Month: April 2014

Now We are Electrified, What Next?

A bit to do before we start the City Rail Link

 

 

Before I get into the post here is a Tweet worthy of Tweet of the Week:

That was yesterday when the Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee decided to dedicate his speech to the Government funding alternative transport options – the motorway (or motorways). Most likely you would have heard a pin drop and the tumble weed blow by before everyone decided to take one step back away from the stage after Brownlee’s rather archaic, insulting and patronising comments.

 

Anyhow today marked the start of the electric trains in revenue service with the 5:46am Onehunga to Britomart service being the first. As I have noted before the Manukau Line get the EMU’s in September while the Southern and Western Lines are next year. Pukekohe have to wait until Auckland Council sign the $110m cheque to get the wires from Papakura to Pukekohe (as well as two stations at Paerata and Drury).

Of course there were a few delays and niggles this morning as the EMU’s bed themselves into full revenue service. For the most part I would consider doing the Onehunga Line first and getting the glitches ironed out more “beneficial” than going all out on the Southern Line first. Then again the EMU’s will get a full work out when they do hit the Southern Line next year with passenger loadings (South has the third to fifth busiest stations on the network behind Britomart and Newmarket) as well as contending with those freight trains.

 

Now that we are electrified the question is what next with our rail network PRIOR to the City Rail Link being built. As Luke Christensen got a quick win with the Fanshawe Street bus lanes (which started operating today) we should and can get some quick and medium term wins to further boost the attractiveness of rail before the CRL comes online (whenever that may be).

A quick win is getting your feeder buses to and from the stations, some cycle lanes and lockers (at the stations), as well as some Park and Ride upgrades for the outlying stations all into position would be one booster. Auckland Transport are already getting the buses sorted in South Auckland with the new bus network in operation next year. The rest of Auckland get’s their bus network upgrades over the next couple of years. I am also aware Auckland Transport is upgrading and/or expanding some Park and Rides which will give further boosts towards rail patronage. And after the trial is complete more cycle lockers like those seen at Papakura and Papatoetoe will be rolled out.

So in answering Orakei Local Board Chair Desley Simpson’s question:

I suppose electric trains are good for Auckland But if I was a councillor think I would have pushed for more people to access rail first – no good having flash trains if getting to a station is too hard
A lot of my ward have great difficulty accessing rail ……

 

What I just said about the first quick win will answer the question about improving access to the rail network for the Orakei Ward. For more on the new bus network please go here: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/new-public-transport-network/

 

Your next win is a medium term one but it can be done if we have the resolve. That win being getting the wires (and the two new stations at Drury and Paerata) from Papakura (where they currently terminate) to Pukekohe in time for the Southern Line EMU (electric train) roll out mid next year. With the urban growth happening down that way as well as Pukekohe getting the short end of the stick at the moment, getting the wires down to Pukekohe would be a way to secure and grow your patronage for rail. Also for once we would be ahead with infrastructure investment with two new stations and the brand new EMU’s all ready to go as the first new residents move in what is known as the Wesley, and Pukekohe Special Housing Areas. Having the wires extended to Pukekohe means we can also fully retire the diesel fleet rather than running the mix fleet model.

 

Back to a quick win to get a patronage boost for the South (as well as the South being happy as we can be an assertive lot) is for Auckland Transport to stop procrastinating and get the Manukau South Rail Link built over the next Summer Christmas break, ready for full operations by the time MIT starts Semester One the following February. Okay sure that link would allow Pukekohe to Manukau direct shuttles (thus only serving that particular area for Auckland) but the link and subsequent service would increase your patronage while giving South Auckland better access to their City Centre. 16 minutes from Papakura to Manukau via the South Link by train compared to around 30 minutes by bus (using the Great South Road) I believe we are on a winner here. Of course when the link is built can the frequencies be set to 20 minutes each way from 6am to 10pm seven days a week please (half hour outside those times).

 

For the Southern Line (although this is a long-term one) having the third main from Westfield Junction to Pukekohe would be great to see completed by 2020. With the ever-increasing amount of freight trains using the track plus the increasing amount of passenger trains using the same piece of track as the freighters, it will be inevitable (actually it already happens) getting cascading delays as both modes compete for the tracks (bit like cars and trucks competing for motorway access). So to mitigate against delays for both passenger trains and the freighters we will need the third main sooner rather than later. Especially as the South grows in population and industrial capacity.

 

So we are all go with the electric trains on the Onehunga Line this morning despite some expected snags (put it this way at least Otahuhu Power Station didn’t fail 😉 – wait there was a power failure – just not on the rail line: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11245446 ). As the electric train roll out continues across the rest of the network it is time to get those quick and medium wins in there too. If AT can move fast with Fanshawe Street’s bus lanes then we should be able to move quickly with some rail quick wins too 🙂

 

Electrics Are Go

Papakura gets them next year – but lets celebrate the feat first

 

An important point first:

A reminder as the Electric Trains are officially launched today that since 2003 to March 2014 the rail patronage has increased 423% or 38% average year on year.
Quite an achievement
 — feeling excited.

