Greater Christchurch Passenger Rail Stations [1]: Main North Line

If we are going to have a passenger train operation from Christchurch to Rangiora, it will be necessary to look at where suitable locations are for stations. In Auckland and Wellington the typical spacing of stations is 1 to 1.4 km. This is considerably closer together than the stations on the old Christchurch suburban network. To make passenger rail work in Christchurch, more stations would be needed than was historically the case.

If we start from Moorhouse Avenue as a terminus at approximately  11 km, the old Addington station is at 12.7 km so that is almost justifying an intermediate station except that there is no residential population except around Addington so we can let that one go, maybe. Going north, Riccarton at 2 km is too far and the first station, ideally, would be just south of the level crossing, where sufficient space exists for a platform. My view is these stations can be small platforms in the denser residential areas as not all stations need to have car parking facilities. Hence the next station, Station B, would be just past the 2.5 km peg in Clifford Avenue. The old Bryndwr station would be the site of Station C at 3.8 km. Station D would be at Papanui, 5.3 km. Station E would be near Northcote Road crossing, 6.3 km. Station F at 7.7 km near Sturrocks Road. The old Styx site is not ideal and probably 9.1 km is the next best place for Station G. Station H at 10.3 km just south of Belfast and Station I at Belfast at 11.3 km get us to the edge of the residential boundary at present.

North of Belfast with presently very little population we could probably put Station J on the old Chaneys site of around 13.4 km and Station K on the old Kainga site about 15.2 km. Station L can be at 16.3 km near Tram Road. The old Kaiapoi site is unavailable so we could go for two stations in the area, Station M at 17.7 km and Station N at 19.05 km near the Williams Street crossing. A third station (O) along Adderley Terrace near the motorway overbridge is also an option. We are now on the outskirts of Kaiapoi so there is no need at this stage for closely spaced stations.

The next location (Station P) could be at the old Flaxton site around 23.3 km. Station Q could then be placed at 26.8 km just south of Southbrook, with Station R at 28.8 km and the terminus Rangiora (Station S) at 30.1 km. Therefore we have a total of 18 passenger stations in a 30 km distance on the MNL, or 20 if we include Christchurch and Addington.

MNL Passenger Stations

(Click here for larger version of map)


Christchurch Local Government Elections 2019: Key Issues

Christchurch will very soon be facing the Local Government Elections in 2019. In my opinion this is quite a significant election because of certain policy directions taken by the Council in the post-earthquake reconstruction of the city in the last couple of terms.

Talking Transport has ably summed up the election process here. One of the issues I raised in the comments is whether the City would do better in terms of city wide planning if territorial wards and boards were eliminated, and all representatives were elected from across the City and the boards were focused on policy areas rather than territories. At the moment the biggest concern and one which I have articulated on various occasions is that each community board gets to decide how to plan its own transport networks in its own areas. This frequently results in a narrow parochial local interests taking precedence over city wide issues, in which the role of transport networks in enabling people to move across the different parts of the city to reach a destination is made less important than the “rights” of residents in the local area. It is likely that this is a key driver of a car-centric culture in Christchurch and other major cities, due to the parochialness that is inherent in territorial local body politics.

The key aspects of the election which I will address here are as follows:

Firstly there is the regional council elections and the shift from a council that is partly appointed commissioners and partly elected councillors, to the restoration of a fully elected council. There are numerous environmental concerns that people are hoping will be more fully addressed by the change back to a fully elected Council. As far as this blog goes, public transport is certainly a key area. Due to government funding cuts but also a lack of commitment from the appointed commissioners in the last term, the public transport network has certainly slipped. In the first term of the commissioners we had the Hub-Spoke reorganisation of the bus network which brought with it the improved passenger facilities at Northlands and Riccarton, particularly the much maligned suburban passenger interchange at the latter, something CCC would have never built without a lot of prodding. More recently, the Joint Public Transport Committee approach with territorial councils has brought proposals to improve the PT network on the assumption of increased central government funding. The key aspects I would like to see happen better under the regional council are some gaps like an effective complaints procedure for public transport users, better communications with users who don’t have the use of social media or smartphones, and greater transparency and engagement with rail passenger service proposals. From my perspective I am personally endorsing the campaigns of Axel Wilke in Christchurch Central, Tane Apanui in Christchurch North and Rik Tindall in Christchurch South/BP. The first two having campaigned on improved PT options in particular and being in areas that will be key to rail passenger development. I am not particularly aware of pro-rail candidates in the other CRC wards. It is concerning to see Peoples Choice have stood candidates in every ward, selfishly oblivious to the possibility of vote splitting with similarly aligned candidates standing on independent platforms.

