Wellington Scoop

Govt to finance $258m Melling interchange, plus more rail network improvements

The Government’s upgrade programme announced today includes $258million for a new Melling interchange, and $211million for improvements to the Wellington, Wairarapa and Palmerston North rail network, including upgraded tracks for the Wairarapa and Capital Connection lines, safety connections and refurbishment of Capital Connection carriages.

The Melling interchange project will reduce the risk of flooding, help ease congestion during peak times, and the railway realignment will improve reliability and give more ‘park and ride’ options. According to Hutt mayor Campbell Barry, work will start in 2022, with completion by 2026.

The upgrade programme also includes

• Four-laning SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin, to improve travel times and safety and boost the Horowhenua economy and its connection to Wellington and the region.

• The second stage of SH58 safety improvements, to make a key route in Greater Wellington safer and more reliable. Stage one started in late 2019.

And in the “already happening category,” the government lists:

$196 million Wellington commuter rail upgrades will mean better services and fewer breakdowns.

News from NZ Government
Minister for State Owned Enterprises Winston Peters says the funding of four major rail projects under the New Zealand Upgrade Programme is yet another step in the right direction for New Zealand’s long-term rail infrastructure.

“This Government has a bold vision for rail. We said we would address the appalling history of under-investment in our rail system over the last three decades, and we are well on track to achieve that,” Mr Peters said. “Rail is a national strategic asset and strong investment is a no brainer.

“These projects will enable KiwiRail to deliver effective rail services and get our cities moving. A well-maintained reliable rail system reduces road congestion and road maintenance costs, seriously lowers carbon emissions, and allows for large volumes of freight across the country,” Mr Peters said.

Four rail projects will be funded as part of the $12 billion infrastructure package:

· $315 million for improvements to the Wiri to Quay Park Corridor in Auckland including construction of a third rail line to ease the bottleneck between Wiri and Westfield, providing additional capacity around Westfield Junction, and works around Quay Park to improve rail access to the Ports of Auckland

· $371 million to extend electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe of the Auckland metro network by 19km

· $211 million for improvements to the Wellington, Wairarapa and Palmerston North network and beyond, including upgraded tracks for the Wairarapa and Capital Connection lines, safety connections and refurbishment of Capital Connection carriages, and

· $247 million to develop the Drury railway station, with two new stations at Drury East and Drury West, to increase transport access and amenity value for this fast-growing centre.

News from NZ Government
• $6.8 billion for transport infrastructure in our six main growth areas – Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Queenstown.
• $1.1 billion for rail.
• $2.2 billion for new roads in Auckland.

The Government’s programme of new investments in roads and rail will help future proof the economy, get our cities moving, and make our roads safer.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says these important projects will speed up travel times, ease congestion and make our roads safer by taking trucks off them and moving more freight to rail.

“The New Zealand Upgrade Programme reflects the Government’s balanced transport policy with $6.8 billion being invested across road, rail, public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure across New Zealand.

“This programme brings forward and funds significant projects, allowing them to be built sooner. The significant package is designed to give the construction industry certainty and confidence about future work.

“Many of these projects have been talked about for a long time, but we are the first Government to fund them. We have also made important changes.

“We must look to the future as we design this critical infrastructure. The projects have also been redesigned and future proofed to include provision for public transport and walking and cycling.

“We can do this and bring these projects forward because of our careful management of the Government’s books. It means New Zealanders can be assured they will be built as soon as possible.

“Our decision to fund these projects by taking advantage of historically low long-term interest rates means this Programme will free up funding in the National Land Transport Fund and Auckland transport budgets.”


