Tuesday, 19 February 2019

North Auckland Line [0B]: Progress Report 2

Currently I am getting all the aerial imagery needed for Volume 1 (North Auckland Line). As we know from the history, until 1974 the NAL started at Newmarket and from there ran just over 181 miles to Opua. With metrication and changes in designations, the junction was shifted back to Westfield, but Opua remained the terminus, now almost 300 km away. Most of the aerials were downloaded a couple of weeks ago and I now have to go through them to select the ones needed and overlap the various 0.1m and 0.4m layers into the GIS.

For the start of mapping this line I will be doing the topmost two lines, the Opua-Kawakawa line (Bay of Islands Vintage Railway) and the Okaihau Branch. These lines are joined at Otiria, which is currently the terminus of the North Auckland Line. Both sections closed to traffic in the mid 1980s but the BOIVR (initially the Bay of Islands Scenic Railway) took over Opua-Kawakawa and continue to operate it to this day, whilst the Okaihau branch was lifted. 

The Bay of Islands Scenic Railway had a troubled start and closed down and was re-opened as BOIVR, however the Far North District Council (a National-leaning administration) forced them to hand over the terminus at Opua for a marina construction and therefore it is no longer possible for trains to reach the wharf, the same council also pushed through use of part of the remaining corridor that BOIVR had then mothballed (due to a bridge repair project) to be converted to a cycle way. Work is now proceeding on reinstating the rail line to a new terminus just south of Opua. The short section of line from Otiria to Kawakawa was mothballed and then lifted, but may be reinstated in the future.

The Okaihau Branch ran from Otiria to Okaihau via Kaikohe. It is the most northern railway line in NZ and was planned to reach Kaitaia. Work beyond Okaihau to Rangiahua continued into the early 1930s, but was closed down by the government in 1936. The tunnel under the main street of Okaihau and the former station platform and loading bank at Rangiahua are the most visible signs remaining signs of this work.

We have NZR surveys of Okaihau, Kaikohe, Otiria, Moerewa, Kawakawa and Opua and these will be the map mosaics initially developed. Further south there are also NZR surveys of Whangarei (including Kamo and the Port), Portland, Waiotira, Wellsford, Helensville and Waitakere, and non-NZR surveys of Kumeu, Oakleigh and Waimauku. At this stage I don't know what the order is for these, or how many of them will be done in the initial stages. At the moment I am just focusing on getting all the aerial photos from Linz for all the routes and just starting with the top two lines.


