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13th December 2018

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U.S. Ports Take Baby Steps in Automation as Rest of the World Sprints

At the Port of Los Angeles’s TraPac terminal, a series of massive cranes effortlessly hoist a steady stream of brightly-colored container boxes—some weighing up to five tons—from the decks of newly-arrived container ships, depositing them dockside. From here, the robots take over.

Automated cargo-haulers towering four-stories high glide among the waiting boxes, straddling and lifting them before wheeling them to the nearby “stacks.” Here the boxes are passed off to another massive robot—an automated stacking crane—that arranges them into meticulous stacks. When it comes time for a specific box to continue its journey inland, those same robotic cranes will find it and load it onto a waiting truck—no human operator necessary.

TraPac terminal—along with a terminal at the nearby Port of Long Beach—is among the first U.S. ports experimenting with robots, artificial intelligence, and other digital tools to choreograph the complicated dance that keeps goods flowing into and out of major U.S. ports. The technology—though not without its critics—is widely seen as the most efficient way for seaports to cope with rising global shipping traffic and massive new ships that haul more and more containers. By digitizing and automating activities once handled by human crane operators and cargo haulers, seaports can reduce the amount of time ships sit in port and otherwise boost port productivity by up to 30% by some estimates.

The automated facilities at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—two of the nation’s busiest—are important proving grounds for technologies that have firmly taken root in European and Asian seaports but remains a relative rarity in the U.S. Only four U.S. seaport terminals currently use the technology. The other two, in Virginia and New Jersey, were the first in the U.S. to implement dockside automation. But while some of the world’s largest container ships make calls at East Coast docks, they rarely unload all of their cargo at a single port as they do on the West Coast.

That means West Coast shipping terminals are likely to automate faster than their East Coast counterparts, placing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at the front of a wave of automation needed to bring U.S. shipping logistics up to speed.

Doing so is not as easy as taking one facility’s automated systems and grafting them onto the next terminal, Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka says. “You’ve got probably 190 or 200 ports in the United States, you’ve got 25 ports of national significance as classified by the Army Corp of Engineers. Each one is different. Once you’ve seen one port, you’ve still only seen one port.”

Still, there are common components at every seaport where automation can make the work more efficient. Every seaport needs cranes to load and unload cargo, for instance, as well as a means of moving containers around the storage yard in an organized fashion so that specific boxes can be located at the specific time they are needed. These kinds of coordinating, organizing, and choreographing tasks are more efficiently handled by machines than by humans. It doesn’t hurt that robots and algorithms don’t require breaks, weekends, or health insurance.

For terminal operators, automation isn’t just about handling more cargo. Automated systems also allow seaports to boost the efficiency of one of their most limiting, finite resources: space. With only so much waterfront property to go around and the volume of cargo rising, seaports face a dwindling amount of real estate in which containers can be stacked and stored, even if only for a few hours.

“The real opportunity is densification,” says Dr. Asaf Ashar, an emeritus research professor at the University of New Orleans’ National Ports & Waterways Institute and an independent consultant for the shipping and transportation industries. “You can use existing land more efficiently.”

But automating seaports is also wildly expensive. The process doesn’t consist of any single thing, but a continuum of digital technologies, software systems, and robotic hardware. Deploying automation to any given port terminal can cost more than $2 million per acre, Seroka says. Upgrades to the Port of Long Beach’s automated terminal will cost in excess of $1.3 billion by the time the technology is all in place in over two years.

Automating the 210-acre TraPac terminal at the Port of Los Angeles will likewise cost more than $1 billion in public and private funds, and it’s not exactly clear when or if that investment will pay off. APM Terminals, a part of Dutch shipping giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk, told the Wall Street Journal that its automated terminal in Rotterdam—where terminals have embraced various levels of automation going back to the 1990s—has paid dividends, requiring just half the human labor that its conventional terminal at the same port requires. But when the same company opened the first semi-automated port in North America in Virginia in 2007, similar returns didn’t immediately materialize (APM Terminals has since sold the facility).

