Archive for the ‘Transport Futures’ Category

The Ashley Bridge – What’s Happening – and what of the Future?

6 August 2010

The current situation is that when the Ashley is in flood the bridge is at a high risk from a public safety perspective – 5 to 7 of the peirs may need to be strengthened in the short term.  The piles are embedded only 2-3m on average and only 1-2m in the main channel.

Compare these two photos:

The Cones Road bridge over the Ashley - unknown date. (Te Papa)

Note the difference in the bed levels.  Note also that some repair work appears to have been done on the nearest pier in the recent photo.  The pier causing the biggest problem is the second one from the camera.  Daniel Smith contractors are lined up to start work soon.

Even with strengthening, the bridge will have to be closed on occasions – perhaps up to 10 times per year. There may be weight restrictions in the future – at present, the bridge is just OK for Class 1.

The cost of annual maintenance and a programme of pier strengthening may cost something in the order of $2 million over the next 20 years – which may be all the life that is left in the bridge.

We all know that the bridge isn’t wide enough and that the southern approach has poor visibility.

So how much will a new bridge cost if it were to be built in the next two years or so?  A preliminary guesstimate for a standard-width bridge is $6 million to $10 million – with a bit more if a cycle and pedestrian lane (or lanes) is added – and that has to happen.  If the benefit/cost ratio meets NZ Transport Agency requirements, which is likely, that cost would be 59% subsidised by them.

Watch this space!  I emphasise that all of the above figures are ball-park estimates that were reported to the Council this week.

Traffic Lights for Southbrook?

7 April 2010

The possibility of traffic lights in Southbrook has, as I predicted in an earlier blog posting, got passions raised.

First of all, some related, but not necessarily connected, points.

  • When or if the traffic lights come, they may not be the first traffic lights in the District.  The NZ Transport Agency is considering putting lights on the Lineside Road/Smith Street bridge over the Motorway because of the bad accident record there.
  • Southbrook Road is easily the busiest road in Rangiora/Southbrook – about 17 000 vehicles a day.  Getting on to this road is considerably more difficult than, say, getting out of The Warehouse carpark.
  • The customers, and carpark-users, of the Pak’n Save will be ratepayers and residents, just like you and me.

People have long suggested a round-about for that corner.  Question: if you were on Flaxton Road trying to enter the roundabout at 5.00pm, would that be easy?  Roundabouts work best when there are reasonably even flows of traffic from all directions.  I often look at the one at High/King Streets – it works well for that reason.

The Southbrook and Rangiora New Life Schools and people trying to get out of Coronation and Torlesse Streets will probably appreciate the breaks in the traffic caused by the lights.

On the other hand, I will join those not appreciating being held up by the new lights! – especially when leaving the town when there is never any hold-up now, except at the railway crossing.

As regards the process and the alleged lack of consultation, it needs to be remembered that the supermarket was applying for a Resource Consent under the Resource Management Act.  The hearing was conducted by a commissioner appointed by the Council and that commissioner would have heard expert opinion from traffic engineers plus evidence from other submitters before making the decision. The only access the person-in-the-street has to that process that  is to make a submission.

In other words, it wasn’t a “yes we want it” or “no we don’t” process. It was a formal judicial process conducted under strict rules.  Someone could, for instance, have organised a petition and presented it as evidence, but the commissioner would have been weighing up the strength and validity of the arguments, not counting numbers.

Now that the commisioner has made a decision, the decision is now “owned” by the Council. The only way that the consent can be defeated or changed is by appeal to the Environment Court – and you can usually only do that if you were an original submitter.


Public Transport Directions – Sydney, too, is arguing

20 February 2010

Those of us who have visited Sydney may have been impressed by the public transport system: ferries criss-crossing that magnificent harbour, frequent trains and buses – even a limited light-rail service.  But despite these services, parts of the city are often clogged by cars.  There have been something like six reports trying to find a solution to what they see as a worsening problem.  They are trying to get the right mix of heavy rail, light rail and buses – along with a “metro” – a service something between heavy and light rail largely running underground.

The latest report, commissioned, I htink, by the Sydney Morning Herald, a sister-publication of the Christchurch Press, is just out.  It advocates a different approach from what the NSW state government is planning.

Obviously, Sydney with its 4 million-plus population is of a scale entirely different from Greater Christchurch.  Nevertheless,  there areclear lessons: it is important to plan for the long-term (the 35-year horizon of the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy is not far enough), be prepared to be flexible as time passes and, as far as is possible, achieve a consensus on the best direction. 

