Sunday, June 24, 2018

City & Canterbury - rail link to Christchurch International Airport suggested

A 2011 map dusted off. The green space to construct this line (designated for future housing) is easier to see on Google Maps  as is the way the line could be linked into and under Johns Road and an elbow in Orchard Road. 

Small spur to the right, at Redwood is now probably, truly spurious! 

NOTE This blog posting is a revamp of an original posting I made in 2011 and reworked in 2017. With a very real possibility that the current Labour-First-Greens Government will build and fund (most of) the re-introduction of commuter rail to greater Christchurch I have simplified and updated these ideas. 

New Christchurch rail link suggested  

I believe that construction of a railway loop, running from the Main South Line at Islington northwards towards Christchurch international airport, and running parallel to Russley Road (through current farmland) should be seriously investigated and evaluated by Government and KiwiRail. Such a line could continue past (under) the airport area and through the Styx Mill area and join the Northern Main Trunk Line at Redwood

This additional link would in effect create;

(a) a multifaceted orbital route

(b) A loop route taking in multiple industrial zones and workplaces.

(c) direct rail tofro the international airport, from Greymouth; from Picton and Kaikoura, from Dunedin and Timaru,  etc.

(d) a route for trains to operate directly between the north and Lyttelton, without changing locomotives at Middleton, including increased logging trains as New Zealand plants to counteract carbon emissions

(e) a much higher quality, faster and more secure freight corridor north 

(f) a rail freight corridor that directly serves the airport and surrounding industries

Suggested nature - grade separated double tracked.

The nature of this new Islington-Redwood link suggested here could be double-tracked, and grade separated. That is to say, there would be no intersecting roads at all, between Islington and Redwood.

ALL roads (including any cycleways and farm access tracks) would be built over or under the track. Other minor roads would be diverted to link to the roads with underpasses or bridges, 

The above ground sections of track might also be protected by embankments on either side with trees, shrubs etc. adding to the local landscape, reducing sound and hiding high netting fences that protect the line from trespassers. 

Freight trains or "Rangiora via Airport"  or "Dunedin-Christchurch (via Airport)" trains would be able to operate at higher speeds while on this protected corridor.

The route - from Islington northwards to airport

The double track line would probably pass under a new four lane overbridge on Yaldhurst Road. This also offers access via underpasses to Russley Station - which includes a large Park and Ride car-park for residents from West Melton and Russley area - voiding the need to bring their cars into the central city. 

As it approaches Christchurch International Airport the double track rail line Would need to descend gradually into a cut and cover tunnel, passing under George Bellow Rd, Sid Bradley Rd, Avonhead Rd and under the grassed area immediately adjacent to the end of the east-west orientated runway. 

A cut and cover tunnel would be constructed under the alignment of Orchard Road with an station near (and beneath) the current roundabout and Antarctic centre area, possibly constructed in a similar manner to that shown below.

Underground station in Sweden, with walled separation from through route - Wikipedia Commons

Passenger trains would always need to be electric or diesel-battery hybrid, but freight trains behind the wall could be conventional diesel, with exhausting fans and ducts in the tunnel if needed.

With this new Christchurch corridor double tracked, the passenger trains from either direction would stay on - or in some cases veer over to - the westside track, that is, the one nearest the airport with its passenger platform and facilities. This might also offer train passengers a travelator to the nearby airport terminal itself.

All inbound passenger trains, could take passengers to the city - whether via Hornby or via Papanui, presuming many long distance passengers would alight at the airport, creating vacant seats for this last leg.

Long distance trains from Picton, Greymouth and Invercargill, Dunedin or Timaru, would always enter and leave the city via Airport. 

I would imagine that would probably triple the potential patronage of these long distant train services. Off setting the cost or bother of driving to Christchurch and leaving the car with friends or paying airport area long term parking, would be the simplicity of getting a lift to the local station, by friend ot taxi, boarding the train in one's hometown, and getting off at airport. 

This would, in effect, create a direct /continuous public transport service, for example, between "Temuka and Sydney", or and "Amberly and Singapore!!"  

When there are major events, such as rugby tests, big star concerts, extra trains could run straight from the stadium to the airport after the match. 

Map of Upper Styx and Redwood area

Possible route for rail corridor, coming from airport under John's Road in red, joining existing line in blue. Probably less than 20 built upon properties would need to be purchased . Within a few years all remaining chance to (relatively) easily build this track through northwestern Christchurch is likely to be built out. 