The high costs and shaky record of returns—not to mention pushback from labor unions intent on preserving seaport jobs—have left stakeholders in other U.S. ports leery of going all-in on dockside automation, allowing ports in Europe and Asia to become models of modern logistics. That in turn makes the experiments at Long Beach and Los Angeles all the more critical. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the No. 1 and No. 2 for container volume in the United States, respectively. In 2015, a total of 8.16 million TEU—the equivalent of 20-foot containers—moved into Los Angeles, while another 7.19 million TEU came through Long Beach, according to the World Shipping Council.

“Automation is a business decision and it really has to pencil out before any further work is pursued,” LA’s Seroka says. Making the math “pencil out” should grow easier as other digital technologies—artificial intelligence and big data analytics among them—are further integrated into the seaport enterprise as well. A pilot program currently underway at the Port of Los Angeles with GE—known as the Port Information Portal—digitizes maritime data and will ultimately create a computer dashboard that provides a window into the entire port supply chain. The test was recently extended to run for three years—a testament to the support the technology has garnered at the port, including from organized labor.

“With respect to digital technology, for cents on the dollar we can expand this port capacity,” Seroka says. “We can do it quicker than waiting for the current administration to work out an infrastructure plan, utilizing the land that is within inside our four fences, almost immediately.”

Hundreds of stranded tourists freed as roads reopen in New Zealand

Hundreds of tourists trapped in a remote New Zealand town for 48 hours after a strong storm damaged roads were freed on Saturday after authorities cleared a highway.

About 600 tourists are now able to leave the remote town of Haast, 426 km (265 miles) northwest of Dunedin on the west coast of the South Island, a world heritage area famous for rugged scenery, after the road was cleared.

State Highway Six reopened at 11 a.m., the NZ Transport Agency told Reuters in an email.

“All stranded motorists have now been able to leave,” it said.

The road was hit by landslips as wild weather from former tropical cyclone Fehi wreaked havoc across the west coast, uprooting trees, felling power lines, collapsing a bridge and blocking roads.

A further 117 motorists stranded at Fox Glacier were also able to move on Saturday after roads were repaired, West Coast Civil Defence officials said by telephone.

The storm flooded the southern city of Dunedin and the west coast town of Buller, forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency and ask people not to travel by road.

Health authorities warned people to avoid contact with flood waters that could be contaminated by sewage, Radio NZ said.

Weather forecaster Metservice said storm-damaged areas on the west coast of the South Island would get a reprieve on Saturday with sheltered, sunny weather before more rain arrives, while heavy rains were forecast for the North Island around Auckland.

 

Improvements for Southern motorway

The New Zealand Transport Agency is advising motorists of the lane changes on SH1 at Takānini and near Papakura, Auckland, from early February.

NZTA’s Senior Manager Project Delivery, Chris Hunt says there will be no lane closures, but the road layout will be different.

“Drivers are encouraged to drive with care as they get used to the new layout and keep to the temporary 80km/h speed limit through the active construction zones.”

The purpose of the changes is to improve safety and journey reliability on Auckland’s Southern Motorway by creating extra lanes.

Motorists will notice the lane changes from February at Takanini where a third lane is being added to the overbridge crossing on Great South Road. The two existing lanes will be split just before the Takanini off-ramp for 800-meters and will re-join south of Great South Road before the on-ramp.

“The new single span bridge will be more resilient and safer for motorists. Completing the work while also keeping the motorway operating will require careful planning and a staged approach,” says Hunt.

A temporary bridge for traffic heading south has been built alongside the existing bridge. Next month north and southbound lanes will be diverted to use the temporary bridge to allow demolition of the old northbound bridge to build a new one.

This process will be duplicated to replace the southbound bridge and once it’s completed the new bridge will have three lanes in each direction.

“In all, it will take three separate shifts of traffic over the next 18 months for the bridge work to be completed but no lanes will be closed. We’ll simply be shifting traffic lanes so work can take place on either side,” says Hunt.