Secondly we have the territorial elections which for greater Christchurch are in Waimakariri District, Selwyn District and Christchurch City and it’s in the City that the greatest controversies have been raised that are likely to create the impetus for a big change in the look of the new Council. The key areas that I believe are a flashpoint for discontent in the City at the present time are:

  • Rates rises of 65% overall in the term of the current 10 year LTP.
  • The backlash against “An Accessible City” which was highlighted in one of my recent posts. Although the Council has backtracked on changes to High Street and Victoria Street, opposition to the redevelopment of St Asaph Street was only partly addressed by the Council which ignored concerted campaigning to reverse the removal of much of the carparking along the street. The lower speed limits and impacts on other thoroughfares such as Manchester Street and Tuam Street will also be relevant. This also can flow through into concerns about public transport priority measures such as bus lanes in outer suburbs like Papanui and Addington.
  • The impact of the city wide cycleway developments in the removal of carparking in many streets where these cycleways run and the overall substantial expense which many feel is being pushed through whilst roads in other areas are not being repaired to a reasonable standard.

I must make clear in this blog that I generally support the AAC and cycleway developments as being a long overdue rebalancing of transport focus into other modes of transport because prioritising cars will simply keep creating more congestion that can’t be ignored. This post is simply intending to identify where City politics is going amid concerns that transport focus is dominated by a vociferous car-focused lobby that fails to address many of the legitimate concerns about environmental impacts of large volumes of motor vehicle traffic upon neighbourhoods and other transport modes.

Whereas in the 2016 election the AAC opposition slipped under the radar and there was only one serious challenger to Dalziel (from the left of the political spectrum) in 2016, there was also no identifiable right-wing challenger and there was a record low turnout of only 37% in voting. This election there is clearly a mayoral candidate likely to attract significant support from the CBD business mafia and higher income neighbourhoods over ongoing concerns about the AAC, rates rises and cycleways, and with ward candidates tapping into similar suburban concerns, the Council could shift significantly to the right. The issue of rates rises is unlikely to be able to be addressed unless either the stadium project is suspended or major asset sales occur; cycleways can be put on hold and the Accessible City street level changes reversed in a number of areas.

So the elections will be fascinating to observe and the outcomes fairly important for the future transport directions of Christchurch.



Airport Rail Connection in Christchurch ???

Today’s little exercise is to answer a question of how to get an airport connection in Christchurch. How do you make a connection when an airport when it is surrounded by residential areas? Actually it isn’t as surrounded as you’d think. There are noise corridors defined, and bringing a rail line through these corridors is the way to get into the airport. Back in the day, there was a proposal to build a rail line between Sockburn and Styx in order to bypass the part of the Main North Line that goes through residential neighbourhoods. Fortunately this was never completed, as it would make a northern rail passenger service very difficult to establish as a great deal more of the rail corridor than is presently the case would be in the airport’s noise corridor and away from the residential heart of the city. It would have, however, passed very close to the airport.

If we look at how to get a rail line into the airport there are two main possibilities. These are from the north and from the west of the city. Coming from the north a connection can be made off the MNL that bypasses the start of the former Styx-Sockburn corridor (as it has been built over in residential subdivision) and then follows that route practically all the way to the airport. This is depicted on the map below.

MNL Airport Rail Route

(Click for larger version)

For this route, the overall distance from the CBD to the airport by train would be around 19 km – 1 km from the CBD by road to our proposed Moorhouse Ave railway terminal, 2 km from there to Addington, 8.5 km from Addington to Styx and then 7.5 km from Styx to the airport. This isn’t a favourable comparison with the distance by road from the airport to the CBD which is around 10 km.

The second option is to come in from the south. For this we would look at joining onto the MSL near Templeton. Again  we follow the old S-S corridor as much as possible. For this route the maths would be less favourable – 1 km CBD to city railway station, 13 km from city to Islington and then 8.5 km from Islington to airport – a total of 22.5 km. Here is the route map.