“Our package of road investments will reduce congestion and travel times, support businesses and open up new areas for housing developments.
• Upgrading SH1 Whangarei to Port Marsden to four lanes will improve freight connectivity and improve productivity in the North.
• Penlink will open up more growth north of Auckland and connect Whangaparoa residents to the successful northern busway.
• Upgrading Mill Road to four lanes and connecting Manukau to Drury will ease traffic on SH1 and connect growing parts of Auckland with job-rich centres.
• Widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury and building a cycleway alongside it, will get commuters to work faster.
• Building a roundabout at the intersection of SH1/SH29 will improve safety at one of New Zealand’s most dangerous intersections. This is on the route that future proofs the extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.
• A four-lane Tauranga Northern Link and upgrades on SH2 to Omokoroa will improve safety on a dangerous stretch of highway and unlock more housing developments in our fastest growing city and important trading port.
• Four-laning SH1 from Otaki to North of Levin will improve travel times and safety and boost the Horowhenua economy and its connection to Wellington and the region.
• The second stage of SH58 safety improvements will make a key route in Greater Wellington safer and more reliable. Stage one started in late 2019.
• The Melling interchange project will reduce the risk of flooding, help ease congestion during peak times, and the railway realignment will improve reliability and give more ‘park and ride’ options.
• Our Christchurch package will speed up public transport in the high-growth south west of the city, improve safety in rural towns in the region and boost economic development with a more reliable route for freight to Lyttleton Port.
• Our Queenstown transport package will greatly improve public transport into the town centre on SH6A, ease congestion on SH6 and support continued tourism growth.

A package of targeted rail investments will get trucks off the road and improve passenger train services, particularly at busy travel times.
• Completing the third main rail line will remove a key bottleneck for freight and passenger services, as well as provide additional capacity for the increased services once the City Rail Link is completed.
• Electrifying the railway track between Papakura to Pukekohe will speed up trips to the CBD. The addition of two new platforms at Pukekohe station will allow additional lines for future growth.
• Two new railway stations in Drury Central and Drury West, along with ‘park and ride’ facilities, will give real choice to the families that move to this high growth part of Auckland.
• Wellington rail upgrades, including in the Wairarapa, will make the lines north of the city more reliable and better able to meet growing demand.

Walking and cycling
Giving people safer options to walk and cycle in our cities means families have a healthy, congestion-free alternative to sitting in the car.
• Aucklanders will finally get the ability to walk and cycle from the North Shore, with a shared path over the Harbour Bridge. Seapath will connect to the shared path over the Harbour Bridge and provide a fully separated, safe path for Aucklanders from Takapuna and Northcote to the city. It will also be a key tourist attraction.

Record investments in transport across New Zealand are already happening under this Government, including:
• $100 million for the initial work on the $620 million Manawatū Gorge replacement highway.
• $92.37 million for the Hamilton to Auckland commuter service which will start mid-year.
• Budget 2019 provided a $1 billion funding boost to support a long overdue redevelopment of KiwiRail.
• The $6.4 billion Let’s Get Wellington Moving package will help ease congestion in our capital city.
• The $29 billion Auckland Transport Alignment Project will unlock Auckland’s potential.
• $130 million for the upgrade of SH20B the Puhinui rail and bus interchange to allow a 10-minute bus connection to Auckland Airport.
• $196 million Wellington commuter rail upgrades will mean better services and fewer breakdowns.
• $1.4 billion to upgrade 3,300kms of state highways and local roads with proven safety upgrades to save lives.
• $240 million on the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) Eastern Busway improvements which will give a congestion-free public transport options for east Aucklanders.
• $37.5 million Awakino Tunnel bypass project to improve safety on SH3.
• $137 million Tairāwhiti Roading package from the Provincial Growth Fund to boost the region.
• $18.4 million He Ara Kotahi pathway and bridge over the Manawatū River.
• $80 million through the Provincial Growth Fund for the KiwiRail’s TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific trains to develop this successful tourism service further.


  1. Marion Leader, 29. January 2020, 12:14

    Congratulations to Chris Bishop for his successful advocacy for Melling.

