Wellington Greens in fantasy land

July 19th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Cheaper bus fares, slower speed limits, free Wi-Fi and a renewed push for light rail in Wellington are among the election carrots being dangled by the region’s Green Party local body candidates.

Party-affliated councillors from across the region have revealed what will the top of their agenda if re-elected in October.

Greater Wellington regional councillors Paul Bruce and Sue Kedgley said they would push for a 25 per cent discount on off-peak bus fares as well as a 50 per cent off-peak discount for students. …

Kedgley said introducing light rail in Wellington and replacing the city’s “polluting, noisy diesel buses” with modern electric buses within a decade would also be a top priority.

A previous story from 2013 reported:

The cost of a light rail system for Wellington has skyrocketed to nearly a billion dollars, with Mayor Celia Wade-Brown now conceding it looks unrealistic in the near future.

A detailed business case for light rail between Wellington Railway Station and Kilbirnie was made public for the first time today.

It put the cost of building the network at $940 million, largely because it would require its own tunnel through Mt Victoria.

This is the problem with the Greens. They never let reality get in the way of their ideas.

Rational people would say sure we’d love light rail but the cost is unaffordable.  Their fantasy would cost $10,000 per household.

Even worse the light rail proposal would produce very low level of benefits, compared to a bus rapid transit system. The benefit cost ratio for light rail is a minuscule 0.05 or a benefit of $1 for every $20 spent.

This is what the Greens are demanding for Wellington. Spend $1 billion to get a benefit of $50 million. Per household that is take $10,000 per household and get a benefit of $500 back!

No rail to Auckland Airport

June 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A commuter rail link to Auckland Airport – which could slash travel times to the international gateway – has been dumped in favour of trams or buses.

The scrapping of the heavy rail connection is a U-turn by the New Zealand Transport Agency, which last year said it was “extremely committed to providing a rail link connecting the airport and the city”.

Auckland Transport (AT), which has favoured rail to the airport as a high priority, meets today to decide if it will endorse the agency’s position.

Road travel typically takes about an hour from the city centre to the airport. Commuter rail could cover the 20km journey in 35 minutes.

This isn’t a surprise as the cost would have been many billions.

However the status quo is pretty appalling. I can’t think of any other major city where the route from the airport to the CBD goes through a residential suburb like Auckland does.  Hopefully the completion of the motorway network will make a difference though. Last time I had an early morning flight to Auckland it took around two hours to get to the CBD!

Auckland rail use up

August 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Auckland Transport announced:

Another record for the Auckland rail network – annual rail patronage has exceeded 14 million for the first time.
Auckland Transport’s General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert, says this is the highest ever 12-month total. “In March, we reached 13 million passengers and here we are just five months later adding another million trips.”

That’s strong growth.

One of the criteria for early start to the City Rail Loop is being on track to hit 20 million trips well before 2020. If they are adding on a million per five months then they should hit 20 million around 2018.

There is another criteria around CBD employment increasing by 25% over 2012 numbers. These were 98,000 and growth has only around 3,000 so that is well short.

However if I was the Government I’d be seriously looking at an earlier start, based on the rail growth.

Rail patronage in Auckland grew 21.7% in the year to the end of June. That’s two and a half million more passengers than in June last year. Mr Lambert says, “It’s hard to believe but when Britomart Transport Centre opened in 2003, annual patronage was less than three million.”
The number using all public transport in Auckland reached 79 million in the year to June, an increase of 9.5% or on average 19,000 extra boardings per day.

Good to see.

I find the more useful figure is average boardings per day. So in 2003 it was around 8,000 passengers a day on rail in Auckland and today it is around 38,000 passengers a day. Very good growth. But of course still a very small proportion of the total Auckland population and/or workforce.

Greens flogging dead horse

September 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Reviving the scrapped light rail system, introducing new electric buses and retaining a fleet of trolley buses are part of the Green Party’s $500 million vision for Wellington’s transport system.

The policy, released today, calls for money earmarked by the current National Government for upgrading and expanding the capital’s roading network to be spent on public transport, Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said.

Wellingtonians could be taking light rail from the railway station out to Kilbirnie by 2020, and the airport and Miramar by 2025 under the plan, she said.

