Duncan Garner raises a valid point
Probably owing to Radio Live’s Duncan Garner getting stuck in traffic on the Southern Motorway yesterday (100 minutes from Pukekohe to City Centre) a debate got under way on the need for inter city rail between Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
You can see a poll and some brief commentary from Garner over here: DUNCAN GARNER POLL: Should we have a Tauranga-Hamilton-Auckland fast train? (in which only 3% as of last night said No).
Now of course any inter city rail roll out would be staged by doing:
- Auckland to Hamilton
- Hamilton to Tauranga
- Auckland to Whangarei
To get inter city rolling out there are three sets of investment needed:
- Rolling stock
Rolling stock is straight forward. A five car set with toilets and cafe pulled by either a diesel/electric (meaning it can use the wires here in Auckland) or gas turbine powered locomotive would be sufficient enough for any of the trips to and from Auckland to either of the three satellite destinations. The catch for the locomotive is that top speed needs to be 150km/h (the DL locos do 80km/h while our electric trains in Auckland do 110km/h) in order that the Auckland to Hamilton trip takes no more than 90 minutes including stops. How many of the consists we need depends of frequency but if we are running hourly each direction from 6am until midnight seven days a week to make the service desirable to traveller full-time and causal alike.
For the most part stations for where the inter city trains will stop are either there and needing upgrading or the footprint of the former station is there and can be easily rebuilt. Given the length of the train (probably the same length as a EMU 6 car set which is about 160 metres long) Auckland stations should not have an issue. Also those Auckland stations the inter city train would stop at are often full interchange stations as with buses and toilet facilities near by.
Suggested stopping pattern for Auckland to Hamilton could be:
- Hamilton (the old mothballed station)
- Te Rapa
Tracks is where things get difficult. Our tracks are not in good state outside of urban Auckland resulting in heavy investment needed to get a decent inter city passenger service going. For example new track would need to be laid between Huntly and Mercer given the swamps and soft ground that even force the big DL loco hauling freighters to slow down from their 80km/h limit. However, given new track investment benefits both freight and passenger as result the investment would be prudent.
For Auckland further investment in the tracks would be needed as well with a third main from Pukekohe to Westfield Junction to separate the freight and even inter city services away from the normal Auckland Metro rail services. Again given a third main benefits both freight and passenger the investment would be most prudent.
Long story short with the Southern Motorway at capacity and prone to accidents like yesterday rail is the only mass transit option we have left to move people over long distances in the most efficient fashion (same goes to freight). Coupled with the emergence of satellite towns and new heavy industry hubs (as industry leaves Auckland) south of Pokeno along State Highway 1 and the rail line investment into inter city rail (along with freight rail) is going to be needed to be done over the next decade.
Given it has taken National six years to pull finger over the City Rail Link we can ill-afford to wait this long with inter city rail and better freight rail!