“The Transport Agency asks motorists to be vigilant and patient during this time of change. The outcome will be improved safety, journey reliability and traffic flows on our main highway.”

Once the Southern Corridor Improvements project in 2019, it will provide an extra southbound lane on SH1 between Manukau and Papakura and an extra northbound lane between Papakura and Takānini.

NZTA tight-lipped over gorge

New slips on the Manawatu Gorge Rd. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

The New Zealand Transport Agency is staying tight-lipped about which way it will go when replacing the Manawatu Gorge Rd, but Labour MP Kieran McAnulty says those impacted the most have made their preference known.

The road was closed in April last year after major slips blocked the road, and the agency’s regional transport system manager Ross I’Anson estimated about 1000m3 of new material had fallen onto the road in the last couple of weeks.

A shortlist of four options for a new highway to connect Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu was released in October, with all options projected to take between five and seven years to complete.

Mr McAnulty said the message from communities in Tararua and Manawatu was that options three and four were preferred, with option four being the most popular.

“It was a strong message from the local communities, and I’ve been advocating for that.

“There is a strong preference for option four.”

Option four is to build a new road south of the gorge with a second bridge over the Manawatu River, connecting with the regional ring road in the Manawatu. It will cost between $450m and $550m.

That option was “significantly more expensive” due to the need for an additional bridge over the river.

Option three — a new route south of Saddle Rd at a cost of between $350m and $450 — was also a viable option, he said.

“They want more people moving to Tararua and commuting to Palmerston North, as people do from South Wairarapa to Wellington.

“There’s no reason why option three wouldn’t help with that either,” Mr McAnulty said.

Option four is also the preference of Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis and Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith, and that view was expressed to Transport Minister Phil Twyford and a transport agency representative at a meeting in Martinborough last week.

“People really want certainty, and a decision being made,” Mr McAnulty said.

“I’m having ongoing conversations with relevant ministers on how to support local businesses as they work through the process.”

Emma Speight, the transport agency’s director of regional relationships, said it was carefully considering all feedback and submissions.

“This feedback and input will be weighed up against the technical information for the four shortlisted options and the transport agency will be taking forward the option that best meets the needs of the region and provides a safe, efficient and resilient corridor.”

While progress was being made on assessing the four shortlisted options, the work was not yet complete, she said.

“NZTA is aiming to complete assessment of the shortlisted options, including how they support regional freight connectivity and future economic development, in the first quarter of 2018, with the announcement of a preferred option soon after.”

Mr Twyford confirmed at the meeting in Martinborough that the transport agency would make a public announcement in March.

Auckland Transport throws out its own plan

2 Feb, 2018

Auckland Transport produced this image of how light rail would look but ranked it so low it would not get funding. Photo / Artist Impression
Auckland Transport produced this image of how light rail would look but ranked it so low it would not get funding. Photo / Artist Impression

Comment by Simon Wilson

How embarrassing. The board of Auckland Transport (AT) has rejected the draft of its most important planning document, prepared for it by AT staff. The reason? The recommendations in the draft ignored AT’s own policies. They also ignored the policies of Auckland Council, which AT is supposed to answer to. And they ignored the clearly stated wishes of the new government, which has a say because it co-funds so much of the city’s transport programme.

Will heads roll? Unlikely, but possible.

It started last week, when AT published, under the signature of Shane Ellison, its brand-new CEO, the draft of its new 10-year plan. Nearly half the funding for commuter rail was gone, light rail was ranked so low it would not get any funding at all, and the cycling and walking budget was slashed by 90 per cent.

Cue immediate scrambling for cover. The chair of the AT board, Lester Levy, even rang the Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, to apologise. Twyford tweeted: “I’ve had sincere apology from AT chair Lester Levy for internal ‘budget’ document mistakenly made public. The doc certainly doesn’t reflect my conversations with @phil_goff and @AklTransport board and our shared commitment to building a modern transport system for Auckland.”