I can understand the Greens supporting light rail as a possibility before it was fully explored as an option. But the two Wellington Councils and NZTA commissioned a study of light rail and even Mayor Celia now agrees it is unaffordable and ineffective.

So why are the Greens still backing it? Because it is about a near religious belief in rail. It is nothing to do with enhancing transport.

Light rail was costed at $940 million, and providing benefits of just $30 million. The business to cost ratio is close to zero – 0.05. The Greens are proposing to waste around $3,000 per Wellington household. If you live in Wellington think about what you could do with $3,000 instead!

The Greens would also retain the city’s ageing trolley buses, at a cost of $70m for their upgrade.

That’s $70 million which won’t reduce congestion by one passenger. In fact it will make congestion worse. The new non trolley buses will make a commute five to ten minutes  faster. The Greens are against this!

I’d love us to have light rail and trolley buses if they were even marginally cost effective. But they’re not. The Greens are unable to accept reality, and are flogging dead horses. Except that if they are in Government we’ll be paying for those dead horses.

A train set for Christchurch

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

The Press editorial:

Labour leader David Cunliffe promised that if a Labour-led government were elected it would devote $100 million to create a commuter rail 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 Christchurch 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.

What’s the actual rail growth?

July 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Hefty patronage growth on Auckland trains is making the city’s transport authority bullish about meeting the Government’s conditions for an early start on the $2.86 billion underground rail project.

“We think it’s highly realistic,” Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said yesterday of the organisation’s prospects of persuading the Government to let it start digging twin rail tunnels between Britomart and Mt Eden before 2020.

He was commenting on a report to his board of a 13.9 per cent increase in rail patronage for the year to June 30, to 11.4 million passenger trips.

That sounds like a big increase.

That was 1.4 million trips more than last year, when patronage fell in the wake of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, interrupting a steady upward trajectory since Britomart opened in 2003 handling 2.5 million passengers.

So 2011 and 2012 figures are skewed by the World Cup. So let’s go back to 2010. That was 10 million trips a year. This year it is 11.5 million trips a year. But how many is that in terms of annual commuters? Let’s assume 250 working days and two trips a day.

In 2010 that was 20,000 Aucklanders using rail daily and and in 2014 it is 23,000 Aucklanders using rail daily. That is growth of 750 Aucklanders a year. It is 15% growth over four years which is just under 4% a year.

To make the target of 20 million trips to bring the CRL forward, you need over 12% growth a year.

Personally I think it will be a good thing if they do achieve ongoing 12% growth, and the CRL does happen earlier rather than later. But I’m somewhat doubtful that you assume growth based on the change over one year only. Let’s see what happens in the next 12 months.

NZ First promises trains almost no one uses

July 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A $300 million cash swap from roads to railways is at the heart of New Zealand First’s transport policy for the election, including restoring the Gisborne-Napier line, and looking at extending the Wellington line to Levin and into Wairarapa.

The Gisborne to Napier line had basically no passengers and freight volumes dropped 75% in the few years before it closed. This would be akin to puring money down the drain.

Labour pledges huge subsidies for a train service no one uses

June 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox reports at Stuff:

The Capital Connection rail link between Wellington and Palmerston North continues to make significant losses, despite concerted efforts to make it commercially viable, and halfway through a two-year trial the link’s future looks shaky.

Labour has promised to save the financially-stretched passenger service by pumping in millions in subsidies if it is elected in September.

But Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has dismissed the proposal, saying efforts to save the service are failing and if passengers want it to survive they need to use it.

Brownlee agreed to a 2013 proposal from councils, including Greater Wellington and Kapiti District, to maintain the service for an extra two years in a bid to see if it could be saved, after KiwiRail revealed the operation was making a loss.

But in spite of fare hikes and efforts to boost patronage, the line will make a loss of more than $600,000 this year, while the number of passengers has also declined.

Only 250 people a day use it. But Labour wants to spend taxpayers money on subdising it. Why?

Will Rudman apologise?

July 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald is not having a good week. Not only do they run a sob story from a Green Party candidate, without revealing his affiliation – they also had Brian Rudman got it entirely wrong regarding Maggie Barry and the City Rail Link.

Rudman wrote on Monday:

I’m guessing that North Shore National MP Maggie Barry will have experienced a true “Oh bugger” moment when she first heard of her leader’s shock u-turn in favour of building the Auckland City rail link.

