloading the rail wagon next morning at 8am in the Helensville yard. On one occasion they sent the order by road and it took 4 days to arrive.

      • dukeofurl 1.3.1

        Are you sure , Rotorua to Helensville in one day ?, by rail ? memory is playing tricks.

        You cant get that today by road ! ( maybe end of the next day)

        I have heard that Auckland to Napier by rail was up to two weeks during the 80s.

        The railways is out of the small consignment business now, its a container load or nothing. Otherwise bulk commodities like coal

        • Macro

          Yep! Quite believable. I had a consignment of timber from Carterton to Coatesville delivered at a cost of $25 within a day in the 2000’s. Rail to Auckland overnight – onto a truck and delivered to Coatesville the next morning (less than 24 hours). The cost for the same amount of timber from Kumeu to Coatesville (a 15 min journey) by truck alone from one supplier was over $150! Naturally I went for the cheapest option and did not buy locally!
          Those are the transport costs I’m talking about. The cost of the timber was much the same from both.

          • Brigid

            And if the rail head at Kumeu had still been operational, your consignment could have been trucked from there.

            • Macro

              Yes indeed! It would also relieve the extra thousands of car journeys down the NWestern per day which will eventuate with the new subdivisions around Huapai – Kumeu, with a regular and timely passenger rail service as well.

              • Brigid

                Oh no, We had our chance. No more trainsies for us. We were given a passenger service for a year and didn’t patronise it enough. Although it was slower and more expensive than the bus, and just a damn useless service. Ungrateful bastard we are

                • Macro

                  lol Yeah I remember that. I wonder how it would be now if the new trains were able to run up to Kumeu?
                  I’m now down in Thames by the way – had enough of taking my life in my hands every time I went out along the Coatesville Riverhead Highway – which was every time I went out. Now its 5 mins to practically everything.

        • John Shears

          So you are calling me a fibber?? It is true.
          Required a little knowledge of how things work. As soon as the driver was back from loading in Rotorua my supplier rang thru the wagon number, I then rang rail with number and there it was next morning as regular a clockwork in those days there was a train every day taking coal from Huntly to the cement works near Whangarei.
          Why would I make it up?

    • I love the way that they’re essentially saying “well, we have most of the business now, so we should keep it.” That’s really only an argument when nobody has a subsidy, but truckers have been externalising their costs onto the rest of us for ages. There’s a reason why many private users of vehicles prefer to have mixed-use vehicles go corporate and buy diesel while paying RUCs: It’s cheaper, despite the fact that it’s supposedly paying for the extra damage to the road heavily-laden commerical vehicles can do.

      Properly, RUCs should be set for weight vs distance for each trip, (mass rather than weight if you want to get technical) however there are issues with enforcement of such a system as it would require honest reporting from everyone involved and significant auditing to do. Possibly a better way would be to work out an average load for a class of vehicle and charge that amount per KM. Either way, road transport would become far less economic overnight and the trains would find themselves in a business boom for all sorts of freight, and probably unable to expand fast enough to pick it up.

      But let’s not let that disturb your precious “road transport forum” group that is totally impartial and not at all lobbying on behalf of truckies.

  2. Old Mickey 2

    “Treasury is still locked in a 1984 Freedmanite free market mind set. TThey are only focussed on the bottom line, not the benefits investments like Kiwirail bring. ” – Would love to know what these benefits are ? And, if I recall 1984 economics was labour party economincs as well as Friedman’s. Lets not forget the how badly the state owned rail system in Greece is run.

    The gem in Phils arument is this “KiwiRail is effectively two seperate businesses, freight and lines, and that the pair should be treated differently.” The burden of running the lines company should be separated, however, I would be concerned if the lines business was run like an electricity lines company like TLC, who would make up an “capacity or demand based” pricing model which would make the freight business uneconomic.

    • greywarshark 2.1

      The benefits from the rail system are the same as they were when first the tracks and system were set up in NZ and united the country and enabled business. The
      rail system got sloppy as so many government services with guaranteed jobs and protective legislation can do.

      Introducing proper accounting, monitoring and ideas people looking at ways to increase business and customer satisfaction would help rail pay its way better. Treasury figures I put up last night in Wed Open Mike showed that Kiwirail in 2014 got advances of about $180 million and paid to government $10 million. Those are just bald figures and I don’t understand what methodology was used. I point out that we pay out many millions for Treasury and their value to the people is moot.

      There are uncounted values of Kiwirail and its unrepeatable installation which mean that they are unconsidered national treasures, working for us. The government is at all times a caretaker of our land and built structure and it should be illegal for them to throw away, sell, or otherwise dispose of our resources without a referendum. This would be accompanied by a deep, searching, totally unbiased Treasury report mining every pro and every con so that we can decide the best thing to do.

  3. ianmac 3

    In the olden days there were problems with security on trains, and speed and efficiency of goods delivery. But that could have been rationalised in the modern world. Computers, security, efficiency etc. Renew freight on trains I say. Build it up, though the road freight lobby would make that very very hard to do.

