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Kiwi Rail

Government addresses concerns of transport industry

Transport Minister Phil Twyford (file photo).

Transport Minister Phil Twyford (file photo).

New and additional sources of funding are needed to help fix Auckland’s traffic congestion and growing pains, Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

But Twyford believes it is not fair for the rest of New Zealand to pay for its biggest city’s woes.

Rail and coastal shipping will be a focus for both Auckland and elsewhere, he said.

The newly named minister made the comments in his first address at the Road Transport Forum’s annual conference in Hamilton on Saturday. “If we had a decent passenger rail from Auckland to Hamilton paid for out of the Land Transport Fund, then I could have been here much earlier,” he joked, referring to what RTF Chief Executive Ken Shirley had said to him after arriving late to the conference, having got stuck in traffic.

During the conference at Claudelands Event Centre, Twyford outlined the government’s direction on the future of transport throughout the country.

Creating a “resilient and multi-modal transport system, reducing carbon emissions and fixing Auckland’s congestion” were the priorities.

“We know the transport system is about networks and productivity and changes to one mode can have flow-on consequences.”

Transport in New Zealand needs to be resilient in the face of shocks, such as the recent earthquakes that shut down the major north-south highway in the South Island.

To do this, changes to funding is required.

Roading is currently funded through the Land Transport Fund, from road user charges, petrol tax and vehicle registration, which generate $4 billion a year.

“We need to tackle the problem of new and additional funding sources and the challenge of dealing with Auckland’s growth pains is one of the pressures here.”

Decades of under-investment and congestion in Auckland is costing the city $1.3b a year in lost productivity, he said.

Aucklanders want it fixed, but Twyford said it will come at a cost.

“They understand that it costs money to do this.”

The Government is committed to a $15 million, 10-year programme that includes a rapid transport system in Auckland, which will join up with the road and highway system.

“We believe rapid transport should be funded in the same way as state highways and there are benefits for at least part-funding the rapid transport through the Land Transport Fund.

“We need to find additional sources of funding as well and we cannot ask the rest of New Zealand to pay the costs of Auckland’s growth.”

If asked, the Government will pass legislation to allow Auckland Council to levy a regional fuel tax, he said.

“We’ve talked about 10 cents a litre and that would generate about $150 million a year, about 10 per cent of the investment that is needed for the Auckland Transport Plan.

“Aucklanders have to be willing to chip in a bit extra.”

Income from targetted rates on what will be “massive increases” in the value of the land around the light rail network in Auckland could be reinvested in the rapid transport system, he said.

“The Government is going to continue to fund rail above and beyond the national transport fund, but what we want is to generate new and additional sources of revenue.

“In the long term, petrol excise will not be a sustainable way to fund the transport system.”

Previous governments had disproportionately invested the fund into motorway projects, leaving regional roads starved of funds, he said.

“Our coalition partner placed a very high premium on investment in the regions, so that will be a priority.”

Reducing carbon emissions

Another priority would be reducing carbon emissions from the transport industry, which make up 18 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Exploring coastal shipping is one way of doing this, he said.

“I believe if we level the playing field, coastal shipping can be a cost-effective way to move heavy bulk freight that is not time-dependent.”

He also addressed one of the biggest concerns from the industry – the shortage of top-class drivers.

Attendees said the driver-licensing system had become complicated and expensive.

Twyford said the government wanted to weave driver licensing into the school curriculum.

“When people don’t get their licence or never graduate to a full licence, it has downstream negative consequences for them to get jobs.”

He said stemming migrant numbers would not affect those in the transport industry.

“You’ll know the intention to change the immigration settings, as we believe the open door policy of immigration had quadrupled net migration.

“We think we can combat this by taking out the rorts and the scams in the education sector, where so-called education providers have been giving back-door visas.”

There are genuine skill shortages and regional skill lists will mean a particular regions can attract people in to live and work in that region, he said.

Transport weak link for doing business – ODT

Banked-up traffic near Milburn.

Banked-up traffic near Milburn.
A freight train near Wingatui, both south of Dunedin.

A freight train near Wingatui, both south of Dunedin.

New Zealand’s road and rail  transport networks have been found wanting. ODT senior business reporter Simon Hartley talks to Westpac’s new industry economist Paul Clark about the  country’s road and rail.