Well, good. But this was not some simple “mistake”.

The document was a new draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), which is written anew every six years and refreshed every three. This is a refresh year, although with Labour and the Greens determined to keelhaul National’s transport planning, the right time for a full rethink by AT is now. The document even says as much, although without doing it.

What did it get so wrong?

One, it ignored Auckland Council’s guidelines, which are also AT’s own priorities. Through a “Statement of Intent” agreed with council, AT has prioritised public transport, active transport (cycling and walking), road safety and carbon reduction. The draft RLTP just set all that aside.

Two, it ignored the government’s own signals. Twyford and associate minister Julie-Anne Genter, who looks after active transport and safety, have both been clear. In particular, they’ve told us light rail will be a priority and some of National’s expensive new roads (including the East-West Link from Penrose to Onehunga) will not happen. The draft RLTP, however, effectively pretended Twyford and Genter don’t exist.

Three, the draft wasn’t leaked or released casually. It was an official public document prepared for the AT board and posted online in what is usually a carefully managed process. Damningly, it was signed off by CEO Shane Ellison and two of his senior executives.

 

Four, it included a fabricated “introduction” from Levy. He didn’t write it, which isn’t uncommon, but nor did he see it before publication. That’s astonishing: who releases a statement by the boss without getting it cleared by the boss?

In a lengthy conversation on Wednesday, Levy told me he was especially upset about this and “I have made that very clear to the CEO”.

I asked him if it was humiliating to have to apologise to the minister. He said, “Yes. I spend a lot of my time having to apologise for things I didn’t know about. This is the job, and yes it is embarrassing.” (Levy is also the chair of Auckland’s three health boards.)

The offending draft had two main parts. One was what Levy calls a “narrative”: it described the work of AT in language very much in line with other recent AT documents and with the thinking in council and the new government.

“Our priorities actually align very well with what we know of the Government’s,” Levy told me, and he repeated that at the board meeting. “This government has got some great aspirations,” he said.

But the second part was a list of all the transport projects, both underway and proposed. It ranked them and recommended specific levels of funding for each. It was the guts of the document. Free of rhetoric and wishful thinking, it appeared to reveal what the officials who wrote it think AT should do.

When it got to the AT board yesterday afternoon, Cynthia Gillespie, head of strategy and one of the document’s signatories, attempted an explanation. AT has 320 projects it could be working on, she said. If they did them all, over 10 years they’d cost $19 billion. So obviously they’re not doing them all.

To help choose the best they have a “calculator”, a piece of software that assesses each project against a set of objectives. The calculator reflects the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), an agreement about transport priorities signed by the previous government and the previous council. Gillespie blamed the calculator for scoring light rail and cycling very low.

ATAP is now out of date and under review. And yet AT officials used it produce recommendations that would have suited the old government but were profoundly out of line with the new one, and with council, and with AT itself.

To the board’s credit, they threw them out.

Still, they had a problem. By law, AT must adopt a new draft RLTP, put it out for public consultation and sign it off by the end of June.

But the government will not produce its official transport policy statement until late March. If AT has to wait till after then to produce the new RLTP, the public input phase will suffer.

Board member Sir Michael Cullen saved the day.

“We are pretending we don’t know what we really do know,” he said. He listed various projects Twyford and Genter have said they want prioritised and added, “I don’t think it would be improper for staff to prepare a new draft RLTP that reflects what we can reasonably expect will happen.”

They will now write a new plan, in the expectation it will align with the government’s policy statement when it arrives. Which is what should have happened in the first place.

Meanwhile, Lester Levy still wants to know how all this happened.

I asked if he felt let down by some of the senior management. “I don’t know but I will certainly let you know when I find out.”

He also said, “We have given our new CEO a mandate to deliver culture change in the organisation.”

That’s very good to hear.

