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Our rail revival

Written By: - Date published: 1:41 pm, October 31st, 2018 - 96 comments
Categories: business, climate change, Economy, energy, global warming, greens, labour, nz first, Shane Jones, sustainability, transport - Tags:

If there is anything that illustrates the great 20th century modernist impulse of epic infrastructure and national development, it’s rail. While you are able, make sure you do the Otago Rail Trail cycleway, where you will get a sense at every great bridge of the years-long commitment of the teams to their task of cutting through hillsides and spanning ravines to develop this network. The romance of billowing steam may have long past with the Crunchie Bar ad but in rail there’s a certain permanence borne of increased national network resilience that beats mere nostalgia.

Late in the previous government, central government made contradictory rail moves: it confirmed the Kiwirail decision to scrap electric trains in favour of diesel, which would in turn have meant scrapping the electric catenary system that previous postwar governments had built up much of the North Island.

On the other hand in their third term the same government signed up for the $3-4 billion City Rail Link through Auckland, construction of which still grinds away.

But now, rail redevelopment here is undergoing the most mighty revival in two generations. It’s true of Australia, and it’s certainly true here.

In May this year – just 7 months ago – Cabinet agreed to launch the procurement process for a light rail system in Auckland. It’s going to need HLC, Auckland Council, AT, NZTA, and a bunch of other government departments to get this thing moving. It is also likely to need a Gold Coast concession-type Light Rail system where if you get the right to build it, you also operate it for a while with your own brand. It’s a really massive swallow and will take a serious multinational coalition to take it on. Both as a construction job and as a system, it’s probably bigger than City Rail Link when all said and done, even if most of the routes are inside the existing state highway network. I suspect by Budget 2019 we are likely to see both design and procurement progress, and probably some land acquisition and utilities packages shaped up in time for proper spades in the ground before the next election. Which would be remarkable.

Three weeks ago they announced a $196 million investment into Wellington commuter rail. That’s $96 million in track upgrades to support the Wairarapa commuters, with a further $100m in renewing track infrastructure and improving capacity across the Wellington Metro Rail Network. Work is already underway replacing all those old wooden poles holding up the wires – which is co-funded with the Wellington Regional Council.

The government also agreed to fund a significant upgrade of the rail line in the Wairarapa. Notably for us infrastructure nerds it was the NZTA Board that made the funding decision. For that money they get $50m for Wairarapa track upgrades, and double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt.

Two days ago engineering drilling commenced into the rail link to Marsden Point in Whangarei. This link has been proposed for over a decade, and is an important step to Northport being able to compete for some work away from Ports of Auckland. It is being funded by Minister Jones’ Regional Development Fund. Once completed, the line will travel east from the existing North Auckland line at Oakleigh – just out of Whangarei – and will stretch across 20 kilometres to the port at Marsden Point. After detailed design they’ll need about 30,000 sleepers and will shift about 1.6 million cubic metres of earth. Let the grunts commence.

Yesterday the government announced that it was reversing the previous government’s decision to kill off the electric trains. Instead of replacing them with diesel trains, the 15 electric trains will be refurbished by Kiwirail and will continue to run between Hamilton and Palmerston North. The refurbishment of the trains and electric control system is funded with an additional $35 million over four years. That’s on top of the $4 billion for public transport and rail under the National Land Transport Programme. Most interestingly Twyford said they were examining taking the whole Kiwirail fleet to hydrogen. This would mean they would not need to extend the awkward and expensive catenary system all the way to Whangarei and far-flung parts of the network like Wanganui and Bluff. It arguably adds some much-needed resilience to the network in times of energy stress. I’ve no expertise in hydrogen trains so if there are anoraks out there who would like to comment, go for it.

Other benefits aside, every tonne of freight moved by rail is a 66% carbon emissions saving over heavy road freight.

Now, sure, motorway capex still dwarves heavy rail spend. But to take an analogy, in Auckland just three a few years ago standalone house investment used to tower over apartment block and terrace house construction. The stats are reversed now. Investment profiles between transport modes are also shifting in a matter of a few years. The next version of the NLTP is likely to have some structural changes around the full transport organisational framework for rail. None of this is fast, but all of it is monumental in scale and change.

As with motorway investment, it’s rare that the government that instigated the job will be there at the finish line to cut the ribbon. You’re in it for the epic satisfaction of your team and your own beliefs in its benefits. This government will have the dubious honours or opening SH1 Puhoi PPP, SH1 Huntly bypass, SH1 Waikato Hamilton bypass, and SH1 Transmission Gully. All in election year. But the machine of NZTA is growing and accepting the true meaning of mode neutrality in performance yield.

There’s a chance that regional passenger rail will be ready next term from Auckland to Hamilton. There’s a further chance that in the next term the North Auckland line will cope with more of the full freight load.

But the entire effort shows that the old energy to revive the regions and renew the muscle in rail’s arms is well underway. It is this same modernist impulse to form and execute multi-generational network transformation that will continue to be needed in the next government, and the next. As one of the most petroleum-reliant countries on earth, we need this.

96 comments on “Our rail revival ”

  1. Antoine 1

    > in Auckland just three a few years ago standalone house investment used to tower over apartment block and terrace house construction. The stats are reversed now.

    Interesting, where can we see these stats?

    A.

  2. Carolyn_Nth 2

    Is there any plan to develop the rail system from about Ranui up to meet the Northland developments?

    The whole of the north of the North Island needs a decent rail system.

    • Whacked 2.1

      There is. MoT are currently undertaking a business case for the North Auckland Line. They are reliant on costings from KiwiRail who until the change of government last year had managed the decline of the NAL for the previous 9 years. The business case is due about April 2019. Interesting times.

    • cleangreen 2.2

      Carolyn; asked; Is there any plan to develop the rail system?

      We certainly hope that this government get the whole rail system across NZ repaired and in use now for freight and passenger services, and why?.

      Two reasons here.

      1/ NZ provinces now have been waiting since labour bought the rail back to us in 2008 and then National left it to die.