  2. Gwynn Compton, 29. January 2020, 12:36

    Sadly, this infrastructure package represents a missed opportunity for public transport in Wellington. The Capital Connections don’t need to be refurbished, they need to be replaced. No extension of true commuter rail, not even hybrid units. Hugely disappointing…
    Kāpiti and the Horowhenua’s growth rates have more than doubled in the past five years, but commuter rail won’t keep pace with that under the current plan at least for another 20 years, if not more…
    Jacinda Ardern said climate change was our generation’s nuclear free moment, yet by failing to make an ambitious investment in fast, frequent, & climate friendly commuter rail services, it’s the equivalent of David Lange declaring NZ nuclear free and not passing the nuclear free act. [via twitter]

  3. Thomas Nash, 29. January 2020, 12:39

    The $211m rail package announced today for Wellington, Wairarapa & Palmerston North is a big win. Funding the track upgrades like this leaves way more money in the land transport fund for the rolling stock we need to advance passenger rail in our region. Overall though this transport package has the wrong priorities. Way too much on roads and nowhere near enough on rail and paths for cycling and walking. We need a step change in transport thinking in NZ. This wasn’t it. [via twitter]

  4. Andy Mellon, 29. January 2020, 12:54

    I would have thought that there would have been an opportunity to be a bit more bold with this sort of money on the table. Electrification of Papakura to Pukekohe’s fine, but what about bridging the rest of the gap from Pukekohe to Te Rapa. Similarly, extending electrification from Waikanae to Otaki/Levin/Palmerston North would have been a much bolder move.

    On the local roading front, the Melling Interchange is all well and good and will help with the flood protection as well, but I would have thought some safety and efficiency improvements along SH2 from Petone to Totara Park would have been in order, perhaps removing the Kennedy Good and Silverstream lights and at the same time improving the cycling infrastructure along SH2.

    And was there anything around accelerating the Harbour Cycle Way? That would have been a positive thing to bring forward; opening up the Western edge of the harbour, improving cycling safety and also improving rail/road resilience to storm damage.


  5. Greenwelly, 29. January 2020, 13:51

    @Gwynn Compton, The Capital Connection money is basically a short-term life extension; the carriages will reach the end of their serviceable life in June 2021. The regional council’s hybrid replacements (assuming they are funded) will not be available until late 2024, It’s not possible to procure new hybrid units in 18 months….so money needs to be spent to keep the old carriages going for a bit longer.

  6. Eddie Everett Hale, 29. January 2020, 13:51

    Oh to live in a marginal seat and get some money chucked your way!

  7. Trevor Mallard, 29. January 2020, 15:36

    Thanks Ginny Andersen for working with Campbell Barry and Chris Hipkins to get the Melling interchange done. Got money for design consent last year and now the full funding. Project gone from a totally unfunded dream to a proper funded project in two years. Action not words. [via twitter]

  8. Bill Shoveller, 29. January 2020, 15:39

    @Trevor Mallard – only because another Chris (Bishop) pushed you! What’s happened to today’s nuclear moment aka climate change emergency your leader announced? Is a drop in your party’s popularity a more immediate and greater emergency?

  9. Chris Hipkins, 29. January 2020, 15:47

    State Highway 58 will become much busier when Transmission Gully opens. Under our govt, upgrade work is underway and stage 2 funding is now also confirmed. Yet another example of how we’re getting things done. [via twitter]

  10. Gwynn Compton, 29. January 2020, 15:48

    Demand for commuter rail in Kāpiti & Horowhenua will skyrocket when Transmission Gully opens, yet you haven’t funded the hybrid trains to replace the Capital Connection or the extension of the Wellington metro rail network to Ōtaki. Not future-focused at all, just reheating the same old tired thinking. [via twitter]

  11. Asher Wilson-Goldman, 29. January 2020, 15:50

    Disappointing to see not only no funding for electrification of rail to Ōtaki (and beyond), but also no funding for greaterwgtn’s proposed hybrid electric/diesel trains. Instead we get an extended expressway but no public transport to alleviate increased emissions. [via twitter]

  12. Mark Cubey, 29. January 2020, 15:52

    Reckon the govt thinks that Wellington is safe seat central and we should all just stay happy and sip on the infrastructure drips. [via twitter]

  13. Russel Norman, 29. January 2020, 15:52

    The $800m Levin bypass has a return of 25 cents in the dollar. Would have made so much more sense to plough that money into rail up there. [via twitter]

  14. Homoeconomous, 29. January 2020, 16:06

    Everything is not about money.
    Or at least that is a problem people have in their thinking. They can’t measure the value of nature, life and people – it’s just all dollars and no sense.