In her shoes, who wouldn’t have? Contemplating your own demise has a way of concentrating the mind.

I bet she’s wishing she’d observed the advice of a long-time National PM, Sir Keith Holyoake, who advised new MPs to breathe through their noses for their first term. In other words, the way to avoid terminal embarrassment is to keep your lips zipped until you learn the rules.

But in the sweet euphoria of post election victory, back in November 2011, playing dumb was the last thing on Ms Barry’s mind. She told her local paper to pass on the message to Auckland Mayor Len Brown that there would be a CBD rail link before a new harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.

The only problem for Rudman is Barry was speaking about a rail link between the airport and the CBD, not the City Rail Link – which is an entirely different project.



This follow up story in the North Shore Times makes it clear Maggie was referring to the airport-CBD rail project. With regards to the CBD rail loop, she said:

Basically I support the City Rail Link, but only if the business case ultimately stacks up.

Now it is possible Rudman never saw the follow up story. I guess too much too hope for that he would check. But will he now do a retraction with the same prominence as his original column, or will there be some grudging clarification which no one will see?

Maggie commented on Facebook:

During the 30 years I was a Radio and television news presenter and as a senior feature writer for the Listener, I never really expected the same rigorous standards of fact checking from populist columnists as I did from professional journalists. Some columnists are the print mediums version of shock jocks who opine and shamelessly push their own politically biased agendas and don’t much like the facts to get in the way of their stance. Mondays column wasn’t an example of Brian’s finest work but maybe when you’ve been in the job for a long time you think you can get away with tossing off any old purple prose to fill your word allocation. While Brian no doubt had a lovely time dreaming up punishments for a crime I didn’t commit, I take the future vision of Auckland’s transport more seriously than that and judging from the universally positive feedback to the PM’s announcement from my constituents, so does the North Shore electorate. No dead bodies on my side of the political divide Brian.

The decent thing for the Herald to do would be to give Maggie a full right of reply, with the same prominence as Rudman’s article. But many media hate admitting they got it wrong, so I won’t hold my breath.

Does anyone who gets the print edition of the Herald know if they have done a follow up on the Max Coyle story, informing people he is a Green candidate? And there was their housing story that featured the Labour Party vice-president who posed as a house buyer and just happened to say all her problems would be fixed by Labour’s policies. Never saw any follow up to that one either. No wonder fewer people trust the media.

CBD rail loop to start construction in 2020

June 26th, 2013 at 2:22 pm by David Farrar

John Key has confirmed the Government will make a contribution to the Auckland CBD rail loop, with construction starting in 2020.

The details will be released on Friday, and it seems there will be some other announcements also. What will be of interest is how much the Government is contributing.

I first blogged on the CBD rail loop in 2009, and commented:

The key thing is, it is not a choice between improving roads and public transport. They are not substitutes, but complementary.

Labour and Greens have been trying to say that it is one or the other – that one must cancel the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension to fund the rail loop.

I also noted at the time:

If it can be done for that much money, the economic argument really stacks up.

But the cost has grown from that initial $1.5 billion.

In 2010 I blogged:

I think it is the most sensible of the proposed rail projects for Auckland.

And said:

Let’s assume ratepayers will pay 3/4. Work out how much that is, and consult Aucklanders on whether they are happy with that investment. Then you can talk to the Government about its contribution.

The details of the cost split is critical. I have said people outside Auckland should not be significantly funding the Auckland rail loop. However if the Govt’s contribution can be funded from the approx Auckland share of the National Land Transport Fund (ie through petrol tax paid by Aucklanders), then that is fine with me.

I suspect that is why the start date is 2020. Up until 2020 the NLTF is funding the various road of national significance, and as they get completed, my guess is the CBD rail loop will be the next priority.

Incidentally as far as I know, the Government has never refused to fund the CBD rail loop. They have always been careful with their language, saying there is not currently enough money in the NLTF for it. Unless I have missed something, they have never said never (to paraphrase James Bond).


August 24th, 2012 at 10:41 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Labour Party has asked tough questions about the state of KiwiRail after it won a temporary injunction preventing the publication of sensitive material from a leaked business plan.

The state-owned company yesterday won a temporary High Court order after it was leaked to Radio New Zealand.

