Port sceptical over Labour's rail plans

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns believes high freight train volumes in and out of Tauranga will make proposed commuter trains unviable. File photo.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns believes Labour’s proposed commuter rail plan can’t work with current infrastructure.

Labour unveiled the plan in Tauranga on Monday, in which commuter rail options between Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga would be made available under their government.

Mark says he doesn’t want to be seen as negative, but although he admires Labour’s vision, he can’t see it working.

“We run 74 trains a week, moving to 90 over the next 12 months. We’ve experienced 64 per cent growth in the last two years.

“Where I think it is flawed is that it can’t work on the same line. The railway line between Hamilton and Tauranga is single-track. I believe they’re considering running the commuter trains at 160km/h, even though the line is rated for 80km/h.

“You can’t just have a train doing 160km’h passing a freight train doing 75km/h on the same track – they just can’t pull out and pass them.”

He says with 90 trains a week, the single track would already be under pressure when Labour intends to introduce its policy.

“Given 41 per cent of New Zealand’s exports come through the Port of Tauranga at the moment, you would think that would be an important consideration in developing the policy.”

He says the issue isn’t about sharing the line, but that another line with a wider gauge would be required altogether.

“There’s been a suggestion by Labour that Port of Tauranga has exclusive use of the line. We’re one of the largest users of the line, but we don’t have exclusive use.”

Greater Tauranga spokesperson Heidi Hughes disagrees, saying passenger rail does not mean sacrificing freight.

“It is just as important to a congestion-free network to have trucks off the roads as it is to have the choice to be able to travel by train.

"Regarding capacity on the line, the Ministry of Transport reports the capacity of the East Coast Main Trunk Line to Tauranga is four trains per hour, or just under one hundred trains per day.

“There are currently up to 30 trains a day on this line. Stage 1 of the proposal adds a grand total of two passenger trains per day: one to Tauranga in late morning, one from Tauranga in the early afternoon.”

She says the assertion that double-tracking is required to add two trains a day is simply ‘incorrect’.

“In the subsequent stages of the proposal, a substantial portion of the budget is indeed allocated to lengthening passing loops and creating long stretches of double track between Hamilton and Tauranga.

“This will increase the capacity of the line and allow a regular hourly service each way all day, as well as increasing the performance and capacity for freight sharing the line.

“In 2012 a series of passing loop extensions built by KiwiRail, doubled the capacity of the East Coast Main Trunk Line for a mere $13 million, with a very high return on investment.

“Operating a trunk line with both freight and passenger trains on the schedule isn’t rocket science, in fact it’s the norm in most developed nations.”



Posted on 01-09-2017 14:26 | By Capt_Kaveman

is the selfish thinking from the POT, Mark needs to pull up his socks are work with it, there should already be a pax service from the Mt to Tauranga as this is where some of the bus money should be invested, and in all this trains still need to be banned from 7.45-8.45 and 4.30-5.30 to stop the gridlock trains cause

Even better - Linear Propulsion

Posted on 27-08-2017 13:02 | By Papamoaner

A linear propulsion rail above the existing tracks would mean the passenger train needs no wheels, no brakes, no onboard engine, no fuel. Slowing down by magnetic braking puts power back into the grid. The train "slides" along it’s own frictionless magnetic engine (the rail) at up to 500kph which could effectively make Tauranga a suburb of Auckland. The construction cost is high, but the revenue recovery rate is potentially huge too. Operating cost is low since there are no moving parts to wear out. They already exist in some places eg; China, Germany, Disneyland (small version). You’ve seen a miniature version in action where "linear actuators" are used to open and shut swinging gates and doors. Same principle. Freight trains can still take turns at using the existing track, pulled by their conventional diesel/electric Locos.


Posted on 24-08-2017 12:31 | By maildrop

l wouldn’t base your argument on travels from one major city to another in high speed trains. If you passed a freight train on the other track you probably wouldn’t notice much more than a blur. And yes, on those major lines, freight would probably run more at night. But the extensive rail network in UK and Europe is much more than the lines from major city to major city. There are are not exclusive lines for freight and passenger services. Fact.

@BOP Man

Posted on 24-08-2017 10:47 | By Papamoaner

The high speed requirement for passenger vehicles is because of the long distance. Moving large numbers of people quickly and safely is the essence of the argument. If we make it electric, we only need one overhead wire. Earth return works fine due to our low earth volume resistivity. Passenger monorail and freight trains can use the same traction wire. El Cheapo options without sacrificing quality. We have world class engineers here in NZ. They could do this no problem.