    One way to do that would to make truck road users pay for the real cost of heavy trucks on roads. The damage and constant cost of repairs should go to the users which would make the freight by rail viable again.

  4. Chooky 4

    Goldman Sachs advises Treasury on sale of state assets…and on private investment opportunities…Is NZ rail being starved of taxpayer funds so it can be sold off privately and made into a private rail network.? ( the way they have done in Britain?)


    Click to access bim-14-commercial.pdf


    “Goldman Sachs is one of the largest infrastructure fund managers globally, having raised more than $10 billion of capital since the inception of the business in 2006.

    The primary focus for GS Infrastructure Partners (GSIP) is on investment opportunities with the following parameters:

    Sectors including transportation infrastructure (such as airports, ports, railways and roads) and utilities infrastructure (such as electricity, gas and water networks and conventional/ renewable contracted power generation),….


    …..Interesting also that Bill English did not front this on Nine-to- noon but used instead Joanne Black ( who used to be Bill English’s secretary) to front jonkey Nact government policy of financially gutting NZ rail, in an era when all other countries are looking to expand rail services….GUTLESS!


    “The government has put KiwiRail on notice, giving it two years to identify savings and reduce Crown funding required. What is the future of the rail network and what is its importance to regional New Zealand? The Hawkes Bay Regional Council. Regional leaders are fighting to retain rail links, and in Hawkes Bay to re-open its rail service. The Napier – Gisborne line was mothballed back in 2012 after it was washed out by a major storm. The Hawkes Bay Regional Council is fighting for its resurrection and has put up five-and-a-half million dollars to part fund the line. Liz Lambert is the Chief Executive of the Hawkes Bay Regional Council. Lawrence Yule is the mayor of Napier and chairman of Local Govenrment New Zealand. Joanne Black is the spokesperson for Kiwi Rail.”

    • Chooky 4.1

      would jonkey Nact like Goldman Sachs to redesign the New Zealand flag too?

    • Scintilla 4.2

      Beat me to that RNZ link! Very interesting listening to the Regional Council spokesperson, Liz Lambert, on how a tender is coming up in July for lease of the Napier-Gisborne line to private operators. The Regional Council is facilitating this, rather than looking to operate it themselves. Major logging to come on stream in future and Gisborne have cruise ship visits that depend on a steam train trip being up and running. The Gisborne Rail outfit have permission for this from kiwirail.

      Napier Gisborne Rail

      The Napier-Gizzy rail trip is fantastic – beats me why it is not tourism gold. Package holidays for rich rail freaks.

      Yule is correct when he says there needs to be a ‘stand back and take a good, long look at 10-50 years out’ for the nationwide transport scenario, by the Minister of Transport and the Ministry, to ensure development is coherent and beneficial for the regions and the country.

    • greywarshark 4.3

      That’s interesting Chooky. Why in hell should we have Goldman Sachs advising Treasury? What do we pay the Treasury staff inflated salaries for – their expertise and knowledge and professional training! I answer my own question here which is what they should be able to do with their examined questions, without bringing in their doubtful friends.

      Their friends Goldman Sachs and other money-spinners, come with pre-conceived notions that are not drawn from any fine, well-rounded economic texts of deep, objective theory. No, they are from cherry-picked lines out of their economic bibles, as with any semi-religious cult. All pronouncements are equally sacred, but some are more equal than others.

      Probably it’s old testament Hayek (et al), with a hatred of totalitarian society blinkering him from the way that following his bias would lead to deep authoritarianism in another direction.

      • Chooky 4.3.1

        +100…”Why in hell should we have Goldman Sachs advising Treasury?”…and who is responsible for this!?

  5. Skinny 5

    The timing of this Treasury release is a calculated move in conjuction with the Nats i’d say. Note how quickly the language has turned on one of our few remaining assets, the Kiwi Rail ‘Dog’. This was Judith Collins on Paul Henry’s show this morning, with Henry barking like a mad dog in agreement.

    Guess what happens in New Zealand when high spikes in imported oil occur? Long distance haulage trucks are instantly parked at their depots and our railway comes into it’s own. Smart Logistics Company’s know they cannot be successful without utilising an integrated transport strategy.

    • half crown 5.1

      “This was Judith Collins on Paul Henry’s show this morning, with Henry barking like a mad dog in agreement.”

      What did you expect from Prat Henry. If the National party shit on him from a great height he would try and convince you it was gold, or at least good quality shit.

  6. Born. Gisborne. 6

    Could we have our Napier link back please,
    sincerely, Gisborne.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    This proposal by Treasury for the Government to consider actually shutting down the rail network is just nuts and it shows that Treasury doesn’t really understand transport economics and they certainly don’t get rail.