      2/ All our provinces have light roads that are now being destroyed by all the monster trucks invading them every hour of the day and night now and the roads are now very dangerous to travel on now.

      The road cost to the people of our provinces is horrendous.

      Labour now need to place a ministerial role over Kiwirail as our new “Minister of rail”

      • Kevin 2.2.1

        The cost of the trucking empire is enormous to the provinces. The quality of the rebuilds and maintenance on roads in HB now is just fucking appalling. Reseals and maintenance seem to consist of a chip the size of boulders (when you are on a bike) and the road engineers seem to have been either drunk or smoking meth at the design stage with roads on bizarre angles. $50M alone is budgeted on just bridge upgrades over the next 10 years to cope with the HPMV trucks (back of a fag packet calc based on the HBRC roading doc I have). And yet I do not see an increase in costs for the trucking industry.

        The sooner the rail line between Napier and Gisborne is fully operational again the better.

    • Ad 2.3

      Not passenger rail.
      There’s upgrades for the freight line from Kaukapakapa north in the next two years.

      • Carolyn_Nth 2.3.1

        Once it’s better for carrying freight, can it be easily adapted for passenger trains?

        • Ad 2.3.1.1

          Currently government is only proposing a trial of regional passenger services between Hamilton and Auckland, maybe Tauranga in future.

          AT has no plans to extend electrification for passenger services to Helensville that I am aware of.

        • millsy 2.3.1.2

          Most of the passenger rail infrastructure around the country has been sold, demolished, allowed to fall down, or leased to other parties. The few railway stations remaining around the country, thanks to trends in urban development, are marooned in dodgy areas off the beaten track and poorly lit. Examples include, New Plymouth, which was demolished in 1997, Woodville, a fantastic structure in the middle of nowhere, and Auckland, where long distance passengers are now pushed out the door at the crumbling Strand station.

      • cleangreen 2.3.2

        Ad and Kevin;

        It all makes perfectly logical sense.

        We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

        Beginning with the heaviest users of diesel; – which are as we all know is the road freight industry, as we to switch back to rail here around all regions.

        I was informed today that Fonterra are requesting to Kiwirail to restore the central regional Stratford to Ohakune rail freight for them to use the rail to move their products across the whole central regional plateau from Taranaki to HB and all other regions export ports.

        Labour need to invest heavily in rail for our collective security and our children’s future.

        Yes Kevin we heard some anti rail trolls were saying that the Kopuawhara Railway Viaduct is now faulty but we were advised by rail engineers that the footings only need the usual recoating of sealer as they do every twenty years as all bridge footings do that involve concrete ramparts.

        The anri rail folks several years ago tried this on saying the same thing about the “Westshore estuary rail bridge” that we cross leaving Napier was also about to fail also so the truck lobbyists are frightened right now and should share the load with rail not fight it.

        • Dukeofurl 2.3.2.1

          Dreaming. Fonterra doesn’t want Stratford to ohakune rail reopened.. doesn’t provide access to HB. Taranaki has it’s own port. Only fonterra plant in east coast is in Pahiatua , so access would be either Napier or Wellington.
          King country dairy farms have access via NIMT

          • cleangreen 2.3.2.1.1

            truckman Dukeofurl,

            As an anti rail you are; dont waste our time putting your wish of no rail on this if you have nothing to add to this subject.

            You are just trolling and wrong as you always are..

            We all know plans are afoot to expand rail connectivity so you just continue to put your own negative boring slant on the current issue.

            We don’t want to hear you.

            Thank god you wasn’t around when NZ built the rail system as you would have pushed for no rail artn all.

            We will see new rail systems in future and it is a surety not fallacy, so just go climb into your truck and drive away..

            • Dukeofurl 2.3.2.1.1.1

              Go for your life Chris , last month you were on about roads.

              Im fine with developing the existing rail system we have, but not willy nilly rubbish like you were mentioning. Stratford to Taumaranui ( not Ohakune ) which you cant even look it up on the map.

  3. RedLogix 3

    Nice Ad. Good to read an informed update.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    It is also likely to need a Gold Coast concession-type Light Rail system where if you get the right to build it, you also operate it for a while with your own brand. It’s a really massive swallow and will take a serious multinational coalition to take it on.

    Doesn’t need that at all.

    The government has three possible options if it pays for the whole lot itself:
    1. Simply hire contractors to do the job.
    2. Reinstitute the Ministry of Works and have then hire the people needed to do the job directly or indirectly.
    3. Have RailNZ to hire the people either directly or indirectly.

    What it doesn’t need is any sort of government gifts to the private sector.

    Yesterday the government announced that it was reversing the previous government’s decision to kill off the electric trains. Instead of replacing them with diesel trains, the 15 electric trains will be refurbished by Kiwirail and will continue to run between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

    Although this is a Good Thing I’d like to see the entire rail network electrified and new rail cars made in NZ to go with them. Building up a flexible heavy industry would be a good use of that Regional Development fund. I’d suggest factories built around 3D printing.

    Most interestingly Twyford said they were examining taking the whole Kiwirail fleet to hydrogen.

    Yeah, no.

    Hydrogen, being the smallest possible molecule, leaks through everything and thus is a danger to everything around it. Then there’s the question of where you’re going to get the energy to produce the hydrogen.

    I think you’ll find that electric is still better. The ‘awkward and expensive catenary system’ probably needs to be replaced with something more modern.

    It arguably adds some much-needed resilience to the network in times of energy stress.

    That would be a physical impossibility. After all, we’d still need the energy to produce the hydrogen. Hydrogen is a way to store energy but it runs at a net loss.

    But the machine of NZTA is growing and accepting the true meaning of mode neutrality in performance yield.

    Which is really stupid as the modes are not equal. They should be weighing efficiencies against practicalities.

    As one of the most petroleum-reliant countries on earth, we need this.

    Yes, Think Big with its underlying goal to remove our need for petroleum was a good idea.