High speed monorail is the way to go

Posted on 24-08-2017 10:33 | By Papamoaner

Big success in other countries, tried and true and being built flat out everywhere, some in places not much bigger than here. Ililo city in the Philippines have started building theirs with a population half the size of Auckland. Bangkok contracts signed this year. With a bit of lateral thinking we can make it coaxial at reasonable cost by running the monorail above the existing tracks so passenger and freight trains can "take turns" at using it albeit at vastly different speeds. (a world first?) Speed is an important consideration for passenger vehicles because it has the biggest impact on commuting times. In a nutshell, if Tauranga to Auckland is not kept under 2 hours it won’t get patronised. WE CAN DO IT! Look at what we achieved with hydro generation in the 1960’s /70’s - World class! Think positive!

How about this for a thought Mark

Posted on 24-08-2017 08:59 | By Bop man

Instead of saying this wont work how about saying, how can we make this work as you said its not the port of Taurangas rail line and maybe invest some of those massive profits into it that the port makes. And why do we need trains that go 160km/h seem a bit over the top fo a small country.


Posted on 23-08-2017 21:14 | By Badger

You need to get out more. I haven’t traveled through Europe in the last few years with any high speed commuter train sharing a freight line anywhere. Where do you think this occurs? Our narrow gauge track has an 18 tonne axle load and a 80 km/hr speed restriction.


Posted on 23-08-2017 16:44 | By maildrop

You’re way off mark. In Europe freight and passenger trains criss cross each other all the time. They use standard gauge regardless of speed and direction. Direction has no bearing at all. There may be odd narrow gauge line here and there for silly little local trains that go up mountains for example, but almost all is standard. Rare to see single tracks, mostly multiple tracks with sidings to handle crossover.


Posted on 23-08-2017 16:34 | By maildrop

Which countries do you refer to as having different gauges and tracks for freight and passenger trains? Just wondering because in the UK it is the same gauge and tracks are most definitely not exclusively for one or the other. And I am pretty sure the same can be said for mainland Europe.

Train speed

Posted on 23-08-2017 16:10 | By MISS ADVENTURE

So if one is travelling at 75km/hr and following is another at 160km/hr so there will be a problem, a "truck and Trailer" problem. Unless the track is some 1.5-2 hours clear ahead at the start of the TGA-AKL journey then wont get through unless slow down to the speed of the slowest train on the track. Need another track as not designed for that speed of travel anyway.

Kiwi ingenuity

Posted on 23-08-2017 15:38 | By jaydeegee

Let’s be ’can-do’ instead of ’can’t do’ here. There used to be a passenger rail service in the recent past on narrow gauge tracks. Where are the figures to show passenger rail service between Auckland and Tauranga did not pay? An improved rail service will undoubtedly contribute to regional development for both passengers and freight and take the pressure of Auckland. Come on "no sayer’s" - let’s do this.


Posted on 23-08-2017 15:28 | By philiphallen

The track gauge in NZ is perfectly fine for high speed running, although it would need much realignment to attain 160km/h. Spain has been running 160km/h trains on a gauge very similar to here in NZ for a number of years.


Posted on 23-08-2017 14:05 | By Papamoaner

True, but how about if we install a monorail above the existing guage tracks, enabling both high speed passenger movement and low speed freight on the same conduit with a few sidings at strategic points along the route to enable passing or overtaking?


Posted on 23-08-2017 13:20 | By JohnMac

Trains need passengers and New Zealands record of supporting rail travel is not good. Buses, planes and roads work, trains do not. Learn from the past and spend the money on better roads and motor ways and perhaps the govt could do something about the very expensive regional air travel and increase that service. Guarantee passenger rail will lose money and need Govt prop up so why not prop up air travel which is way faster and provides excellent commuter parking facilities for travellars as well

Not Wide Enough

Posted on 23-08-2017 12:36 | By Draginz

The ’Spokesperson’ for Greater Tauranga misses the most important point, the narrow gauge tracks that we run in this country are not wide enough to handle higher speed trains. She is also incorrect in her assertion about operating a Trunk line with passenger and freight as the ’norm’ in most developed countries, most ’developed’ countries have multiple tracks (some of different gauges to handle different speeds and even directions), to separate freight from passenger trains.

simple maths

Posted on 23-08-2017 12:18 | By righto

Am I missing something here 90 trains @ 4 per hour is a maximum =22.5 hours total time7 days x 24hours =168 hours available???Gee that’s a bit of a logistics gone wrong????So effective one day in seven to service the port?? or 12.8 trains per day that’s only one train every two hours???

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment. Login Now
Opinion Poll

Is Tauranga in for its coldest winter yet?

We’ve had colder