It’s not only about commuters …

17 February 2010

In the projected upgrading of the road links into and around Christchurch, we need to remember that it’s not only about commuters.

Waimakariri’s farms and other businesses depend on good links to suppliers, distributors and markets.  The trucks have to have good access to the airport, Lyttelton and to areas such as Hornby.

Over such distances, freighting by rail is not an option.

What’s Wrong With a Shovel?

26 January 2010

Yesterday, an a display of overkill, Transport Minister Steven Joyce used a digger to turn the first sod of the Christchurch Southern Motorway.  This is the first stage of an accelerated programme of major roading building on the part of the National-led Government.

In general, I agree that Greater Christchurch needs these roads and, while none of them are in Waimakariri, the District will nevertheless benefit.

I just wish that there had been a bit of money for a cycle and pedestrian clip-on for the old Waimakariri bridge south of Kaiapoi.

32km/h Speed Limits? – or Narrow Streets?

12 January 2010

There is a growing trend in Britain to limit speeds in residential areas to 20mph – that’s 32km/h in our language.  They are imposing these without any accompanying traffic “calming” measures.

One way of slowing traffic down that traffic engineers like is to build narrower streets.  Some people don’t like them – but it does seem to work, if slowing speeds is on your agenda.

“Roads of National Significance”

7 January 2010

The National-led Government has altered some of the transport priorities of the previous government and has put what it has identified as Roads of National Significance at the top of the construction list.  Nine of them are in the North Island.

The one in the South Island is what the Government calls “Christchurch Motorway Projects”  They have actually grouped several projects under this heading.  They are:

  1. The Christchurch Southern Motorway from the western end of Brougham Street to Hornby.
  2. The Christchurch Southern Motorway stage II.  This will extend the motorway from Hornby to the Main South Road near Rolleston and include four-laning the Main South Road from the end of the Motorway to Rolleston.
  3. The Belfast North-Western By-Pass that will put a four lane road from the winery near The Groynes on Johns Road to the Northern Motorway.
  4. Four-laning Johns Road, Russley Road and through Hornby to the Main South Road, i.e. the State Highway 1 bypass of Christchurch.  This will include a fly-over intersection at Memorial Avenue.
  5. The Christchurch Northern Arterial which will link Queen Elizabeth Drive with the Northern Motorway at Chaneys, passing to the east of Belfast.

Obviously, the last three will be of greatest significance to Waimakariri residents.

Woodend Bypass Update

5 January 2010

No real news – but, hey, it is the silly season!

The board of the NZ Transport Agency (which incoporates Transit NZ) will make a decision sometime this year, hopefully.  They have already removed the long eastern option (through the Pegasus Western Conservation Area) and will only be considering the short eastern bypass and four-laning the existing road.

In the meantime the Transport Agency have put money into the 3-year budget to begin initial design work, etc. on whatever route is chosen.

Sharing Spaces – Pedestrians, Cyclists and Vehicles

2 January 2010

One idea that is gaining around the world is the idea of spaces being shared between pedestrians and wheeled vehicles.

If we are going to have a decent look at the Rangiora town centre (and Kaiapoi’s for that matter) we need to at least put this thinking into the mix.

I put a TIME article on this blog on 24 February 2008 (dig for it! or try clicking  and there is a Wikipedia piece in the page labelled Sharing Spaces in Our Towns on the right of your screen.

You can also go to and type Dr Rodney Tolley into the search or go straight there at: and . They take about 10 minutes to listen to (it’s just him talking) – and to get the full import of what he is talking about, the second part is when he gets to the specific point about shared spaces in towns.  Rodney Tolley is from England and recently spoke in Christchurch.

Shared Space in New Road, Brighton, England

More on Light Rail

1 January 2010

See my post of two days ago to see where this is coming from.

See Light Rail – what is it? in the pages on the right of your secreen.

A couple of examples from Europe:


Commuter train and light rail on either side of a platform in suburban Berne, Switzerland.

Light rail (foreground) using heavy rail tracks in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Light Rail for Waimakariri?

30 December 2009

Christchurch’s mayor, Bob Parker, is again promoting light rail as part of Greater Christchurch’s transport mix.  I welcome his keeping it in the public eye.