Clear choices needed in local government elections

Later this year there will be local government elections held throughout New Zealand. Whilst there are only a few areas in which good transport options are being compromised by local politicians, it is important to address these, and the areas concerned are as follows:
  • Northland - the Regional Council is too pro-road (being dominated by National Party members) and needs to shift back to supporting rail as they did ten years ago when they did a lot of good work in the early stages of developing the proposal for the Marsden Point branch.
  • Gisborne - has a unitary council which itself was a bad idea back in 1989, but that's another story. The region has suffered from neglect with the National government slashing land transport corridor funding all round.
    • Gisborne local government's transport plan is focused on using their port for log traffic and moving everything else by road hundreds of kilometres to another port (Napier and Tauranga are both about 200 kilometres by road from Gisborne). 
    • Apparently about 900,000 tonnes of freight is moved by road in and out of Gisborne every year.
    • This is very self seeking as all they are interested in is the money they can make out of moving logs through the port. The reason for this is they have a monopoly and can therefore jack up the price. No one is going to move the logs to another port by road.
    • Logs are a type of freight that has low margins meaning they have to shift very large volumes of them to make a reasonable amount of money.
    • Apart from the extra cost of shifting freight by road, the two highways north-west and south go through difficult country (as does the railway) and all three have been majorly affected by the unstable geology of the area resulting in substantial cost to keep them operating.
    • The options for Gisborne therefore are spending money on land transport options whereby if there is the choice of putting large amounts of money into a transport corridor then the railway would be a better choice than the highways but none of these options are cheap and will have ongoing maintenance expenses. They will be difficult to keep open as reliably as the transport corridors south of Wairoa.
    • The other option is coastal shipping which fits well with another part of Labour's transport strategy. It doesn't require large ongoing expenditure like the land transport corridors do. However the idiots in power in Gisborne are focused on going it alone rather than working with another port (either Tauranga or Napier) to move containers by sea. 
  • Wellington
    • Wellington City Council has welshed on its commitment to a Rapid Transport system. Although this may be addressed by new proposals for light rail.
  • Marlborough - another example of poor governance under a unitary authority structure.
    • MDC is responsible for air pollution from the ferry fleet but has been shirking its responsibilities in this area. This is becoming a concern for people living in the Sounds. Low sulphur fuel should be mandatory for the Cook Strait ferries.
  • Christchurch
    • The Christchurch City Council is not committed to spending any significant funding on transport infrastructure and has created obstacles to route changes within the city.
    • The Regional Council is returning to a fully elected structure this year and there needs to be the right kind of people elected and especially pro public transport people as there has been poor priority to PT under years of appointed National Party commissioners.
  • Dunedin
    • As in Christchurch, Dunedin City Council is focused on political objectives over who controls the operation of the bus network rather than providing better services to its residents such as improving roads to enable more stops and better routes.
The Government also needs to look at some policy settings.
  • We look set to keep regional council control of public transport services in most regions of NZ which is a good policy. 
  • However the government has so far failed to address farebox recovery target funding by NZTA
  • The problems caused by central government interference in public transport tendering under the PTOM have yet to be addressed in any form, so there are still problems seen in areas like Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin where the regional council is still having to work with the challenges of being dictated to by NZTA
  • In Wellington the Regional Council (GWRC) is able to own and build rail related infrastructure so the question of why regional councils in other regions such as Canterbury are not funded to build infrastructure is a question as this is usually left to a territorial council to provide and most don't spend more than a token amount.

Friday, 8 February 2019

East Coast Main Trunk [2A]: Kinleith Branch 1

So last year I wrote some posts about Rotorua, specifically the old railway station in the middle of the city. I also wrote I didn't expect to do any more of the ECMT for a while. Well here I am nearly 8 weeks later writing about the ECMT again. This is because at the moment I am working on maps of the Kinleith Branch and Tokoroa.

Kinleith Branch is an interesting line with an interesting history. The first part from Morrinsville to Putaruru was originally the Rotorua Branch and opened in the 19th century. Then along came an outfit called the Taupo Totara Timber Co, and they built a bush tramway from Putaruru to Mokai, which is near Lake Taupo. This crossed the Waikato River on an interesting wooden suspension bridge, which was eventually replaced with a steel structure. The idea was that the government might later take over the tramway and convert it into a railway to Taupo. This never actually eventuated as such, but just after World War II, when the TTT was looking to close down its rail operation, the government did buy the full line and they reconstructed the first 30 km of it to become the Kinleith Branch from Putaruru to Kinleith, where a forestry mill was built that operates to this day. Tokoroa became the principal service town for the mill and has developed from a mere siding and industrial plant (not sure what for exactly) in the middle of bare land, into the sprawling metropolis that it is today. The other 52 km of TTT line was lifted and the bridge over the Waikato, which would have become submerged below the waters of hydro Lake Whakamaru was, we assume, dismantled.

Fast forward a little and with the opening of the East Coast Main Trunk itself to Taneatua in 1928, the inadequacis of the main line route via the Karangahake Gorge became apparent and pressure developed for an improved route to increase capacity. Thus the Kaimai Deviation was born and took shape in the 1970s. The new route, opened in 1978, joined the Rotorua Branch at Waharoa, resulting in the first part of the Branch becoming the main line, and at the same time, the Branch section from Waharoa to Putaruru was reincorporated into the Kinleith Branch, now 65 km in length. The Rotorua Branch origin was thus relocated to Putaruru and its length was reduced to 50 km.

What we know today is that the Kinleigh Branch over its last 30 km can be mapped against the TT Co route because full aerial photos were taken in 1944 of this first part of the route. This means I can use this coverage to be able to draw in where the line was deviated when it was adapted into a railway, and publish maps showing the old route. Unfortunately there are considerable gaps in TTT coverage south of Kinleith but parts can still be seen on some older aerial photos, and this will be incorporated into these maps wherever possible.