But parts of it were read in Parliament yesterday by Labour MP Phil Twyford under the absolute privilege MPs have, without the source document being identified.

Kiwirail should dump the injunction. It won’t work. Inevitably the document will end up on a website somewhere, not hosted in NZ. The injuncion just increases interest in it.

On the substantive issue, it is no surprise that Labour’s “sale of the century” purchase of Kiwirail is proving to be a disaster. They paid almost $700 million for a business that is incapable of coming even close to covering its capital and operating costs.

Despite the massive deficit the Government has, it has committed $3 billion towards rail. Labour, Greens and NZ First cry out this is not enough. They would no doubt throw even more at it, hoping that they can fill up the black hole that is Kiwirail.

The solution is not to keep throwing money at it. The solution is to auction it on Trade Me with a $1 reserve and hope there is someone stupid enough to bid for it.

No disclosure

November 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The Green Party has criticised the Government’s multi-billion dollar plans for more roads, saying Auckland can become an international city only if it focuses on clean, efficient transport. …

The Greens would redirect most of the funding earmarked for the $1.7 billion “holiday highway” between Puhoi and Wellsford and provide more options for Auckland Council to pay its 40 per cent share of the project.

University of Auckland economist Rhema Vaithianathan said the highway funding was equivalent to $1500 for every Northland household each year for the rest of their lives.   

Now in quoting Dr Vaithianathan in favour of the Green and Labour party policy, would it not be relevant to mention she sought Labour’s nomination for Mt Albert, and is or was a member of the Labour Party economic policy committee?

Incidentially Dr Vaitiananthan is reported as being in favour of more congestion:

But Rhema Vaithianathan shocked more than a few of us, pointing out that while we perceive the opposite, Auckland congestion is by world standards, actually amongst the lowest in the world, and how good it would be if we had much more of it!

So we can only assume Labour and Green policy is to increase congestion to punish people for having cars. This graph from AKT shows the impact of the CBD rail loop:

So the rail loop’s projected  impact on congestion is extremely minor. This is not to say it is a bad thing to do, but it is not the silver bullet some portray it as.

The truth behind the slogan

November 14th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour and the Greens refer to the the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford SH1 upgrade as the Holiday Highway. They would have people think it is a little used road, that only gets a bit crowded on Friday nights. In fact it is far more than that.

The road between Puhoi and Wellsford is part of SH1. As a two lane road, motorists will know that traffic flows at the speed of the slowest vehicle on it. We must be one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have at least two lanes each way on our major highway.

That road actually has more people use it every day, than use the entire train network in Auckland. Around 28,000 people a day use that highway, and 27,000 use Auckland trains (UPDATE: In recent months this has increased to 33,000). Is Labour really claiming 28,000 people a day are off on holiday? Also, let us look at where the road is.

Now I am not sure about you, but I don’t think many people go to Wellsford for their holidays. Those driving north to holiday have generally left SH1 well before Wellsford. So why is the Govt looking to make it two lanes each way, instead of single lane? Three reasons.

  1. Better connectivity between the main producing activities in Northland, particularly dairying, forestry and mining, and the major markets for these activities in areas lying to the south of the region and overseas accessed by the ports at Auckland and Tauranga.
  2. Reducing the costs of commodities transported to Northland from the south for consumption or for input to the manufacturing industries in the area, so making Northland a more attractive place to live and to develop employment activities.
  3. Making tourist destinations in Northland more accessible to the large market and population in the Auckland region.

This is all about economic growth for Northland. Northland is one of the poorest areas of New Zealand, despite having significant resources. One of the reasons for that is the woeful transport links.

The projected economic benefits from the road are:

  • Journey Time Reliability $8m
  • Time travel benefits $352m
  • Vehicle operating costs $35m
  • Accident cost savings $133m
  • Wider economic benefits $159m

That’s $688m in net present value. The business case said:

“Taking these two components tourism and forestry into account, an indicative estimate of the value of increased economic activity that might result from the improvement of SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford would be of the order of $30-35 million per annum and possibly doubling by 2031.”

Scrapping the highway upgrade to fund the Auckland CBD rail loop will be robbing (poorer) Paul to benefit (richer) Peter. Auckland (including their metro rail funding) already gets 45.7% of the National Land Transport fund and metro rail funding.  If Aucklanders want a CBD rail loop, then they should fund it from Aucklanders through rates and user charges, not from the rest of the country that already subsidises their rail system.