    Actually, it proves conclusively that Treasury doesn’t understand the economy at all. They, like many economists, politicians and people in general, are focussed upon the financials and are completely missing how and economy works. How we need to be looking to use less resources rather than more. That even though the use of more resources produces more profits for the few that isn’t actually a valid measure of success for the economy.

    • Chooky 7.1

      does Treasury work for the long term economic good of all New Zealnders?…that is the real question

      …or has Treasury been co-opted to the interests of the corporates like Goldman Sachs?

      ‘Goldman Sachs NZ’s earnings soar on asset sales’


    • Macro 7.2

      Actually, it proves conclusively that Treasury doesn’t understand the economy at all. They, like many economists, politicians and people in general, are focussed upon the financials and are completely missing how an economy works.

      The problem is; many politicians (or Journalists for that matter), have any understanding on how an economy works either. Always focused on GDP, and making a profit, or “balancing books”, never on how they could work towards a more fairer distribution of resources.

  8. Skinny 8

    Let’s hope one of the suits from Treasury were heading up to the Bay of Islands today and got a look at what happens when a 50 tonne truck comes to grief on our ‘public roads’.


  9. dv 9

    Or the Manawatu gorge.

    That would mean no access to Wairapa as the Rimatuka hill is/was closed

    • Macro 9.1

      Pahiatua Track and Saddle Roads….
      Actually the Track is a quicker route to the Wairarapa from Palmy than the Gorge – but more bumpy and windy overall.

    • Skinny 9.2

      I drove down to the ski fields of central North Island on Sunday, the amount of trucks was annoying and scary in the wet. Ironically I ran into a yachting acquaintance at a BP station who use to be the former CEO of the then named Ontrack pre Kiwi Rail. Anyway he can’t believe the changes like doing away with the electricafacation between Wellington & Hamilton, if anything you would think they would be extending it through to Auckland and Tauranga. Unbelievably short sighted.

      I fully expect this outfit in charge to use this ‘fabricated opportunity’ to close lines and turn them into cycleways. North Auckland and West Coast Lines will be gone by Xmas I hear.

      Let’s hope the public get fully behind opposition party’s who are rallying to save this from happening.

      • Chooky 9.2.1

        +100…however I doubt the lines will be used for cycleways….once the publicly owned state asset of Kiwi Rail is starved of taxpayer money and run down ….nact will be getting their mates and blind trusts to develop and run private railways

        Rail is the future with global warming and a fossil fuel crisis

  10. tc 10

    National just doing what they normally do with treasury playing the bad cop role this time so jonkey and blinglish can save the day.

    The public service has become quite the govt lapdog as expected with all the ‘consultants’ NACT have placed all over the ministries.

  11. adam 11

    “Libertarians? Doncha hate ’em?”

    Depends – if they work for the state at any level, then yeah, they are scum.

    But I know many libertarians who are completely at odds with treasury and the act party. Those individuals who find it abhorrent to use the state for their own ideology. These libertarians I get on with on the whole – yeah we argue over capitalism. They see the state, especially the 21st model as a sad shadow of itself. Unable to decide beyond populism it’s function and purpose.

    And to some degree I agree we need a limited state. Especially, when the state becomes the political tool with which to empower the 1%, and destroy working peoples lives. Where have you been the last 35 years – the primary tool to hurt people has not been the market – it’s been the state. The market does not bring out the police to break up a picket, or evict people from homes. That’s not the market, that’s the state.

    So beyond health care, I’m not sure I want the state for much else. I think the state should get out labour laws – apart from compulsory unionism. And the obvious, no state protection for companies or banks. No limited liability companies, no corporations.

    I’m for smaller levels of governance. Contrary to the propaganda the Tory scum have pushed around, the borough system did work here. Local governance works well, and local governance can work collectively on issues across Aotearoa, to make things work – like rail.

  12. Stuart Munro 12

    If the NZ government were not a useless self-serving sack of syphilitic weasels they’d be building hi-speed rail from Wellington to Auckland and Christchurch to Picton. It would be very profitable as it would compete with flying, and cushion NZ against future oil shocks. Too futuristic though – Treasury are still in the nineteenth century.

    • David 12.1

      High speed rail? Do you have any idea how much that would cost? Auckland to
      Wellington would cost at least $20bn, double that more likely given NZ terrain.

      The futuristic option is to opitimise roads for self-driving trucks and cars.

      • Stuart Munro 12.1.1

        Actually useful infrastructure pays for itself relatively quickly. Actually high speed rail ought to be considerably cheaper per km than roads.

        The private car and truck are not particularly efficient and use will decline if petroleum prices return to normal.

        Trains are in the long term more sustainable.

        • David

          Can you point to any high speed rail line in use by such a small population anywhere else in the world?

          f you can build high speed rail for less than roads, then I suggest you contact the UK and US and offer your services, they are spending a couple of hundred billion on short stretches of high speed rail, I’m sure they would be interested in your claim.

