Wellington Scoop

Chris Finlayson on National’s poor performance – “got what they deserved”

Report from RNZ
Former Wellington National Party MP Chris Finlayson says long-serving representatives Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith have run their races.

Finlayson served in Parliament from 2005 until 2019 including as a minister and the Attorney-General during the John Key era.

He says he hopes Smith – who has been beaten in the Nelson seat he’s held since 1996 – doesn’t return as a list MP.

Finlayson praised Brownlee’s tenure but says he also needs to call it a day – after losing the Ilam seat to Labour.

“The trouble with me is I don’t personalise it but as a matter of principle I happen to believe in term limits – that you should do about 15 years and then get lost, and if you can’t achieve something in 15 years then you’re a bit of loser.”

He says the party’s kicking in the polls was deserved.

“It’s probably a good thing that there’s been a bit of a clean-out. I think the phone’s been off the hook now for some months.

“Judith [Collins] stemmed the bleeding but any rational observer looking back at the last 18 months would say the National Party has performed very very poorly and they got what they deserved.”

Jacinda Ardern is meeting senior Labour MPs this afternoon as they take stock of the party’s landslide election victory. Labour is on track to form the first majority government in the MMP era.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson this morning indicated a willingness to join Labour in governing, saying she’d like a ministerial role. But Ardern last night said she still had to consider what sort of arrangement might eventuate.


  1. michael, 18. October 2020, 17:18

    If Labour doesn’t govern by themselves then they are snubbing all those who voted for them! If they have a majority, then there is no excuse not to and stand on their own merits instead of being hamstrung by other parties. Let’s see if Jacinda has the courage to do that.

  2. claire, 18. October 2020, 18:32

    Chris has got it absolutely correct. The National Party have suffered from terminal arrogance, have never really accepted the 2017 loss and failed to understand Mmp. They have been falling behind on key issues such as climate change, equality, actually things they call woke issues. They are causing embarrassment. For example the obesity comment made by Judith Collins. And the implosion regarding the leaking of a covid list by Michelle Boag. The remnants of dirty politics. It will take a few years to reform and be credible.

  3. TrevorH, 19. October 2020, 7:31

    Ardern spoke on election night of governing for all New Zealanders. She no doubt understands that many centre-Right voters have put their trust in her, as evidenced by seats like Ilam turning to Labour, and that she should pursue a moderate course that works for as many New Zealanders as possible in the COVID recovery ahead. She doesn’t need the Greens but if she wants to toss them a bone I believe the Racing portfolio has now become available. National need to rediscover their mojo. A renewed commitment to civil liberties, especially free speech which has served Act so well, would be a useful start.

  4. Kara, 20. October 2020, 11:19

    I fully expect Kelvin Davis to be the deputy PM due to his position in the party. However that doesn’t preclude some MPs from the Greens being appointed to appropriate ministerial portfolios.

  5. Dave B, 20. October 2020, 16:36

    Julie Anne Genter is the obvious choice for Minister of Transport, despite not being a Labour MP. She seems to be the only person in parliament who knows anything about transport. Former Transport Ministers Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee and Simon Bridges had no progressive ideas at all and simply pursued tired old road-building policies from the past. Phil Twyford was put in charge of both transport and housing but didn’t do justice to either. Let him now focus on housing and let Julie Anne take transport.

  6. Mike Mellor, 21. October 2020, 6:53

    Agreed, Dave B, except for her dreadful proposal to turn every footpath into a path shared with people on bikes at up to 15 km/h, such a speed being defined as “slow” despite being three times the maximum speed of nearly everyone on foot.

    That will not only be bad for pedestrians but bad for cyclists, too: if there’s perceived to be a “safe” (for cyclists, actually the opposite for pedestrians) option of riding on the footpath, what justification is there for providing proper safe bike facilities?

  7. Rosamund, 21. October 2020, 8:51

    Maybe National would consider appointing Winston Peters as their leader. Having listened to Judith Collins since the election, it seems that she has “heard nothing” and is unwisely going to be part of the “review” when she would be better distancing herself from proceedings. Let’s hope that the overwhelming support for the progressives is used to support those with greatest need.