MSL Airport Rail Route

(Click here for larger version)

Now what other alternatives are there? Anything that can use an existing more direct transport corridor. I don’t actually personally think heavy rail to Christchurch airport makes sense and will never actually happen. Christchurch does not have the population of Auckland and the placement of the airport relative to the rail corridors makes the distance by rail considerably less direct and therefore longer than by road. This can only change if a rail corridor is pushed through existing residential areas, which would greatly increase construction cost.

Urban Development Strategy drives LURP decisions

So we have a lot of discussion about parts of the LURP (Land Use Recovery Plan) in Christchurch, some of which is fairly unpopular on the ground. However, much of what was implemented was already long planned, and was pushed through with implicit support from the Mayor and other local politicians, who are now speaking with forked tongues in certain respects.

The Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy has been around for decades and it has its own website at Here you can read in a lot of the detail about the UDS and how it came about. There was a statement in there that I can’t find exactly at the moment, but it has basically put in projections for population growth and then said that 60% of this was expected to occur within Christchurch City limits and that this required intensification. What has happened as a result of the LURP is that the Government’s earthquake recovery powers have been used to speed up the process of implementing the UDS. This was actively courted and sought with the full knowledge of the Mayor and other Councillors, the UDS having been in the meantime updated in 2016.

Likewise we have the development of the Northern Arterial motorway which has been widely lambasted, well that was part of the agreed expectation of the UDS for more effective transport links through Greater Christchurch as is the Southern Motorway. I guess we can agree there are questions about the lack of public transport provision and whether rail passenger services should have been provided for. But no one can really dispute the need for transport corridor improvements as a result of the UDS because some of the population growth is expected to occur outside Christchurch City and part of that will be in the Greater Christchurch part of Waimakariri District.

So the bigger issue is that the UDS is in full force and it probably can’t be stopped or reversed. Furthermore there can’t be an expectation of reversing the changes to the District Plan that have been put through in support of the UDS. I think the real questions are about how to intensify, or how to develop improved transport links, rather than stopping them from happening. So the initial response to the Northern Arterial has been the DEMP, which has been fiercely opposed by St Albans residents. As a result new provisions are being looked at to make greater allowance for public transport and other measures, which is a good move. However the Mayor of Christchurch’s statement that the Northern Arterial was unnecessary, was really a lot of nonsense. Perhaps the implementation of improved transport links in the form of the Northern Arterial is an important issue, but I read her statement as criticising the provision of improved transport links to the north, per se, in that it would make it easier for people to commute into the city, by whatever means, and therefore give people more options to live outside the City than she would like them to have.

From this it’s only a short step to impute that the Christchurch Mayor would not exactly be keen on a rail passenger service to Rangiora and I think that is highly likely to be the case. Indeed, as we already know, the push from CCC politicians is to take control of the bus network, thereby fragmenting the public transport system of Greater Christchurch. But what we really need is a Greater Christchurch UDS public transport strategy to get behind rail development, and we also need Central Government to revise its policy to shift the emphasis from a Rolleston rail service to a Rangiora service. That makes a whole lot of sense, anyway, since there has been a lot of interest already in Rangiora passenger rail services, and not a whole lot in Rolleston.

The Joint Public Transport Committee therefore needs to shift its focus from being a political vehicle for the Mayor of Christchurch’s campaign to fragment the public transport system of Greater Christchurch, to working on the rail proposals. At the moment we have a Regional Public Transport Plan that is largely about Christchurch City because that is what dominates the work of the JPTC. So there is no explicit mention of rail in the plan, and that is the first thing that needs to be changed, as well as provision for better bus services in Waimakariri District. This is being addressed in the proposed changes to the Northern Arterial DEMP but the JPTC should have been taking the lead in that instead of being a follower to political imperatives.

This is why the work of the Chat Club and Axel Wilke’s campaign for Ecan councillorship is so much of an interest for me. Once the local government elections are over, I think we all need to step up our efforts to campaign for a better public transport system. A lot of that will obviously depend on who is elected. Watch this space.

Urban Development Challenges to the Main North Line rail corridor

This is the second of two posts that look at the pros and cons of suburban passenger train development along the two main rail corridors in Greater Christchurch. Compared to the MSL corridor, the MNL corridor is less impacted by development constraints and has the advantage of existing residential development along much of it. It should therefore be given a higher priority than Christchurch-Rolleston along the MSL.