  15. Marion Leader, 29. January 2020, 18:11

    Russel, what are the Greens doing? With some highly-paid Government Ministers, shouldn’t they be trying to sort things out?

  16. Ginny Andersen, 29. January 2020, 18:45

    Fantastic to see Labour and our partners fully fund the Melling Interchange today. $258m to build this congestion-buster that will save every commuter an hour at the lights every week. Never funded by National. Fully funded by Labour. [via twitter]

  17. TrevorH, 30. January 2020, 8:08

    And the Mt Victoria second tunnel? Obviously not considered electorally significant.

  18. Bill Shoveller, 30. January 2020, 8:24

    Given traffic management and rail issues, the bill will be well north of $258 million by the time it’s built and that’s excluding the delays during construction to road users.

  19. BHS, 30. January 2020, 12:04

    I’m pleased there will be more rail improvements which will hopefully get more people using public transport.
    Now that school is back, Tinakori Road was held up as far as the eye could see this morning and a LONG bus had to back up twice to get into Hill Street.
    Too many people are living in Wellington. We don’t need any more.

  20. Karori Pete, 30. January 2020, 15:06

    Tinakori Rd is one long traffic jam continuing all the way to Karori that rail improvements won’t fix. And with plans for more people it’s going to get worse. My ‘well-being’ is certainly on the slide.

  21. Dave B, 30. January 2020, 15:14

    @ Russel Norman. Come back, the Greens need you. They have lost their fire on transport-matters under James Shaw. And Labour never really had any fire to start with. Disappointing.

  22. Mike Mellor, 30. January 2020, 17:07

    Ginny Andersen, it’s highly unlikely that the Melling interchange “will save every commuter an hour at the lights every week”:
    – it won’t do anything for the journey times of commuters who choose to travel by train rather than by car;
    – any time savings at the interchange for those in cars are likely to be temporary because of induced demand;
    – at Ngauranga, existing and induced SH2 traffic will meet existing traffic on SH1, plus the traffic induced by Transmission Gully (NZTA says that TG will reduce Kapiti Line rail patronage by 25% compared with what it would have been, those people being in cars instead), plus traffic induced by Peka Peka to Otaki North, which will be increased further by the extension to Levin.

    Growing rail patronage by increasing capacity and improving penetration of Wellington’s CBD, currently effectively limited to just its northern end, would have none of these adverse effects. The public transport, walking and cycling initiatives are very welcome, but it’s depressing to see the government spending billions on measures that are entirely inconsistent with its Government Policy Statement and which will increase, not reduce, carbon emissions.

  23. Northland, 30. January 2020, 23:06

    @Karori Pete, @BHS – Karori needs a dedicated bus lane all the way to and from town and a widening of the Karori Tunnel to offer a better alternative to private cars. But that means ‘more roads’, so you’ll be hard pressed to find any support for it here.

    @Mike Mellor – the old ‘induced demand’ chestnut. If we followed that logic, there would never be any road building at all and we should have no roads as all they do is induce demand. The Melling Interchange is a sensible roading improvement that will also improve road safety on that section.

  24. Ross Clark, 31. January 2020, 1:32

    Melling – what’s needed is a bridge to get heavy rail across the river and ancillary investment to put a station on the eastern side of the river. Thoughts?!

  25. Gwynn, 31. January 2020, 9:00

    @Greenwelly – That would be fine had the Government announced funding for the hybrid units – except they haven’t, which pushes the procurement timeline for them out even further. This is important because if you delve into the details, the ex-Auckland Transport carriages they’re replacing the Cap Con units with are the same vintage as the existing Capital Connection carriage (they’re the same SA/SD ex-British ones from the 1970s. When Auckland Transport looked at refurbing them for use on the electrified Auckland network, they decided it was a waste of time largely due to the undersides being too badly rusted.

    So yes, they needed to do something to keep the Cap Con going, but that’s only viable to do in conjunction with the hybrid units, which aren’t being purchased (yet). Without that commitment to fund the hybrid units, the refurb funding is a bit meaningless, as they’re already talking about pushing out any new units to the end of the decade, which isn’t acceptable.