  8. Dave B, 21. October 2020, 11:37

    @ Mike Mellor – I was not aware that Julie Anne Genter had proposed doing this to “every footpath”. Are you sure?
    From what I know of her, she has a deep concern for the safety of all ‘vulnerable road users’. If she really has overlooked an important element of pedestrian safety here, then I suspect she will be very open to submissions pointing this out.

  9. greenwelly, 21. October 2020, 12:23

    @ Dave B. It’s part of the “accessible streets” proposal she put forward. It would – redefine the users of the footpath, and allow users to ravel no faster than 15km/h, and ride a device less than 750mm wide so multiple people can still use the footpath.
    It would be pretty much open slather.

  10. Mike Mellor, 21. October 2020, 12:44

    Dave B: see https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/consultation/accessible-streets/Yellow-Draft-LTR-Paths-and-Road-Margins-2020.pdf, Section 3.1(1), which says “A person may ride a cycle or transport device or drive a mobility device on a footpath if they comply with this clause”, followed by some specific requirements, but the generality of this paragraph still applies.
    Submissions have indeed pointed this out: for example, see here.

  11. Richard Keller, 21. October 2020, 14:24

    This was a ‘Covid-19’ election. New Labour voters will understand that and voted that way because that is a priority. They will accept that Labour / Greens(?) will pursue their intended policies. But what are those policies, really? Labour is a Neo-Liberal party not a ‘left’ party. The Greens need to be strong in showing who they really are, which is what? We shall see.

  12. D'Esterre, 22. October 2020, 23:30

    Dave B: “Julie Anne Genter is the obvious choice for Minister of Transport….” This would be the same Julie Anne Genter who put the kibosh on our sorely-needed second Mt Vic tunnel. There has been so much development on the airport side of Mt Vic, the extra residents need more road space. Even if they use buses, bikes and rideshares, they still need adequate roading. And the same Julie Anne Genter who has proposed the bizarre notion of shared pathways, 15kmh top speeds and disregard pedestrians who will bear the brunt of the inevitable collisions. Especially those of us who are disabled, or older and less spry.

    And – a fortiori – the same Julie Anne Genter who, with Phil Twyford, forced upon us the NPS-UD, which has the force of law under the provisions of the RMA. And is the legal justification for WCC’s contentious draft spatial plan. A few weeks ago, we went to a candidates’ meeting for our electorate. Three of the candidates were sitting MPs. They told us that the proposed NPS-UD didn’t go through the select committee process: it was simply gazetted under the provisions of the RMA. So: not democracy.

  13. CC, 23. October 2020, 8:40

    On reading you comment D’Esterre, it is obvious that Dave B is right! Wellington needs to get beyond the shorttermism and four lanes to the planes mentality that has crippled the city’s progress. For what it is worth, Julie-Ann Genter is more qualified to participate in decision making regarding public transport than most ministers in respect of their portfolios. Your final comment seems somewhat awry when NPS-UD policy was tacitly endorsed by a General Election result.

  14. D'Esterre, 23. October 2020, 14:24

    CC: “…the shorttermism and four lanes to the planes mentality…” Another tunnel provides extra roading capacity, along with some redundancy in the event of natural disasters.

    “…NPS-UD policy was tacitly endorsed by a General Election result.” I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most voters wouldn’t know what the NPS-UD is. The only reason we unfortunates – or some of us – in Wellington are aware of it is because of WCC’s draft spatial plan, which adduces it as legal justification for what it wants to do.

  15. Dave B, 23. October 2020, 20:49

    Thanks all for the various responses to my comment re Julie Anne Genter for Minister of Transport, and the various links provided.

    As regards the cycles on footpaths proposal, I have skimmed through the Accessible Streets Overview and noted this clause:
    “We propose that road controlling authorities, like local councils, will be able to lower the speed limit on the footpath to 10km/h or 5km/h. They will not be able to increase the speed limit.” To me, this says that there will not be carte-blanche to ride at 15Km/h on every footpath, but that 15Km/h is an absolute maximum for situations which allow it, and that much lower limits will apply where 15Km/h is inappropriate. Obviously there are many narrow footpaths which are inappropriate for cycling at all or at anything other than walking-speed.