Internationally, New Zealand’s roading network is ranked 40th out of 137 countries while the rail network comes in at 47th, the latter behind Poland and Hungary.

The data comes from the World Economic Forum’s recently published global competitiveness index report. It ranks New Zealand’s overall competitiveness as 13th out of the 137 countries.

However, Westpac’s industry economist Paul Clark said the data showed companies were ”dissatisfied” with the state of road and rail.

”The quality of our road and rail networks was identified as one of a number of weak spots in our overall competitiveness,” Mr Clark said.

New Zealand has 95,000km of road, including 11,000km of state highways. Rail is 4100km in length.

New Zealand has for more than a decade been spending $5billion a year in these areas, most of it on road and rail infrastructure.

Firms operating in New Zealand had for 2017-18 rated the quality of the country’s roads as the same as 2009-10, meaning ”no change in quality over the past eight years,” he said.

”This is not a one-off.

”For a number of years an inadequate supply of infrastructure has been seen by firms as being the biggest hurdle for doing business in New Zealand,” Mr Clark said.

He said the importance of having a high-quality land transport network could not be overstated, both for domestic use and getting exports to the rest of the world.

”When working well they can make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy . . . but when not, they can constrain the economy’s growth and prosperity,” Mr Clark said.

About 82% of New Zealand’s roads were open to ”high productivity vehicles”, or heavy commercial traffic. They have a capacity to carry from 44 tonnes to a maximum 62 tonnes.

”These vehicles help freight operators move more freight with fewer trucks, at lower cost,” Mr Clark said.

Unsurprisingly, those vehicles account for more than 30% of heavy commercial traffic, he said.

Mr Clark said the capacity of the road network against demand for travel had only ”edged higher” in recent years. The country’s relatively strong domestic economic performance had underpinned the growth in demand.

”Much of this [annual $5billion] spending has been focused on addressing an infrastructural deficit caused by chronic under-investment in the 1980s and 1990s,” Mr Clark said.

The spending had increased the road network capacity and helped to maintain it in ”tip-top” condition. But it had not always been enough to handle some of the large increases in traffic, at least without some deterioration in network performance.

While progress had been made on rail and road public transport, particularly in Auckland, there had only been ”limited progress” on freight – with almost 85% moved around the country by road.

”There’s good reason for this. Road is not only cheaper than rail, it also provides a convenient door-to-door service,” Mr Clark said.

By contrast, rail typically involved road-bridging freight to a public freight yard or container transfer facility, or investing in and servicing customer rail sidings.

”Either of these takes time, money and logistic effort.

”That’s not to say possibilities do not exist – the New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail, together with sector partners, are actively looking at ways to improve road and rail integration, but more needs to be done.”

Earlier this week, Port Otago floated the idea of eventually having State Highway 88, between Dunedin and Port Chalmers, truck-free, but rail would have to be embraced to achieve that end.

Mr Clark said ”the key is to improve the competitiveness of rail freight and until that happens the possibility of a fully integrated transport system seems quite far off.”

While neither the data nor Mr Clark delved into the political scene, whichever government is formed money will still need to be spent on national transport.

National has roads as its priority but Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First all favour upgrading New Zealand’s rail.

Coalition deals

As at 24/10 we have very little detailed information about the nature of the transport related items in the coalition deal Labour/NZ First, and the confidence and supply deal Labour/Greens.

So far the key points relate to:

• Rail: Significant investment in regional rail. – [We’re not sure exactly what this means]

• Auckland Port: Commissioning a feasibility study on moving the Ports of Auckland to Northport – [It’s hard to imagine this flying – Auckland won’t want to lose control of their own destiny in a port/shipping sense, and it’s hard to imagine the Greens being happy with an increase in carbon miles for the transport from Northport to Auckland.  Not to mention the absolutely massive cost to upgrade rail from Northland to Auckland]

• Transport: Investigate a Green Transport Card to reduce the cost of public transport for low-income people and welfare recipients, prioritise National Land Transport Fund towards rail infrastructure as well as cycling and walking, cancel Auckland’s East-West motorway link, work towards light rail from Auckland city to airport [The East-West cancellation is a shame, and we’re surprised that the NZ First preference for heavy rail to the airport wasn’t adopted in the Labour/Green deal]

Railway from Picton to Christchurch closes again after wet start to October

A wet start to October has caused slips to come down on the Main North Line, which is expected to remain closed until the end of the month.

