A train set for Christchurch

September 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

editorial:

Labour leader David Cunliffe promised that if a Labour-led government were elected it would devote $100 million to create a commuter service in Canterbury. …

The idea of a rail link has superficial appeal but it is one that needs to be carefully examined. Cunliffe appears to be getting a little ahead of himself in making a commitment before its overall feasibility has been established. Environment Canterbury, which is responsible for public transport in the region, the Transport Agency, and the Waimakariri District and City councils, all of whom have an obvious interest in solving the problem, decided earlier this year that a rail proposal they had closely looked at would be too expensive and would not deliver people to their places of work.

But nevertheless Labour will throw $100 million of our money at it!

In general, bright-eyed rail schemes have a terrible habit of incurring huge cost over-runs and turning out to be expensive white elephants. One in Edinburgh recently has crippled the city’s finances. Christchurch people in particular have no great love for public transport. The last commuter trains were dumped decades ago for lack of patronage. Buses are much more responsive to demand than trains and Christchurch people shun buses in droves.

Trains also require a huge commitment of public money. Nowhere in the world do they make money. Cunliffe’s proposal speaks of a $100 million commitment (a suspiciously low figure) but says nothing about extra ancillary costs and running losses. The day of the train might come eventually, but Christchurch’s finances are under enough strain already without the burden of a punt on rail now.

So taxpayers would incur the initial cost, and then ratepayers saddled with the white elephant’s running costs.

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49 Responses to “A train set for Christchurch”

  1. Redbaiter (9,461 comments) says:

    There should be criminal prosecutions of government officials who use false projections to gain financial backing for these projects.

    In almost every case the business case used to justify the project is deeply flawed yet the developers walk away scot free.

    There is massive money in developing these projects and that’s why their inception is almost like a mafia operation with payola and graft going everywhere.

    A massive and almost criminal hoax on the taxpayer.

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  2. tranquil (100 comments) says:

    Utterly ridiculous stuff from Cunliffe.
    Yet another example of Labour throwing taxpayers’ money around in an economic lolly-scramble.

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  3. EAD (1,267 comments) says:

    What’s another hundred mil between friends when the current mob have been spending $300m+ per week to create their “rock-star” economy?

    IMHO it is much better spunked away on train sets that don’t make any sense than topping up ngai tahus previous “full and final” settlements.

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  4. wreck1080 (3,954 comments) says:

    i can’t see 100 million would be anywhere near enough to build a useful train service in Christchurch.

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  5. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    I almost could accept the feasibility of a shuttle between bus hubs, from the new urban and industrial centre at Rolleston, if the double tracking was restored.

    But going north to Kaiapoi / Rangiora, the track bed alone would be as expensive as a full motorway. You can’t do commuter with a single track, West Auckland showed that.

    This shapes up as an epic fail for Labour in the Chch electorates with a few simple calculations showing the economic lunacy here. And that’s before considering the running costs!

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  6. xy (188 comments) says:

    I live in Christchurch. I’d rather have trains than Gerry’s fucking stadium.

    It’d be great to see some criticism from the right of the compulsory government acquisition of buildings containing working businesses in order to prop up property prices for the central city.

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  7. metcalph (1,433 comments) says:

    By way of comparison, fixing up the Town Hall is estimated to cost $125 million (at the lowballed council figures that nobody, even the council, believes in). Saving up the Cathedral is going to cost something like $200 million. Our new central bus station (in construction) is going to have a price tag of $53 million.

    Not a lot is going to get built for $100 million in Christchurch!

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  8. dime (10,083 comments) says:

    do hybrid buses exist yet? maybe those will placate the green types enough to stop them pledging billions for shitty trains.

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  9. EAD (1,267 comments) says:

    Xy – all you will hear are crickets.

    Also, you mean criticism from National supporters rather than the right as they are 2 different things in NZ now.

    I’m from “the right” and it stinks to high heaven.