    • Ad 4.1

      There is neither time nor capacity to do either of the three options you propose. That’s the need. Minister Twyford and NZTA in their briefings to industry on light rail have already indicated that a concession for the operation will occur. There are no gifts anywhere in this.

      NZTA is already massively expanding its ambit, but there’s no going back to the Ministry of Works, ever, under any kind of possible combination of parties we have.

      I’m happy to wait for the Kiwirial business case on hydrogen trains before commenting too much. Alstom already have them going in Germany, and most manufacturers have well developed options, but let’s see how it stacks up.

      “Equal” is not the same as “neutral”. You need to get into the logic behind the terminology within the NLTP to understand the jargon, but in essence it is a set of evaluative principles that enables the yield of one kind of network to be compared more easily against another.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        There is neither time nor capacity to do either of the three options you propose.

        Incorrect. Or, to put it another way, if the capacity didn’t already exist then the private sector wouldn’t be able to do it either. That’s physical reality.

        As the capacity does exist then the government can do one or a combination of the three options I mentioned.

        Minister Twyford and NZTA in their briefings to industry on light rail have already indicated that a concession for the operation will occur. There are no gifts anywhere in this.

        The concession itself is a gift as it’s not needed.

        NZTA is already massively expanding its ambit, but there’s no going back to the Ministry of Works, ever, under any kind of possible combination of parties we have.

        Despite it being possibly the best option?

        I’m happy to wait for the Kiwirial business case on hydrogen trains before commenting too much. Alstom already have them going in Germany, and most manufacturers have well developed options, but let’s see how it stacks up.

        Diesel trains are more expensive than electric. It seems that hydrogen is more expensive than diesel.

        Germany has rolled out the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, signalling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

        Indications are that the economics don’t stack up for hydrogen powered trains.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          On the capacity issue, NZTA were only handed the light rail job early this year and have been scrambling. Whereas international firms can bring in their teams from right across the world. There’s less than a dozen firms that can do it well, and fewer than that will come for one job. It’s the way it’s always been here – we will never have consistency of such jobs for the public sector to warrant having the capacity.

          On NZTA’s structure, you would best wait for Twyford’s new legislation about NZTA that will come down the pipeline. The structure needs to work for what is right now, not for the conditions 100 years ago.

          The Minister himself is faced with a capacity and structural problem across all land transport, and housing: the structures are wrong, the capacity isn’t there, and yet the political pressures are massive and he has only 2 years tops to show results or they get voted out.

          So he has to make results happen with the structures that are there, calling on all kinds of capacity. I know it’s an argument from exigency, but that’s where he’s placed. There’s no time for forming an ideal structure – there’s not even enough time to plan and execute really.

          • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.1

            Whereas international firms can bring in their teams from right across the world.

            They could possibly do so but the chances are they won’t because then they’d be stretched at home. After all, those firms don’t have teams sitting around twiddling their thumbs. All of that means that the chances are that they’ll simply use NZ labour and if that happens then there’s no point getting them to do it at all.

            It’s the way it’s always been here – we will never have consistency of such jobs for the public sector to warrant having the capacity.

            Which is either a lie or ignorance on you part. The MoW, after all, had a consistent amount of public sector work to keep them busy all the friggen time. Hell, they probably didn’t have enough people employed for all the work that they had.

        • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.2

          The German example bears watching, but it operates over roughly 100km, and refueling is accomplished by “mobile provision” – petroleum driven vehicles I presume.

          The success or otherwise of the trial can be gauged in part by whether it is rapidly expanded, remains as a subsidized test bed, or is abandoned. I’m picking the second.

          It would be sufficient for NZ merely to expand the current rail network and service. One trick might be to include a mandatory small passenger car on freight trains. Make it cheap and people will use it.

          • jcuknz 4.1.1.2.1

            Some years back I had the mad idea of having passenger acomodation in the form of containers which could be added to flat cars as demand needed it but I never heard much more … I guess it was too simple an idea to be adopted.
            Back in the early days of rail the ‘mixed train’ was quite common as it could be again for sure.

            • Dukeofurl 4.1.1.2.1.1

              Thats because it is mad.
              Why would they do that when a loco can haul flat wagons for containers or
              dedicated passenger cars , or both at the same time.
              usual reason for not combining them is that it would be too slow. Freight trains are far heavier and have slower journey times overall, plus may stop at intermediate points to pick up new wagons or drop them off. Passengers get on and off in a few minutes.

              • jcuknz

                Having been on most of the major AMTRAK routes I envisaged a system where tourist could travel from north to south simply getting off the train to cross Cook Strait while their coach was in the hold.
                If the coach containers where sleeping area as well the slowness of the travel is not important.
                When an oil-road tanker raced a train of fuel wagons to a crossing and lost… our Great Northern AMTRAK train was held up for 17 hours while the rail was replaced and AMTRAK feed us/housed us.
                The delay was the least of our concerns. United Airlines refused to accept our delay because we were not waiting* in CHI airport while AMTRAK … bless them … organised us sleeper acc to complete our joy trip to Denver.
                My reaction United stinks —–AMTRAK wonderful 🙂

                *CHI was snowed in for a couple of days while we spent the extra time on the train.

        • Ad 4.1.1.3

          No; because there are so few jobs this size or skill requirement there is always a requirement to bring in overseas construction expertise. That’s the way it will always be in this country.

          Concessions are just long term operational contracts, and plenty operate across New Zealand quite happily.

          The electorate’s impatience does not give Twyford time to fiddle around structurally; he’s got what he’s got. He has 1.5 more years to deliver. There’s legislation being formed in the background, but it will come when it’s ready and it will suit the structural conditions for now not a century ago.

          • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.3.1

            No; because there are so few jobs this size or skill requirement there is always a requirement to bring in overseas construction expertise.

            More bollocks. It doesn’t matter if there are jobs that size going all the time or not. What matters is if we have the people available to do it and we do. It’s economics. What happens is that some people will be shifted from what they’re doing now (From unemployed to working on construction gangs) to working on the rail network.

