Posted by: senjmito | February 21, 2011

Electrification to Waikanae – the importance of trains

Note: The opening of the Waikanae Railway Station was the scene for a major protest about the proposed Kapiti Expressway – those involved say that the Dominion Post has underestimated the number of protesters. In this post, Paula Warren considers the significance of the station itself and the associated track developments.

Electrification to Waikanae – the importance of trains

Waikanae Railway Station and the new double tracking and electrification from Paraparaumu to Waikanae were officially completed this Saturday.  Regular train services are now running from there.

There is considerable enthusiasm for this new service, and a lot of money was spent to provide it.

And yet Waikanae residents currently have a bus frequency that is similar to the frequency of the new train service.  So why so much enthusiasm?

A comment from one user – which essentially boiled down to “I can’t wait, because I won’t have to sit in a rattley bus on the state highway” – highlights one of the reasons. Even our old trains are far more comfortable than a bus, because they are operated on a dedicated line without sharp bends, on steel rails, and with drivers who are taught to start and stop their vehicle smoothly.  That is probably a key reason that research overseas shows that changing from buses to trains, even without other changes to the services, increases patronage.

Another possible reason is that for those who choose to use their car rather than a bus to get to the train, the trip will be far shorter (and perhaps parking more available).  It is unclear as to how much of the reluctance to use a feeder bus relates to a distrust of connections, dislike of buses, or the cost of the extra fare (eliminated for regular commuters by Kapiti Plus).

And of course for those using a bus, a transfer is eliminated if they are within walking distance of the station (but that won’t be the case for those in Waikanae Beach).

The effect of public transport vehicle type on modal choice is something that seems to be under-recognised by councils and NZTA.  It would be good to see some research around the opening of Waikanae to measure the effect of a change from bus to train on modal choice.  And that can feed into the thinking about changes to light rail in Wellington, and extension of electrification to other suburbs (e.g. north of Upper Hutt).



  1. As a bus user, I’ve had to transfer to bike as my direct bus from Waikanae to Paraparaumu has been stopped by the new rail service. It is as fast for me to cycle (and I’m not a road cyclist or a lycra lover just a mother needing to get to work) from home to work now than use the train and bus. Perhaps any survey should include all forms of travel – perhaps it should be part of the census?

  2. This is a really disappointing commentary from a supposed public transport advocate. Buses and trains both have capabilities and any reasoned debate about their relative merits to deliver a public transport service needs to acknowledge both their advantages and limitations. Replacing a basic bus service with a rail service that cost tens of millions is not such an example. I am sure that, had the same money been spent on the bus service, it would also be much better (it well could have been free for this sort of money !).

    I could also comment about the poor performance of the new train service so far . . .

    Of course I do expect more users of the rail service . . . for one thing is it is a lot cheaper to Wellington by rail because the Greater Wellington Regional Council supports much greater monthly fare discounts than on buses. Therefore Waikanae to Wellington costs $269.90 ($6.40/trip) by train but $297.00 by bus (Kapiti Commuter) . . . you would think the “better mode” would cost more.

    As of the continued failure of feeder buses, well that is just the reality that people hate interchange, especially between infrequent services (i.e. frequency > 5 mins). In fact so few people change from buses to trains at Johnsonville, the council is planning to move the bus stop away from the Railway station ! I do not have the NZ figures to hand but in the UK only 3.2% of bus users interchange . . . 96.8% go direct. This does not bode well for the proposed move to force many bus commuters who currently go direct into the CBD to have to change buses at some hub somewhere (something I know you also support Paula).

    Finally, the regional council and NZTA DO already have a built in preference towards rail. You just have to compare the minimum investment in bus infrastructure against the $billion rail spend. But this bias extends into the transport modeling that has a built in “mode preference” towards rail. For example, when compared to buses, the Johnsonville Rail Line model assumes a 19 minute travel time even though it takes 21 minutes. It is just that so few people live close to stations that rail can never serve more than a minority of residents . . . this is why most public transport users will always take the bus.

  3. ALL electrification is better than bus transport and it’s wonderful to see that the wires now reach out to Waikanae, (and double track not far short of there. Presumably the single platform can cope with the traffic because there are – as I understand it – two electrified refuge sidings to the north of the station allowing Matangis and Ganz-Mavags to seek shelter when a through train is due. (Certainly such refuge sidings are necessary – similar to the bay platform at Paraparaumu.)
    Reference the line voltage; conversion to 25KV, though desirable, need not stand in the way of a join-up with the NIMT at Palmerston North. The extra electric locos which would be required can very easily be dual-voltage and double pantograph; it happens all over Europe these days.
    An extension to the Wellington wires which has always seemed logical to me would be from Upper Hutt through the tunnel to Featherstone. This would ease commuter traffic on Highway 2 over the difficult Rimutaka Hills. Any chance?

  4. “That is probably a key reason that research overseas shows that changing from buses to trains…”

    I beg to disagree. China and the US have (percentage-wise) increased levels of patronage on long-distance buses compared to train equivalents.

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