          • Stuart Munro

            South Korea? The KTX is a French model that has become the prototype for hi-speed rail through China because of its success in Korea (which is about the same size as the South Island, with numerous mountain ranges.) It readily beat the much better established tenderer, the Japanese shinkansen.

            • Stuart Munro

              The power distribution system developed at the University of Auckland is the obvious solution to the power/weight problems constraining maglev development – & maglev can readily compete with air.

              If cost constraints are hampering England then they should’ve kept Branson out of it – ‘Raped by a Virgin’ is the byword for his PPPs.

  13. greywarshark 13

    Some great views of Kiwi trains along the Kaikoura track with their robust working sounds.

    From Nz Midland line with mournful train whistle.

    Through Arthurs Pass snowfall

    steam in Manawatu
    More Chch-Greymouth
    and Arthurs Pass

    Ours mustn’t degrade to this but look how the system can overcome poor conditions, though slowly.

    Trains seem to absorb the culture, the affections and hopes of prosperity of the people.
    Willie Nelson and The city of New Orleans and historic footage on this lovely song.

    The song city of new orleans by the writer himself – Steve Goodman

    About Steve Goodman and Arlo Guthrie and The City of New Orleans

    Like Chet Akins? Copy the link and take out spaces between youtube. and com – I am trying not to have instant play on the blog.
    https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=SQJ9RAm3CZw

  14. Skinny 14

    Geez Grey you could just post links rather than the whole foamer thing!

  15. wyndham 15


    Readers will be interested in this comment from 2012 in the ‘Naki Daily News. Those with grey hair will recall Prebble, the arch- henchman of Roger Douglas, going about the country with a massive “Save Rail” campaign. Upon being appointed Minister of Rail – – – “Goodbye Rail”. Probably one of the most blatant and cynical acts of betrayal ever committed by a Labour politician. He went on to sell off all our state forests to foreign interests at a fraction of their true worth.

    • Skinny 15.1

      Funny you mentioned Prebble I was holidaying down Lake Rotoma eariler in the week staying at my partners parents place. Apparently he lives there, anyway I have been hoping to run into him at the local cafe which I purposely frequent so I can rip the shit out of him, enough so he trys to throw a punch so I can justify dropping him for the good lefties he let down.

      • te reo putake 15.1.1

        For my sins, I door knocked for Prebble in two elections. My sweetest memory is him blubbing when he thought he was going to lose his seat early on election night 1990. Sadly, he went on to win by a couple of thousand votes.

        • Skinny

          Not so ha-ha and tragic considering the betrayal that followed. The prick knew how to work the Fiji crowd so he got the nod as the candidate. Out smarted quite a few seasoned campaigner, McCarten & me old cobbah Spanswick in the process.

        • Chooky

          …you “door knocked for Prebble” ….!!!!!

          • lprent

            I went along to meeting hosted by Prebble in 1989. That was when I decided that I’d head over the border back to my home territory in Mt Albert

        • Macro

          For your sins complete repentance and a thousand hail mary’s will not suffice! 🙂

          • te reo putake

            If you think that’s bad, I also once helped out Jack Elder, the man who almost single handedly cost Labour the ’81 election. But, as I’ve said here a few times, I’m not that motivated by the personalities, more by the policies. MP’s come and go but the party remains.

      • tc 15.1.2

        I thought he hung out at his retirement apartment in Selwyn village in akl’s point chev in between board junkets.

  16. greywarshark 16

    @TRP could you just wipe the whole of the comment. I didn’t know that all the damned youtube links would show like this. It is just annoying to every one as it is, including me. Sorry folks I did pick out some styley bits of train stuff.

    And Skinny. Geez Skinny don’t you think I tried!

    • Good as gold. Shame though, there’s some great links. I’ll try and edit it so the previews don’t show up. If that doesn’t work, I’ll disappear it.

      Edit. I put ( ) around the links, seems to work.

      • greywarshark 16.1.1

        Thanks so much. I was p.o. to think I had spent a few hours (doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself) sorting out the best and then have it not work out. It’s good they are getting enjoyed. There are a many fans filming the grunty machines.and putting on youtube.

    • red-blooded 16.2

      Hey, I enjoyed the snow scene (and the original version of City of New Orleans). Don’t beat yourself up.

  17. Macro 17

    Here are some sensible proposals re Kiwirail and just why we need to reject this lunacy from National and Treasury out of hand.

    To BM – note the enormous subsidy to trucking – in the order of $3 billion per year, building roads we would not need if we were to have less not more trucks, and the on flow costs of reduced economic benefits to the regions.

    Treasury’s proposals will cost at less an extra 3000 trucks on NZ roads and extra roading to cope with them.

    Like all “successful businesses”, Trucking has learned to externalize its costs onto the general population – eg Oil Companies, Food and Beverage Companies, Dairying. NZ picks up the tab, Truck Companies pick up the ‘profit’.

  18. Ad 18

    Rail supports exactly the high-friction bulk commodity export economy that holds us back.