The newly rebuilt railway line from Picton to Christchurch could be closed for the rest of the month after recent rain brought slips down across the tracks.

Hundreds of spectators turned up to watch the first freight train since the November earthquake take the Main North Line on September 15.

The celebration was short lived. Heavy rain closed the track after the one train went through. It reopened 10 days later, but has closed again.

Hundreds turned up to watch the first freight train since the November earthquake take to the track on September 15. The ...



KiwiRail blamed the latest closure on an unusually wet start to October for the Kaikōura region.

Acting chief executive David Gordon said the “unusually heavy rainfall” caused 31 slips in the area, including three major slips onto the railway line and next to State Highway 1.

He said KiwiRail was working to “make repairs and add resilience” ahead of the peak freight period.

“At this stage we expect services to operate on the line again at the end of this month.”

KiwiRail ran two freight trains each weeknight on the line, leaving it clear during the day and over the weekend for additional repairs to the track and SH1.

Gordon said some disruption was always possible with the limited reopening, but the rain created “much greater disruption than we could reasonably predict”.

He said KiwiRail regretted the impact on customers – and that they could not take some of the freight burden away from the Lewis Pass, which is on the alternative highway route while SH1 is repaired.

KiwiRail previously claimed the Main North Line reopening would take 2000 trucks a month of the road, a figure some in the industry disputed.

At the last closure, general group manager network services Todd Moyle said the Main North Line was likely to shut up to 25 days a year, based on its current state.

MetService forecaster Cameron Coutts said Kaikōura had received 84 millimetres of rain so far in October, which was “well above” the month’s average of 57mm.

He said it should be dry and relatively warm before showers returned on Monday and Tuesday. A “settled spell” was expected for the latter half of next week.

“In saying that, we’re still in spring, so it’s still pretty changeable,” Coutts said.

 – Stuff

Cubic resumes inter-island rail service

We have good news and bad news about the resumption of limited rail services.

Cubic has access to a limited number of container slots on one of the two daily trains each way between Picton and Christchurch.  These slots are very expensive in the post-earthquake freight environment, due to scarcity and the need for KiwiRail to recover costs.

Slots on these services are available on a “take or pay” basis.  Meaning a confirmed booking is charged for whether or not the container is presented prior to cut off.

A wait list system is operating but there is no discount or other latitude with wait-listed bookings.

If you want rates for inter-island rail services please email sales@cubic.co.nz

For an update on Kaikoura earthquake recovery click here to download NZTA’s latest bulletin.


Limited opportunity for lower freight emissions from coastal shipping and rail, says MoT

Coastal shipping and rail have less potential in the drive to reduce carbon emissions. Photo / 123RF

Coastal shipping and rail have less potential in the drive to reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector than the optimistic view expressed in a Productivity Commission issues paper on decarbonising the New Zealand economy, says the Ministry of Transport in a submission to the commission’s inquiry.

“We concur with your assessment that electric vehicles (EVs) are by the far greatest emissions abatement opportunity New Zealand has to lower transport emissions,” says the two-page response to the issues paper sent on September 4 by Joanna Pohau, the ministry’s acting manager, people and environment.

However, the ministry is less optimistic about the potential for coastal shipping and rail to move freight out of road-based trucking, mainly because so much of New Zealand’s freight ‘task’ involves sending goods over short distances and because customers have come to expect ‘just-in-time’ deliveries that ships and trains struggle to fulfil.

“Much of our freight moves over short distances,” the ministry says. “This is a movement that is typically only economic for road freight. As well, some cargo, for example liquid milk, best suits being moved by road” and “not all locations have access to rail and/or coastal shipping.”

The ministry expects that lower emissions from long-haul freight operations will emerge from a combination of some cargoes shifting to shipping and rail, greater collaboration among cargo owners, more fuel efficient trucks, increased use of bio-fuels and, ultimately, “adopting new fuel and vehicle technologies as they arise”.

This could include electric heavy long-haul trucks “if they become available”.

The submission coincides with the announcement of an EV car-sharing scheme in Christchurch that its backers claim is the largest in the Southern hemisphere.