    The proposal also stresses the need for courtesy and giving pedestrians priority. I wish a 15Km/h limit, some courtesy and pedestrian priority would be shown by certain cyclists who currently abuse all of these along the Wellington Waterfront shared-area. I think it is quite probable that the proposals would help focus the minds of cyclists on their responsibilities in such situations. I see merit in the proposals and I don’t think they should be shot down with scaremongering claims based on exaggerated or worst-case interpretations.

    Yes, there will always be idiots who will do stupid things, just as there are on the roads (quite likely the same people, once they graduate from bike to car). But to be consistent, if we ban all cycling from all footpaths because of these morons, should we not by the same token ban all driving from all roads? We don’t do this because we trust a sensible majority to abide by the rules.

  16. Mike Mellor, 23. October 2020, 20:57

    D’Esterre: another Mt Vic tunnel would provide extra roading capacity, but much less transport capacity than a tunnel for public transport, which LGWM is considering as part of Mass Rapid Transit. Private cars are the most inefficient users of road space (and, of course, the greatest carbon and particulate emitters), so it makes little sense to prioritise a tunnel for them.

    And a new road tunnel will generate more traffic, which will generate more congestion at both ends of the tunnel. In the eastern suburbs that will mean more vehicles trying to squeeze into existing congested areas such as Calabar Rd and Miramar Avenue, making things worse – unless we provide proper choice to travellers in the form of high quality public transport (ie LGWM’s MRT). That will provide the transport capacity that is needed, freeing up space for tradies, freight and others that have no real alternative to driving, in an efficient low-carbon and low-particulate way.

  17. Northland, 23. October 2020, 22:59

    There should have been 2 lanes each way to the eastern suburbs from the outset. Certainly, now, the population growth on that side of Mount Vic demands it.

    The idea that ‘four lanes to the planes mentality’ has crippled the city’s progress is laughable. What has crippled the city’s progress is too much talking and not enough doing by the likes of LGWM. Roading and public transport links are not mutually exclusive. There is, and should be, room for both.

  18. Dave B, 24. October 2020, 1:10

    @ Northland: “Roading and public transport links are not mutually exclusive. There is, and should be, room for both”.
    Unfortunately we have prioritized roading to an enormous extent for at least 50 years, neglecting public transport abysmally and leading to things like the cancelling of 1960s proposals for underground rail in both Auckland and Wellington. Against this sorry back-drop, public transport has a lot of catching-up to do, so we need to give it some serious priority for the forseable future, instead of yet-more road-expansion which simply worsens the problem of excessive car-use.

  19. Mike Mellor, 24. October 2020, 10:20

    Dave B: thanks for quoting that section of the Accessible Streets proposal, which confirms that the default position is proposed to be bikes etc allowed on all footpaths at 15km/h. Sure councils will have the ability to reduce this, but this will be subject to the usual lengthy, thorough and detailed local government processes, requiring time, money and political will, many of which local councils are short of, followed by the costs (eg signage) of implementation (central government is always good at pushing costs onto local government!).

    So no “scaremongering claims based on exaggerated or worst-case interpretations”, I’m afraid – just facts.

    And I’m sure that you’re aware that cycling is currently banned on all footpaths, so your last paragraph is perhaps a bit hyperbolic.

    But you’re spot on about the historical lack of investment in public transport through the city: in fact, in recent years there has been disinvestment in infrastructure with the removal of the trolleybus network, the only significant spending being on the bus hubs, of which the less said the better.

  20. D'Esterre, 25. October 2020, 21:41

    Dave B: “….local councils will be able to lower the speed limit on the footpath to 10km/h or 5km/h. They will not be able to increase the speed limit.” When we lived in the provinces, I biked a good deal. My experience says that 5kmh – more or less walking speed – isn’t feasible. Wobbles and falling off are big problems at such a low speed.

    “…there are many narrow footpaths which are inappropriate for cycling at all…” True enough. That’s the case in our suburb. There are, nevertheless, many children – and some adults – who ride bikes on our footpaths hereabouts. Just recently, I was almost skittled by a child on a scooter coming very fast round a blind corner, followed by said child’s father on a bike and also on the footpath. It was a close-run thing…

    “…or at anything other than walking-speed.” See my comment above.