    Coal is dead.
    Milk in bulk should not be encouraged.
    Logs are just stupid.

    Electric metro rail is a Council concern (other than track access and maintenance).

    Rail freight doesn’t support the New Zealand economy we need.

  19. Kevin 19

    “We’ve invested nearly a billion dollars into KiwiRail since it was effectively nationalised by a forward thinking Labour government. ”

    Labour bought a dog for an outrageous price and we’re still paying for it.

    • tc 19.1

      Yes $1 very poorly invested to rescue much needed infrastructure. would 25c have been a better ROI ?

  20. Ad 20

    No argument from the export side then.
    Small quick rail lines from Edendale and Mosgiel to Port Chalmers make sense as they are profitable and almost purely bulk. For example.

    As for the import side, rail from Auckland Port (as primary importer) to Wiri inland port, Hamilton’s Te Rapa, and Tauranga, make sense. That’s where the demand for building products (and other heavy bulk items) is.

    No party is promoting the return of the preference for rail over x kilometres of freight.

    Rail freight – despite what TRP says – has had plenty of taxpayer subsidy unde this government and others.

    Time to put the questionmark over the perpetual rail-romance.

    • Colonial Viper 20.1

      But are we not going to be shipping logs and milk powder for a long time to come?

      No party is promoting the return of the preference for rail over x kilometres of freight.


      • Macro 20.1.1

        It will return. A stupid decision made in the past will be overturned when the inevitable comes to pass.

    • Macro 20.2

      Your comment is nonsense.

      The annual subsidy by government to the trucking industry is measured in the Billions.

      The cost of scrapping our rail will be thousands of more trucks on our already congested arterial routes, Increased carbon emissions. (Transport accounts for over 20% and NZ is one of the “leading” causing a rise of over 45% in carbon emissions from transport since 1997.)

      Click to access 10GHGTrends.pdf

      Fortunately we have a rail system in existence – we need to see it for what it is – a public good and we need to preserve it, and develop it further, for it is our hope in the future

      • BM 20.2.1

        Multi use, buses, cars, motorbikes use the same roads as trucks, trains are too one dimensional and not really suited for NZ.
        I get the feeling the left only want rail because with rail comes union growth.

        NZ is much better served by a decent road network with trucking doing the majority of the haulage.

        • Colonial Viper

          You can ship many more tonnes of freight by rail per tonne of diesel, than via road.

          • Draco T Bastard

            And if you use electricity it costs even less.

          • indiana

            Are all NZ businesses located next to railway yards? Would you build a railway line just for one business located in a regional town simply because of your rail per tonne ideology?

            • McFlock

              ah. “No rail line to the door” must be the tory talking point of the day.

              Fucking trucking lobby.

          • BM

            Can trains do daily, over night, door to door.?
            Trains are too inflexible and slow for the majority of NZ businesses.

            As the link I posted at the top said the vast majority of freight transportation in NZ is in the Auckland, Hamilton Tauranga triangle, distances that are far too short for trains to make them a viable option.

            • McFlock

              What trucking company in the country does a residential door to door courier service solely using b-train trucks?

              Van picks up the package, takes it to a distribution centre, where it gets assigned to plane, train or truck for the longer haul.

              Your “inflexible” argument is fucking moronic. Trains don’t do door to door at all. But they do Invercargill to ChCh bloody well. Even daily.

            • Skinny

              Don’t go putting up your anti Rail argument to the head of logistics company Main Freight he will think your a short sighted lunatic as he knows the profits are good, hence they freight by train inter city where possible and truck to the door inner-city. Smart man you would have to agree Blind Man going by Main Freights high share price.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Can trains do daily, over night, door to door.?


              Trains are too inflexible and slow for the majority of NZ businesses.

              You do understand that, on average, they’re faster than trucks don’t you?

              As the link I posted at the top said the vast majority of freight transportation in NZ is in the Auckland, Hamilton Tauranga triangle, distances that are far too short for trains to make them a viable option.

              Which is false logic on your part. The triangle you mention is actually the perfect example of where rail should be used over trucks.

            • John Shears

              Yes of course they can where are you coming from BM?

        • McFlock

          Trucks are less efficient, more polluting, and damage the roads much more than everyone else using the same roads.

          Rail is an efficient way to move goods and people between distribution hubs, between cities and within some of the larger cities.

          The right want to kill rail because having the pretence of multiple rail companies on one line network is farcical and patently inefficient, and having competition in line networks is all but impossible. The market mechanism fails to account for rail, therefore the religion fails, therefore rail must be eliminated.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Multi use, buses, cars, motorbikes use the same roads as trucks, trains are too one dimensional and not really suited for NZ.

          What a load of fucken bullshit.

          If we had decent rail then nobody would be using cars, buses, motorbikes or planes long distance because it would be a hell of a lot cheaper and better to take the train.

          NZ is much better served by a decent road network with trucking doing the majority of the haulage.