  26. Kara Lipski, 31. January 2020, 9:08

    Looking beyond our local transport issues, I would like to see the re-introduction of the overnight train between Wellington and Auckland. Once the main line between these two main centres is fully electrified, there should be little to prevent a two way service once again.

  27. Brendan, 31. January 2020, 9:35

    You can travel overnight between Wellington and Auckland by the unsubsidised coach service Kara.

  28. Kara, 31. January 2020, 11:23

    Coaches are uncomfortable and they use diesel so that is why the mainline rail needs to be electrified. I’m not sure if Brendan ever experienced the rattler or the sleeper trains. But I would choose the rattler over a cramped coach any time to travel to Auckland.

  29. Brendan, 31. January 2020, 11:55

    Kara – I drive or fly. You can stop where you like when driving and put some dollars into the towns you drive through. Flying is quicker and is generally unsubsidised (excepting AirNZ which was bailed out by the Govt). I have done the trip once by train but never again. Too slow and painful and the amount of diesel consumed for so few passengers is environmentally unsound.

  30. Mike Mellor, 31. January 2020, 14:05

    Northland, dismissing induced demand (a widely acknowledged phenomenon, including by NZTA) as an “old chestnut” doesn’t make it any less significant. And of course it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t do any road building at all, just that we have to consider all the consequences rather than the simplistic initial saving of a few minutes at one particular set of lights.

    And while the road may well improve road safety, it’s unlikely to improve overall safety. The risk of travelling in a private car is roughly ten times the risk of using public transport, so the safest decision a car user can take is to catch a bus or train (where available) instead. Sadly, the Melling interchange project will tend to do precisely the opposite.

  31. Kumar, 19. February 2020, 16:47

    why not extend Matangi trains from Waikanae to otaki, levin & palmy and electrify all the way.

  32. Keith Flinders, 19. February 2020, 19:29

    Kumar: Main reason against your argument is the cost at several million dollars per km to electrify some 77 kms, plus the cost of raising some road bridges where they cross the tracks.

    For 250 passengers each way, each business day, the extremely high subsidy level will need to increase massively. Six electric buses running the Waikanae – Palmerston North route, would seem a far better solution for ratepayers of the Wellington region who also subsidise the majority of the users of the present Capital Connection service. Most users work in Wellington but spend their money in their own Horizons region if they live north of Otaki.

    The Capital Connection service should have been terminated years ago, or its fares increased to substantially reduce the subsidy it enjoys. However Wellington Regional Council members are not interested in commercial reality.

  33. Mike Mellor, 19. February 2020, 21:13

    Keith, what “extremely high subsidy level”? From memory, the business case says that the Capital Connection recovers about 85% of its costs from fares, while Metlink services recover 50% or so.

    So GWRC has applied “commercial reality” (whatever that really means) much more to the CC than elsewhere. Given the substantial benefits of public transport to non users, it is arguable that that level of subsidy is in fact too low, limiting demand and hence tending to increase road congestion.

  34. Neil Douglas, 20. February 2020, 9:31

    @Mike&Keith – In the early-mid 2000s, the Capital Connection was run commercially i.e. without subsidy from GWRC and Horizons. What changed was Waikanae electrification, Kiwirail management and GWRC’s ambition to micro manage everything rail with 600+ contracts etc that killed management ambition. In 2008 I did a report for Kiwirail on patronage. 2006 was a good year.

  35. greenwelly, 20. February 2020, 9:52

    @Neil. It’s not clear how commercially run the Capital Connection actually was. From the amount of money recently announced to “extend the carriage life”, it would appear they were “sweating” the rolling stock with little allowance for any future life extension.

  36. Neil Douglas, 20. February 2020, 11:11

    I worked for the manager Ross Hayward who was a highly experienced transport planner and accountant and who ran the Capital Connection ‘commercially’. All changed when he left, new cost accountancy introduced, staff practices changed (more) and train refurbishment out-sourced. Unfortunately, the days of Ross and his ilk are gone and unlikely to ever return. Triple, no quadruple the costs and then add on the regional and central government overheads.