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  10. FeralScrote (224 comments) says:

    Knowing full well he will not have to follow through on these promises,Labour will carry on with pie in the sky dreams policies, that`s why theirs and the Greens wishlist is $18 billion and climbing.
    And with their extra taxation shopping list,they still won`t have enough to pay for anything.

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  11. kowtow (8,707 comments) says:

    Cunners is running all round the country offering millions of other peoples’ money.In Dunners its Hillside and hospital.

    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/313353/labour-promises-city-millions

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  12. Distilled essence of NZ (85 comments) says:

    This is a visionary step by David Cunliffe. Anyone who knows anything about global out put knows that conventional oil supply has remained stagnant for over 10 years, whilst more expensive non-conventional forms are set to make up ever more of the liquid energy supply. Bottom line is, energy markets are set to become increasingly tight – the price for a barrel of oil having already trebled over the last 20 years. People will come to use rail more and more as the price of petro-chemicals continue to rise, of that there is little doubt.

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  13. IGM (514 comments) says:

    Isn’t Goose Cunliffe in the hands of Trainset Cullen?

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  14. mavxp (490 comments) says:

    Some *long term* planning around transport is definitely needed, and yes I mean public transport between satellite towns and key hubs in the city including the airport. Rapid bus routes, covered stations with shops/ malls immediately close-by. A rapid bus-way system would be more cost effective, and can be scaled up to light rail when the commuter numbers make it economically feasible. The problem with busses is they are stuck in traffic, stop too often, and waiting for them in the rain, when you and they are running late is the pits. So people don’t bother with them. Dedicated bus lanes between major city hubs, like a rail network but cheaper. Intensify urban and commercial development around those hubs. Then scale towards rail when it makes economic sense. We may find technology provides a better alternative using driverless cabs on these dedicated (former) bus lanes.

    The problem with public transport is you need it in place before people will develop their businesses and commuting/ lifestyle around it. But without one, people can only base their decisions solely on access by car. This is what creates congestion now and will make things worse long term; both are needed going forward.

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  15. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    The rail lines are a pain in the arse in Christchurch

    They split up the main post quake commercial centres (Addington and Riccarton) with train tracks that have few overbridges and just signalized ground level road crossings.

    It would be great if the tracks could be diverted elsewhere, but I realise that is not really feasible if you want to get freight to Lyttelton. But adding extra commuter trains down that line would cause massive traffic chaos.

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  16. tvb (4,484 comments) says:

    As a North Island taxpayer I think ChCh has had enough. If they want a railway let them fund it if they can. I just cannot understand the fixation the Labour Party has for rail. It has never worked in this Country.

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  17. Henry64 (83 comments) says:

    There is stage Two of the Christchurch Southern Motorway, currently in the detailed design stage, plus all the Northern Arterial and other roads of National significance.

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/northern-arterial/index.html
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/network/projects/christchurch-southern-corridor/
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/christchurch-western-corridor/index.html

    There is congestion affecting people commuting into Christchurch from the North and South. It’s nothing like Auckland levels though. The City will not benefit from a commuter rail but the few who live North and South (Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Oxford etc. & Rolleston) are the only ones who may benefit. Once it is all built.

    Even then it would have to be heavily subsidised, patronage will not stack up and it will be one big FAIL.

    Labour are talking about a cost sharing arrangement – sure Selwyn and Waimakariri can be hit up. Christchurch has enough additional costs to have to stump up the money for rebuild-wise thanks.

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  18. F E Smith (3,306 comments) says:

    Dime,

    Yes, they do exist. The ChCh Council was running a number on a free loop around and through the centre city for a number of years pre-earthquake. Noisy, awful things, with an annoying whine as they went past. But I am sure the tech has improved markedly since then,

    The problem with rail in ChCh is where do you run it? The train station is in Addington, which is a fair way from the city centre. The rest if the place is pretty well built up, so to run it properly you would have to create corridors for them. Unless it is only for people going in from Rolleston, Kaiapoi, and Rangiora.