          Nope. Roads and cars/trucks are uneconomical and always have been.

          We’ve built uneconomically in airports and roads when we should have been building better rail.

        • dukeofurl

          Yes and 75% of the nations roads are subsidised by the other 25%.

          We saw in the budget, where a ‘new’ state highway is being created to run from Marsden Pt up the centre of Northland just to serve the trucking industry and logging.

          Cost$5 million per year in maintenance alone, and it they do rebuilds as the logging trucks will wreck the sub grade much much more.

          Be that road doesn’t pay its way ?

        • Macro

          From the replies above – I rest my case.

          But to just elaborate.
          The damage done by large trucks to our rural road is enormous. Take a look next time you’re driving down a secondary highway to the “memory” left by large trucks on each side of the road. That is the dips or “ruts” where the wheels run. The edge of the road will be higher – where it should be the lowest section of the road. The road then dips then rises then dips then rises again to the middle. This “memory” is not caused by light traffic but by heavy trucks. The cost of 1 km of road can be millions $ and to repair such damage requires the road to be stripped back to its sub-grade and rebuilt again.
          The taxes collected in road user charges etc paid by trucking companies goes a small way towards repairing the damage but the majority is paid by the tax payer and car driver.

          • dukeofurl

            Plus the new HPM trucks , which are over the 40t maximum, when they worked out it wasnt ‘economic’ using standard trucks they just came up with a new version to get around the rules in a cunning way.

            Hey presto they get a 50t ( plus a 2t overage) truck without having to pay for it by way of RUC

            • Macro

              Yep! The worst ones around here are the logging trucks. Highway 26 between Thames and Paeroa is now pretty stuffed. There used to be a railway from Thames to Paeroa and beyond – it’s now a cycleway.
              Mind you the roads round Canada and USA are far worst – they carry those enormous Big Rigs. I remember counting 15 in one convoy between two cars on the 401 heading from Toronto to Detroit – and that was pretty much standard. The poor old 401 is just rubble in some places specially up near Montreal. I was driving a little Toyota and the car just shook!- i’ve never driven over a surface like it here in NZ. Then again they do have the ice and snows of winter to contend with – but the trucks don’t help.

              • Macro

                Flying back home from Toronto to Vancouver I sat beside two very interesting people. The woman in her 60’s bet me I couldn’t name her job. And no I couldn’t. She reckoned she could be a millionaire on that bet alone. 🙂 She was the first woman railroad engineer (train driver) in Canada.
                Whilst I was in Canada there was quite a few news items on the growing number of fatal accidents involving trains. She was able to confirm that this was the case and was the direct result of policies by the new CEO to double the length of trains and half the number of staff. Also new employment conditions which meant drivers were on call 24 hours ,which meant they had very little proper rest because one could never be certain when the phone was to ring. She had enjoyed her job but now couldn’t wait to retire.
                The guy sitting on the other side was a venture capitalist and was involved in the financing of Tesla cars. A fascinating fellow who had his eye very much on the future. All in all the flight went very quickly.

                • David

                  So, the future is venture capitalists making cars is it?

                  • Macro

                    No. But an interesting conversation on the feasibility of electric cars and their potential. and interesting Vancouver is definitely gearing up for electric cars – for instance the railway museum at Squamish (a fascinating visit for any railway buff) has a quick charge facility in its car park as have many other public places. BC is the only Province in Canada that has actually reduced it’s carbon emissions – despite a right wing government. Has used its carbon tax to reinvest in public transport such as the sky train.

        • John Shears

          BM Br…Off you are a pain in the butt with your stupid comments.

  21. Ad 21

    No taxpayer benefits from the direct taxpayer subsidy to rail.

    If business consortia want to rent the tracks, great. Better than shutdowns.

    If Fonterra wanted to buy the rest of rail, we could take the dump trucks worth of subsidy and spend it on something useful like hospitals or home insulation or homeless people.

    A target of the next government could be decreasing the need for long haul freight overall. Just stop the obsession with fat transport capex, be it road or rail.

    • Colonial Viper 21.1

      Fossil fuel use is largely going away within the next 30 years Ad. Where will your recomendations leave our nation then?

    • Ergo Robertina 21.2

      ”No taxpayer benefits from the direct taxpayer subsidy to rail.”

      Yes they do. For one thing, the roads are safer, meaning fewer crashes and less associated cost: financial, physical, social.
      That is the kind of flow-on effect the idiots at the Treasury do not appreciate.
      Having a robust rail network in a geographically difficult country with fragile low quality roads makes sense in every economic and productivity measure unless you are blinkered by a narrow cost accounting view of the world.

    • Macro 21.3

      “No taxpayer benefits from the direct taxpayer subsidy to rail.”

      Tell that to the 13.1 million users of Auckland Rail last year!

      Auckland’s rail patronage is 10 times higher than in the early 1990s, having swollen to 13 million passenger trips in the past year.