From late November, some 70 of an eventual fleet of 100 EVs will be available for Canterbury businesses and residents through fleet management company Yoogo, which has been selected by Christchurch City Council to implement the services.

The company’s “electric car sharing model breaks down barriers around cost and charging infrastructure, making pure electric vehicles accessible and affordable,” Kirsten Corson, Yoogo general manager, said in a statement.

The service will be available for the CCC, Ara Institute, engineering firms Aurecon and Beca, the Canterbury District Health Board, law firm Chapman Tripp, Environment Canterbury, Meridian Energy, architects Tonkin and Taylor, and Warren and Mahoney, and, Christchurch Airport, as well as for the general public.

In its submission, MoT agrees with the Productivity Commission’s suggestion that “current policy settings may need to be revisited if we are to achieve a widespread uptake of EVs” and endorses setting fuel efficiency standards as one route to achieve that.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced late last month that the government was setting a target of one-in-three of the government’s car fleet being EVs by 2021.

Brian Gaynor: Winston Peters’ port plan fails to make grade

One of the more intriguing aspects of the general election campaign is New Zealand First’s policy “to move all container operations from Ports of Auckland to Northport by the end of 2027”.

According to NZ First leader Winston Peters, “the days of the Ports of Auckland as a container port and as a car yard are numbered”.

He went on to say that “New Zealand First will bring forward legislation to move all operations from Auckland to Northport. This will start with vehicles on Captain Cook Wharf ahead of the America’s Cup. Aucklanders want their harbour back while Northlanders want the jobs and opportunities that would come from Northport’s transformation”.

Peters added that this policy “is a cast iron commitment from New Zealand First but it needs New Zealand First to be in a pivotal position to demand it”.

Not surprisingly, Peters hasn’t released any details on the costs of moving Ports of Auckland to Northport.

There are three ports involved in this proposal, directly or indirectly: Ports of Auckland; Port of Tauranga, which is 220km from Auckland; and Northport, which is 144km north of the main Auckland port.


Ports of Auckland (POA) listed on the NZX in October 1993. This followed the sale of 39.8 million shares, or 20 per cent of the company, by the Waikato Regional Council at $1.60 a share. This gave Ports of Auckland a total sharemarket value of $318 million, with the Auckland Regional Services Trust retaining its 80 per cent stake.

In April 2005 Auckland Regional Holdings announced a takeover offer for POA at $8 a share, valuing the company at $848m. This compared with the pre-offer price of $6.44 a share and Grant Samuel’s value of between $7.69 and $8.55 a share.

The $8 a share bid was successful, POA delisted and is now 100 per cent owned by Auckland Council Investments.

POA has been a disappointment under 100 per cent Auckland Council ownership. In the 13 years since 2003-04, its revenue has increased by only 35 per cent, to $222.4m, and net profit after tax by 36 per cent to $60.3m.


Port of Tauranga (POT) was listed in 1992 after issuing 20 million new shares at $1.05 each and the Waikato Regional Council selling all its 12.6 million shares at the same price. After the initial public offering, the company had a sharemarket value of just $80m, based on its $1.05 issue price. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council had a 55.3 per cent holding.

POT, which now has a sharemarket value of $2,960m, has been one of the most successful listed companies over the past 25 years.

For example, since 2003-04 POT’s revenue has increased by 69 per cent to $255.9m, compared with POA’s 35 per cent rise, and POT’s net profit after tax has swelled 148 per cent to $83.4m, compared with POA’s more modest 36 per cent profit increase.


Northland Port also listed on the sharemarket in 1992, shortly after Port of Tauranga. This followed the sale of 10 million shares, representing 24.1 per cent of the company, for $1.25 a share. This gave Northland Port a sharemarket value of $52m at the $1.25 IPO price, just slightly below POT’s listing value.

The Northland company provided ship handling services to the NZ Refining jetty at Marsden Point and at Port Whangarei.

In 2002 the port activities at Marsden Point and Port Whangarei were transferred to Northport, a 50/50 joint venture between Northland Port and Port of Tauranga. NZX-listed Northland Port subsequently changed its name to Marsden Marine Holdings.

Marsden Marine is now an investment company with a 50 per cent stake in Northport, valued at $46.1m, and investment properties valued at $66.4m. These include freehold land, a marina and a commercial complex adjacent to Northport.