            It’s the real reason why the private sector always complains about the government sector – the government can always hire away from the private sector. The reverse is never true. Which means that the government getting stuck in and doing what needs to be done raises wages.

            That’s the way it will always be in this country.

            Only if we continue to believe that we’re incapable of doing anything at all.

            The electorate’s impatience does not give Twyford time to fiddle around structurally;

            Then obviously he needs to stop kowtowing to the private sector and get stuck stuck in to do it properly.

          • WeTheBleeple 4.1.1.3.2

            Ad, what level of skill do you think it involves to build rail after engineers reports?

            It aint rocket science. You level the ground to the grade specified, add a compacted substrate, sleepers, gravel, rails. Then ‘tie’ them together.

            Might need to trim some trees and pull some stumps in the lead up. Sounds very complex what if there’s a bend do we get a report on it?

            Rumor has it we built much of the worlds rail with labor that couldn’t even speak the language…

            But, gollygeewhillikers kiwis got no workers, no skilled workers, no engineers, bunch of dumb peasants can’t build rail aye.

            All because you hang out with useless folk don’t lump the rest of us into your pathetic dependancy. We have real men already.

            • Ad 4.1.1.3.2.1

              That’s just the stupidest and most ignorant comment about rail construction I’ve seen in a while.

              Pop down to Albert Street in Auckland and have a look at what is required.

              And yes, there’s about 6 languages spoken. Top work on the racism.

              Why would it take about $100,000 a metre to do?

              Answer that question and you will figure it out.

              • Draco T Bastard

                That’s just the stupidest and most ignorant comment about rail construction I’ve seen in a while.

                No, that’d be about it. And considering all the RoNs that just got cancelled we’d have the skilled labour to do it.

                And yes, there’s about 6 languages spoken.

                Yes and all the people I’ve spoken to in the construction industry tell me how dangerous it is and how much it lowers productivity. Miscommunication is a real problem.

                Why would it take about $100,000 a metre to do?

                It doesn’t. More like US$1000/m for top of the line high speed rail. Of course, it doesn’t get much cheaper to build slow speed lines.

              • WeTheBleeple

                I was helping Dad and his mates put line in for steam enthusiasts when I was a kid. A bunch of old farts and a couple of kids doing it then. The rail provides its own transport for expansion, deliveries to the start of the line.

                “Racist” pfft, get over yourself. “stupidest and most ignorant comment about rail construction”… there’s the pot calling the kettle ethnic.

                You’ve never worked on rail have you. You’ve no idea your comments as accurate as your costings.

                And everything costs lots of money these days as you’d have noticed. That’s what happens when banks get bailed out and free money gets printed.

                I was a bit smartass though. Peace?

            • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.3.2.2

              I’m inclined to agree.

              The rapidly accelerating stratification of our society imposes structural disrespect on workers, ignoring their input and bringing in at best vaguely competent petty managers to boss them.

              It makes everything crazy expensive and includes truckloads of unmitigated nonsense of which the extremes of H & S are stereotypical.

              Wouldn’t hold my breath for the know-it-alls to wise up to it though.

  5. gsays 5

    Thank you Ad, that is great news.
    Next to disincentives for the trucking industry.

    • McFlock 5.1

      Fuel prices will help with that.

      Cars require lower fuel energy density than trucks, which is why trucks use diesel. Even after most cars go electric, haulage firms will have to choose between trains, ships, and trucks, and the fuel price point will be a huge lift for trains and ships.

      • Dukeofurl 5.1.1

        Energy density ?
        Diesel is slightly lower energy density than petrol but is higher per volume
        ‘The calorific value of diesel fuel is roughly 45.5 MJ/kg (megajoules per kilogram), slightly lower than petrol which is 45.8 MJ/kg. However, diesel fuel is denser than petrol and contains about 15% more energy by volume (roughly 36.9 MJ/litre compared to 33.7 MJ/litre)’
        ie Taxes are based on volume.
        The other reason Trucks use diesel is more torque from the much higher compression ratios – which applies to diesel cars as well. They are more fuel efficient at idle speeds as well.

        • McFlock 5.1.1.1

          Either way, cars will go electric before trucks, so the trucks will still be facing rising fuel prices, which will make rail and ships more attractive transport options.

          • Molly 5.1.1.1.1

            My partner works in transport, and the company he works for is already trying to source electric trucks in order to systematically replace their fleet. they are having to begin with hybrids though, as the charging infrastructure is not in place.

            Also, they try to move as much on rail as possible and have a yard located for this purpose. Toll charges, and reliability fluctuate considerably.
            Expanding charging infrastructure as part and parcel of regional development, and improving the service and charging on rail freight are two considered changes that would make transitional changes for transport much easier, benefitting us all.

            • McFlock 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Just looking at the trucks vs taxis in my home town (so grain of salt time), the trucks are well behind taxi companies in fleet conversion to hybrid/electric. Especially things like double-trailer stock and log trucks.

              But yeah, hopefully rail will improve operationally in the next few years. Charging infrastructure is getting better, too.

              • Molly

                A few years ago, there was a conversion to electric grant – provided by the National government no less – that was used by many taxi owners/companies to upgrade to electric vehicles.

                Can’t find the link now, but remember reading an article about how many taxi drivers used it to finance new electric taxis.

                There are a few European companies producing electric heavy trucks, with good ranges, but still low in production numbers. (Tesla also did a big promotional event with a truck, but we all know how great Tesla is at meeting production deadlines).

        • cleangreen 5.1.1.2

          ‘Mr Truck man’ I assume here Dukeofurl??

          Trucks you must also say have 32 tyres on almost each HPMV truck that consume very high amounts of oil derivatives and VOC’s during their manufacture!!!

          Then there is the issues of the tyre dust shredding off off every tyre that is then blown around our roads and homes constantly and winds up in your water supply, and these are cancer causing toxins.

          read this please. http://toxictiredust.com/

          So think of the “negative effects’ please not just simply spin the ‘engine efficiency’ please.