Freight movements enhanced

In this scenario freight trains during the day would always pass through the airport area on the eastside track, behind the wall shown here. 

During the middle of the night, when passenger trains are not operating, freight trains can use either track, airport side included if pulled by a suitably non-polluting locomotive The double tracks could be worked as traditional "up" and "down" lines.

This suggests the designated South Island Main Trunk Line could be shifted to the far superior and more flexible newly built section of line via airport, rather than the current line between Redwood, Papanui and Addington. 

With KiwiRail's new [2018] 5 metre safety margin from the centre of a track for adjoining cycling and walking paths, adding a second line to this railway corridor between Addington and Redwood might make this popular cycleway and walkway impossible. Transferring the main trunk line to a Islington-Redwood loop would help future proof it, and possibly could remove ALL regular freight movements off this line.  Photo -  Axel-Schwede, Wikipedia

Preserving the current single line between Styx and Addington (and retaining the attractive cycle and walkway) and constructing the airport loop would in effect give Christchurch three lines of access tofro the North. This is good future-proofing.

In the peak hours one or two commuter "express" trains will no doubt travel tofro Rangiora and central Christchurch direct via Papanui, Or tofro Rolleston and city direct via Addington. Most timetabled services at other times, including evening and weekend services and all inbound and outbound long distance trains - I would image - would loop via airport.  

As a well used line, serving a multitude of functions, any service that runs via an International Airport, is likely to attract more passengers and more likely to have the most frequent services (similar to the Orbiter bus route in Christchurch). 

Speed of public transport is measured by total journey time across all travellers, including waiting time (i.e. the time span between each departure) Frequent all stop services meet more needs and are per se faster than infrequent express services, the latter best reserved for targeted use only.

Reverse flow peak hour commuter traffic

The commuter rail benefits include a reverse pattern flow - comfortable inner city apartment life-styles fostered in central areas because it is possible to get to work by rail to almost every major employment zone - as far afield as Rolleston or Rangiora.  Peak hour flow that goes in both directions is of huge financial benefit to any public transport system!!

Realistic spending

Commuter rail in a low density, car user heavy city as small as greater Christchurch is a very big call!  I believe this plan would make it viable.

For years we have heard people [myself included in early NZ in Tranzit blog postings!!] saying it can't be done, we are too small -  OR saying it can be done, cheaply by using tired old third hand carriages or units brought from Auckland, on the existing lines, or even, most absurdly, as a temporary trial. 

That is not what quality public transport is about, following belatedly along behind other modes of transport, belatedly squeezing minimum impact, minimum cost, minimum game changing infrastructure into crowded cities.

Good public transport corridors should be built as an anchor infrastructure, at the very centre of city planning, ideally before housing is built (opportunity missed in Rolleston but still possible around Upper Styx, and north of the Waimakariri.  

Good public transport is a city builder, a game changer and an absolutely necessary future proofing.

Auckland has well understood this and has spent (or is planning to spend) billions of dollars on public transport, with much of this Government funded, including from Canterbury taxes.  Pro-rata, on population size compared, Canterbury is well overdue for a public transport investment very least, at into the low billions.

I believe creating a primary rail corridor, linking urban sprawl north and south to the very centre of the city, to the city's major hospital, the province's main sports stadium, to multiple industrial areas, and to the airport doorstep -  all on one  line is one helluva world class act. 

Ooops, all most forgot! Add to this the fact that residents and tourists alike would be able to hop on a train at Greymouth, Dunedin, Timaru, Marlborough and Kaikoura rail right to doorstep of the International Airport. 

Well worth the billion dollars it might take to build!

NotedI see this concept as the twin investment to building a cut and cover tunnel under Hagley Park and Tuam Street and bringing rail right into the centre of Christchurch, including immediate access to the public hospital, bus interchange and main sports stadium and exhibition centre.

© copyright David Welch, updated July 23 2018

Added Information (You Tube) 
Christchurch Airport is planning for 12 million passengers per year by 2040 an equal number of people expected to travel to the airport to greet or farewell passengers. 
Currently Christchurch International Airport area sees 50,000 vehicle movements a day.

Friday, June 22, 2018

On yer bike training - Te Wai Pounamu "rail & trail" potential explored.

Somebody or other - I think it might have been Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist -  defined "intuitive" as "seeing the possibility in things".  We all have this ability, but with some people its more pronounced, just as logical thinking or a practical feel for things, or sensuous appreciation are more pronounced in other people.