I covered some background of the suburban services on the Main North Line in my last post. These services were trains to Rangiora, which 100 years ago ran five times a day each way (three mixed trains carrying freight as well as passengers, plus two for passengers only. This increased by 1927 to five passenger and one mixed daily with a midday run by the Edison battery electric railcar, some of the services going further than Rangiora. In 1943 there were four services on weekdays from Rangiora to Christchurch and five from Christchurch to Rangiora. In 1949 this increased to five each way. However in 1956 this was cut back to three daily returns, one of which ran with a pair of Fiat railcars. In 1967 the railcars were taken off the run and the service became just one daily service, which ceased operations in 1976. Therefore in general, it can be said that the history of suburban passenger services north of Christchurch was relatively limited. One reason for this was there was a competing private bus service, although their fares were twice those of rail, but also within city limits the Christchurch tram network competed as well.

Going north from Christchurch the passenger stations were Addington, where the trains turned off the MSL onto the MNL, Riccarton, Bryndwr, Papanui, Styx, Belfast, Chaneys, Stewarts Gully, Kaiapoi, Flaxton, Southbrook and Rangiora. In 1958 the deviation between Chaneys and Kaiapoi saw the Stewarts Gully station replaced by a new one at Kainga. At the end of suburban services in 1976, many of the smaller stations disappeared, whilst Addington, Papanui, Belfast and Rangiora had a longer life. The long distance train to Picton continued to serve these locations, as did the Coastal Pacific in its earlier years, but nowadays Rangiora is the first stop for this service north of the Christchurch terminus.

In the glory days of NZR up until the 1980s there was a lot of suburban freight handled particularly at Papanui, Belfast, Kaiapoi, Rangiora and Ashley, but this gradually dried up as various industries along the route closed down or station services were rationalised. The result is there are considerably fewer station facilities of any sort left along the route. The old platform still exists at Addington although passenger trains of any kind have not used it since 1993. Papanui still has its platform with the station building leased out. Belfast platform is very overgrown but still exists, whilst at Rangiora the platform and veranda are still used but the building is also leased. There is practically no local freight operating these days (possibly none at all) and there are only four trains a day in fact running in the section at the current time. This means there is plenty of capacity in actuality meaning to establish a passenger service would be relatively straightforward.

The best thing in favour of a suburban passenger service on the Rangiora line is that there is already a lot of urban development along that corridor and room for more. From Christchurch through to Belfast is practically unbroken continuous housing except for pockets of industrial in Addington and Papanui. This has been amplified around Belfast since the quakes due to new subdivisions. However there does appear to be new industrial development being allowed now in Belfast near the old freezing works and questions should be asked about why we need more industrial sprawl north of Christchurch along the rail corridor which will not actually be connected to the rail line. Towards Chaneys is very low density for residential and I am unsure what the situation is for urban development there. North of the river in Waimakariri District, Kaiapoi is partly under the airport noise corridor but from the motorway overbridge right through to Rangiora has the ability to be developed.

The main obstacle from a railway operational viewpoint are the lack of stations and crossing facilities. The station at Addington is too small to be used for both the long distance trains and suburban services and the curve faces the wrong way to access a suburban terminal in the central city, although it is possible to reinstate a connection to reach the CBD. The only intermediate crossing point along the section is at Belfast, and a second platform would be needed there so that trains could stop in both directions. Kaiapoi would be difficult since there is no obvious place where to locate a station except by taking land near its former site. However on the other hand there is plenty of capacity and therefore not likely to be scheduling challenges. Since the earthquakes closed the line to freight for a couple of years, the number of through train services dropped off dramatically and now there are only two trains in each direction per day, so there is plenty of room to schedule suburban passenger services.

Urban Development Challenges to the Main South Line rail corridor

Following on from last time here is the first of two posts which compare the two existing rail corridors and have a look at the pros and cons of each. The Main South Line corridor originates at Lyttelton and runs through Rolleston on its way to Invercargill. In its 2017 election manifesto, Labour placed on record a funding promise for development of suburban passenger services from Christchurch to Rolleston. I have yet to determine why Rolleston was chosen as at the time, there was considerable local interest in developing the Rangiora corridor and relatively little interest in Rolleston. The practical impact is that the past couple of years has seen the focus go into Rolleston in a questionable and possibly fruitless way.