    “…I don’t think they should be shot down with scaremongering claims based on exaggerated or worst-case interpretations.” This is the problem: they’re not scaremongering. Children are the most unpredictable: and they can do as much damage to somebody of my age as can an adult. Not to mention to themselves.

    “…if we ban all cycling from all footpaths…” And here we have the nub of the issue: footpaths are for the exclusive use of pedestrians. Hence the name. People who wish to bike need to use a dedicated bike-path. And if there is no room for one – as is for the most part the case in this suburb – they must perforce brave the rigours of the roads. Or use public transport (or walk).

    Mike Mellor: “…extra roading capacity, but much less transport capacity than a tunnel for public transport, which LGWM is considering as part of Mass Rapid Transit.” Aside from the question of whether LGWM will deliver anything of substance – in particular MRT – there is already a bus tunnel through Mt Vic. Surely that’s part of a public transport system? Though at the time of the local authority elections, we heard that the tunnel is no longer being used for buses. If that’s true, it’s presumably because the new buses are too large for it. As to extra roading capacity, public transport also needs extra roading capacity. Buses, eg; the trams I recall from my youth; MRT (last I saw of the proposals).

    “… a new road tunnel will generate more traffic, which will generate more congestion at both ends of the tunnel.” Traffic to the CBD will be governed by the availability of parking, as it is now. Through traffic – out of the city or to the airport – will proceed as it does now, though the journey may be a little easier. At present, getting to the airport on time can be a chancy business.

    Northland: “There should have been 2 lanes each way to the eastern suburbs from the outset.” Agreed. Time to remedy that deficiency.

  21. TrevorH, 26. October 2020, 7:50

    How will Councils enforce speed limits for bicycles on footpaths, whether 15 km/h or 5 km/h? Will they ask the Police to do this, or will they develop their own enforcement capability with the necessary trained staff and equipment? Do they enforce any speed limits, eg on scooters, at present? I am not aware of them making any effort in this direction at all.

  22. D'Esterre, 26. October 2020, 15:17

    TrevorH: “How will Councils enforce speed limits for bicycles on footpaths, whether 15 km/h or 5 km/h?” A family member, who’s worked for local authorities in NZ, says it’s not feasible. It’s perfectly possible to make laws of this sort, but enforcement is a horse of an entirely different colour. This looks to be something dreamed up by people who’ve never had to do the actual work involved.

  23. Mike Mellor, 26. October 2020, 15:52

    D’Esterre: there’s much more to the demand for car travel than parking provision, such as relative speed, attractiveness and cost compared with public transport. This is easy to demonstrate: if parking was the sole factor, it would be reasonable to expect that the proportion of people travelling by car into the city would be pretty constant, irrespective of where they’re coming from. But that’s not the case, car passengers varying from less than half to over three-quarters of total passengers, depending on the corridor.

    And efficient bus travel does need road space, but much less than cars do: currently on the Seatoun-city centre corridor, buses make up 5% of the traffic between 8 and 9 in the morning, but carry 52% of the people (cars are 90% of the traffic, carrying 46% of the people). So it’s obvious that providing facilities for more car traffic, encouraging car use, will make the current situation worse for everyone – but encouraging bus use will make the current situation better.

    For example, an increase in the number of bus passengers by 10% (by better bus priority, for instance), adding over 5% to the total number of people, would tend to increase traffic by 0.5% or so; doing the same for cars (by a new tunnel, for instance) would add under 5% to the total number of people and increase traffic by 9%, nearly 20 times as much. (Both these examples are a bit simplistic, and understate the difference, because more people in cars would tend to reduce the number in buses, and vice versa; and they assume that current relative loadings would continue to apply at different levels of usage.)

    So bus priority is a much more effective way of increasing capacity than road building – and decent bus priority throughout the whole city (not just the eastern suburbs) would cost roughly half of what would have to be spent on a new road tunnel.

    And it’s very easy to check that the bus tunnel is still used, so I’m not sure why you’re asking that pointless question. In fact, as is to be expected, it’s much more productive in terms of passengers than the Mt Vic tunnel, carrying roughly twice the passengers in half the lanes. Imagine the chaos if this piece of bus priority wasn’t there!