For better or worse I find it hard to look at anything at all, without trying to join up the dots to something else, constantly seeing the possibilities in how an object, or event, a concept might be developed further. 

Two separate ideas on the boil for me at the moment are; bringing commuter rail into the very centre of Christchurch and, closer to home for me nowadays, promoting the concept of an off road [mainly] cycle trail down through the central eastern seaboard of Te Wai Pounamu. 

Me being me, it was pretty well inevitable as soon as I turned my back these ideas would hop into bed together! 

I have come to believe that this great southern cycle trail route would put tourists on to South line trains in far greater numbers than conventional tourism alone will do. 

Although a lot of local people would drive to the start point of a cycle trail, unless you want to repeat the scenery in return journey, there is always the problem of getting back to the car. 

A cycle trail interacting at various points with a through line, between Christchurch and Dunedin, as suggested in a previous blog posting, and trains which have special train cycle carriages, could solve a lot of problems and between these two modes generate a lot of extra tourism. 

Indeed the influx of several thousand cycle trail tourists, mainly in the eight months suitable for open country riding, could be the very factor that would make a commuter service to and from Timaru truly viable.

And when I say cycle tourists I don't just mean, three wealthy middle-aged teachers from Auckland, or an older retired couple from Arizona, nor a lone athletic Spanish women, or three laughing nuns on holiday. All these will entrain, course... but also ....

I mean mum, dad and two kids (aged 10 and 12) and their four bikes, heading south from Christchurch for a four day off-road cycle from Timaru to Oamaru via Waimate and Duntroon. Train down and train back. Cheaper than hiring cycles, and the kids get a rare chance to ride the rails. 

"Rail & trail" Could also prove very popular with overseas tourists and those flying in from the North Island, particularly if the trains for Timaru and Dunedin travel via Christchurch airport before heading South (and returning trains enter Christchurch via the Airport loop as well). A great way to cram a lot into a short break of a few days.

Railing from Christchurch is also a very handy way of getting cycle trail users, heading for Methven and the (potential) start of the trail, over the "mile wide" Rakaia, onto the south side of a very long narrow bridge.   

Is it possible that even a test-the-water, bare bones service, one train a day to Dunedin and return, and another from Timaru and return, only, could meet the needs of commuters AND cycle trail riders?

As usual I could not resist playing with timetables to see. Here is one set of possibilities, times are reasonable guesses based on road times and memories of the evening railcar service Christchurch to Dunedin back in 1970s.

(Y) x Christchurch 7.30 am  x Timaru 9.40 am x Oamaru 10.50 arrive Dunedin 12.15 pm
(Z) x Christchurch 5.20 pm @ Timaru  7.30pm  [ for cyclists, still light in summer months]

(Z)                                 x Timaru 6.20 am - @ Christchurch 8.45 am (via Airport) 
(Y) x Dunedin 2.00pm x Timaru 5.15 pm - @ Christchurch 7.45 pm (via Airport)   

The strength of this arrangement is it provides a commuter service between Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch International Airport and Christchurch (presumably supplemented by local commuter service tofro Rolleston) at times not only convenient to workers, or South Canterbury residents flying overseas, but also to cycle trailer riders. Many different train & cycle options are inherent in these times.

ps some recent news - purpose-built carriages planned for cycle touring passengers in Scotland 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Great Southern Cycle Touring Route?

A southern cycle route down the eastern seaboard of Te Wai Pounamu would be unusually rich in built heritage, as well as varied in terrain and scenery, 

I live in South Canterbury these days and have been promoting the idea that a central Eastern South Island cycle trail be built between Methven in the Ashburton District and Palmerston, the southern most boundary of  the Waitaki District. 

This would offer 360 km of cycle trail incorporating many of the smaller centres of Mid and South Canterbury,and North Otago, as well as many scenic areas -  inland, foothills, coastal and riverside. Full length journeys would probably take at least 5 or 6 days, relaxed journeys even longer.

The aim would be to create a Great Southern Cycle Trail of  a consistent quality, size and stature to be accredited by Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail as one of the "Great Rides of New Zealand". 

If built this would be a cycle trail that would be easily accessible from multiple points along the route, for shorter rides. It would also be easily supported by bus and bike trailer support systems, for guided tours, for access from Christchurch and Dunedin, or for riders who wish to bypass some sections, where this is preferred. 

Noted too, some trail users are people who prefer cross country walking*, and welcome heavier packs being transported between accommodations.