The various factors that have influenced the historical population distribution of Christchurch City are not something I know anything about, but for many years the Main South Line corridor has tended to be developed more for industrial and very low density population distribution in Christchurch as a whole. This has been accelerated since the 1950s/1960s with some of the housing that used to be close to the corridor through Sockburn, for example, replaced by industry with a particular focus on private siding access. The MSL has had the bulk of rail traffic within Christchurch city limits for decades and for this reason had as many as four tracks in parallel between Christchurch and Islington, two bi-directional shunt lines for freight only and two main lines that were sometimes bi-directional and sometimes uni-directional. From Lyttelton to Christchurch and from Islington to Rolleston the railway was historically equipped with dual uni-directional main lines, except for the Lyttelton Tunnel which has always been single track. From the 1990s with the drop off in rail freight most of the four track sections went down to two main lines, and the Linwood-Addington and Islington-Rolleston sections were singled. In more recent times the “third road” and “fourth road” lines have been reinstated in parts to serve new sidings between Addington and Sockburn due to the development of privately operated freight forwarding services by some of NZ’s largest transport logistics companies.

The 1960 Christchurch Railway Station in Moorhouse Ave was designed from the outset to handle large volumes of suburban passenger traffic, but by the time it opened, this traffic had falled off significantly. The station had six platforms, there being four shorter dock platforms for local trains and the two longer main platforms for long distance trains. The eastern docks were only suitable for trains to Lyttelton and as there was usually only one of these at a time, the other dock was used for freight loading. Western docks would handle the local passenger trains that went north and south. On the Main North Line this was a service to Rangiora that even in the 1940s only ran four times a day in each direction. This was reduced to three trains each way daily in 1956 and once each way in 1967. The service ceased completely in 1976. Passengers could transfer to and from the city tram network at Papanui. MSL local passenger services included a daily return to Ashburton which ceased in 1958, daily returns to Southbridge and Little River until 1951 and the last train going south was the daily return to Burnham Military Camp which finished up in 1967. There was also a mixed (passengers and freight) return service to Springfield on the Midland Line via Rolleston until 1968. The Christchurch-Lyttelton section of the Main South Line corridor had the most frequent services that in the early 1960s amounted to 22 returns daily, hauled by electric locomotives. This was cut back in response to the 1964 opening of the Lyttelton road tunnel with the CTB bus service that competed with the trains, the electric locomotives were taken off the run in 1970 and the entire service ceased in 1972 (Source: “The Country Commuter”, Les Dew, CTB/THS, 1988).

Currently in Christchurch the distribution of urban housing in adjacent proximity to the Main South Line corridor is confined to the following areas: Lyttelton to Heathcote, Opawa, pockets of Addington, pockets of Sockburn, Islington, Templeton and Rolleston. In some of these areas, residential housing that was once closer to the railway has been displaced by newer industrial development. This means the population that can be usefully serviced by suburban passenger trains is limited, and in reality that has scarcely been any different over the whole history of Christchurch. Because of the large scale and long term entrenchment of industrial development along this corridor, it would be difficult to displace much of the existing industrial development in the City in favour of residential housing, and west of Islington the only area of expansion is to the south and west of Rolleston as noted in the previous post. Even if we exclude Christchurch to Lyttelton and only focus on Christchurch to Rolleston, the options are still limited. Present intensification priorities for inner suburbs in Christchurch adjacent to this rail corridor could be expected to impact mainly in Addington, close to the city terminus of suburban passenger services.

The conclusion for this post is that a suburban passenger service to Rolleston should not be considered a greater priority than one going north to Rangiora, as there is limited potential for increased passenger numbers other than at Rolleston, and because most passengers would only be carried between the two terminii. The only real advantages the Rolleston route has is that it is double tracked almost all the way and has good historical locations for stations that remain largely unimpinged on.


Greater Christchurch urban development constraints from Christchurch International Airport

As we know which has been covered in this blog in various forms previously, we do have an interest here in rail suburban passenger services on the Christchurch-Rolleston and Christchurch-Rangiora rail corridors.

The current pattern of urban development in Greater Christchurch is impacted by the location of Christchurch International Airport and the imposition of noise corridors on the axes of the airport’s runways. The traditionally used noise contour corridor imposed is labelled “50 dB Ldn” or similar and extends over most of the rail corridor from Islington to Rolleston, and from the north bank of the Waimakariri River to Kaiapoi. The noise corridor is influenced by the commercial imperative of Christchurch International Airport Ltd (75% owned by Christchurch City Council vial CCHL) which strongly asserts the airport should be operable 24/7 without curfews. These assumptions have been challenged numerous times in the Courts and in the recent Recovery Planning processes followed after the Christchurch quakes. These have resulted in a small relaxation in the noise contour over Rolleston and some limited additional development being permitted in Kaiapoi but the bulk of the zoning remains unchanged. In future the question of whether the imposition of curfews would be unduly onerous will no doubt come up as it has already many times.