People in Waimakariri often say to me that we should be using rail more than we are and certainly we should be continuously considering it.  My view is that some sort of commuter rail link is likely in the future – but not yet.  As this District continues to grow, particularly around Kaiapoi, Woodend-Pegasus and Rangiora, public transport, both to Christchurch and within the District (linking the three nodes) will become increasingly important.

At present, the effort has been going into improving the bus services, as with the dramatically improved Northern Star service and the creation of bus lanes in Papanui and Main North Roads.  Buses have the advantage of flexibility: it is easy to change their routes to meet changing needs and they can use existing infrastructure (i.e. roads).  One obvious disadvantage is that they tend to get caught up in the very traffic congestion that we are trying to alleviate – although that is a disadvantage for on-road light rail too.

In Waimakariri, it would be possible to run commuter heavy rail into Christchurch (although the Christchurch stations may not be conveniently located).  It would also be possible to run light rail on the heavy rail tracks – although we could have a problem with stability on NZ’s narrow 3ft 6in railway gauge (our trams run on a wider gauge).  I think light rail has a better future for Waimakariri than heavy rail because it would link in better with any future Christchurch network (already started with the historic tram routes in the centre of the city).

Light rail would be very expensive now – in fact, too expensive – but the last thing that Greater Christchurch wants is to put itself in the position of Auckland, where a lack of foresight is now costing them and the country heaps.

So what should we do in Waimakariri?

  • preserve the rail corridor and, where possible, preserve current opportunities for double tracking (probably needed for successful communter services).
  • keep the Rangiora railway station from deteriorating.
  • identify and preserve a site for a new Kaiapoi railway station.
  • identify and preserve other commuter light-rail routes to, particularly, Woodend-Pegasus, and within Kaiapoi and Rangiora.
  • include light rail in our park-and-ride thinking.

There may be more!  – but, whatever we do, let’s think long-term.

Calming the Traffic

15 July 2009

If you go to you can listen to a really interesting interview with Australian traffic-calming advocate, David Engwicht.  It’s from the Radio New Zealand Saturday programme – usually Kim Hill but not that day!  It takes over half an hour, so set aside some time.

Public Transport to Christchurch – Why Not Rail?

12 July 2009

Yesterday’s Northern Outlook featured a proposal to set up a rail commuter service from Sefton to Christchurch.

This is not on the immediate horizon for the region’s transport planners for a number of reasons.  They are proposing to have dedicated bus lanes to speed up the bus service. Why?

  1. Buses are more flexible than trains – they can be taken into the further parts of Kaiapoi and Rangiora – and Christchurch, closer to where people live and work.
  2. Unlike heavy rail, buses can be taken into the centre of Christchurch.
  3. Buses are a lot lot cheaper to buy than trains.
  4. A successfiul commuter train service probably requires double-tracking the railway lines – hugely expensive, especially when you factor in the Waimakariri River bridge.

Yes, there used to be a train.  But it was one train in the morning and one in the evening.  The buses currently run every 30 minutes in peak hours – could trains?

I believe that one day there will be a commuter rail service to Christchurch, but I don’t think it is likely in the near future.

‘Spot the Cyclist’ campaign in Taupo

18 May 2009

The Bike Taupo team were looking for a way to promote and recognise urban cycling in Taupo during Bike Wise Month. They wanted to reward cyclists for their daily commutes rather than specific event rides.

The Bike Taupo committee were briefed with the task of spotting five cyclists per week during Bike Wise Month. The council teamed up with four local bike shops – Avanti Corner Shop, Top Gear Cycles, Huka Cycles Taupo and Life Cycles – to put together 20 goody bags.

The ‘spotted’ cyclists were then approached to have their pictures taken for the local paper and given a goody bag in return.  The bags included a $20 voucher for one of the local bike shops and lots of Bike Wise goodies such as puncture repair kits and reflective snap bands.

The mix of cyclists photographed included students cycling to school, commuters and people off to do their weekly shop. Feedback was extremely positive with most people very grateful to win a prize and happy to have their pictures taken. Based on the success of the promotion, Bike Taupo will be continuing the promotion for the 2010 Bike Wise campaign.

Any queries or advice on running a Spot the Cyclist campaign can be directed to Richard Hine or Thomas Schwarz by email: bikewise@

Life Without Cars

14 May 2009

For a New York Times article on life without cars, I suggest you click on

It’s about a German suburb on the outskirts of Freiburg which has just about managed to ban them.  Interesting.

