Canterbury Rail

01 AUG 2022
I missed a few articles on the state of rail in Canterbury, so it is timely to review.

Back in February 2022, Stuff ran a couple of articles - Push to look again at passenger rail for Christchurch - and a day or so later - Push for Christchurch passenger rail faces another hurdle - that examine the political wrangling around mass transit for Christchurch.

Brendan Harre has a great article - What Could Suburban Rail Look Like in Greater Christchurch that pulls together the status better than I can.

It is interesting that Stuff appears to be so positive about regional rail and yet negative on cycleways. Perhaps it's because the issue of rail does not trigger knee-jerk reactions from their audience the way cycleways do... be thankful for small mercies.

There has been so much talk - Express Buses of Passenger Rail on Existing Tracks - that it is hard to keep up with who thinks what, why, and when. But perhaps that's the goal - to keep talking up the idea without taking action. For instance the report expected is May has not been reported on - correct me if I'm wrong... but I've not found it.

The 2021 report from consultants according to Stuff - Express Buses of Passenger Rail on Existing Tracks - said A 2021 consultant’s report on rapid transit linking central Christchurch city to Rangiora and Rolleston concluded that it would not be feasible until more people lived and worked near the system.

And yet motorways are built without present need in order to future proof future development - the Christchurch Southern Motorway comes to mind.

In the case of regional and suburban railways induced demand would be a benefit. Consultants who put 'living in the area' ahead of 'enabling people to get to the areas to live' are only building in failure. People will move to an area with their cars, and infrastructure for cars will be built... and then the consultants will probably say that because of the cars that no one will use rail. Frustrating and frankly gobsmackingly short-sighted.

Update: 2 August. Greater Auckland are reporting on just this issue - More Homes vs Light Rail. The Auckland City Council are exempting the possible light rail route from the MDRS upzoning. Their argument is that they can not be sure of the zoning because of the possibility of light rail running through here. So they are effectively saying - no upzoning until we know the route... putting light rail before the people. Now it might be because of the width of roads - but that would be easy to allow for now. Include some setbacks. Even if this delay is sensible Auckland Council is effectively saying transit before upzoning... the opposite of the consultants on rail for Christchurch city.

I highly recommend Brendan Harre's article - What Could Mass Rapid Transit in Christchurch Look Like? - he says it much better than me, with links to back up his discussion points.

Once you've read that come back and consider that once the new Christchurch District Plan has been released, it assumes that along the rail corridor we will see enhanced development, with denser higher buildings. So the subtext is that in order for this to work, with no car parking minimums, that we need rail on the existing corridor.

The underlying message from me here is - we need to get onto it, assume that induced demand will enable patronage to support it, and the sooner we get onto it the better the outcome for the city, and the climate.
By Hab3