    When I lived in Christchurch I never used the bus, preferring to either drive or walk. Unless they can get regular, cheap, and quick services from all over the city and beyond I cannot see the idea being a success.

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  19. Cobolt (94 comments) says:

    How many electric buses would $100m buy?

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  20. burt (8,289 comments) says:

    A train set, a new stone building for a station. What could possibly go wrong laying tracks and building rail infrastructure in Christchurch.

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  21. burt (8,289 comments) says:

    Cobolt

    How many electric buses would $100m buy?

    Built by unionised workers in Dunedin or built off shore ?

    So either 1 or 50 maybe ?

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  22. RRM (9,992 comments) says:

    I just don’t see how this would/should/could cost a hundred million dollars?

    They need a ‘northern’ commuter train from Rangiora, Running down the EXISTING line stopping at Kaiapoi, Woodend and Belfast, and terminating at the EXISTING Addington Station.

    And they need a ‘southern’ commuter train from Ashburton, running up the EXISTING line stopping at Rakaia, Dunsandel, Burnham, Rolleston, Templeton, Hornby, and terminating at the EXISTING Addington Station.

    Basically the EXISTING railway lines are in good locations to link up some of the main outlying residential suburbs that have become post-quake housing havens, with Hornby and Addington which have become the new de-facto CBD, supplementing the motorways (that were overloaded even before the quakes.)

    They could keep and overhaul a few of the Kiwirail DC locomotives that are due to be sold soon. And the chronically under patronised Capital Connection train cold be disestablished, and those carriages used as the nucleus of the Canterbury trains.

    EXISTING tracks.
    EXISTING gear.
    A couple of new [bus shelter sized] stations.

    Again, I just don’t see why this needs to cost a hundred million dollars?

    They could move the necessary rolling stock down to Chch on the ferry tonight, and begin running this thing tomorrow. Trial it for 3 months and see if it works.

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  23. burt (8,289 comments) says:

    RRM

    It’s other peoples money, more fun to spend $100m than $20m.

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  24. Harriet (5,078 comments) says:

    They’re better off to allow an unlimited number of 30 seater buses to operate across the entire city. Each owner driver can then bid for particular routes. 1 or 2% of their takings can then be used to subsidise the routes that are nessecery, but went unbought.

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  25. Richard (868 comments) says:

    Dear Mr Cunliffe- speaking as a Christchurch city ratepayer I have to tell you I can’t afford this. Speaking as a NZ taxpayer I have to tell you I can’t afford this. Speaking as a resident of Christchurch and Canterbury- I don’t want this. Now piss off back to Auckland please.

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  26. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    It’s other peoples money,

    Who are these other people ?

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  27. burt (8,289 comments) says:

    Black with a Vengeance

    Those horrid people your ideology needs to denigrate to stay popular… Earners, tax payers and people not living on the tax payers teat. You know the people – the “rich pricks” that you love to hate so your guaranteed to fail ideology stays popular.

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  28. tvb (4,484 comments) says:

    Christchurch is a fairly compact city. I used a push bike while at University. Maybe Cunliffe could produce a Map showing where his train service would run. He cannot of course. His empty promise is just a bit of meat to tease the voters. Cunliffe is full of this sort of shite.

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  29. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    Labour could kill two birds with one stone by turning the cathedral in to a city center railway station with a spire.

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  30. metcalph (1,433 comments) says:

    Eric Crampton writes about the Labour proposal here

    http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/train-sets.html

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  31. mandk (1,013 comments) says:

    I know wiki is not always 100% reliable, but anyone who think you can build a rail system for $100 million needs to look at this:

    “Edinburgh Trams is a tramway in Edinburgh, Scotland, operated by Transport for Edinburgh. It is a 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) line between York Place in New Town and Edinburgh Airport, with 15 stops. Construction began in June 2008, but the opening was delayed. The scheme was costed at £375 million in 2003, but by May 2008, when contracts were signed, the cost had risen to £521 million. After extra interest payments are factored in, the final cost is expected to top £1 billion. The line opened on 31 May 2014″

    The equivalent of $2 billion for a 14 km line! Surely it would be cheaper to offer a 24/7 free taxi service.

