A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a report Ecan commissioned in 2014, which concluded that a bare bones commuter service was technically feasible, relatively cheap at $8m, and would most likely attract the 500 daily passengers it needs to be financially viable. Now I’m going to describe an earlier report from 2005 which investigated more comprehensive rail services.
It was mainly a costing exercise – trying to answer the question “how much would it cost us to get trains going again in Christchurch”. It doesn’t attempt to go into any sort of discussions about the benefits of trains, likely patronage, the reasons for running them, the strategic transport direction we should be taking, or whether they are a good idea or not.
It looked at 5 options. Option 1 was sort of a bare minimum required to get something off the ground, although still included more features than the bare bare minimum described in the 2014 report. Option 5 was an “all-the-bells-and-whistles” arrangement with all sorts of features (including a tunnel underneath the CBD). Options 2, 3 and 4 were various states in between these 2 extremes.
Each of the 5 options are summarised below in terms of what frequency service they would allow. The trouble with the existing lines is that in many places they are only single track, and have only very basic signalling systems. Whilst these can still be used for passenger trains, they could only accommodate very low frequency services. If we want higher frequency we need to double-track them and upgrade the signalling, and in some cases do other work too (like upgrading junctions and stations).
Green = high frequency (defined as 30 minute headways), yellow = moderate frequency, red = extremely limited frequency.
Last post I used some graphs to try help put the costs into context. Here are the same graphs tweaked to include the 5 train options:
One thing to be careful of is that the rail prices are in 2005 dollars, whilst the other values on the chart are 2018 dollars. So really those rail costs will be higher – maybe something like 20-30% more. Also the report contains plenty of disclaimers that the costs are only high-level estimates and could be out by -50%/+100%.
Taking this inherent error into account, it still shows that the first couple of options are likely to be relatively cheap compared to other transport projects we’re doing around the city. Options 3 and 4 would probaly be of comparable price to the 3 motorway/expressway projects we’re currently doing. Option 5 would cost quite a bit more (most of this is for the underground tunnel).
Something I haven’t put on this graph is the public transport equivalent that the draft public transport plan proposes – twin rapid transit corridors heading north along Papanui Road, and southwest along Riccarton and Main South Roads. If these were light rail, they would be significantly more than all 5 rail options, even the one with the underground tunnel. The currently under construction 12km Canberra light rail is costing roughly $700m. If we had two of these it might in the order of $1,400m, way off the top of that chart. If they were bus rapid transit they would be cheaper, possibly something comparable to the rail options costed above.
What do you think about all this?