    But I do agree with you about bikes on footpaths.

    TrevorH: good point.

  24. TrevorH, 26. October 2020, 19:56

    @D’Esterre: I don’t believe we can trust a thing this Council says. They are quite detached from reality.

  25. claire, 27. October 2020, 10:32

    An efficient bus service, express bus lanes, tighter timetables and better routes. And dare I say it electric buses. Will make a big difference to congestion issues. Also consider free buses or at least a trial. Are buses just light rail with more flexibility? Surely cheaper in the end than more roads and tunnels and expensive light rail. A simple solution to at least try.

  26. Julienz, 27. October 2020, 16:25

    @Claire – Agree totally. I asked at a local body candidates meeting last year why this obsession with metal on track rather than rubber on road? Especially in light of the Christchurch tourist tram being out of action for ages following the earthquake. The only answer seemed to be something about capacity. All very well in peak time but off peak most of the time mini buses would do the trick.

  27. Dave B, 27. October 2020, 17:37

    @Julienz – All very well suggesting that mini buses could provide all the public transport we need off-peak, but what do you propose we do about the peaks? It would also be fair to say that the road system is somewhat oversized if considering the off-peak only. But the peak is what it is and we have to accommodate it somehow. The existing rail system shows that “metal on track” is very effective at moving large numbers of people quickly.

    And incidentally, the Christchurch tram was relatively easy to fix following the earthquake, but being mainly a tourist operation, its repair was not given the sort of priority that an essential service would have received. A better example of a quickly-fixed railway was the Main North Line which was knocked out by the Kaikoura Earthquake along with the parallel highway. The railway was prioritized for repair ahead of the highway, because heavy materials needed to fix the highway could then be brought in by train.

  28. Julienz, 27. October 2020, 18:50

    @Dave B – Totally accept the problem of the peak. I agree the existing trains (with the possible exception of the Johnsonville Line) are excellent and people in the wider region vote by using them far more than people in other NZ cities. I was more aiming at the Light Rail proposal which will involve huge excavation and have no flexibility when we could have a dedicated busway much more quickly and cheaply with a bit of road marking and a lot of political will.

  29. Mike Mellor, 28. October 2020, 11:06

    Julienz: investors, developers, planners and infrastructure providers, all vital for the city’s future, want certainty and permanence, not flexibility. They need to know that the supporting infrastructure and economic activity that is there (or planned) when they plan investment is still going to be there over the lifetime of that investment.

    So light rail construction is generally a strong boost for investment (as is proper Bus Rapid Transport – not actually proposed for Wellington – which requires a very similar level of infrastructure), but cheap changeable bus lanes provide nothing like the same assurance (or the same level of service).

    And to replicate the current heavily used north-south and east-west spines would require many more minibuses (and many more drivers). Both buses and roads are already busy offpeak, so where would they fit? And where would the many new drivers (and their wages) come from?

  30. D'Esterre, 28. October 2020, 12:52

    Mike Mellor: “…if parking was the sole factor, it would be reasonable to expect that the proportion of people travelling by car into the city would be pretty constant, irrespective of where they’re coming from.” I’m a bit puzzled by this claim. If we’re talking about people coming into the CBD by car for concerts, shopping or whatever, parking is the major issue. Therefore the number of cars is critical, surely: not the number of passengers in said cars. If parking is scarce, people are more likely to use rideshares or public transport. An extra tunnel wouldn’t make a difference to the availability of parking in the CBD. An extra tunnel would, however, make a difference to through traffic, to and from the airport and heading north. There may well be more of it, but if it’s through traffic, it won’t clog up the CBD.

    “…I’m not sure why you’re asking that pointless question.”
    I’m not sure why you use that phraseology. A mayoral candidate, who apparently knew something about the bus tunnel, said that it wasn’t being used for buses. So if it isn’t, that may be because the new buses are too large to fit into it. And if it isn’t, it could be adapted for cars. And why not? As has been pointed out, there should from the outset have been two lanes each way to the eastern suburbs.