Herald on CBD Rail Loop

November 29th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A “business case” for a central Auckland rail loop has been endorsed from left and right of the new Auckland Council. Mayor Len Brown found it “compelling”, Christine Fletcher, co-leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers minority, said there was a consensus for it.

It is not known how many members of the council are accustomed to assessing business cases for big investments. Transport Minister Steven Joyce seems to know what to look for: figures based on guesswork for wider economic benefits (webs). This report, said Mr Joyce, has “webs on steroids”.

A smart man, Mr Joyce. And often these assessments are little more than guesswork.

It is an exciting project. The loop could be the revival of the CBD, bringing all corners of it within a 500m walk to a station. The ridges around the inner city would be more easily accessible. The line from the western suburbs could come straight into the city, rather than joining the southern line at Newmarket. Most important, many more trains could run once Britomart became a through-station.

I think it is the most sensible of the proposed rail projects for Auckland. Of course I do not live there, so my view is one of a frequent visitor.

As it stands, it seems unlikely to persuade the new Auckland Transport agency where city and national representatives need to agree on projects to be jointly financed. If the council and its representatives on the agency are confident of their project, they must first convince Aucklanders to pay the lion’s share of it.


History has shown that when Aucklanders really want a transport link, when they know they will use it, they are prepared to pay for it. Before Mr Brown, Mrs Fletcher and the rest try to convince Mr Joyce of the merits of this proposal, they should put it to Auckland – with an honest price on it.

Then, if ratepayers are as excited as they are by the case for an inner city rail circuit, they could have a proposition the Government would find hard to refuse.

Let’s assume ratepayers will pay 3/4. Work out how much that is, and consult Aucklanders on whether they are happy with that investment. Then you can talk to the Government about its contribution.

As it is, it sounds like business as usual – Auckland’s voice whining like a demanding child expecting a treat from the taxpayers.

There may be other options. I don’t have a problem with the Auckland Council being given the power to have its own regional petrol tax. I do have a problem with people from Oamaru, Napier and Dunedin being the major funders of an Auckland CBD rail loop.

How to pay for Len’s trains

October 12th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Len Brown campaigned on three major rail projects and has a mandate to get them implemented. That is why we have elections.

However there is no mandate for taxpayers, rather than ratepayers, to be the major source of funds.

The Herald reports here on the likely costs of the three rail projects:

  1. Central City Tunnel – $1.5b
  2. Rail to Airport – $1.45b
  3. Rail to Albany – $1.8b

That is a total of $4.75b and there are around 1 million adults in Auckland. So just send each resident a bill for $4,750.

Editorials 21 June 2010

June 21st, 2010 at 3:15 pm by David Farrar

The Herald calls for transparency around PEDA:

Devolution of social services to community groups is by no means a bad idea. It holds out at least the possibility of having a more effective impact on social problems than large, impersonal bureaucracies that lack the intimate understanding necessary for success. …

The Budget provided $4.8 million over four years to this end. It was a small amount in comparison to Whanau Ora’s $134 million over the same period and its aims were, in a sense, more ambitious.

Rather than a grass-roots social welfare initiative, it seemed that this was intended to advance the economic and entrepreneurial skills of Pacific Islanders.

I think most would agree that the intent is good.

According to the Budget papers, the money has been allocated to an organisation called the Pacific Economic Development Agency about which very little is known. Peda, as it is called for short, has an impressive-looking website that is long on high-sounding jargon and short on evidence of achievement.

And this is the issue. It appears PEDA has no track record in terms of delivering such programmes. Granting them $4.8m with no track record is a somewhat reckless decision. More sensible would be some modest initial funding to give them a chance to prove themselves, and then if they actually produce results consider increasing funding.

The other issue is how were they selected. They obviously made  a pitch to one or more Ministers. Generally work should be tendered as contestable by an agency – not by Ministers. Now of course many agencies design tenders so only one firm can “win”, so it can be better to be upfront and say these guys have an initiative worth supporting, so we will. But you better make damn sure they are actually capable of delivering, and that there is accountability for any funding.