Its largest shareholders are Northland Regional Council, with a 53.6 per cent holding, and Ports of Auckland, with 19.9 per cent stake.

Marsden Marine has been a disappointing listed company, with a sharemarket value of only $215m. The company’s directors received $198,000 for the June 2016 year, a large figure for an investment company with few employees.

Chairman Sir John Goulter, who is also chair of the hugely disappointing Metro Performance Glass, received director’s fees of $54,000 for the June 2016 year and an additional $40,000 as chairman of Northport.

The opportunity to rationalise the port sector, and reduce commercial shipping activity at the Auckland port, was missed when Ports of Auckland withdrew from merger talks with Port of Tauranga in March 2007.

The Mount Manganui based port was clearly disappointed and chief executive Mark Cairns had this to say: “The economic and financial modelling demonstrates that the merger would generate significant financial benefits to be shared with customers and shareholders alike.

“The merger would also generate substantial public benefits: reducing CO2 emissions; facilitating better opportunities for coastal shipping; and making a start on the inevitable port rationalisation that needs to occur in New Zealand in the future with the advent of larger, faster container vessels.”

He went on to say: “In a country with a population of approximately 4 million people (similar to Sydney) New Zealand’s tax base simply cannot sustain the funding of high quality road and rail infrastructure connections to all 13 ports.”

The proposed merger between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga made far more sense than the Ports of Auckland/Northport scheme. There are several reasons for this, including:

• The cost of building an extensive road and rail network from Marsden Point to Auckland would be prohibitive and take decades to complete. Coastal shipping could be an alternative, but these ships would continue to use Ports of Auckland

• Northport is small and would need substantial expenditure on its facilities, particularly container handling facilities

• The move from Ports of Auckland to Northport would put huge pressure on the Marsden Point facility. For example, 673 container ships visited Auckland in the June 2017 year compared with only 36 berthing at Northport. In addition, Auckland had 181 vehicle carrier visits while Marsden Point had none in the same 12-month period. Thus, if Ports of Auckland moved its container ship and vehicle carrier operations to Northland, the Marsden Point facility would have to facilitate 854 of these vessel arrivals every year instead of 36 at present

• There is a mismatch between Northport and Ports of Auckland because the former is a bulk port and the latter is predominantly a container port. Northport had export log volumes of 2,808,000 tonnes for the June 2017 year, representing 77 per cent of its total bulk exports, while Ports of Auckland container volumes were 952,331 TEU (one TEU equals one standard 20-foot container).

The obvious solution to the Ports of Auckland issue is the partial privatisation of the company and a listing on the NZX. There are two main reasons for this.

Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport have been great performers as listed companies and are paying large dividends to their council shareholders. By contrast, Ports of Auckland has been a disappointment since the Auckland Council acquired its 100 per cent holding.

Under a sharemarket listing, there is a far better chance of a merger, or a joint venture agreement, between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga. This is because local body politicians, who are usually opposed to these commercial agreements, would have a limited influence.

An Auckland/Tauranga agreement could lead to a sharp reduction in commercial ship visits to Auckland and enable Auckland importers and exporters to switch their business to a well governed and well managed port facility at Mount Manganui.

A merger between Ports of Auckland and Northport doesn’t make sense from a commercial or cost point of view.

• Brian Gaynor is an executive director of Milford Asset Management.

Transport system for a growing New Zealand

National Party media release


Transport system for a growing New Zealand

National is committed to building the infrastructure and transport system New Zealand needs to ensure our ongoing economic prosperity is secured, National Party Transport Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“In Auckland, the commercial capital of New Zealand, we are bringing a number of transport projects online. The latest project, the Waterview Tunnel, has transformed the way people and freight move around our biggest city,” Mr Bridges says.

“We know more needs to be done. That’s why National is committed to ensuring Auckland’s transport needs are met.”

National will:

· Declare the $955 million Mill Road project as a State Highway, removing the responsibility from Auckland Council. This will provide funding certainty for this important project through the National Land Transport Fund and free up capital for Auckland Council to reinvest in other high priority transport projects.

· Work with Auckland Council to accelerate the AMETI Eastern Busway and associated Reeves Road flyover.

· Work with Auckland Council on a mass transit solution between the CBD and Auckland Airport and complete route protection.