    Cunliffe is either away with the fairies, or he is being completely dishonest.

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  32. Lance (2,704 comments) says:

    Busses could be a cost effective alternative but in a crowded city they have got to have their own separate lanes for congested sections or they are a waste of time, only good for off peak.

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  33. brucehoult (200 comments) says:

    dime: yes hybrid buses exist. Wellington is dumping the electric (overhead cables) buses in favour of diesel hybrid buses.

    I believe the newer electric buses also have some battery capacity so they can go a couple of km maybe between overhead cable systems, detour around accidents etc.

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  34. waikatogirl (603 comments) says:

    Cunliffe, the emperor with no clothes – another empty promise by Cunliffe promising vast amounts of working NZ’ers money.

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  35. brucehoult (200 comments) says:

    If public transport costs more than driving a medium sized car with one person in it then you’re doing it wrong. Certainly if it costs more AFTER subsidy, but I’d argue the same applies before subsidies as well.

    And the system needs to be properly integrated, with just one fare per trip, even if you have to change buses or trains, or change bus companies, or change from a bus to a train.

    When I was in Chicago I found their system worked quite well. They have trains going largely north/south on the main line. The “L” “elevated” light rail has some east/west lines and a loop in the central city. But the good part was you could take an east/west bus to a train station, go north/south on the train, and then take another east/west bus to your destination AND IT DIDN’T COST THE EARTH.

    As I recall (in 2001) it was something like $1.50 for the first ride, 50c for a second ride within two hours, and a third ride was free.

    I’m sure they don’t make money on that, but even if it was $5 for multiple rides within two hours it would be far more attractive than what we have now.

    Here in Wellington there are at least three different bus companies, plus the trains, all using different incompatible ticketing systems, and you can’t do transfers between them unless you buy a $21 one day pass.

    There are train monthly passes that cost $100 – $300 and only work between specified stations. Or there are bus monthly passes for $200 that only work on some buses, or $220 that work on all buses but not on trains.

    It’s a ridiculous mess.

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  36. Max S (21 comments) says:

    Shame Sir Robert is voting for Trevor Mallard. Hutt South desparately needs a new MP.

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  37. Paulus (2,652 comments) says:

    I thought I read that the Christchurch Council is to spend more Ratepayer’s money to buy up all the Lyttleton Port shares ?

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  38. Gulag1917 (973 comments) says:

    Trains are a natural solution for Christchurch, the rails and the stations are already there and eventually when the inner city is rebuilt eliminating all the vacant space being used as carparks, public transport will be back to its old equilibrium. The new bus exchange is a symptom of Ecan/CCC arrogance though.
    “Here in Wellington there are at least three different bus companies, plus the trains, all using different incompatible ticketing systems, and you can’t do transfers between them unless you buy a $21 one day pass.”
    Three companies are a result of compulsory competition a requirement of the World Trade Organisation or something similar which NZ slavishly obeys.

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  39. freemark (609 comments) says:

    Trains are normally driven by Union Members, guaranteeing them the ability to wreak maximum havoc on large numbers (well, we’ll see) of passengers easily. This is why the Left love trains, but generally never use them.
    The Unions own Cunliffe, and he does what he is told by them.
    Hence more promises of Train sets.

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  40. Gulag1917 (973 comments) says:

    Waipara, Amberley [getting its first supermarket], Rangiora, Rolleston and Darfield have all experienced rapid growth since the 2010/2011 earthquakes. All have railways lines and stations. the roads cannot handle the traffic, logical that trains fill the gap.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1b/SouthIsland_rrMap_v02.svg/762px-SouthIsland_rrMap_v02.svg.png

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  41. Gulag1917 (973 comments) says:

    Labour will probably clean up more Canterbury seats as result of the trains proposal.