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions

January 24, 2018,  in TOI 

 

There is a technical revolution taking place today. Transport has broadly been run on liquid hydrocarbons the last 130 years. This is about to change. In the small country of Norway, every third new car sold is an electric vehicle and the world’s first electric ferry is crossing a Norwegian fjord 34 times every day. We are thus presently in the forefront of this change.

With just over 5 million inhabitants, in the big scheme of things we do not make much of a difference. But on the other hand, the biggest wave always starts with the smallest ripple. In Norway, the wave is gaining strength. Right now, India could look to Norway to see how green transportation solutions work in practice.

India is a big country. In every sense of the word. The Indian population is set to surpass China and become the largest in the world in the years to come. With a population of such a magnitude, many of India’s choices going forward will have global implications, also for Norway. It will come down to big countries like India, if this mounting wave will bring about the transformation in transportation that will save our planet and create business opportunities for all.

Illustration: Ajit Ninan

Norway is currently the world’s demonstration project for green transport solutions. We have the highest EV penetration rate in the world. Nearly 40% of new cars sold are EVs. Infrastructure, technologies and solutions are being developed, tested and assessed in Norway. Valuable lessons have been learnt from looking at customer behaviour. For example, the fear of running out of battery power, or range anxiety, has been highlighted as a barrier to EV uptake.

While many drivers experience range anxiety at first, this fear quickly subsides. In fact, only 4% of Norwegian EV drivers report having run out of battery power. Businesses and governments from all over the world are looking to Norway to gain insights into how the beginnings of a mass market for EVs functions in practice.

But how did Norway achieve this? It is the result of targeted and stable transport policies. Firstly, we have a clear goal of selling only zero-emission vehicles and buses by 2025. Secondly, we give tax exemptions to EVs and shift the tax burden to combustion engine cars instead. And thirdly, we invest in EV infrastructure, having built 8,755 charging stations – 1 per 21 electric or hybrid cars.

While the development of EVs are gaining attention, there is still little talk about transport on seas and rivers. Norway is a maritime nation with longstanding traditions of shipbuilding and offshore activities. We have been a global leader in pushing for higher environmental standards in shipping.

The Norwegian ship building industry and shipping industry is now taking steps to develop a new fleet of environmentally friendly ships. The new ships will use the same technology as an electric car but with a battery the size of a storage container, or a combination of battery power and liquid natural gas (LNG), or some other cleaner-burning fuel such as hydrogen.

Right now, we have the world’s first battery driven ferry operating a passenger ferry route crossing the Sognefjord in Norway. The power consumed by the MS Ampere for a single crossing of 6 km costs about Rs 400 – the equivalent of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and yet it’s enough to transport 360 passengers and 120 cars.

For longer distances, ships fuelled by LNG are an important alternative. Norway has the world’s largest fleet of LNG ships. The environmental benefits are massive compared to diesel-fuelled ships – 30% lower CO2 emissions, 85% lower NOx emissions and absolutely no particulate emissions to pollute the air.

The number of vehicles on Indian roads is projected to grow from over 160 million to over 550 million in 2030. This begs the question: Will these cars run on diesel, or will they be electric? In order to service 390 million additional cars on the roads, new infrastructure must be developed. Will there be new gas stations built, or charging stations? For India and for the rest of the world, there is a big difference between these two choices.

There are certainly positive signs that India intends to go green going forward. An ambitious target has been set: 100% of new vehicles sold will be electric by 2030. We believe India should set a similar ambitious target for their shipping fleet.

In this country, you also have vast stretches of rivers and canals. The government’s focus on moving freight on ships on these inland waterways, rather than by trucks on the highways, could reap huge environmental benefits, both in terms of reducing local air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Greening the Indian transport sector will boost India’s energy security by becoming less reliant on imported oil. Currently, India spends over $235 million a day on oil imports. Increasing the share of electrical vehicles, especially in the big cities, will also help reduce the lethal smog encapsulating many Indian cities every year. According to the renowned medical journal Lancet, over 2.5 million Indians die every year because of the toxic air.

