Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Back on track: short shrift

Things have been a bit quiet on the J'ville line front recently, although there's a lot of confusion and speculation about the preferred options. On the one hand, Peter Dunne said in the Northern Courier last month that a busway was a "foregone conclusion" and that the councils had already set their minds upon it. On the other hand, the week before that there was an article in the Dominion Post headlined "Busway gets short shrift", quoting Michael Cullen's statements in Parliament, and in particular "ONTRACK strongly supports the retention of the line, and considers that the line should continue to be operated and further developed as a rail line. Neither ONTRACK nor the Government has received any proposal to convert the Johnsonville line into a busway. We would certainly not support that. ... If we did receive a proposal with that sort of cost, I doubt very much that we would want to give it very serious consideration at all. I see no reason why the taxpayer should fund such a conversion."

On top of that, I've heard rumours that in a draft Technical Evaluation Report released to stakeholders in early September, the recommendation was to go with the "bus only" option, which essentially abandons the J'ville corridor as any sort of public transport line! That sounds utterly crazy, and politically impossible given that it was almost universally rejected by the submitters, but the recommendation seems to be based entirely upon cost with no reference to benefits. It's hard to believe that that they're serious about this, so maybe it's a set-up for the rumoured second-favoured option: upgrading the existing rail line. Light rail was apparently favourably reviewed but deemed too expensive (another example of short-term thinking). And the busway? Rejected as both high cost and high risk.

Still, there's no official word, so it's good to know that some people are keeping the debate going. On the pro-busway side, there's still some activity over at John Rusk's Better Bus blog. On the pro-rail side, Gareth Hughes has posted a dozen reasons to say "no way" to the busway, and is promoting a "Save the Johnsonville Line" meeting next Tuesday. The most extraordinary thing about this whole saga is that it's managed to get Peter Dunne and the Greens agreeing on something! Here are the details:

Johnsonville Masonic Hall
25 Phillip St
Tuesday 17 October

Green MP Sue Kedgley
United Future MP Peter Dunne
Ontrack Chief Executive David George
Option 3 Spokesperson Roland Sapsford
Inquiries: email Gareth Hughes or call him on (04) 381 4640 or 027 422 9290.


At 4:41 pm, October 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the fact that GWRC has called for expressions of interest for new trains to replace all of the old rust buckets (+ some additional for capacity expansion) has any relevance to all this?

I believe that the specs require that new trains must be able to operate on the steep grades and sharp corners found on the J'ville line (and not found elsewhere on the system).

At 7:23 pm, October 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there is an "official" comment.

Check this out:



At 12:09 am, October 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the tone of that press release! Is the Crown the UK Crown Estate?

The Johnsonville line needs new stock (maybe some ex-British if it proves too expensive to get new) and higher frequencies to attract riders and make it more profitable.

Integrated ticketing - such as a free bus journey from the station to wherever would help - but eventually if would need to be dual purpose light rail, linking the airport and Courteney Place.

It would be ridiculous to convert this into a busway.

There's a very similar, unpopular scheme in Cambridgeshire busing over an old rail alignment between St Ives and Cambridge.

At 8:59 am, October 12, 2006, Blogger John Rusk said...

Naturally, I had to post 12 reasons to say "Yes" :-)

At 10:22 am, October 12, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Anon 1: are those specs public? All I've read so far is their desparate attempts to scrounge the world's cast-off trains to make up for their lack of planning over the last decade.

Gordon: yes, the Ontrack statement is particularly encouraging, but I'm referring to official word from the councils. At least it means that if the councils do decide to rip up the tracks, they've got a fight on the hands!

Anon 2: I agree that the J'ville line would be the ideal starting point for light rail, and that's one of the reasons that I'm pushing it.

John: naturally! :-) I've only had a chance to put up a very cursory reply so far

At 8:05 am, October 20, 2006, Blogger John Rusk said...


Re bus only, here's one way it just might make some sense.


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