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  42. brucehoult (200 comments) says:

    If no capital works are required to start running trains from central Christchurch to Amberley, Rolleston and Darfield then why does government need to be involved at all? Can’t someone just grab some rolling stock and hire time on the tracks and make a fortune?

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  43. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    Bruce, have you tried to pass another train on a single track?

    Rail congestion quickly rises with usage, probably more dramatically even than road intersections.

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  44. brucehoult (200 comments) says:

    Gosh, that would be a great problem to actually have! But that’s a long way away.

    I see it is double tracked from south of Hornby to Hagley Park, with shorter double tracked sections at Rolleston, Darfield, Belfast and no doubt others. If necessary it would not be hard to add a few more sections to allow passing. With modern communications and computers it’s not hard to schedule trains to meet only at the places they can pass, and without a lot of waiting, even if there was a train in each direction every 10 minutes, which is better service than most public transport routes get in NZ.

    I note that the Johnsonville and Melling lines in Wellington are not double tracked, yet provide regular services.

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  45. Gulag1917 (973 comments) says:

    brucehoult – good idea.

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  46. Lance (2,704 comments) says:

    @brucehoult

    The idea of train passing lanes sounds great but in practice it is very difficult in a commuter environment.
    Railways are VERY highly regulated environments, anything goes wrong, anywhere on that track everything has to stop until it is found out what happened and why. Even going a few meters past a red light will grind the system to a hault.
    Then you have train breakdowns etc and until the offending train is removed according to the very strict regulations then no other traffic can flow.
    As a result the service on a single track is very likely to suffer frequent stoppages.

    That was why the Western Line (West Auckland) was a complete shit service until it was double tracked.

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  47. lolitasbrother (742 comments) says:

    The Christchurch train idea has been canvassed, caned and canned for 20 years.
    Agree with Redbaiter in first response, it should be criminal negligence to promote impossible ideas.

    Why not get helicopters in for the Rangiora and Kaiapoi people
    These railways work in heavily and densely populated areas, along corridors.
    Eg the Hudson river corridor to Manhattan

    Henry64 (82 comments) says:
    September 3rd, 2014 at 10:58 am
    There is stage Two of the Christchurch Southern Motorway, currently in the detailed design stage, plus all the Northern Arterial and other roads of National significance.

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/northern-arterial/index.html
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/network/projects/christchurch-southern-corridor/
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/christchurch-western-corridor/index.html

    There is congestion affecting people commuting into Christchurch from the North and South. It’s nothing like Auckland levels though. The City will not benefit from a commuter rail but the few who live North and South (Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Oxford etc. & Rolleston) are the only ones who may benefit. Once it is all built.

    Even then it would have to be heavily subsidised, patronage will not stack up and it will be one big FAIL.

    Labour are talking about a cost sharing arrangement – sure Selwyn and Waimakariri can be hit up. Christchurch has enough additional costs to have to stump up the money for rebuild-wise thanks.

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  48. OneTrack (3,195 comments) says:

    What do the socialists have about trainsets? Didn’t they have one when they were kids?

    But, hey, other peoples money, so who cares, I want to get elected and all I have to do is promise s**t to anybody who asks. And if it turns oyt I can’t ignore the promise, then I will just put the taxes up. Again.

    What could go wrong? For DC, nothing much. For New Zealand? Maybe that is why the Green Party is softening us up to live in caves.

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  49. Viking2 (11,539 comments) says:

    brucehoult (199 comments) says:
    September 3rd, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    dime: yes hybrid buses exist. Wellington is dumping the electric (overhead cables) buses in favour of diesel hybrid buses.

    I believe the newer electric buses also have some battery capacity so they can go a couple of km maybe between overhead cable systems, detour around accidents etc
    .==================

    Dennis buses assembled by Kiwi Buses in Tauranga.
    http://www.kiwibus.co.nz/

    Used to be an outfit in Ashburton but they went broke and were sold to some “foreigner”
    http://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php?title=DesignLine_Corporation

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