 

And we should be excited especially after reading this history piece from Transport Blog if it was not for Raymond: How rail was saved in Auckland

Thus I have to sets of big thank you’s I would like to extend in this post.

The first massive thank you is to Raymond Siddalls who back in the early 1990’s was tasked of scrapping our heavy rail network in Auckland. This from the Transport Blog piece on how Auckland’s rail network was changed:

At the time Auckland had also seen numerous grand plans for new public transport networks but none ever saw the political support needed to actually implement them. At the time the latest idea was convert the western line to light rail using a tram train from Henderson then send it via a tunnel under K Rd before running down the surface of Queen St. The problem was the idea couldn’t get political support. The City Council didn’t want trams on Queen St and the regional council saw it as competition to the Yellow Bus Company which they owned 90% of. That left Auckland with its near derelict trains and not much hope for the future.

It’s now the early 90′s and enter Raymond Siddalls. With a year to go before the regional council took over the contracting of services he was in charge running the suburban fleet. His bosses had also tasked him with shutting the Auckland network down. With an aging fleet, falling patronage and little political support (both locally or nationally) no one thought it could be made to work. After looking at the operations Raymond was surprised to find that with with a restructure he was be able to cut down the costs and actually have the company start making a profit on the gross contracts it held.

The critical time came in 1991 when a decision needed to be made on how to move forward. New legislation controlling how public transport services would operate was coming into effect and basically changed everything. No longer could PT be treated as a social service and the focus was on making PT stand up commercially. The legislation also didn’t allow for any distinction between rail and bus services which meant bus companies could tender for rail routes. Note: this legislation is still in effect today and has had a significant negative effect on the planning and provision of PT for over two decades. The new PTOM legislation should address most (but not all) of the issues it caused.

With the network actually making a profit the operation was kept going and the operating company tendered for the 120 services a day that they were already running (today there are something like 365 services per day). One problem though was each service had to take on the full cost of running the network. They subsequently were able to re-tender for the services as a combined timetable which allowed the costs to be shared across all services.

The councils started to get on board and the company was awarded the contract in the South for three years while in the west it was for four years. They were then able to successfully argue that with a 4 year contract on the entire network there was a chance to look at new rolling stock which would boost and the councils agreed to this. The contract was due to start in June 1992.

Around this time it just so happened that one staff member was about to go to Perth to attend a wedding. Perth was just about to finish electrifying their rail network and so the staff member was asked to drop in to find out what they were planning to do with their unneeded DMU’s (Diesel Multiple Units – the ones that don’t have a locomotive).

It turns out there were no plans for them and so subsequently Raymond flew over to inspect and value the trains. He made a call that there were no other buyers interested in them and so put in an offer for them at scrap value. All up he was aiming for 20 trains and his hunch about no other buyers being interested paid off, managing to secure 19 of them.

Source: http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/04/22/how-rail-was-saved-in-auckland/

Those DMU’s being our ADL and ADK fleet which is slowly being replaced by the new Electric Trains (the SA set will be as well).

So a massive thank you to Raymond for his vision and saving the rail network which fast forward from 1991 to 2014 will be carrying electric passenger trains (starting tomorrow on the Onehunga Line).

 

I would also like to extend my thanks to Councillor Christine Fletcher. Chris Fletcher was mayor of the old Auckland City Council at the time the Britomart project was about to fall over (a grandiose project back then was proposed). Long story short Mayor Fletcher cut through all the crap and was able to through her leadership deliver what we now enjoy as Britomart Station. Cruel irony would have it in 2003 that her successor John Banks would be the one to open Britomart Station. The completion of Britomart would be what drove the large increase in patronage to the 11 million mark we see today.

 

And so we come to tomorrow with the first set of electric trains starting revenue service on the Onehunga Line with the 5:46am service being the first service.

Next up for the big projects is arguably the City Rail Link and getting Pukekohe electrified.

 

Electric Trains – the next step in advancing Auckland to the 21st Century

 

Some information from AT

 

Lest We Forget

100 Years Since World War One Started

 

Today we mark 100 years since World War One – The Great War started, and 99 years since the disastrous landings at Gallipoli in Turkey. We all have our own ways in marking both events as well as other wars New Zealand and Australia fought in.

For me personally I had family involved one way or the other in both World Wars One and Two on both the Allied or German sides. Whether it was on my German and Prussian side members of the family serving as Imperial Officers in World War One, or living in Nazi Germany during it tyrannical regime from 1933 until 1945 constantly not only facing the threat from the regime itself but also the Soviets and the Allies who were at war with Germany back then (1939-1945). Whether it also be on the British side my late grandfather in the Merchant Navy running the Atlantic U-Boat Blockades not knowing when that next torpedo would hit your ship next. And after the conclusion of the War he was sent as an Engineer to a devastated Germany to begin the rebuilding process. In his time in Germany he would meet my Omi and bring her back to an equally devastated England where they got married and would eventually have three daughters (the youngest being my mum who was actually born in New Zealand). A Brit and a German getting married so soon after the War would have been unthinkable but it happened. In the early 1950’s my grandparents (so my mum’s side) would set sail on a one of the Government sponsored migrant ships. Their destination? Well pretty much the southern Colonies who escaped the most savage aspects of World War Two (but who had still lost so much in the way of men). And so they landed in New Zealand where they lived (one of my Aunties would return to England to live later on) right up until this day (although my grandfather passed away in 2005).