    Claire: “Are buses just light rail with more flexibility?” Yup. They still need roads, though. As would light rail (were it ever to happen). The Mt Vic tunnel, as it’s currently configured, remains a choke point for access to and from the eastern suburbs, whether or not it’s buses or private vehicles using it.

  31. Claire, 28. October 2020, 13:48

    Mike I am not sure I agree with you. Why were the trams removed back in the fifties and then the trolley buses. Lots of maintenance and cost and not enough flexibility in route. Even with light rail we will still need buses. So I would suggest that BRT or at least express buses and lanes are taken seriously. My suggestion for free public transport is also serious – it will get a lot more people on public transport and make a big difference to congestion.

  32. Keith Flinders, 30. October 2020, 7:56

    Claire: Following your line of thought re trams and trolley buses, should the suburban rail network be converted to buses to give those routes greater flexibility? The cost of maintaining suburban rail is expensive yet the cost to passengers per km is less than that for buses. Greater subsidies given to rail being part of this equation.

    BRT requires two dedicated bus-only lanes in each direction to work effectively but this is impossible to achieve in Wellington with its narrow streets. As the city grows, some form of mass public transport will be required, and light rail appears to be the most suitable. Light rail costed out over its much longer service life than buses has to be considered also in the cost argument per passenger km. With the massive leap in battery technology in the past five years, it is possible that we could see light rail without the need for overhead infrastructure, except at fast recharging facilities along the routes.

  33. Julienz, 30. October 2020, 10:12

    @Keith Flinders – There was a proposal to convert the Johnsonville Line to a guided busway with buses running a minute apart to city in the mornings returning to Johnsonville via unclogged roads and swapping direction for the pm peak. It seemed a good idea but did not win the day and I suspect now there has been so much sunk cost in the trains that it would no longer be considered.

  34. greenwelly, 30. October 2020, 11:31

    @Julienz, the Johnsonville busway idea finally died when then Finance Minister (and Kiwirail shareholder) Michael Cullen stood up in parliament and basically said … “Kiwirail owns the rail corridor, no one has asked us about turning it into a busway, and if they did we would say no.”
    – I’m pretty sure Kiwirail’s views have not changed.

  35. Wellington Commuter, 30. October 2020, 13:18

    @Julienz, @greenwelly: Yes, turning the Johnsonville Line into a guided busway did not proceed because KiwiRail (a state owned enterprise) and then local MP Peter Dunne both opposed it.

    The Guided Busway option 3 would have given the best PT service for the whole area and this was reflected in it being the most popular with over 60% of all submissions supported it:

    The fact that most PT commuters from North Wellington still take the bus through congested roads shows the Johnsonville Rail Line is not an effective PT option for most residents and therefore a waste of money.

    Central government blocking the preferred option of a local government public consultation was a naked political decision to protect the state rail monopoly and keep the support of the independent MP whose vote kept then government in power. Understanding that Wellington transport decisions are really made by backroom government stakeholders such as KiwiRail, not public consultation, helps explain why Lets Get Wellington moving is stalled despite huge public support for better PT in Wellington City.

  36. Julienz, 30. October 2020, 16:42

    @Wellington Commuter – Yes, I submitted at the time in favour of the bus way, and re-read the report when working on my submission re the DSP – so frustrating. The cost estimates compared to today also bring tears to my eyes. Seeing the train tootle back and forth every half hour throughout the day with half a dozen passengers at most on board seems so wasteful. And now to add insult to injury WCC interprets central government’s NPS-UD as meaning everyone within walking distance of the Johnsonville train stations has access to “Mass Rapid Transit” so we get zoned for at least six storeys. The whole thing feels like running around in ever decreasing circles. My bet the NPS-UD will do very little for affordability. Enabling is one thing, developers acquiring suitable sites which support an economic case for building quite another. But even one six storey apartment building will cast a long shadow so the battle continues.

  37. Dave B, 30. October 2020, 18:07

    Wellington Commuter, you may be right that most PT commuters from the Johnsonville area take the bus, especially now that there is a high-frequency, generally fast bus-service direct to the city. However the Johnsonville Line also serves a catchment less-well-served by bus and that is the Crofton Downs-Ngaio-Khandallah-Raroa corridor. Many commuters from here still use the train.

