Capital Connection

Written By: - Date published: 3:54 pm, June 15th, 2012 - 11 comments
Categories: infrastructure, public transport - Tags: , ,

Iain Lees-Galloway has been leading an admirable campaign to keep Palmy North’s Capital Connection.

His latest effort is to have petition (online & offline versions) to present to Parliament at the end of the month.  It has to be then, because it’s expected that the government (through NZTA) will cut the service in July or August.

Capital Connection is the only commuter train service in New Zealand that is run on a purely commercial model. Wellington’s (subsidised) Waikanae link is undermining it, and the Gerry Brownlee is refusing to get NZTA and KiwiRail to work together to work out the problem.

And the problem really is NZTA.  The Regional Council support the link and want to work in co-operation with the Greater Wellington Regional Council, NZTA and KiwiRail to keep the service going.

But NZTA only see rail and buses as useful for relieving congestion – they are bound to their cars.

The NZTA’s focus is on subsidising metropolitan public transport to relieve congestion and improve economic productivity […]

We’re keen to get people onto trains and buses to unclog our roads, but the reality is that we have to focus on the roads that do get clogged

Unable to see beyond those blinkers, they may even create a a congestion problem, as long as there isn’t one currently.

Surely NZTA should be focussed not just on roads, but on what is the most efficient way to get people and goods around the country, particularly planning for an expensive oil future?

At any rate, let’s support Iain, and get that petition spread and signed…

11 comments on “Capital Connection”

  1. TimD 1

    A couple of quotes from NZTA:

    NZTA’s view on Rail (the Capital Connection) north of Waikanae:

    “We’re keen to get people on to trains and buses to unclog our roads, but the reality is that we have to focus on the roads that do get clogged, such as south of Waikanae.

    “Given that there is not a congestion problem between Palmerston North and Waikanae, we believe the focus should be on identifying a cost-effective way to move people between these locations to make the best use of the existing subsidised rail services from Waikanae.”

    (from stuff.co.nz)

    NZTA’s view on SH1 north of Waikanae:

    The provision of a high standard four-lane expressway through the area and an Otaki bypass will increase the efficiency of freight and people movements between Wellington and the north. It will ease local trip congestion and assist in facilitating economic development in the area.

    (from NZTA website)

    • mouse 1.1

      Ha! “Given that there is not a congestion problem between Palmerston North and Waikanae, we believe the focus should be on identifying a cost-effective way to move people between these locations to make the best use of the existing subsidized rail services from Waikanae.”…

      You got to ask yourself… if this is NZTA’s view… why the fuck are they promoting a 251 million dollar BCR=<1 bypass of Otaki and paralleling of SH1 all the way to Peka Peka – Please explain the reason for National significance?

      Gerry?… Anybody?

  2. thatguynz 2

    Firstly a disclaimer – I am a commuter on the Capital Connection so any bias in my comments should be read in that context.

    You may or may not know that this “debate” has been ongoing for quite some time now. More specifically the initial stance (or opening salvo if you prefer) was that the Capital Connection was economically unviable and unless passenger numbers increased there was a serious risk of its closure. As a point of notice, this was prior to the extension of the Tranzmetro service to Waikanae which has supposedly subsequently taken passenger numbers away from the Capital Connection. In my experience, the train (caveat – at least Wgtn outbound) was frequently full so short of standing passengers or additional carriages it would be difficult to dramatically increase the number of passengers on board..

    It is also worth noting that the Tranzmetro service (ie. the regular commuter units) is subsidised by the Greater Wellington Regional Council which in turn means that the Kiwirail running costs are offset – something that doesn’t occur with the Capital Connection and hence the crux of Kiwirail’s argument or objection.

    What ISN’T clear is whether the Capital Connection actually loses money or whether it simply doesn’t make “much” ie. what is the definition of “commercially unviable”? There is a school of thought that would suggest that this is simply a ploy (and one that may be proving successful) to obtain subsidies for the service from the Horizons and Greater Wellington Councils – thereby offsetting the Kiwirail expenses and of course increasing the profitability/viability. Without visibility of the accounts for this particular service that is a hard argument to prove or disprove. If however that is a fact that is substantiated it would suggest an appalling scenario whereby a govt owned entity is using nothing less than bully tactics to extract subsidies from local government…

    As an aside – Iain Lees-Galloway is doing a tremendous job and should be commended. Perhaps he could ask some of the “hard” questions as mentioned above however.