While the wave of greener transport solutions is gaining momentum in Norway, we need the weight of big countries, like India, to make it a tidal wave. Norway is eager to support India in this endeavour.

Electric campervans, freight trucks and buses coming for ‘clean, green’ NZ’

A 58-tonne electric freight truck, electric buses and developing an electric campervan for tourism are among the initiatives to receive a share of $3.74 million from the Government.

Twenty projects were announced today in the latest round of the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. The funding is being matched by $4.3m from the recipients.

A large proportion of the Government money – $1.7m – is for more charging stations nationwide, including at Foodstuffs supermarkets and golf courses nationwide, Fisher and Paykel stores, Wilson Parking buildings mainly in Auckland, and the Cloudy Bay vineyard in Blenheim.

Local authorities will also receive funding for charging stations in Taranaki, Waikato and the King Country.

“This is really about making sure we’ve got coverage around the country in terms of infrastructure,” Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said during the announcement.

“A big part of what we need to do to up the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand is to make sure we don’t have people stranded, running out of juice.”

Tourism Holdings will receive $402,000 to convert an electric van into a campervan, aiming to have 20 electric campervans on the road within a year.

“New Zealand sells itself to the world as a clean, green paradise,” Woods said.

“One of the things people will be attracted to is the ability to do their trip in a sustainable way. It’s got huge potential and it’s the way we want to sell ourselves to the rest of the world.”

The Motor Tourism Training Organisation will receive $95,000 to develop a qualifications framework for technicians working on electric vehicles.

There is currently no NZQA-registered qualification for this work, and Woods said the new framework will be critical in preparing the workforce for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Electric freight vehicles also had potential to cut into domestic carbon emissions, and a $500,000 grant will go to CODA, in partnership with Zero Emission Vehicles and Bay Dairy, to design and build a 58-tonne electric freight truck for Fonterra.

The announcement was made at Zealandia eco-sanctuary in Wellington, which will receive $118,137 to replace its diesel buses with two electric mini-buses.

“It’s all about reducing emissions, sure, but it’s all about the liveability of our cities, the places where we live, and the healthiness of them,” Zealandia chief executive Paul Atkins said.

Woods said the funding was conditional until contracts are prepared and signed.

“The projects we are funding show there’s an electric vehicle for almost every job or use in New Zealand, be it delivering fruit and veg or taking a holiday.”

Labour’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First includes a promise to have the Government’s vehicle fleet, where practicable, emissions-free by 2025/26.

Woods said the progress of that work will depend on existing Government contracts.

Other funding recipients include:
• Evincible – $263,450 – to co-ordinate the rollout of a battery electric courtesy car and associated charging station for 25 automotive workshops, giving people the chance to test drive an EV while their car is being repaired or serviced.
• Tranzit Group – $397,500 – to invest in permanent drive-through charging stations for buses at the Wellington Railway Station bus interchange, capable of charging four buses simultaneously.
Ohomairangi Trust – $75,000 – to buy six EVs for its teachers, therapists and specialists to use visiting whanau.
Kerikeri Village Trust – $67,250 – to buy four EVs to establish a car share operation for use by residents and staff and install a public charging unit in Kerikeri.

Jon Addison: Specialised trucks mean more freight on roads, not less

There seems to be a widespread belief that heavy trucks will be tossed off our roads and freight moved by rail instead. Photo / 123RF

With the new coalition Government holding the reins there seems to be a widespread belief that heavy trucks will be tossed off our roads and freight moved by rail instead.

Unfortunately that’s almost certainly not going to happen, for a variety of reasons.

The most compelling is the expected growth in freight. A national freight demand study reckons total freight moved in 2017 was about 260 million tonne, growing to 354 million tonne by 2037. About 7 per cent of that is now moved by rail. If rail tripled its share of freight by 2037 there would still be 20 million tonne of the growth to be handled by trucks.

That’s 8 per cent more than carted by trucks this year, meaning more, or larger, trucks on the road.