· Continue construction of the $3.4 billion City Rail Link project on the fastest possible timeline.

· Start construction on the new East-West Link State Highway.

· Accelerate construction on the: Northwestern Busway; State Highway 16 and 18 interchange; Penlink; Southern Motorway widening between Papakura and Drury; widen State Highway 20B to improve eastern access to Auckland Airport; and add Airport-Manukau bus priority lanes on State Highway 20, including Puhinui interchange.

· Build the Third Main Rail Line and extend electrification to Pukekohe.

· Continue investigations for the introduction of road pricing.

“National’s transport policy will continue to see record levels of investment in Auckland to support the city’s growing transport needs. We have a track record of delivering world-class projects on time and on budget,” Mr Bridges says.

“We are today releasing our transport policy that delivers for all New Zealanders and will provide the country with the transport system it needs.

“Our plan demonstrates that we are committed to building the world-class infrastructure the country needs. We will keep people and freight moving, while supporting our strong economic and population growth,” Mr Bridges says.

National’s transport policy will:

· Deliver the $10.5 billion next generation of Roads of National Significance. These are nation-building, lead infrastructure projects which will encourage future economic growth, rather than waiting until the strain on the network becomes a handbrake on progress.

· Accelerate Regional Roading projects that are important for regional development and growth faster than otherwise planned.

· Complete our $600 million investment in fixing the worst 90 black spots around the country, reducing deaths and serious injuries by 900 over 10 years.

· Continue to invest at record levels in public transport including an additional $267 million investment in commuter rail in Auckland and Wellington.

· Grow our air links with other countries to bring on more flights and cheaper airfares.

· Continue with the $333 million Urban Cycleways Programme that will see 54 cycleway projects built in 15 centres across the country, marking the single biggest investment in cycling in New Zealand’s history.

· Accelerate the uptake of Electric Vehicles, with the Government to lead by example with 1 in 3 vehicles in the Government fleet being electric by 2021.

“National is committed to building the infrastructure and transport system New Zealand needs to ensure our ongoing economic prosperity is secured,” Mr Bridges says.

“We also know that strong transport connections are critical for our growing regions and that’s why we are investing strongly to support their growth.

“National’s plan integrates roads, railways, ports, industrial hubs and air services, ensuring that we have a coherent and balanced approach to New Zealand’s transport needs.”

The Big Read: Roads v Rail – political parties at the crossroads on transport

The Big Read: Roads v Rail – political parties at the crossroads on transport – NZ Herald

The wheels are turning in voters’ minds as they consider which party offers the best deal on transport. Photo / Nick Reed

National has returned to a familiar theme with a $10 billion plan to build 10 major highways around the country, while Labour and the Greens have latched onto modern trams in Auckland and long distance trains between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Also in the mix is NZ First, with a strong emphasis on upgrading heavy rail, including improved access to Northland and its port at Marsden Pt, trains to Auckland Airport and re-opening the Napier to Gisborne line.

The most visible battleground is Auckland, where congestion is choking the city at a cost of $2b a year and people are flocking to trains, buses and ferries to travel to work. Transport, and the crucial role it plays in housing and growth, is on everyone’s mind – and don’t politicians know it.

National’s record in office dealing with Auckland transport is mixed, from rubbishing the City Rail Link to embracing it, the crazy decision to upgrade the Northwestern Motorway without a busway and completing the $1.4b Waterview tunnel – a huge pre-election success story.

In fact, National is using figures showing the tunnel has halved travel times from the city to the airport to stick with cars and buses to the airport in the foreseeable future, while other parties argue over trains or modern trams along the route.

Trams running on light rail along Dominion Rd to the airport. Source / Auckland Transport

Jacinda Ardern’s first public appearance as Labour leader was to announce the party would spend $3b to build tram lines from the Auckland CBD to the airport and West Auckland within 10 years, and complete the first leg of the airport route to Mt Roskill by 2021.

This would be followed by light rail to the North Shore in the second decade.

The Greens have gone one step further and promised to build the full 21km tram route from the CBD to the airport by 2021. They are also promising light rail from the Wellington railway station to Newtown by 2025 and Kilbirnie and the airport by 2027, and a wholly electric bus fleet for the capital city.

Labour and the Greens would allow Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax – possibly 10 cents a litre to raise $100m a year – to hop on board a more ambitious public transport programme for the city.