          You can be kind to rail; – by saying rail has only low emissions of “steel dust” coming off their ‘steel only wheels’.

          • McFlock 5.1.1.2.1

            Dude, it was a pretty civil comment about the basic physics of why trucks use diesel vs petrol. Because that was directly relevant to my previous comment.

            Trucks are bad, mm’kay? Now that’s out of the way, the discussion was about how and whether simple efficiency would lower the volume of trucking vs other better forms of transport. Because it’s the cost-gap directly faced by logistics firms that will motivate the Ken Shirleys of the world to change, not negative externalities.

            • cleangreen 5.1.1.2.1.1

              Sorry McFlock. my response was to Dukeofurl 5.1.1
              You are o/k no worries.

              Look at this here for more evidence of using rail not all road freight as they in the road transport want it.

              Referenced materials;

              https://phys.org/news/2018-10-shipping-freight-rail-environment.html

              October 11, 2018

              Is shipping freight by rail and water better for the environment?
              October 11, 2018 by Cody Januszko, Carnegie Mellon University Department of Engineering and Public Policy
              Transporting freight by road accounts for around seven percent of the world’s total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Recognizing that heavy road freight is particularly hard to decarbonize, Carnegie Mellon University researchers have published a paper to review the ways that goods can be transported via alternate means, such as by rail or water, to reduce both emissions and energy use.
              In a recent paper, Decarbonizing Intraregional Freight Systems with a Focus on Modal Shift, published in Environmental Research Letters, a team of Carnegie Mellon Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) researchers, led by EPP Ph.D. student Lynn Kaack, explore strategies for decarbonizing freight transportation and policies to encourage the shift. The team also included Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation faculty affiliates Parth Vaishnav, M. Granger Morgan, and Inês Azevedo.
              The paper assesses the opportunities and barriers to decarbonizing freight by using several different strategies: reducing the demand for freight, optimizing vehicle use and loading, increasing the efficiency of these vehicles, decreasing the carbon content of fuel used to transport freight and shifting freight to low carbon-intensity modes of transportation. The authors refer to this last strategy as a modal shift—the primary focus of their paper.
              In it, they write, “We emphasize that the deep decarbonization of the freight sector can only be achieved by combining modal shift with multiple other strategies, such as energy efficiency, switching to fuels with low or net zero carbon emissions, and improving operational efficiency.”
              Not only is lowering the demand for freight transportation exceedingly difficult, the team states it is not even clear that doing so is desirable, since the transport of goods is linked to economic vitality. The transportation sector could reduce its emissions by routing and packing trucks more efficiently and training drivers in efficient driving techniques.
              “In the U.S., railroads own their own tracks, so they have to build their own infrastructure,” says Vaishnav, an assistant research professor in EPP. “Trucking uses public infrastructure, but does not bear the full cost of the damage heavy trucks do to roads and other infrastructure and indeed to the environment.”
              According to the article, rail and inland water are less carbon intensive than roads, but inland water may in some places produce more carbon emissions than rail and ocean shipping. Although many rail systems in the world are electrified, U.S. freight trains run on diesel. The team suggests lowering emissions further by electrifying our rail systems, although this is very costly. In a similar fashion, electric vehicles and electrified roadways could also decarbonize road freight, although this is also expensive and the technologically is difficult to achieve.
              To encourage transitions to these lower-carbon options, the team recommends that policymakers put in place incentives to discourage road freight through tolls and taxes, and should support the construction of intermodal terminals that allow for shipments to be kept on rail as long as possible, before being efficiently and reliably transferred to road for last-mile delivery.
              “Freight transportation is responsible for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kaack. “We urgently need a stronger political focus on decarbonizing freight.”
              Explore further: Driving down freight emissions
              Journal reference: Environmental Research Letters
              Provided by: Carnegie Mellon University Department of Engineering and Public Policy

            • Dukeofurl 5.1.1.2.1.2

              Diesel is the fuel for diesel-electric locos too, for same reasons trucks use it

              • McFlock

                Yeah, but they’re more efficient than trucks. As fuel prices increase, that efficiency becomes more attractive

          • Patricia Bremner 5.1.1.2.2

            You must be absolutely pleased that the Coalition has gone this way cleangreen. Many of your “cases” have resonated with readers here.

            • cleangreen 5.1.1.2.2.1

              Yes Patricia, Very good to see that electric trains are now back and we need to switch more to electric motivation around the country so trucks will then be run off the roads.

              The world is switching to rail also.

              But in NZ we still have anti-rail trolls around here to turn around.

  6. halfcrown 6

    I suggested a couple of decades ago that I felt there could be a good commuter service with Hamilton being the centre. Single carriage diesel railcars or converted buses could use the existing rail track.
    Hamilton being the centre hub serving Te Aroha and Matamata in the east Otorohanga in the South and Mercer in the North. also the branch line to Cambridge.
    But the Tories killed that idea when they sold the rail off, ripping up the track to Cambridge and Te Aroha. No long-term thinking there was there.
    Coming into Hamilton this morning sitting in queues of cars for ages I thought, I wonder how many commuters would have liked to sit in a London, Sydney, Melbourne New York etc type of commuter train reading etc instead of getting frustrated in a traffic queue

    • Stuart Munro 6.1

      I used to get a lot of lessons prepped on the KTX between Seoul & Daegu. It was faster than the plane too, once you counted the time taken up by security nonsense.

    • jcuknz 6.2

      Another idea I had was “high-rail buses’ that could collect folk from around suburbs and then use rail for the journey into town. Monitored by sat-nav position indicators to avoid crashes.
      Then when the Hi-Rail freight service started in the North Island [ discontinued now I gather] I made a model of a timber truck which could use road wheels from forest to railcentre and then its steel wheels for the rail trip to port for loading onto ship.
      Again no reply/response after sending a photo to Parliament … obviously I am a ‘nut case’ 🙂

      • Stuart Munro 6.2.1

        They’re not receptive. Often they don’t know what they’re doing, but when they do you’re threatening someone’s ricebowl. We’re a long silly way from the pragmatic country I grew up in.