Almost everyone in the freight industry agrees that coastal shipping, rail and road transport all have roles to play in freight movement. Freight forwarders such as Mainfreight are already among the highest users of rail.

However, the very nature of freight movements around New Zealand make it almost impossible for rail to double, let alone triple, its share of the task.

In the early colonial days most freight was carted on river boats and coastal ships. After the first railways were built in 1863 it soon became obvious trains could move freight to more places than boats could, without being hampered by wind and tide. Now coastal shipping moves about 2 per cent of freight.

After World War I trucks became increasingly efficient at moving freight and the Government, which of course owned the railways, began in 1931 to introduce measures to protect rail freight, culminating in Bob Semple’s 1936 ban on trucks carting more than 30 miles (50km). Protection of rail was scaled back in 1977 and abolished in 1983.

One of the hurdles to a rail comeback is that heavy trucks – over 3500kg loaded weight – have become increasingly specialised. There is little opportunity for trains to replace concrete agitator trucks, for example.

Although there is a very efficient railway line from the gigantic Kaingaroa Forest to the Port of Tauranga, there’s probably no other log cartage operation with sufficient scale to replace trucks. Livestock trucks, fertiliser trucks, fuel tankers, milk tankers and many other trucks operate miles from any railway line.

Then there are delivery trucks, from the big tractor/semi-trailers delivering to supermarkets to little four-wheelers dropping off a new fridge. Or trucks taking supplies to rural centres too small for a railway line to be economic.

In fact of the 132,000 heavy trucks on the roads, only 23,000 are operated by the road freight industry. Put another way, just 19 per cent of freight is general freight and when distance is taken into account, just 8 per cent of the annual tonne/km carted is general freight. The biggest proportion, 29 per cent, is manufactured and retail goods, followed closely by logs and dairy.

Rail and coastal freight are best at carting bulk freight that is not time-sensitive over long distances. New Zealand’s small, widely dispersed population restricts opportunities for that. I once sat at a level crossing in North Carolina as an extremely long train passed, carting only orange juice from Florida, probably to New York. That one train probably contained more than New Zealand’s annual consumption of orange juice.

There are other handicaps, too. For example, the most efficient freight trains in the United States cart shipping containers two high. New Zealand’s small rail tunnels don’t allow that.

Another issue is that while modern freight handling systems have greatly reduced damage and loss of goods, most problems arise during loading and unloading. Most rail freight has to be carted to and from the train by trucks, which means three times as many handling events compared with a single truck journey.

Just as in the 1880s trains took over from boats because they could cart freight to more places more quickly, trucks have since overtaken rail for the same reason.

The combination of an expanding freight task and the difficulties rail faces in increasing its share mean we’re more likely to see more trucks on our roads than fewer.

• Jon Addison is a retired journalist who specialised in commercial vehicles and road transport for 30 years.

Transport concerns unfounded: minister

Suggesting the Government was not going ahead with roading projects which do not exist is misleading, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

Responding to National Party transport spokeswoman Judith Collins claims the Government was diverting financing, Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said the New Zealand Transport Agency had advised funding for road upgrades could not be redirected into rail.

“National’s concerns are unfounded. The Mill Rd Corridor upgrade is an Auckland Transport project and planning is continuing.

“The Labour-led Government has not altered any existing roading projects except Auckland’s East-West link and officials are working to identify a lower-cost, better-value option.”

Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said it was important to note the other “highway projects” referred to in National’s petition did not exist.

They were election campaign promises made by National in August last year and never costed or funded.

“To suggest the Government isn’t going ahead with projects that don’t exist is misleading. And to suggest non-existing funding be diverted into rail is nonsensical.”

Judith Collins. Photo NZ Herald

Judith Collins. Photo NZ Herald

Ms Collins launched national petitions yesterday aimed at saving national regional highway projects.

Regional highway projects were at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams, she said.

More National Party MPs joined Ms Collins’ campaign today, strengthening what could be an early tilt at the party leadership if leader Bill English decides to stand down.