The Dom Post lashes the so called train “service”:

Commuters who rely on Wellington’s dilapidated rail network to get them to and from school, university, work or other appointments can be forgiven for feeling a dejected sense of deja vu.

This time last year, KiwiRail’s passengers were so irate they sought compensation from the company as trains ran late, heating failed, and peak-hour commuter chaos too often reigned.

The result was a significant slump in passenger numbers, leading to a $2.5 million budget blowout for Greater Wellington regional council, which subsidises the commuter service that is owned and operated by the state-owned enterprise.

Last week, those who have persisted with the ageing carriages plying tracks that crisscross the region were grumbling again.

Several thousand passengers were, on average, 20 minutes late one morning, for example, when, in the latest in a series of hiccups this year, points failed.

Particularly grumpy were pupils who have missed many classes or been late for others. Samuel Marsden Collegiate pupil Georgia Smith estimated she had missed 25 classes this year alone because of late-running trains.

KiwiRail’s reluctant owner – the taxpayer, via the Government – acknowledges they are, hence its $550m overhaul of the capital’s entire network.

That major upgrade includes fixing the blessed points, and building a third line in and out of the central city railyards.

I’d be interested in data on what the true cost of a commute from say the Hutt to Wellington is, and how much the passenger pays, and how much taxpayers and ratepayers pay.

The ODT hails justice over Bloody Sunday:

The road to justice is often long and tortuous, but for the relatives of the dead killed on January 30, 1972, in Northern Ireland’s infamous “Bloody Sunday”, it has been interminable.

Thirty-eight years is more than a life sentence for the guilty; for the innocent it is an eternity.

Now, finally, all these years later comes the Saville Report – presided over by British Supreme Court judge Lord Saville of Newdigate – with its unequivocal exoneration of the victims and inescapable conclusion that the shootings were “unjustified”.

Thus, beyond the decades of accrued grief, the pain of false accusation, the chafe of implied terrorism on the part of the victims and their families – which cannot and should not be underestimated – there was the insult of justice denied; and, devastatingly, the unconscionable subversion of all that is right and good about the exercise of power in mature democracies.

What happened on that fatal and fateful day in the Derry winter of 1972 can now be seen for what it was: a blunder by military officers occasioning the needless killing of innocent civilians, followed by years of cynical evasion and cover-up.

Responding to the report on its release last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons: “I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world. But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

David Cameron handled the issue very well I thought.

The train set gets another $750 million

May 18th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has announced:

The Government’s commitment to invest $250 million to support the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan will help increase New Zealand’s economic productivity and put us on the path to faster growth, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says.

The Budget 2010 appropriation is the first round of Government support for the objectives of the $4.6 billion Turnaround Plan.

The Government has committed in principle to a total package of $750 million over the next three years, with final decisions on funding subject to individual business cases.

“The KiwiRail Turnaround Plan is designed to see the rail freight business become sustainable within a decade by getting it to a point where it funds its costs solely from customer revenue,” says Mr Joyce.

“In fact, the lion’s share of the $4.6 billion will come from the business itself.

The Government really has little choice. One can’t sell Dr Cullen’s train set. No one would buy it.

The Greens complain not enough is spent on public transport such as trains. I guess they’ll call for even more than $750 million.

It will be interesting to see if KiwiRail can move towards break even. This subsidy should be regarded as full and final. If they can’t break even within a decade, then the for sale sign should go up.

Banks on Rail

October 12th, 2009 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Auckland City Mayor John Banks calls for an underground rail loop between Britomart and Mt Eden:

Quite simply, New Zealand needs Auckland to work, and for that to happen, it needs to work efficiently. Auckland cannot rely on roads and motorways alone to meet the region’s future transport needs, as the city’s roading network is already nearing the practical limits of expansion.

The key thing is, it is not a choice between improving roads and public transport. They are not substitutes, but complementary.

The number of trips made on Auckland’s transport system by 2051 is expected to increase by 65 per cent from 3.2 million to 5.2 million a day.

Plans for an underground rail loop from Britomart southward underneath the CBD to Mt Eden have been debated for nearly a century.

Initial economic evaluation of the CBD tunnel shows that it attracts a higher return than many major roading projects of a similar scale, particularly as rail can shift much larger numbers than any other mode.

So long as it is cheaper per than Labour’s plan to spend $1 to $2 billion on a single tunnel to help then retain Mt Albert!