  7. David Mac 7

    I’m not savvy with the science but I dream of someone discovering an easy way to split a hydrogen atom from oxygen ones. It would solve so many of the issues we face today. Fill them up with dam water and trucks, trains, planes and cars with nothing but H2O vapour emitting from their exhausts.

    I suspect there are reasons why it’s impossible, just as talking to someone on the other side of the world used to be.

    • Dukeofurl 7.1

      It requires more energy ( electricity) to split H from O2 than it can produce as a generator of electricity in a fuel cell.
      The other way is to start with natural gas as both energy and source of hydrogen, and the problem with that is ….

      basic chemistry, unconnected to talking to people on other side of the world.

      meanwhile trains everywhere run on electricity now, from wires or 3rd rail.

      Im not sure what the problem you are trying to solve is using hydrogen fuel cells to produce electricity to run the train.

  8. NZJester 8

    Other benefits aside, every tonne of freight moved by rail is a 66% carbon emissions saving over heavy road freight.

    There are even more saving to be made from that change too. The carbon emissions savings from all the heavy machinery that will not be needed as regularly for road maintenance and the cost savings from having to do less maintenance work on the roads due to the slower degradation of roads due to less heavy traffic. savings in maintenance costs and carbon emissions expelled in the repair of railway lines compared to roads per tonne of goods transported should be quite substantial.

    • cleangreen 8.1

      100% correct NZJester
      See my referenced material back on 5.1.1.2.1.1

      “We emphasize that the deep decarbonization of the freight sector can only be achieved by combining modal shift with multiple other strategies, such as energy efficiency, switching to fuels with low or net zero carbon emissions, and improving operational efficiency.”
      Not only is lowering the demand for freight transportation exceedingly difficult, the team states it is not even clear that doing so is desirable, since the transport of goods is linked to economic vitality. The transportation sector could reduce its emissions by routing and packing trucks more efficiently and training drivers in efficient driving techniques.
      “In the U.S., railroads own their own tracks, so they have to build their own infrastructure,” says Vaishnav, an assistant research professor in EPP. “Trucking uses public infrastructure, but does not bear the full cost of the damage heavy trucks do to roads and other infrastructure and indeed to the environment.”
      According to the article, rail and inland water are less carbon intensive than roads, but inland water may in some places produce more carbon emissions than rail and ocean shipping. Although many rail systems in the world are electrified, U.S. freight trains run on diesel. The team suggests lowering emissions further by electrifying our rail systems,”

      https://phys.org/news/2018-10-shipping-freight-rail-environment.html

      October 11, 2018

      • David Mac 8.1.1

        I’m yet to see a rail usage analysis that includes getting a log from the top of a mountain in NZ and into a plywood factory in China. Trains could gobble up much of the land based journey but geez, we still need a heap of trucks, labour hours and lots of double handling with diesel burning machines.

        A truck can be loaded in the forest and dump it’s load beside a ship.

        I’m not poo pooing your rail advocacy Clean, just spotlighting the big picture.

        • David Mac 8.1.1.1

          Rolling stock rolling into Fonterra plants makes great sense. The tracks that run into the freezing works at Moerewa don’t need to be rusty.

          • cleangreen 8.1.1.1.1

            100% there David. I wrote to Fonterra CEO and top management and asked iif they would use raail to ship their products and they said yes where they could they would and Mainfreight said the same thing so we need to make the service available for the future now for businesses who want use of rail.

        • cleangreen 8.1.1.2

          David, thaNKS FOR YOUR REPLY,

          Sad you have no mention of the now use of “double handling with trucks” moving logs.

          So you need to come to Gisborne or Napier Ports, to see that trucks multi-load from a local log storage storage site as the ports have a lack of space there for truck loads, so multi-lifts now occur again with the same shipment more than the log trains!!!!!

          Log Trains come straight to the rail siding at the port and are similarly lifted to the ship if in port or sit in a siding until the ship comes in.

          Sorry so your assumption is falsely stated and incorrect sadly.

          You unfortunately are pattotting the “Road transport Association” propaganda as they use “double handling to fight use of rail to that Ken Shirley wrongly spouts.

          Remember also trucks go back empty after and are not counted as a loss of use of moving freight so should be considered as a total waste of a truck use.

          Whereas some trains now are multi task use and special multi-use new models of wagons are about to be trialed also.

          Exiting times for rail so we now need to embrace rail.

          • Molly 8.1.1.2.1

            Cleangreen. There are transport companies attempting to do as you suggest. the company my partner is working for is planning to replace their fleet with electric vehicles, and have their yard located to improve rail-road movements.

            However, lack of charging infrastructure means that they will start with hybrids rather than full electric. And inconsistent service and fee charging with rail freight makes relying on rail a concern.

            Transport will change, and this government has an opportunity to improve the charging infrastructure as part of regional development, and focus on improving service delivery for rail. I hope they give up thoughts of hydrogen, and concentrate on fundamentals.

            • cleangreen 8.1.1.2.1.1

              Yes Molly,

              We endorse all trucking companies who will share the ‘freight demand’ load with rail as Fonterra and Mainfreight and Weatherall transport are already front footing it as the industry leaders now.

              Thanks for the input Molly.

              Are you able to let us know the Freight company your husband is with oplease?

              We are pushing for another round of the “Green Awards” to be presented to all freight companies who are switching away from Diesel to other ‘clean power modes’ EG; electric, LPG or hydrogen or are planning to use rail as a modal shift also.

              We do want electric rail also in the future as well and some use of local trucks being either converted to LPG or hydrogen or electric as this is the way forward.

              • Molly

                Hi cleangreen,

                It is good that others are looking to improve their emissions. Freight companies are needed, as long as households are dependent on goods that need to be moved.

                I also support electric rail – not a big fan of including prototype hydrogen – as in such a small country, I think there is better long term returns on having a single energy system and infrastructure in place, so expansion and repairs etc are kept as simple as possible.