They are David Bennett (Hamilton East), Andrew Falloon (Rangitata), Todd Muller (Bay of Plenty), Scott Simpson (Coromandel), and Simon Bridges (Tauranga). Ms Collins and Messrs Muller and Bridges are seen as likely challengers.

Ms Collins said National committed to a large number of important regional highway projects throughout New Zealand as the next stage in the successful Roads of National Significance programme to build a modern highway network.

The roads would improve safety and travel times, better connect regions and boost regional economic growth.

Ms Collins said the Transport Minister now had several of those projects under review.

”That’s not good enough. Our regional communities deserve them and the National Party is committed to fighting for them.”

To ensure the voice of each region was heard, National was launching a series of petitions so the public could show the Government how important the projects were, she said.

Each MP responsible for their road would be taking their online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.

 

National’s list of affected roads

• Upgrade of Redoubt-Mill Rd from Manukau and Flat Bush to Papakura and Drury.

• Extension of Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Kaimai Range, and from Cambridge to Tirau.

• Continuous four-lane extension of Northern Motorway from Warkworth to Whangarei.

• East-west link road between Onehunga-Penrose industrial area and State Highways 1 and 20.

• Tauranga to Katikati Rd as continuous four-late state highway.

• Four-laning of Napier to Hastings Expressway.

•  Otaki to north of Levin expressway.

• Christchurch Northern Motorway between Belfast and Pegasus.

• Four-lane SH1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton.

National Party to petition govt over ‘highway projects’

The National Party is launching a series of petitions to drum up support for major highway projects which it says are at risk of not going ahead.

Judith Collins

National transport spokesperson Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The government derided the move as “misleading” and “nonsensical” and said National never costed or funded many of the promised roads.

National’s transport spokesperson Judith Collins said the Labour-led government had wrongly thrown many crucial transport links into doubt.

“Don’t keep saying you’re not committing. Tell us what you want to do,” she said.

“Because right at the moment – after some months in the job – we’ve still got no idea what they’ve committed to.”

The government had already scrapped plans for Auckland’s contentious East-West motorway link and was reviewing other projects around the country.

A Minister of Transport spokesperson said the government had not altered any existing roading project other than the East-West link.

“The Mill Road Corridor upgrade is an Auckland Transport project and planning is continuing.

“It important to note that the other ‘highway projects’ referred to in National’s petition do not exist. They were election campaign promises made by National in August and never costed or funded.

“To suggest the government isn’t going ahead with projects that don’t exist is misleading.”

The affected roads include:

  • The upgrade of the Redoubt-Mill Road corridor from Manukau and Flat Bush to Papakura and Drury
  • The extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to the foot of the Kaimai Range, and from Cambridge to Tirau
  • The continuous four lane extension of the Northern Motorway from Warkworth to Whangarei.
  • An East West Link Road project between the Onehunga-Penrose industrial area and State Highways 1 and 20
  • The Tauranga to Katikati Road project as a continuous four lane State Highway with wide lanes and safety measures
  • The four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway
  • The Otaki to north of Levin expressway road project
  • The Christchurch Northern Motorway between Belfast and Pegasus
  • The construction of the four-lane State Highway 1 link between Christchurch and Ashburton

Ms Collins said the projects had been put at risk by the government’s “obsession with Auckland trams”.

“Roads from Northland right through to Ashburton are being “reviewed” while the government attempts to divert billions of dollars to pet light rail projects.”

A spokesperson for the Minister of Transport said that concern was “unfounded” however, because funding for road upgrades could not be redirected into rail.

“And to suggest non-existing funding be diverted into rail is nonsensical.”

National MPs will present petitions to the government later this year.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and Hamilton East MP David Bennett will head the petition to extend the link between the Bay of Plenty and Hamilton.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson also announced their campaign championing the Katikati-to-Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance.

Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon is spearheading the petition to extend the highway between Christchurch and Ashburton to four lanes.

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