The two parties have adopted the tram policy from lobby group Greater Auckland, which has also persuaded them to adopt the first stage of its ‘Regional Rapid Rail’ policy for a $20m trial train service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

If it’s a success, Labour and the Greens will invest in stages two and three of Rapid Regional Rail, delivering trains that can travel at 160km/h, new rail lines to Rotorua and Cambridge, and a tunnel through the Bombay Hills to reduce travel times from Auckland to Hamilton to 70 minutes.

Labour’s decision to adopt Greater Auckland’s agenda is blatant pitch into Green territory, but it doesn’t bother Greens transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter, who believes voters know who is more committed to implementing the policies, and will vote Green to be sure Labour follows through.

The Greens have also made a pitch for the youth and student vote by promising these groups free public transport costing $70m to $80m a year, which they say is less than 1km of new highways being built by National.

Not everyone is on board Greater Auckland’s agenda, and debate still rages within transport circles over trams versus trains to the airport.

NZ First’s plan is for a 7.5km rail line from Puhinui to provide a 30-minute journey by train from central Auckland to the airport terminal – part of its “Railways of National Importance” programme.

NZ First wants to reopen the Napier to Gisborne rail line.

NZ First wants to reopen the Napier to Gisborne rail line.

The party’s transport spokesman, Denis O’Rourke, says NZ First is not afraid to intervene and invest heavily in rail. The party has 13 immediate investment priorities, including upgrading rail in Northland to allow containers and cars to be moved from Northport to an inland port at Kumeu, and extending commuter rail to Kumeu and Huapai in West Auckland.

The Maori Party has proposed a new “IwiRail” network for freight, tourism and regional employment. The party believes the project has the capacity to add $1b into the regions and will be asking their potential coalition partner to invest $350m.

The plan involves connecting Gisborne to the East Coast Main Trunk Line in Kawerau and bringing back the mothballed Napier to Gisborne rail line to create 1250 jobs on the East Coast.

National’s focus is unashamedly on roads while recognising rail has a role to play. It is centred on extending its “Road of National Significance” – begun in 2009 and largely complete – into a new set of major roading projects.

Motorists would get a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei, the $1.8b east-west link through Auckland’s industrial belt and other highway projects throughout the country.

National has also come up with a $2.6b election transport package for Auckland that includes building a new highway alongside the Southern Motorway costing $955m and $615m for the Ameti transport project in southeast Auckland.

The $1.8 billion east-west link through Auckland's industrial belt. Source / New Zealand Transport Agency

The $1.8 billion east-west link through Auckland’s industrial belt. Source / New Zealand Transport Agency

That’s not to say, National is all about roads and Labour and the Greens are all about public transport and long distance trains.

National has spent $1.7b electrifying rail in Auckland, it is paying half the cost of the $3.4b city rail link, committed $267m to rail over the next three years, a third rail track on the busy southern line between Westfield and Wiri, and $835m for a Northwestern Busway.

Labour has announced it will increase regional transport roading projects from $140m to $280m a year, and will proceed with the east-west link in Auckland, albeit a scaled back version of National’s $1.8b scheme.

One area all the main parties agree on is the need to improve cycling and walking in our cities, with National keen to build on a $333m urban cycleway programme and Labour promising to pay for the $30m SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Transport policies


A strong focus on roads by extending its “Roads of National Significance” to 10 new projects costing $10b, including a four-lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei and the $1.8b east-west link through Auckland’s industrial belt.

A $2.6b package for Auckland, including a new highway from Manukau to Drury, $615m for the Ameti transport project in southeast Auckland and a $835m Northwestern busway.

National favours cars and buses to the airport in the foreseeable future.

A $267m rail package includes $130m to electrify rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and $37m for Wellington, including double tracking the Hutt Valley line between Upper Hutt and Trentham.

A target of one in three electric or electric hybrid cars in the Government’s fleet of 15,500 cars by 2021.


Adopted the policy of lobby group Greater Auckland for a congestion free network in Auckland.

The main focus is $3b to light rail for trams from the Auckland CBD to the airport and West Auckland within 10 years, and complete the first leg of the airport route to Mt Roskill by 2021.

This would be followed by light rail to the North Shore in the second decade.

Allow Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax – possibly 10 cents a litre to raise $100m a year.