    • cmo 2.1

      Capital Connection lost $759,000 in the 18 months to the end of May. It was actually losing money prior to the new services to Waikanae etc starting in Feb 2011. Passenger numbers have dropped by about 1000 a month since the new services started. It’s a commuter service and should therefore get a subsidy. If there is no congestion problem north of Waikanae as NZTA ceo Geoff Dangerfield has asserted then why does the Wellington Northern Corridor extend to almost Foxton? Riddle me that. While i’m sure KiwiRail is angling for a subsidy to reduce the burden on them the cold reality is if one is not forthcoming then the service will be axed and more people will drive from Palmy/Shannon etc into Wellington. Can’t say I’d want to bus from Palmy every day to Waikanae and then jump on a train, or bus the whole way.

      • thatguynz 2.1.1

        Hey thanks CMO – nice to have some figures to support the claims. Do you have a source for the financials as I’m interested in having a look at them. I’m particularly interested in both the passenger number trend and also whether the construction costs for the Palmerston North yard are included in the profitability assessment.

  3. mouse 3

    I also am a commute on the capital connection…

    I find it appalling that NZTA Subsidize congestion through Otaki, and expect me as a taxpayer to stump up a share of the 251 Million for a bypass of Otaki.

    Retailers in Malls such as Porirua have to provision free car parks for their customers, and the cost of those car parks is included in the goods and services that those retailers sell…

    In Otaki on SH1, those car parks are provisioned “free” by the tax payer (via NZTA) and this is where the competitive advantage of Otaki strip retailers… and the congestion through Otaki is derived.

    NZTA, need to morph from subsidizing the problems, to being part of the solution.

  4. RedLogix 4

    The almost identical trip from Masterton is fully owned and operated by Greater Wellington Regional Council with the assistance of an NZTA subsidy. Some 1100-1200 people per day use the service and the first two evening trips back into the Wairarapa are usually standing room only. It serves the whole community (not just working commuters) in a rather remarkable way with the two return trips mid-morning and afternoon well patronised by the elderly, families and teenagers.

    The Wairarapa regional economy benefits to the tune of at least $70m pa as a direct result of this service. It’s made a significant difference to the area, especially since GWRC upgraded the carriages about seven years ago.

    GWRC and Horizons are both keen to see a similar success story with the Capital Connection; but unlike the Masterton service, the run to Palmerston Nth cuts across the boundary of both councils, and this has created the disconnect NZTA is exploiting.

    This is pure bureaucratic bs and game playing at it’s finest.

    • mouse 4.1

      “pure bureaucratic bs and game playing at it’s finest.” – Indeed.

      Kiwirail should be entitled to a fair share of subsidy dollars that Transmetro enjoy for providing a like service. but the fact is NZTA’s have no funds available to level the playing field.

      It’s all been pre-allocated and is the 18 Billion dollar shortfall in the Transport funding Budget between now and 2030… thanks to the non-existent business cases Roads of National significance programme, it’s being squandered on infrastructure that ensures NZ Inc’s date with Climate Change and Peak Oil is meet at ramming speed.

      NZTA are trying to make the Capital Connection fail, because they want the stagnant traffic volumes that reduce their income from Rego and Fuel Taxes to reverse. NZTA are not above dirty tricks.

      NZTA and their National Party masters don’t give a fuck about the number of drowsy drivers who will die when they are forced in making long commutes by road when the Capital connection is axed.

  5. Lloyd 5

    The Palmerston North rail connection should be from the Palmerston North Airport and the southern end should be Wellington Airport. The PN connection would be simple, but the southern end will need tunnelling and an elevated section along Cobham Drive. When either airport was closed due to bad weather this connection would really pay for itself.

    Such a city pair should have a train at least once an hour each way during much of the day.

    If Japanese tilt-train technology was used these trains on the present gauge could run at scheduled speeds of 140 km/hr.

    Building this will never be cheaper than doing it now.

    Building it now will provide quite a bit more employment than building cycle-tracks in the countryside.

    Building new rail rolling stock in New Zealand would also create employment and improve the New Zealand economy too; but the present government doesn’t seem to understand that. They certainly don’t understand that electric rail has great potential to reduce NZ’s CO2 production.

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