And it is where I live today – in a free and democratic New Zealand.

 

I do not forget the sacrifices made both men and women, and the Country made in a series of events that started arguably back in 1870 and would not conclude until 1945.

 

But I also do not forget the history either.

 

For example there is this:

A man we held in such great esteem in World War Two was also personally responsible for the disaster that was Gallipoli in World War One. That person being Sir Winston Churchill. Yes he lead the British Empire with success against Hitler in World War Two and even saw the threat Stalin would become. But as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty in World War One Churchill was charged in sending the Navy through the narrow strait (where Gallipoli is situated) to prevent the Ottoman Naval Fleets from reaching the Mediterranean and harassing the Allied naval and supply lines.  As history would tell us April 25 1915 which we now remember as ANZAC DAY would be the day the Australian and New Zealand troops would land on the wrong landing spot with little or no naval back up. The rest and its consequences you should know from the botched landings. As history would also teach us much later on those botched landings in the end were blamed on Churchill who I believe was later relieved of his command.

 

So yes as remember our War Dead who sacrificed so much so we can enjoy what we enjoy today, let us also not forget the events that lead up to April 25 1915, as well as the consequences of the World Wars that still continue to this very day.

He who is ignorant of history is doomed to repeat it. 

Lest We Forget

 

 

Live Beaming of Council Meetings Going Out for Tender

Able to see some of the Council meetings on the Internet – live – again

 

After the Council last year switched off the high-speed wireless that would disable the video service All About Auckland being able to stream Council meetings live, Auckland Council has finally put out a tender to resume live streaming. From Stuff.co.nz:

Auckland Council to beam live 

LAURA WALTERS Last updated 13:55 23/04/2014

The Auckland Council plans to run a live webcast of 57 of its council meetings each year in a bid to increase transparency and raise awareness of the decision-making process.

The council has called for expressions of interest from people who could provide services needed for a live webcast of meetings.

In its information document, the council said it planned to provide a live webcast to make the political process more transparent, increase awareness of the decision-making process, reduce reliance on the media and recognise the increased size and impact of the council in New Zealand and the accompanying need to perform at a world-class level.

The webcasts would initially cover meetings of the mayor and 20 councillors and meetings of four committees.

The committees are the Auckland development committee, the finance and performance committee, the budget committee and the regional strategy and policy committee.

The average duration of each meeting was four hours, the council said.

Council spokesman Glyn Walters said the council had been planning to offer the webcasts since the council was set up in 2010.

…….

So the five meetings this live streaming is meant to cover are:

  1. The Governing Body (so the main Council itself) chaired by the Mayor
  2. The Budget Committee also chaired by the Mayor
  3. The Auckland Development Committee chaired by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse
  4. The Strategy and Policy Committee chaired by Councillor George Wood
  5. The Finance and Performance Committee chaired by Councillor Penny Webster

 

The sub committees and forums that report back to the main committees above will not be beamed live on the Internet.

 

It will be good to have the live beaming restored after All About Auckland’s live streaming was dropped last year when the Council turned off the high-speed wireless inside the main Council Chambers. Yes the live beaming does allow more people across Auckland to watch and witness both the Governing Body, and the Committees of the Whole in action. The restoring of live beaming also allows people like myself to run live Tweeting and live Blogging when we are not able to make the Committees ourselves for whatever reason. And yes live Tweeting from the Governing Body and the Committees is (as I discovered) quite a popular service for people who either can not watch the video or be at the Council meeting.

I did notice this one liner from the Stuff article: the council said it planned to provide a live webcast to make the political process more transparent, increase awareness of the decision-making process, reduce reliance on the media and recognise the increased size and impact of the council in New Zealand.”

Reduce the reliance on the media. Hmm the media are typically only at the Governing Body meetings and periodically maybe at the Budget Committee meetings. Otherwise it is just usually me and veteran reporter Bob Dey casting a very lonely presence at the media table while the Budget Committee, and Auckland Development Committee (both the most important committees after the Governing Body itself) meet and deliberate (with Bob also usually at the Strategy and Policy, and Finance and Performance Committees). So I do wonder if Council is having a go at a particular journalist or in a roundabout way trying to increase the visibility of the Committees.

None-the-less I doubt the Main Stream Media outlets will increase their reporting from Council even when the live beaming resumes. So it will be back down to the blogs and other social media outlets to help continuing to spread the word and provide commentary that would otherwise be absent.

 

Suppose we will have to wait and see how the tendering of this new beaming (streaming) service will go and whether the live streaming will be free.