Rudman: All Aboard for the Waikato Express

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Brian Rudman sums up the situation quite nicely in today’s Herald:

Just as people from all around the south of England think nothing of jumping aboard a train to go to London for a day’s shopping, or to catch a show or a concert, Auckland, as New Zealand’s equivalent for entertainment, shopping and just about everything else, should be making it as easy as possible for our Waikato cuzzies to do the same.

All aboard please, we’re tired of waiting

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Brian Rudman writes in today’s NZ Herald:

Talk about trying to board the train after it leaves the station. For nigh on 100 years, efforts to build a commuter train service in Auckland have been stalled by squabbling politicians, local and national.

Waterview Backflip

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Brian Rudman comments in the Herald on the sneaky press release just before Christmas.

Think of a figure, double it, add your age and subtract the number of eels in Oakley Creek: that, it seems, is as good a guess as any for the price of completing the Waterview Connection.

I’m not surprised Transport Minister Steven Joyce and the NZ Transport Agency waited until the eve of the Christmas exodus to sneak out the highly embarrassing news that a tunnel was, after all, the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to join State Highway 20 up to the Northwestern Motorway at Waterview.

Rudman: NZTA’s $1.29 Credibility Toll

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Brian Rudman does some digging:

Figures for the first five months of operation of the Northern Gateway Toll Road, to June 30, reveal that, on average, it cost $1.29 in transaction costs to collect each $2 car toll.

For those paying by phone, it would have been cheaper to have waved them through for free. Each $2 phone payment cost $2.70 to administer.

I wonder if Steven Joyce will now move to close down the toll operation, as clearly it isn’t making much of a profit, let alone a contribution to the Northern Gateway road.

As well they might, because under the legislation establishing the system, the Government agreed that $1.13 of the $2 collected was to go towards paying for the motorway, 65c was for transaction charges and 22c would go in GST.

In its operating report, the Transport Agency says: “This means we can claim only up $0.65 from each toll to cover our operational costs.”

To make up the difference between the 65c permitted transaction costs and the actual figure of $1.29, the agency has had to dig into its own pocket.

This must also mean the death knell for the ridiculous Puhoi to Wellsford road widening project.

Rudman: Sort out the airport buses before talking about a rail link

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Brian Rudman writes in today’s New Zealand Herald:

The Government’s antipathy to embracing new Auckland public transport projects has made the debate over a rail link to Auckland International Airport rather academic.

Which makes it rather surprising that the airport company should be so sensitive about a recent Metro article’s passing mention that it opposed such a link.

Rudman: Let’s Get Rail

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Rudman pretty much sums it up in today’s Herald:

Mr Joyce now seems to be deliberately taunting Aucklanders, promising all will be well, while slowly and publicly plucking the wheels off the trains, one by one.

He seemed to be deliberately mischievous last weekend when, while enthusing about roads, he told the Weekend Herald that “rail projects are [important] as well, but with the urban ones we need to know the impact on land-use planning in Auckland.”

He complained “there’s no business case or plans which says, ‘here’s where we’re going to put the two million people we’re told are going to live in Auckland in 22 years’.”

Whatever else Auckland local government can be criticised for, a failure to prepare reports is not one of them.

Read the rest of the article here.

Brian Rudman: Cheap won’t be a bargain for Auckland’s new rail system

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Following on from the ARC’s media release of last week regarding funding for rail electrification in Auckland, Brian Rudman comments in the Herald:

When the new Government pulled the plug on the regional fuel tax six months ago, killing Auckland’s ability to buy itself a modern, electrified rapid-rail system, Transport Minister Steven Joyce told Aucklanders not to fret. He would come up with alternative funding arrangements.

Then in late May, after a trip to Australia, he returned full of the wonders of using a public-private partnership to buy the rolling stock.

He added that the PPP was not the only option being juggled by the Government and once more patted us on the head and said not to worry, electric rail was still on track for completion in 2013.

Reports now leaking out of Wellington paint a dispiriting picture of the alternatives being considered.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rudman on Electric Buses

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Brian Rudman writes in the Herald, suggesting electric buses for Downtown Auckland:

The talk of removing the red fence also distracts from the real barrier separating the city from the surf, and that’s the bus station that has occupied lower Queen St since July 2003, when Mayor John Banks drove down Queen St in a horse-drawn carriage to open the new transport complex…

On a fine summer’s day it could be jam-packed with people and pigeons. On a bleak winter’s day it was forbidding. But at least it was a pedestrian-friendly link between the city and the water. Not any more.. Now, from morning until late at night, this one-time people place is dominated by the throbbing of bus engines and the choking stink of diesel fumes. Up the side alleys it’s the same. Along Customs St and up Albert St and beyond the pattern is repeated.

For waiting passengers and passers-by alike, the noise and fume pollution are infuriating.

There seems no quick solution, but until we reclaim this bottom portion of Queen St for the people, all the grand talk of a continuous link between the wharf and Auckland’s main street is just bunkum.

One answer would be to insist that only electric buses be allowed in the inner-city canyons. That would eliminate noise and pollution problems.

He’s right about the noise and pollution, but it isn’t clear if his referring to trolley buses, some new fangled battery powered buses or hybrids which so far have proven to be expensive to operate and somewhat unreliable.  And a number of the buses arriving at downtown Auckland have travelled long distances, which may be unachievable for electric buses.  Of course there are other options that could be looked at – electric trams for inner city services being the most obvious.  Also natural gas powered buses are used extensively in Brisbane – I’m not sure why they aren’t in use here either.


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