  22. Skinny 22

    The Transport Blog has some interesting details that is well worth a read.


  23. Ad 23

    Hey CV.
    Electric trucks!

    Love to have a transition economy.
    It never happened.

    • Macro 23.1

      Electric trucks have a limited range – and have to have a whopping big battery – cutting down their carrying capacity. They are useless for a trip from Auckland to Wellington for example.

      • Colonial Viper 23.1.1

        And how do you maintain tens of thousands of kilometres of road without diesel and bitumen?

        • Bill

          Cobble stones and many navvies?

          Or – with dirigibles running on bio-fuel and panels; coastal shipping running on electricity generated from tidal generators or bio-fuel; trains on electricity and people walking/cycling/riding the quaint overgrown rivers of the oil industry’s by-product from yesteryear, there might not be too much of a need to maintain many of those thousands of kms 😉

          On second thoughts, maybe they’d provide a reasonable base for smaller rail inlays…intercity trams?

          • weka

            which govt oversaw the removal of train tracks off the main trunk line into the provinces?

        • Macro

          Exactly – I was just pointing out that Electric Trucks might sound like a good idea – and around town where they should be used they are. No one here is saying trucks do not have a place in our transport mix. But they should not be the main vehicle for freight over long distances – that is clearly the job of rail. It was in the past – as we referred to above – it being illegal to run a truck from Auckland to Wellington when shipping by rail was an option.

          • Colonial Viper

            As Ad had inferred, in the ‘old days’ I understand it was illegal to freight something more than 25km by road, if rail was available.

            • Macro

              Yes that was the case – the overturning of that rule was a serious mistake IMHO – leading to the rise and rise of the inefficient trucking industry, and many dollars in a few peoples pockets.
              BM might cite the numbers of people involved – but few are making a lot out of it. Most “companies” are franchises and the driver owns the truck and has the maintenance and road costs etc to pay as well as insurance etc. They drive as long as they are legally able – just to make ends meet. Such is the way of our market economy.

              • Draco T Bastard

                This is our ‘trucking’ market:

                I know some of these drivers. They borrow to buy the big rig, put their name on the side and are all set to go into their own small business.

                Trouble is, as owner-drivers, they have little or no bargaining power. If the company decides to slash their contract price, the only recourse they have is to the Courts – requiring expensive lawyers and thousands of dollars the drivers don’t have.

                I met some of the drivers mentioned in the SST. They work for large well-known iconic companies and they are at the end of their tether, so have decided to speak out.

                They told us that driving 100 hours, seven days a week is common, how they put bald tyres scraping on the rims onto the inside of the truck because they can’t afford replacement tyres, how some of them found themselves asleep at the wheel, and how one had a crash on the way home from work because he was so knackered.

                We heard how the company had unilaterally cut $700 a week from their pay, and there was almost nothing they could do about it without spending thousands of dollars they don’t have on lawyers and court action.

                Somebody’s making money but it ain’t the truckies.

          • dukeofurl

            Electric trucks ?

            We have these now…well sort of … we join the trucks together with the electric engine at the front …its called a train

  24. Ad 24

    God sorry about repetition there

    [ repetitions removed (to trash). If the nesting and numbering screws up then I’m pouring me a wine and running away ;-)] – Bill

  25. Bill 25

    It’s a fact that we have to have zero energy related CO2 emissions by around 2050. Many people don’t like that fact or the medium term implications of it. Regardless, trashing the only part of our distribution/travel network that can be both quickly and easily converted so that it produces zero carbon emissions isn’t stupid: it’s fucking criminally insane.

  26. millsy 26

    Laos, Jamaica, PNG and Afghanistan.

    None of those countries have rail networks.

    Do we really want to be alongside them?

  27. BM 27

    I know every one here is keen on rail .
    But trucking does employs a fuck load of people both directly and indirectly

    There are 23,500people employed in the road freight industry according to the Statistics Department.

    An estimated 15,000 more people are indirectly employed by the industry, providing services ranging from vehicle equipment and maintenance to legal and accounting advice.

    With 4,057individual firms, road freight is typical of most other industries in New Zealand. It’s largely made up of locally-based and family-owned and run businesses, often started by taking out a mortgage on the family home. More than half have been in business for a decade or more.

    Most companies operate fewer than five trucks and have fewer than five people working for them.


    also lots of money is raised via RUC as well.


    • Ergo Robertina 27.1

      Many are working in a stressful and dangerous manner, forced to ignore fatigue and work long hours, breaking the rules. And as trucking becomes ever more powerful, they have fewer options and are less likely to leave unsafe positions or speak up.
      And it’s a bit rich you trying to make a show of sticking up for the workers.
      Hillside in Dunedin employed more than 100 people whose livelihoods were sacrificed for the sake of the ludicrous economic dogma to which you adhere.

      • BM 27.1.1

        100 vs 45,000

        • weka

          it’s not 100 vs 45,000. You’re not stupid, so why make the comparison.