The Western Ring Route, State Highway 20 and incremental improvements to other motorway networks and roads are critical. However, these improvements and the new Central Connector and development of the bus lane network will meet future demands only if we complete a fully integrated transport system, including a CBD rail loop.

The capacity of Britomart at peak times would potentially more than double to 40 trains per hour, if it were a through-station. These are compelling reasons why we need to push through Britomart, up under Albert St, beneath Karangahape Rd and on to Mt Eden and Kingsland.

Because of its higher capacity, rail is the most effective and efficient way of providing for Auckland’s growth in travel demand, especially to the congested CBD.

So why a loop?

This CBD loop is no ordinary transport project. This project looks ahead 100 years, to the kind of centre a true super city aspires to.

Super cities all over the world have strong centres and with vision, good design and a sound business case, this project unlocks the potential of Auckland’s centre by enabling much greater access from all parts of the region. This will reinforce the existing role of central Auckland as a regional destination for workers, students and residents and it will cater for the projected growth in the size and intensity of the centre of Greater Auckland.

Enhancing access through a CBD rail loop is critical to the central area’s contribution to lifting the entire region’s (and therefore the country’s) economic performance.

This rail loop is more than a rail link. It is a transformational economic development project at the centre of the new Super City.

So what is the cost?

The currently estimated cost of a CBD rail loop is between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. If the rail loop is not constructed, we do have a good handle on that cost, which includes further road and motorway construction to meet demand (at least $3.3 billion for roading and additional parking capacity, according to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority’s latest estimate).

If it can be done for that much money, the economic argument really stacks up.

The final rail loss

July 1st, 2009 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

The final valuation of KiwiRail was $369 million – more than half the price the Government paid for it.

The Labour government bought TranzRail from Toll on July 1 last year for $690m. A provisional valuation in the government financial statements in September 2008 put the value at $442m.

Today Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the final valuation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers was $388.29m.

A Treasury report said a fair value for KiwiRail at the purchase date would have been $369.54m.

“This results in a final financial loss on acquisition of Toll NZ Ltd of $320m,” the report said.

It was the deal of the century – for Toll. This is the problem with politicians using our money to buy toys/assets. Cullen was desperate to buy – for political reasons, and Toll knew it. They outsmarted, outwitted and outlasted the Government in the negotiations and we paid for it.

Thanks Michael

June 3rd, 2009 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The rail assets that cost taxpayers’ $690 million last year are now valued at just $349 million.

The Australians still refer to it as the sale of the century.

Herald praises train decision

March 17th, 2009 at 7:50 am by David Farrar

The Herald’s editorial:

For all the disruption the takeover of train purchases has caused to the regional council’s plans, there was a logic and inevitability about it from the moment Labour bought the rest of the railway system. Fragmentation of public services offers little benefit to a nation of just four million people unless competition is possible and permitted. …

Now that the trains are also back in state ownership it is important that the transparencies of privatisation are not lost. The tracks and trains should remain separate accounting entities even if Ontrack and KiwiRail are merged. If the Auckland commuter units are owned by the national agency they will continue to be operated by the French company Veolia Transport, whose contract with the regional transport authority was recently extended to 2014.

Govt to buy electric trains directly?

March 16th, 2009 at 7:19 am by David Farrar

I like many were wondering what the likely cancelling of the regional fuel tax would mean for projects like the electrification of Auckland’s suburban rail network.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has not been idle. The regional petrol tax funding method was set up when Toll was in private hands. He is now proposing that rather than have central Govt hand over petrol tax money to the Regional Council for them to buy the trains, they do it directly through KiwiRail.

This means Auckland gets electric trains, yet no hike in petrol tax. It means the cost is funded by taxpayers rather than motorists.

As I said at the weekend, I think public transport should not be funded from petrol tax – but directly by the Crown as a competing public good. So this looks good to me.

In theory the left should love this, as it is increasing the fiscal stimulus they care so much about.

The true cost of Dr Cullen’s train set

March 1st, 2009 at 6:40 pm by David Farrar

One News tonight has revealed the true cost of Dr Cullen’s train set. The purchase price was a massive $690million.

On top of that we have $473 million of subsidies needed over the next five years, $764 million of upgrades and $275 million for metro services.