                Thanks for the offer, don’t want to name my partner’s place of employment, but did want to share that there are some businesses out there transitioning – without much help from the government at present.
                To allow and encourage others to follow, the creation of infrastructure to support those changes is a fundamental necessity.

          • OnceWasTim 8.1.1.2.2

            In the whole rail versus road debate, over the past ten years all we ever heard was why things CAN’T be done.
            Things such as the ‘double handling’ issue, or the fact that metro Wellington and Auckland have different electrical standards than the rest of the MTL.
            Wayne Butson put the latter to bed yesterday on Nine to Noon.
            I’ve also heard detractors tell me why modular 30-40 seat ‘rail coaches’ can’t happen – I’m bloody sure they’d be viable during off peak on the Masterton-Wellington, or Te Puke-Tauranga, or New Plymouth to Stratford lines and meeting Ferry Services to operate between Picton and Christchurch, and probably elsewhere.

            Overseas I’ve also seen road transport units on rail wagons over long distance (admitedly on a broader guage), and which are then hauled by road traction units from a rail head.
            If this country no longer possesses the ambition or technical capability to make some of these things possible (or to make repairs to bridges, etc.) then we’re seriously in the shit.
            And yes, Mainfreight does seem to be open to greater use of rail.

            • Dukeofurl 8.1.1.2.2.1

              “or the fact that metro Wellington and Auckland have different electrical standards than the rest of the MTL.”

              What was the answer to that ?

            • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.2.2.2

              If this country no longer possesses the ambition or technical capability to make some of these things possible (or to make repairs to bridges, etc.) then we’re seriously in the shit.

              QFT

              And yes, Mainfreight does seem to be open to greater use of rail.

              Many of the transport companies do. They’ve probably done their own figures and realised that rail is cheaper than trucks.

        • Dukeofurl 8.1.1.3

          “A truck can be loaded in the forest and dump it’s load beside a ship.”

          Thats sort of true. Logs arent time sensitive cargo. There is usually a stockpile at the port.
          As well there is the issue of ’round trips’ for a logging truck per day which comes into it. Each truck needs a driver and the cost per day for say 30-50 logs with the Road transport charges.
          It seems to work where the rail lines extend a fair distance like Kaiangaroa. Where I live there used to be a few log trains per day, not sure that happens so much now.

        • jcuknz 8.1.1.4

          Think Hi-Rail David as I outlined a few contributions above 🙂

        • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.5

          I’m yet to see a rail usage analysis that includes getting a log from the top of a mountain in NZ and into a plywood factory in China.

          Two options:
          1. Truck around the forest and then to the wharf.
          2. Truck around the forest to the rail station next to the forest and then on to the wharf.

          The first would use more people as drivers and more fuel especially if the train happens to be electric. It also causes far more damage to infrastructure and the environment.
          The second has an extra handling point as the logs are transferred from the truck onto the train but probably uses less people than the number of drivers saved. The rail goes all the way to the wharf and could be loaded directly onto the ship.

          In other words, simple logic tells us that the train is a better option especially if the train is electric.

          But, then, wouldn’t it be better to get it into a plywood factory in NZ? It’s a fully automated operation so it’s not like China is doing it any better or cheaper and NZ would benefit from the export of a high value product rather than the export of low value primary produce.

    • NZJester 8.2

      I also love how the trucking industry a lot of time in arguments against rail tries to point the subsidies the NZ taxpayer pay for rail as the numbers are easily accessed in arguments against rail but conveniently keep them oblivious to the fact that the trucking industry actually receive an even bigger hidden subsidy from taxpayers where the amounts they receive are not as easy to look at.
      Heavy vehicles do the majority of damage to the road but pay the least in fuel tax that goes towards the maintenance, while light vehicles that do the least amount of damage pay the highest percentage towards road maintenance. For every cent, they might end up paying to help subsidize rail the average motorist would save more than twice that amount in savings from the hidden subsidy the trucking industry receive in road maintenance costs every time they fill up their cars.

  9. Jum 9

    Local Neil Young was trying to get rail from Tuakau into Pukekohe. Apparently the rails still exist.
    Rail from the top of North Island to the bottom of South Island with a ferry link in between should have always been a given, with trucking firms linking into rail stops to deliver goods locally. It covers every New Zealander’s needs with buses or light rail or transport of the future linking for passengers. The shape of NZ lends itself to that, but along with a rail extension to places like Napier, etc, a huge tourist town, when the belly of North Island is wider.

  10. Jum 10

    The greedy want rid of rail because it has so much land in its portfolio.

    • David Mac 10.1

      Yes, a brighter future won’t be courtesy of a mega funded lobbyist and their agenda.

      We all have the potential to be greedy. Can you do the right thing and just have 2 Mallow Puffs? Buggered if I can.

    • cleangreen 10.2

      Yes Jum The speculators definitely want land strips along the coastal ares in HB and Gisborne, that we have seen, and you are saying some truth there.

  11. Thomas The Tank Engine Theme Song – YouTube

  12. cleangreen 12

    100% there David. I wrote to Fonterra CEO and top management and asked iif they would use rail to ship their products and they said yes where they could they would and Mainfreight said the same thing so we need to make the service available for the future now for businesses who want use of rail.

  13. Cinny 13

    Toot, toot…

    This is good news, am all for a rail revival especially using different energy systems, so thrilled.

    Remember when the nats brought diesel trains, and they had to be all stripped because they were riddled with asbestos, and the contractors who did it were treated like slave labour? Glad those days are long gone.

  14. adam 14

    A step in the right direction, been a long time coming, especially Auckland. Will be awesome if we then have the skill base to maintain and expand the network. I’m hopeful the project keeps rolling on – and generates on going employment, training and development of ideas.

  15. millsy 15

    We have the most pro-rail government in history now. But, we have 10 years of catching up to do. The Nats were well on their way to closing down the lot, bit by bit.

    Sadly though, it is too late for parts of the network, notably the Stratford-Okahukura line, Wairoa-Gisborne, and such.