          There are plenty of ways to create jobs. We’re well past the point of thinking we have to keep certain jobs that create huge problems, for the sake of the jobs.

        • Ergo Robertina

          I don’t know the full job loss figure for Kiwirail; obviously it’s higher than 100.
          But it’s not just about direct jobs – high quality manufacturing jobs have bigger flow-on benefits to the wider economy, as demonstrated in the Berl Hillside report:

          Click to access BERL_Report-Economic_benefits_of_building_rolling_stock_in_New_Zealand_Final.pdf

          And putting aside the wider economic effects argument (which I know you probably can’t take it anyway as it challenges your narrow view of the world), it’s illuminating that you imply it’s all about headcount, without any concern for the dangerous conditions affecting people in the industry.

      • Macro 27.1.2

        🙂 Beat me to it! Hillside, Lower Hutt, – in the 1980’s many of today’s mechanical engineers learned their trade in our railway workshops.

    • Draco T Bastard 27.2

      But trucking does employs a fuck of people both directly and indirectly

      Which is just another part of what makes it uneconomic. Economics is about using less, not more.

      also lots of money is raised via RUC as well.

      Just not enough


      Click to access s-ifi-sts-oct09.pdf

      Road freight transport services are indirectly subsidised by about $2.5b (Ministry of Transport, 2009) of non-freight sector money over and above service provider RUC’s. This benefits all road users, however road transport gains significant free benefits in terms of transit times, network development, capacity, network maintenance, route availability, and service provider access opportunities.

      Yeah, as per normal you’re talking out your arse.

    • Bill 27.3

      The jobs don’t matter. All that matters is that we configure an economy in such a way that people don’t starve when the market economy implodes before the climatic onslaught that’s coming down on us.

      Any necessary functions currently embedded within the concept of ‘jobs’ need to be safeguarded and continued, but the jobs will be gone.

      It’s kinda like…hmm, freedom.

      Just a shame that we might only adapt to it when everything’s kinda hellish when we could have claimed it while we had everything on a plate. Them’s the breaks of the stupid I guess.

      • Macro 27.3.1

        Yep – We live in “The Age of Stupid”

        • greywarshark

          I see The Age of Stupid had Pete Postlethwaite as the lead. Died in 2011 but he won’t be forgotten – an ordinary looking bloke who was a star because he was such a good actor. His wikipedia page says that Stephen Spielberg said he was the best actor in the world.
          (Getting off subject here sorry

          • Macro

            Not really grey –

            He was gutted to be unable to attend the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, but he dragged himself out of bed to be interviewed on Skype. He told me nothing cheered him up more than people stopping him in the street to explain how they were cutting their carbon.


            And the film asks the question (among others) – why are we ripping up railway tracks when we need them right now?

            A bit like your referral to that excellent song The city of New Orleans and the moving story of the song writer Steve Goodman. He saw the value of rail back then in the 70’s and that song too was the product of a (young) man putting his life and soul into telling an important truth.

    • miravox 27.4

      Never thought you’d be one to argue for ‘make work’ schemes, BM. Wasn’t the railways being apparently being used as a ‘make work’ scheme to keep unemployment down one of the arguments for privatisation of the rail network?

  28. greywarshark 28

    Some commenters touched on using electric road vehicles and for those with an interest in them there is an interview on RadioNZ Kim Hill’s Saturday morning (though she is away at present and Noelle McCarthy is sitting in).

    9:40 Stefan Andreas Meyer
    Dr Stefan Andreas Meyer completed a post-doctoral Fellowship at the Raman Laboratory at Victoria University of Wellington before taking up a position at the Institute for Automotive Technology, Technical University of Munich. In his spare time, he was the driving force for the past few years behind a project to design and build an open source electric car, which he details at Blitz Conversions Limited.

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  • Supporting victims and families to attend mosque attack sentencing
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  • Boost for community freshwater restoration projects
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  • Crown accounts stronger than forecast with higher consumer spending
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  • Funding for Predator Free Whangārei
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  • New transformational tools for the Predator Free 2050 effort
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  • Specialist alcohol and drug addiction services strengthened across New Zealand
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  • Coastal Shipping Webinar
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  • Support for resilient rail connection to the West Coast
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  • Major investment in safe drinking water
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  • Supporting stranded seasonal workers to keep working with more flexible options
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  • Relief for temporary migrants, employers and New Zealanders who need work
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    1 week ago
  • Freshwater commissioners and fast-track consenting convenor appointed
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  • Appointment of Judge of the High Court
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  • Feedback sought – Commercial Film and Video Production Facilities
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  • Govt launches bold primary sector plan to boost economic recovery
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  • New Report on Auckland Port Relocation
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  • Dual place names for Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū / Banks Peninsula features
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  • Government and Air New Zealand agree to manage incoming bookings
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  • $80 million for sport recovery at all levels
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  • Keeping ACC levies steady until 2022
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