All trails take routes through scenic areas, often unseen or unknown by motorists, and this trail would too. But unlike some of the Nga Heurenga rides constructed to date, a trail through this seaboard area would encounter relatively little true wilderness, tussock high country and rocky gorge, and only relatively small areas of native forest. 

The route is much more consistently one of rural farmland, village life, and areas with much retained built heritage. This could well suit some cycle tourists or others making return visits to cycling trails in the South Island Te Wai Pounamu. It would also obviously draw a lot of immediate patronage, not only from several large towns and Timaru city en route, but also because, the trail sits between Christchurch and Dunedin along an eastern seaboard populated by three quarters of a million people. Usefully, for A to B rides, and North Island riders, the whole trail sits between two major airports.

A possible trail route envisioned, North to South

Note. I am assuming an inland loop route within Ashburton District, to avoid the more monotonous quality of the plains nearer the sea, and the wish to avoid heavy traffic or crossing busy highways. This includes the difficulty for cyclists [and hindrance to motorists] of crossing the Rakaia and Rangitata rivers on very long narrow road bridges, on busy State Highway 1.  

The envisioned route (south bound) would nonetheless travel at first along fairly flat plains with an alpine backdrop (albeit snowless most of the cycle touring season), travelling from Methven and Mt Somers to Geraldine (or overnight at Peel Forest) and then a further section down towards the coast, via Temuka and along to Timaru. 

The next leg would continue with coastal views (albeit mainly from cliff top) south to St Andrews, and then at some point (possibly Esk Valley) head inland to the small town of Waimate. 

Leaving Waimate by the old rail corridor through the gorge, the trail would travel to Ikiwai and the banks of the Waitaki River. 

For this great southern cycle trail to have any status or credibility I believe it will be necessary to bridge the Waitaki with a cycle and pedestrian bridge at this point, a great chance to create a very attractive landmark bridge, and also an iconic promotional image for this diverse trail. Not least this bridge would hugely symbolise the linking of Canterbury and Otago by cycle trail.  

My guestimate is this would cost circa $10 million  -  the new wide (heavy traffic suitable) bridges further upstream at Kurow costs $20 million - and would definitely need to be a central Government project. Possible features might also include an interpretation centre, for river wildlife, fishing and history, Maori and European. Also car parks, for tourists in vehicles, who are also likely to want to visit the site and walk the well-publicised bridge high above such a strong river. Noted, South Islanders often forget that wide braided rivers of this nature are themselves relatively rare phenomena in this world.

A few kilometres after crossing the Waitaki River cyclists  encounter Duntroon and the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycle trail from Lake Tekapo to Oamaru. In this case the cycle trail  already exists and links through Windsor and on to the route of a former branch railway line. The trail follows down into heritage gem and steampunk capital, bustling and reborn Oamaru. 

Two "name" cycle trails would share the same route corridor through this area but this seems inevitable as New Zealand cycle trail networks expand.

The last section of this southern cycle trail would continue south to Palmerston presumably along the Kakanui coastline and down through Moeraki, and possibly Trotters Gorge. Such a trail is already consideration by the local authority, the Waitaki District Council, as an extension of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. Waitaki has clearly seen the success of cycle trails and is well ahead of the game, not least the potential to get funding from the Provincial Growth Fund recently announced.

Over and beyond sharing the beauty of our country with fellow kiwis and overseas visitors - the greater purpose of cycle trails is to create an attractive conduit for money from the cities to flow back into provincial economies. 

Re-cycling money, creating good health, creating good holidays, creating vibrant rural centres, it's just one big healthy cycle!

Personal -
I am retired, an open country walker (including along cycle trails) rather than a cyclist, and have no official status in this matter whatsoever! 

However welcome expressions of interest, particularly from those living in the Mid and South Canterbury and North Otago

Monday, June 18, 2018

UK Cycling industry is larger than UK steel industry

In God we trust; all others bring data 
- W.Edwards Deming

Nothing in life is ever what it seems. Look at all parts, not just the obvious. This has long become my rule of thumb.  An interesting example just appeared in a leading United Kingdom newspaper. 

According to The Guardian; a report launched last week has revealed that the cycle industry in the United Kingdom is worth three times more than the steel industry and employs twice as many people. 

According to this report cycling-related businesses generate, at least 5.5 billion pounds in the UK economy and sustain 64,000 jobs. Some of these are in bike shops (and presumably manufacture) but most of these are in cycle tourism, of one sort or another.