    • Whacked 15.1

      Millsy, make that 40 years of catching up.

      NZ rail has old technology rolling stock and too much below rail infrastructure in poor condition.

      On top of all of that it’s hobbled because the single line system is only good for relatively light axles and the Kiwirail management fiefdom are trying to keep it hobbled for as long as they can.

      Fletchers to be the new favourite Kiwirail contractor just as Downers once were when the last CEO was appointed.

      Not sure if rail in NZ is to be anything other than a political football.

      Best of luck to this government if they can change this.

  16. WeTheBleeple 16

    It is not too late. We restore what Nats broke and make a lot of noise what we’re doing, how much it cost, and who is responsible for it costing so much. Then legislate so they can’t sell it again.

    NZ’s property, not Nats.

    • OnceWasTim 16.1

      agreed.
      definitely not too late. the longer its left the more costlier it becomes too.
      I seem to remember that on the Stratford-Okahukura line, people were actually stealing the track after it was mothballed.

      • cleangreen 16.1.1

        Folks; We need to restore our rail as the ‘food miles’ comes into our trade agreements we will be turned down as exporters if we continue to use trucks to move freight around as the carbon footprint will make our products all too unacceptable in future for buyers of our ‘carbon footprint rich food’.

        https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/the_food_miles_report/
        Cheap non-renewable fossil fuel energy makes intensive agriculture and long-distance transportation economically viable, and has allowed food production and distribution to become global industries. Prices in shops do not reflect the full cradle-to-grave environmental and social costs.

        But the concept of food miles isn’t just about distances. This report explores some of the wider social and ecological implications of international food trade, and suggests how to reduce excessive, unnecessary food miles.

        Report contents

        Foreword to the 2011 reprint of the Food Miles Report

        Foreword to the original 1994 Food Miles Report

        Summary of the Food Miles Report

        Introduction
        The food miles food chain
        Food Miles: Issues and implications
        Forces behind Food Miles
        Who reaps the profits?
        Reducing Food Miles
        Recommendations
        The Food Miles Report: Introduction

        1. Food Miles case studies

        Case study 1: rotten apples
        Case study 2: oranges are not the only fruit
        Case study 3: luxury lines in fresh produce
        Case study 4: salad days over for UK producers
        Case study 5: milk – the demise of door-step deliveries
        Case study 6: meat miles
        Case study 7: Chocolate habits
        Case study 8: a fishy business
        Case study 9: the bread-line
        Case study 10: the real cost of strawberry yoghurt
        2. The ‘Food Miles’ food chain

        Agricultural production
        Processing, packaging and preservation
        Energy use in the food chain
        3. Food Miles: Issues and implications

        Environmental effects
        Small farms and rural communities
        Animal welfare
        Public health
        4. Forces behind Food Miles

        Subsidised transport
        Subsidised agriculture
        Retail concentration
        Food manufacturers
        Aid, trade, debt and development
        General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
        Consumer choice and information
        Food From Britain (FFB)

        5. Reducing Food Miles

        Agenda 21
        New patterns of consumption
        Local produce buying schemes
        The urban grower
        Fair trade
        The price is right
        The case for sustainable agriculture
        Assistance to developing countries
        Reducing the food deficit
        Supermarkets and food processors
        Conclusion

        Recommendations

        Action by individuals
        Action by farmers and growers
        Action by food retailers and processors
        Action by local authorities
        Action by national governments
        Glossary
        Useful addresses
        References

  17. Observer Tokoroa 17

    Diesel Filth – very bad for health

    Like the Tobacco Moguls, the Diesel Moguls fail to label the lethal danger of their product.

    I should not be surprised if numerous claims are made in the future by people who are suffering from the horrendous effects released by Trucks and Cars on our roads.

    The Truckies don’t pay for the ruined health costs they cause – because they don’t know of the health problems with Diesel. In fact they think Diesel is as sweet as mother’s milk. The Opposite is true.

    A huge price is being paid by our ever growing transport use of Diesel – being showered over numerous roads and communities – day and night. Diesel is listed among the worst carcinogenics full stop.

    There is a real need to move to safe transport energy. Electricity.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10812886

  18. jcuknz 18

    I see a strong resistance from the trucking business to a lot of these ideas because the margins are so small that with owner businesses likely to fail if much changes for them.
    Also our social structure is organised around individual transport when public transport takes many time longer. Sadly these facts of life over rule us rail-fans 🙁

  19. Draco T Bastard 19

    Most interestingly Twyford said they were examining taking the whole Kiwirail fleet to hydrogen.

    More research on my part has shown that these hydrogen trains are actually hydrogen-electric just like the diesel trains are diesel-electric. In other words the hydrogen would be the power source that produces the electricity to drive the electric motors. The Alstrom trains have a hydrogen fuel cell that charges a lithium-ion battery that then powers the electric motors and the only ones running ATM are light rail passenger cars – it’s really easy to see where the extra expense is coming from.

    This, to me, suggests that we should be going fully electric and modifying the existing diesel-electric to be able to connect onto the electrified rail. When they transfer onto the electrified rail they stop using the diesel engine and just use electricity and vice versa.

    The diesel-electrics thus become a transition piece as we progressively electrify the entire rail system. We’d maybe look at using a hydrogen-electric if we need to replace a diesel-electric engine before full electrification is completed.

    Such a plan would take several elections to complete and so it needs to be set down in law so that a later government can’t stop doing it.

  20. Brutus Iscariot 20

    Food miles another incentive to preserve our strategic South Auckland soils, and not pave them over with housing.

    Local seasonal produce should be encouraged, but we actually need to be able to grow it.

  21. Timeforacupoftea 21

    I can see only one problem with this,
    is that Genesis Energy is importing coal to convert into electricity.

    It will get worse if this true.
    Time to get into Nuclear Energy and Hydrogen Energy

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12142337

  22. Katipo 22

    Probably better suited for passenger than freight but battery trains look promising…

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  • Speech to inaugural Countering Terrorism Hui
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