  37. Keith Flinders, 20. February 2020, 11:49

    Mike: I have put in a request for up to date subsidy information, but refer you to this report from 2015. https://fyi.org.nz/request/2674-request-for-information-on-the-6m-subsidy-needed-for-the-capital-connection

    According to a recent request I made to KiwiRail, the service averages 330 passengers per day with an average fare collection of $25 per person. So fare box collection is $2,145,000 per annum. With end of life of the rolling stock being near, then the full cost of the service will escalate to cover the cost of the new capital expenditure.

    Your fear of much increased volume of traffic if the service was replaced by up to 6 buses seems, to me, to not be a cause for concern. Certainly some Capital Connection users might instead drive to Waikanae, others to Wellington where parking is at a premium not only cost wise, but the bottleneck at the entrance to the city will see unacceptable delays on the motorway for most. If one elects to live in another region and travel to Wellington to work, then paying the full cost of the train service does not seem unrealistic. But I agree with the rail subsidies enjoyed by Wellington region users, as without then the traffic would be at a standstill.

    The other hidden cost is that of diesel emissions from the large locomotives employed to haul 6 passenger carriages about 300 kms per day, 5 days a week. Carriages that spend most of the day parked in the Wellington yards, and most of the night at Palmerston North.

  38. Andy Mellon, 20. February 2020, 11:55

    @Keith Flinders. What about the benefit for freight with single power electrification from Auckland to Wellington? Filling the gap between Waikanae and Palmerston North doesn’t only provide benefits to commuter trains. It would help move towards electric-only freight on the NIMT, particularly if the gap between (soon to be) Pukekohe and Hamilton were also filled in.

    This is the aspect that appears to be missing from the assessment of the full electrification option in the GWRC business case. I mentioned this in another thread where Daran Ponter had posted the business case.

  39. Keith Flinders, 20. February 2020, 12:37

    Andy: I agree with the concept 100%, especially that of continuing on the electrification past Pukekohe, where it is being extended to, south to Te Rapa. Some 40 kms I believe.

    I was involved in the compiling of an opinion piece, with others, in 2017, to save the electric locomotives on the North Island Main Trunk Te Rapa – Palmerston North. Had there not been a change of government that year then the locomotives would have been replaced by Chinese diesels.

    Extending the electrification south from Waikanae has some serious cost implications, as the suburban commuter trains run on 1500 volts d.c. and the NIMT, as well as the Auckland commuter network, has 25,000 volts a.c. Certainly electric locomotives can now be built to run on dual voltages, but the capacity in the present 1500 volt d.c infrastructure would need to be substantially upgraded to handle freight trains as well. A few weeks ago contributor Kerry wrote here at Wellington.Scoop on this aspect in some detail.

    Another option is to convert the Matangis to 25,000 volts, or have them dual voltage, meaning same EMUs could run north of Waikanae, and all freight trains traverse Auckland – Wellington. Unlikely this will happen in my lifetime.

  40. Dave B, 20. February 2020, 15:29

    Keith, Pukekohe to Te Rapa via the NIMT is 80Km.

  41. Keith Flinders, 21. February 2020, 3:16

    Dave B: My mistake, as what I should have written was that the cost of extending electrification from Pukekohe to Te Rapa will be about $400 million based on the the current 20 km extension to Pukekohe at $96 million.

    In money terms electrification does not come cheap, but in terms of the environmental aspects and efficiencies it must be achieved sooner than later.

  42. greenwelly, 21. February 2020, 10:50

    @Keith, A straight per Km comparison is probably a very basic minimum,
    Its highly likely that any electrification work to TeRapa would also require track doubling or even possible total rerouting of the 15km Whangamarino Wetland section, that would likely significantly push the price up,

  43. Keith Flinders, 22. February 2020, 13:11

    Greenwelly: The opinion piece I was involved in writing, with others, is here. KiwiRail at that time were of the opinion that to complete the electrification of the NIMT would be $1 billion. They did not mention other desirable enhancements being included in that sum.