Bikes, Buses and Motorways

14 May 2009

I’ve found myself as the Waimakariri representative on the Regional Transport Committee, which comes under Environment Canterbury.  It has a variety of members: mayors and councillors from all the Canterbury district & city councils and ECan, NZ Transport Agency, and community representatives.

A Draft Regional Land Transport Programme has been out for consultation and for our District, the noteworthy parts are outside it: a northern arterial road that bypasses Belfast to the east and an upgrading of the NW Christchurch bypass, i.e. State Highway 1 along Johns and Russley Roads.

It looks, on the surface, to be putting money into encouraging more and more motor vehicles, when, it is argued, we should be putting it into public transport, walking and cycling.

In principle, I can’t argue with that. Nevertheless, I do support the major roading projects because we do have to live with the fact that the settlement patterns in Greater Christchurch (including Kaiapoi and Rangiora) have been largely brought about by the almost universal ownership of cars.  Many Waimakariri people commute daily to Christchurch and it is actually quite difficult to bike that distance and impossible to walk it. Public transport, currently buses, is more viable, and with the support of ECan, the District Council and ECan’s ratepayers (i.e. most of us!), the bus service has dramatically improved over the last couple of years.

I commuted to Christchurch for more than 20 years.  Most of the time I worked in Mairehau and Spreydon, and, for briefer times, Hornby and central Christchurch.  Only the last was reasonably accessible by the bus service.  My experience would be the same as many other commuters.

The construction of better alternate roads will, I believe, free up space on the current roads, for dedicated bus lanes and the buses themselves, making the buses faster and more efficient.

As an aside, we should be seeing work starting within the next 12 months on a cycle/pedestrian clip-on to the old Waimakariri bridge .

Funding Our Transport

16 February 2009
Roads Aren't Always as Empty as This!

Roads Aren't Always as Empty as This!

The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee (for composition, see below) is currently considering an important issue.  Significant government funding is due to come over the next ten years to assist with roads, passenger transport provision, cycle and pedestrian ways, etc. over the whole Region.  This funding comes with a catch – the Canterbury Region has to fund its share.

The are basically three options: rates, a regional fuel tax or tolls on new roads. A regional fuel tax could be up to 5c per litre and the only roads for which a toll could be applicable are the proposed Christchurch Southern Motorway extension and the proposed Christchurch Northern Arterial, to the east of Belfast.

Projects being considered in Waimakariri include pedestrian and cycle clip-ons for the Main North Road bridge over the Waimakariri and the Ashley bridge north of Rangiora.

Councils throughout the region will be considering the options over the next couple of months.


The Canterbury Regional Transport Committee has representatives from every Council from Kaikoura in the north to Waimate in the south, Environment Canterbury, the NZ Transport Agency, and various community sectors.

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

18 November 2008

clip_image002For those of you interested in promoting walking and cycling in the District, you might like to bookmark the website of Living Streets Aotearoa:


Public Transport: Comparative Costs

3 September 2008

The Public Transport Futures Study, carried out as a result of the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Study, has come up with some interesting figures.

The bus service is expected to be carrying a maximum of fewer than 5000 passengers per hour throughout the Greater Christchurch area (i.e. at peak times) by 2041.

Buses on dedicated busways would be the most economic at up to 10,000 passengers per hour, and would have an operating cost of $2 / passenger / km.  Light rail would need 10,000-15,000 per hour to be viable and would cost $10-$15 / km to operate.  For heavy rail, the respective figures are 25,000-40,000 and $10-$15 / km.

Light rail vehicles are considerably more expensive than buses (up to $500,000 versus over $2m) and dedicated busways cost less than $1m / km to construct.  Light rail tracks cost $10-$25m / km to construct. 

Given the flexibility of buses in our low population density cities (compared with, say, Europe), it seems that the buses offer the most viable public transport option for the forseeable future.

What’s That Flapping Sound?

5 August 2008

The National Party says they are going to borrow to build infrastructure if they are elected this year.  Sounds a bit like Premier Julius Vogel’s 19th century government that borrowed to build railways to help open up the country to settlers.

How about this list for our neck of the woods?

  1. A decent road access to Christchurch from the Northern Motorway – take it to the east of Belfast.
  2. Double-track the Christchurch-Rangiora railway so that we can have a decent commuter service – and put a railway station back into Kaiapoi.
  3. Run tram-lines from that railway to the centre of Christchurch so that we can run light rail from central Christchurch to Kaiapoi and Rangiora.
  4. Return Route 72 to State Highway status and develop it as a decent tourist route.
  5. Build a safe intersection at Pineacres.
  6. Triple-lane the Northern Motorway (the Waimakariri bridges are designed for it).