So all up that is $2.202 billion!!

Thanks Michael. No wonder the Aussies refer to the sale as “Sale of the Century”. It will be that long until the next time they find some Kiwis stupid enough!

The cost of the train set

July 3rd, 2008 at 1:43 pm by David Farrar

The Press wonders how much the train set will cost:

When he announced the deal to great fanfare in April, the Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, said the Government would pay $665 million in the deal. That has now become $690m and covers only the rolling stock and a passenger rail ferry, plus leases on two other ferries.

The Government has also taken on $140m of debt. In addition, it has announced that hundreds of millions of dollars more is to be poured into the company and into the associated rail network company, Ontrack, which the Government bought four years ago. At the moment, Cullen’s trainset looks like costing at least $1.3 billion in the near future, and goodness knows how much after that. The Government has already said the company will need large subsidies to survive. It is no wonder that Treasury was kept out of negotiations.

Cullen has boasted that the Government paid a premium to buy the company back, as though there were some virtue in spending more money.

Oh when you spend other people’s money there is great virtue in paying a premium. Funnily enough less so when spending your own.

Truly Toll looked like they won Sale of the Century.

Espiner on Key

March 6th, 2008 at 11:15 pm by David Farrar

Has been a somewhat messy couple of days for John Key as he took a day to clarify National’s position on Auckland Airport and also gave a wrong impression on National’s treaty policy.

I’d guess that with such a huge lead in the polls, there has been a semi-natural inclination to try and avoid saying anything which might upset the pundits.  I don’t mean this to suggest that National will not have any policy which differs from Labour – I am sure it will. But that when Labour manufacture an issue, such as Auckland Airport, an inclination not to be forced into declaring whether or not one will reverse it is understandable. But a failure to clearly state what one will do in response can be worse than taking a position, even an unpopular one.

I’m pleased to see today that this has not happened with Labour’s attempts to buy Toll. Instead of fudging on their position, I am very glad to see NZPA report the following from National:

A National government would consider selling off a renationalised railway company, the party’s finance spokesman Bill English said today.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen confirmed today the Government had made an offer for Toll’s rail and ferry business, but the Crown and company remained poles apart about a fair price.

Mr English said the last thing New Zealand wanted was the Government to own the rail company.

“We certainly wouldn’t be buying Toll. The worst thing for our railway network would be for the Government to take it over using the OnTrack company, (the State-owned enterprise which runs the rail tracks) which is chaired by the Labour Party president Mike Williams,” Mr English said.

“We would be back to strikes in school holidays on the ferries and featherbedding in the system. We need to look after the taxpayers’ interests and the network and the best way to do that is to have a competent operator.”

Governments had a bad record on operating rail companies and he did not think Labour would be any better.

If the purchase was completed then a National government would get out of the business as quickly as possible.

Excellent.  A nice strong attack on the Government, a reminder of the bad old days, and a very clear response.

Now going back to Espiner, he writes:

The wonder, then, is that he did not say this loudly and clearly on Tuesday. There were certainly grounds for attacking Labour. The Government has intervened late in the piece, effectively shifting the goalposts. It has all but admitted it has done so for populist reasons. Allowing foreign investment in our companies has never bothered it in the past – indeed, Labour used to welcome it.

Labour remains responsible for selling some of New Zealand’s most strategic assets of all, such as Telecom, the railways, and more recently, the national electricity grid.

Nevertheless, Labour has snookered National over this one and both parties know it. I’d hate to think that Labour announced the new provisions purely to trap Key, because that would not only be the height of cynicism but terrible government. I’m sure it didn’t. But it would surely have crossed Labour’s mind.

I suspect they did actually. Not solely, but their decision was a terrible unprincipled act. That is why it should have been attacked strongly.

I understand Labour has a series of other traps for Key this year, and it’ll be interesting to see whether National’s leader is a little more careful where he stands.

As I said above, the response to a possible buy back of Toll looks much much better.

Will it make any difference to the polls? The short answer is I don’t believe it will. Not in the short term anyway. The average punter doesn’t watch Parliament with a clipboard keeping score of the exchanges (at least I hope they don’t or they’re as sad as the press gallery).

Heh so true 🙂

But it might hurt National during an election campaign.

That is the concern.  There’s only a few months to tighten things up.