The key question therefore is how the imposition of these contours will affect the future development of the area along with the prospects of rail passenger services. It is an unfortunate reality that the alignment of the north-south runway at Christchurch International Airport is nearly parallel to the Main South Line rail corridor between Islington and Rolleston and therefore overlaps it significantly, partly due to the curve in the corridor just past Islington where it changes from a due west heading to a south west heading. In practical terms of the railway geography, the limited area encompasses around 10 km of the Main South Line corridor. When we’re referring to the total distance from Christchurch out to Rolleston, this is about half of the total distance to Rolleston and is therefore quite significant. Development right along the edges of the rail corridor is therefore restricted at the current time. However the noise corridor is relatively narrow at the point where it most overlaps the rail corridor, being based on the assumption that aircraft will navigate on strict headings and altitude limits for short final approaches to the main north-south runway.

As far as the practicality of rail development on the Main South Line corridor goes, it would be impractical to develop residentially on both sides of the corridor from about 21 to 31 km milepegs. This is quite a substantial chunk out of the 22 km of the distance from Christchurch to Rolleston and does create a significant impact on the prospect for suburban trains being able to serve enough population. To overcome the impact of this 10 km of no residential population, the area of southern Rolleston would need to be able to develop to a much larger population than currently to make up for the loss of the population along that 10 km. The township of Templeton is entirely within the noise corridor and presumably is limited to its existing boundaries.

MSL Airport Noise Corridor
Larger version of this image

The impact on the northern corridor is somewhat less due to it being nearly at right angles to the north-south runway axis at the point where the noise corridor mostly impacts. This is due to the way the rail corridor curves around from north-easterly to north-westerly for a period, almost a 90 degree turn, just south of the Waimakariri River, in order to line up with Kaiapoi and Rangiora, before crossing the Ashley River and turning due east for a period and then back to north-east. Due to the proximity of the Waimakariri River and other waterways the practical impact of the corridor would be to limit development from about the 15 km milepeg to about 22 km. The main difference is that there is already development under the noise corridor which has been expanded since the quakes in the city of Kaiapoi and this means that Kaiapoi can be extended on its northern boundary just as Rangiora expands south.

MNL Airport Noise Corridor
Larger version of this image

I’ll take a more indepth look at the differences between the North and South rail corridors as far as these factors along with some operational questions for the rail line itself are to be considered.



Labour’s Christchurch public transport funding promise in-depth and how the rail industry needs to steal the initiative [2]

As a follow on to my previous post [1] with the same title as this one, I have now discovered a very relevant article by financial journalist and Newsroom managing editor Bernard Hickey. His topic is a commentary on why Kiwibuild has failed as a policy and what the implications are for solving the housing crisis around New Zealand. He writes in effect that the government will never be able to get enough houses built to solve the crisis unless it can find a way to fund the infrastructure needed to support residential development.  As he puts it, “Planning and building 100,000 homes over a decade in our fastest growing cities requires much, much more than just finding people and building materials to build houses. It requires massive capital investment in transport, water, earthworks and other infrastructure, most of which require co-investment from private and council investors if the central Government is not going to step up and use its balance sheet to borrow the money to invest in the pipes and roads and railways and shopping centres and parks and industrial buildings.” In the last 35 years he notes that Government has pushed the funding costs onto local ratepayers. Hence we now have the development contributions charged by councils which are claimed with some justification to be a financial impediment to housing development. It’s an exercise in buck passing since ratepayers are also taxpayers but of course the goal was that the government could shift the political liability off itself.

Essentially this has significant implications for transport and infrastructure development in all the main centres, including Christchurch. One of the key preconditions for the development of the rail corridor to Rolleston for passenger use is it becomes a housing corridor to shore up passenger counts. This will require in turn that Christchurch City Council is willing to fund infrastructure development along that corridor, and speed up planning processes to make it all come together. If this doesn’t happen quickly, then we will be waiting for a very long time for any rail passenger services in Christchurch because the justification for them will be shaky at best. With ten years of 5% rating rises already predicted for the city, there simply will not be any money available to fund urban development along the southern rail corridor, much of which is presently in light industrial usage.