Yeah, I’m only dreaming.

A Comment from Britain on the Effects of Rising Fuel Costs

11 July 2008

Foot off the pedal – Rising fuel costs begin to change behaviour

 Jul 10th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Illustration by Claudio Munoz

ONE of the most popular programmes on British television is “Top Gear”, a Sunday-night celebration of the motor car that owes its success to an irreverent mix of speed, stunts and smoking tyres. But viewers of the first instalment in the show’s new series, broadcast in June, had a slightly different experience. Following a race designed to find the most fuel-efficient supercar, Jeremy Clarkson, one of the hosts, gave a short soliloquy on how motorists could cut their fuel bills by changing their style of driving. Visitors to Mr Clarkson’s blog can find a list of uncharacteristically worthy fuel-economy tips, which include avoiding aggressive acceleration and braking, switching off unnecessary gadgets and even driving more slowly.

This sensible advice from the nation’s petrolhead-in-chief is only one piece of evidence that high oil prices are beginning to alter consumer behaviour. The AA, a motorists’ club, reports that fuel prices rose at their fastest-ever rate last month (by 5.6p per litre for petrol and by 7.4p for diesel). Garages report drops in fuel sales of 5-10%, and say that buying patterns have changed as consumers use their second cars less. Government officials maintain that motorists are driving more slowly, and that high fuel prices are reducing congestion in clogged city centres.

Nor is it only motorists who are being squeezed. The rail industry thinks travellers are beginning to abandon their pricey cars for public transport, but public transport is having to economise as well. FirstGroup, which runs bus and train services across the country, is encouraging frugality by suggesting that its drivers let trains coast downhill and forbidding bus drivers from idling their engines. Ferry services to Ireland are sailing more slowly, and even airlines have been trimming speeds. Pricey petrol is affecting shopping habits, too, as consumers avoid long trips to out-of-town retail parks. Data from Footfall, a firm that tracks customer numbers, shows that visits to out-of-town shops have fallen by 7.4% since May, compared with a drop of only 3.6% in visits to town centres.

More worrying for the government are the political consequences. Expensive oil will swell the Treasury’s coffers with a combination of petrol-tax receipts and revenue from North Sea production (see article), a welcome boost for a government in a fiscal tight spot. But it also reminds drivers that much of the pump price is accounted for by fuel duty. Petrol duty is 50.35p per litre, and that on diesel is 56.94p, making British diesel among the most expensive in Europe. A combination of angry motorists and disgruntled hauliers, who have been hinting at a re-run of the strikes that paralysed the country in 2000, mean that a 2p rise in fuel tax planned for October will probably be abandoned. The Conservatives have proposed letting taxes vary with oil prices to ensure that motorists always pay the same amount—an appealing piece of populism from the party that concocted the policy which has brought fuel taxes to their current level.

The ultimate impact of such changes depends on how long oil prices remain at their current eye-watering levels. Stephen Glaister, an economist at Imperial College, London and the director of the RAC Foundation, a motoring lobby-group, points out that demand for both motoring and fuel is reasonably elastic in the long term. A sustained period of high prices could lead to significant changes in behaviour.

That, in turn, could affect a whole slew of government planning decisions, from predictions of tax revenues to subsidies for renewable energy and investment in airports, roads and railways. The case for expanding Heathrow, for example, set out in the aviation white paper in 2003, relied in part on official forecasts that oil would cost $25 a barrel in 2000 prices ($31 in today’s). Predicting the oil price is a fool’s game (oil was falling again as The Economist went to press), but even the most diehard oilmen think a return to such cheap fuel is unlikely. With airlines’ fuel surcharges boosting ticket prices and slowing the growth in demand, those opposed to a bigger Heathrow are rightly urging a re-think.

A Transport Option for Canterbury?

29 November 2007

A while back, John Woodward came to the Rangiora Ward Advisory Board and suggested that buses could be run on railway tracks in much the same way that Ontrack’s trucks do: they run on both the road and on the railway lines.  This would mean that buses could pick up passengers anywhere in Kaiapoi or Rangiora and then avoid traffic jams by getting into Christchurch on the railway tracks.

Well, in Hokkaido in Japan, they are trialling just such a system.  See the article below from a recent Time magazine.  Those with a technical interest might like to check out

Another Japanese site is


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