Adopted the Greater Auckland policy for Regional Rapid Rail, starting with a $20m trial train service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

If successful, invest in stages two and three of Rapid Regional Rail with trains that can travel at 160km/h, new rail lines to Rotorua and Cambridge, and a tunnel through the Bombay Hills to reduce travel times from Auckland to Hamilton to 70 minutes.

Fund the $30m SkyPath cycle and walking path over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Auckland is the main battleground for transport at this election. Photo / Peter Meecham

Auckland is the main battleground for transport at this election. Photo / Peter Meecham

Green Party

Free public transport for students and anyone under the age of 19.

Like Labour, adopt the policy of lobby group Greater Auckland for a congestion free network in Auckland, but put it on a faster track.

Build light rail for trams from the Auckland CBD to the airport by 2021, and light rail from Wellington railway station to the airport by 2027.

Light rail towards Helensville and dedicated rapid busways to Howick and Botany.

A new track on the southern line to speed up commuter and freight trains.

Adopt the Greater Auckland policy for Regional Rapid Rail, starting with a $20m trial train service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

If successful, invest in stages two and three of Rapid Regional Rail with trains that can travel at 160km/h, new rail lines to Rotorua and Cambridge, and a tunnel through the Bombay Hills to reduce travel times from Auckland to Hamilton to 70 minutes.

Allow Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax – possibly 10 cents a litre to raise $100m a year.

NZ First

Emphasis on rail on “Railways of National Importance” and potential for modern tram routes in Auckland over the long term.

Wants to upgrade Northland rail, including a line from Oakleigh to Northport; reopening the Napier to Gisborne rail line and progressive electrification of the main trunk line for improved freight and passenger trains with extensions to Dunedin and Tauranga.

Build a commuter rail link between Swanson, Kumeu and Huapai; heavy rail to Auckland Airport.

Toll state highways in Auckland. Opposed to a regional petrol tax.

Investigate Northport taking some of Ports of Auckland business at Marsden Pt from an upgraded freight rail link to an inland port at Kumeu.

Maori Party

A new “IwiRail” network for freight, tourism and regional employment with the capacity to add $1b into the regions. Ask a potential coalition partner to invest $350m.

Connect Gisborne to the East Coast Main Trunk Line in Kawerau and bring back the mothballed Napier to Gisborne rail line to create 1250 jobs on the East Coast.

IwiRail would receive $100m a year for regional line upgrades and maintenance.

Act Party

Increase the use of funding options to better reflect the principle of users pay, such as tolls on new and existing roads, congestion charges, peak time charges and preferential lanes.

Revenue from tolls should be offset by cuts in petrol taxes.

Technology and entrepreneurship should be encouraged in transport, including ride-sharing, car-sharing, congestion charging and high occupancy toll lanes.

Encourage private sector investments in roads. Review regulation to ensure the viability of autonomous vehicles.

Opportunities Party

Transport is very simple, says deputy leader Jeff Simmons, “politicians should get their grubby hands off it” and leave it to New Zealand Transport Agency to decide on a cost-benefit basis taking into account carbon emissions and accidents.

Govt sceptical of passenger rail link plan

The government is sceptical of a plan for a fast passenger rail network linking Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

A Regional Tilting train on Switzerland's rail network.

A ’tilting’ train on Switzerland’s rail network. Photo: Supplied

The transport lobby group Greater Auckland has proposed a $1.45 billion rapid rail service linking Auckland to Tauranga, Rotorua, Cambridge, Hamilton and Te Kuiti.

Initially, refurbished railcars would be used, but ultimately there would be high speed tilting trains similar to those used in Switzerland.

Greater Auckland said local and central government would have to help with the cost.

In a statement, the Minister of Transport Simon Bridges said the government was always open to ideas for improving New Zealand’s transport system.

But he said the Greater Auckland proposal seriously underestimated capital costs, and any new service would have to be backed by a sound business case, be commercially viable and be supported by key stakeholders.

The New Zealand Transport Agency said there were many operational matters that would need to be considered in detail to understand the implications of the proposal.

The agency said it was already investing in rail and road in the region to make transport easier.

Greater Auckland has said the costs were not large when compared with routinely-announced roading projects.

The plan has received backing from the mayors of Hamilton and Tauranga.