The government has made some big mistakes by stating that the $100 million offered to establish a passenger train service will also be available to fund other related passenger services (buses) and infrastructure. It will cost a significant amount to establish the passenger train service. But the problem is that it has created an incentive for the Christchurch City Council to go for the supporting services and argue that rail passenger (which mainly helps people outside its borders) does not have any relevance and should be quietly dropped. And in case, it will take many years to make passenger train services able to fund themselves to the extent seen in Auckland and Wellington. The net result is we could be waiting a long long time until the first train runs.

Labour’s Christchurch public transport funding promise in-depth and how the rail industry needs to steal the initiative [1]

As part of its 2017 election campaign manifesto, NZ Labour Party promised to invest up to $100 million into public transport for Greater Christchurch. Although the policy is often represented as $100 million for passenger trains to Rolleston, it potentially covers a range of different PT areas.

The specific detail includes:

After nine years in office, National has failed to make the investments needed to keep up with these changes and a growing population. This is causing increasing congestion in the city. Congestion now adds 29 minutes a day to the average commute. Only three per cent of commuters in Greater Christchurch take public transport to work, compared to seven percent in Auckland and 12 per cent in Wellington. It’s time for additional public transport infrastructure to reduce congestion on our roads and better link major centres of population with central Christchurch.

Labour will:

Commit an additional $100m from the National Land Transport Fund in capital investment to Greater Christchurch multi-modal public transport, including commuter rail from Rolleston to the CBD as a first step. We’ll work with local authorities and other partners on a 21st century strategic multi-modal transport plan for Greater Christchurch.

Along with commuter rail, the $100m investment will be available to support infrastructure for buses and bus feeder services as determined through consultation with local councils. These investments will ease congestion and open up areas like Rolleston, Rangiora, Kaiapoi for residential and commercial development. In combination with KiwiBuild, these investments will spark revitalisation of suburban town centres.

So what are the key implications of this policy?

  • The biggest concern in this is that Christchurch City Council wants to take over and own this policy. The Mayor who is a well known former Labour MP, and her lackeys, are campaigning to take over the public transport network of the city from the regional council. To this end she forced the establishment of the Joint Public Transport Committee as a campaign platform. Most of the work that it does is overwhelmingly biased towards Christchurch.
  • Work on the public transport policy development for Christchurch (as the Labour Party claims to be doing) is mostly being led by CCC with some Ecan input and appears to be happening behind closed doors at this stage, with little opportunity for public input. There is room for doubt over the speed with which the work is taking place.
  • CCC has never been interested in supporting rail passenger services in the city. Due to the smaller size of Christchurch, rail passenger services only make sense (and historically only ever have) going further out to Rolleston and Rangiora, both areas outside the city limits. There has been no long-term strategic planning by CCC in support of rail. Furthermore as CCC owns most of the shares in the Port of Lyttelton they are likely opposed to the role rail plays in shifting freight out of the city to competing ports.
  • With the relentless push by the Council for control of the public transport in the City (which has been a goal pursued unsuccessfully since the 19th century) this policy could end up being rewritten to be more favourable to the City with the majority of money going into the existing bus based network and possible BRT development and as little as possible going into rail passenger services which are after all more use outside the city limits.
  • The Joint Public Transport Committee’s Regional Land Transport Plan envisaged a much greater number of bus routes together with two rapid transit corridors but left open the question of where funding would come from. Apart from the campaign promise, there has been no new funding for this RLTP to be implemented and in fact the only route changes made so far have been done under the existing PTOM regime and 50% FBT target implemented by the last National government which Labour has so far failed to reverse.
  • The RPTP produced by the JPTC fails to explicitly mention rail with merely vague references to the rapid transit corridors. However, these corridors do not have the reach of the rail corridors as they stop at Belfast and Hornby, or the city limits.
  • There is therefore considerable cause for concern that CCC politicians will try to rewrite the regional public transport agenda set down by the Government in favour of something that overwhelmingly favours the City and non-rail transport networks.

So at this point I believe it will be necessary to engage with the professional rail community in Christchurch in order to start campaigning for more transparency around the process of developing rail passenger services to Rolleston and ensure a public voice is heard in favour of rail.