Look out! ‘Long Hauler’ leaves ARC Station
The ARC Transport & Urban Development made another small piece of rail history yesterday by formally backing a novel rail initiative – something we are calling the ‘Long Hauler’. This came out of an amendment I proposed to an item dealing with possible services to Huapai (see extract from minutes below). The idea adopted unanimously by our politically broad-church (but intellectually cohesive) transport committee members is being formally recommended to the incoming Auckland Council and the new Auckland Transport Agency.
The ‘Long Hauler’ concept actually came out of a discussion on the CBT blog site about a month ago when some bright rail buff suggested running a peak hour diesel service from Huapai all the way to Pukekohe and perhaps beyond. This was picked up by me and a few of my train spotter buddies (let’s call them that – they are actually top rail professionals who like to keep a low profile but who give me an enormous amount of valuable technical advice) and we kicked the idea around this way and that until ‘the Long Hauler’ name popped out.
As we refined the idea, the train would run all the way from Huapai to Tuakau while at the same time a similar train would leave Tuakau bound for Huapai with transfers at Newmarket. This is a smart idea because it means an incremental (but pretty bold nonetheless) linear extension of Auckland’s commuter rail network. Before proposing it as ARC policy I ran the ‘Long Hauler’ idea by Jon Reeves who is campaigning with ever-growing support to get rail services from Hamilton to Auckland. Jon believed the idea would actually help his cause. The ‘Long Hauler’ would go all the way – from one end of the Auckland network to the other -bypassing Britomart – with cross platform connections to Britomart at the swank new Newmarket station (which needs more warm bodies coming and going to enhance amenity) where in future there is likely to be a train coming through every 5 minutes. Those heading for the CBD would just hop aboard the next train for the quick run down the hill to Britomart. (Newmarket we shouldn’t forget is also obviously a pretty attractive destination in itself).
I was immediately drawn to the idea because it enables extension of commuter rail services to potential new markets (the commuterable catchments of Huapai and Tuakau) and at the same time solves two worrying strategic weaknesses in our Auckland rail system,
- capacity constraints at Britomart
- the need for western trains to reverse at Newmarket (since the idiotic destruction of Kingdon Street station last Christmas).
The ‘Long Hauler’ would not be reversing at Newmarket – it will stop briefly and then just keep going all the way to the end of the line. The ideal train for this service would either be a refurbished Silver Fern or a ‘Capital Connection’/Wairarapa SW type. Such a service we believe would be relatively economic to run (based on Wellington experience).
Our Wellington-familiar expert reckons there is likely to be a high number of long distance tickets (at higher prices); a stable patronage base (regular clients on monthly passes); ability to cherry-pick the best stops – therefore fewer stops and fewer acceleration/de-acceleration cycles and therefore lower maintenance costs.
If and when demand picks up – then the ‘Long Hauler’ can extend the concept to Waimauku in the north and Pokeno and Drury in the south. Of course as we extend the commuter service across the ‘border’ into the Waikato it means that the Waikato Regional Council and district council would need to come to the party with some sort of funding to hold up their end. But looking at the results of the missionary work Jon Reeves has done in recent months, whipping up enthusiastic local support for a Waikato connection this should be easier than it would have been – even a year ago.
Now the ‘Long Hauler has left the station – its up to us to make sure the new Auckland Transport Agency catches it.
WEDNESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2010
TRANSPORT AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
B.1 HUAPAI RAIL SERVICE
A391 – 00
a) That the report be received.
b) That Option 3 as described in this report for providing passenger rail
services to Huapai be referred to Auckland Council and Auckland
Transport for consideration and implementation in conjunction with the
new western line timetable.
c) That Auckland Transport and Auckland Council also be requested to
investigate a strategic approach to expanding commuter rail by
scheduling long haul rail services from Huapai to Tuakau, enabling
transfers to Britomart at Newmarket.
Note: Cr Burrill asked that his vote against b) be recorded