    An unfortunate aspect of the Johnsonville train timetable is that it was slowed-down some years ago, to assist with punctuality. The argument at the time was that passengers would happily trade a few extra minutes for better punctuality, but the result now is that for most of the day the bus from Johnsonville to Wellington is much faster than the train (13-17min as against the train’s 23-28min). Slowing-down the train-timetable has disadvantaged the service and promises made of faster journeys with the arrival of the Matangis have not materialised. Unfortunately the contractual arrangements with the train operator incentivize only punctuality, not journey-time so there is no real incentive to speed things up.

    The other big hindrance faced by the train is that it goes no further than the Wellington Railway Station whereas the bus continues through the CBD to the southern suburbs. The subject of extending the entire regional rail system has been well-debated under other Wellington.Scoop postings, but the reality is that until this is done, none of the rail lines including Johnsonville will be able to perform as effectively as they should.

    So, Wellington Commuter, if you see relatively-empty trains coming and going from Johnsonville, this is because most passengers are getting on or off at intermediate stops and no-one in charge seems to see the need for further improvements to the basic service.

  38. Julienz, 30. October 2020, 19:01

    @Dave B – I just did a LGOIMA request of GWRC who advise four four car trains an hour are as good as the Johnsonville train can get – 492 passengers per train. Accept 1.5 million passengers a year is useful but it is not Mass Rapid Transit. The empty trains I see during the day are in Khandallah.

  39. Wellington Commuter, 31. October 2020, 11:27

    @Dave B: You say “However the Johnsonville Line also serves a catchment less-well-served by bus and that is the Crofton Downs-Ngaio-Khandallah-Raroa corridor.” Of course these commuters have to take the train, because there are no bus services there. To support KiwiRail, it is GWRC policy not to run buses in competition with train. This is why the GWRC excluded the unsubsidised NCS bus services (the white buses) from Wainuiomata and Stokes Valley from the new bus network … these commuter bus services are not even on the Metlink bus schedules even though they are registered PT services and obviously provide a service valued by some commuters as it continues to run now. And obviously if the rail line was converted to take buses, these commuters could use these services which would likely be more popular as they wouldn’t have to walk from the station.

    Outside peak times, the Johnsonville bus service has always been faster than the train service. When we had the English Electrics it was still 21 minutes to Johnsonville vs 16 minutes by bus. Like all rail lines, 90% of Johnsonville Line travellers are going to/from Wellington. Having used the rail service at all hours, I know that when I see relatively-empty trains coming and going from Johnsonville it’s because they ARE empty all the way to the CBD.

  40. Dave B, 31. October 2020, 12:26

    @ Julienz – I’m not quite sure of your point. At present during the off-peak, the Johnsonville Line operates with 2x 2-car trains giving a rather paltry half-hourly service. This tends to run lightly-loaded. During the peaks, the line operates with 4 x 4-car trains, giving a 15-minute frequency. It is this that tends to fill with intermediate passengers with relatively few from Johnsonville itself. As things are, this service proves adequate for the patronage that currently presents itself and capacity is not an issue. Numbers have fallen over recent years and the reasons are as I mentioned previously – an improved competing bus-service from Johnsonville, train-schedules slowed-down and nothing done to extend services further into town.

    The line is able to accommodate 6-car trains if needed. All the intermediate platforms and crossing loops were lengthened for this purpose in 2009. The exception is the Johnsonville platform which was “shortened” by forcing trains to stop before they reach the end – a temporary precaution after the buffer-stop crash at Melling. So there is very little impediment to running longer trains if the demand rises, but unlike with the Kapiti and Hutt Valley Lines, this is not a current problem.

    As far as frequency is concerned, the line and its loop-spacings were optimised for a 13-minute frequency which ran for many years in the past, but a 15-minute pattern was chosen more-recently to allow ‘clock-face’ operation. This was also when the end-end timings were slowed from 21 minutes (24 counter-peak) to 23 minutes (28 counter-peak). Prior to this happening, some investigation work was done on a 12-minute frequency and even 10, but the anticipated demand for this did not come, and I might add, was not courted.

    The Johnsonville Line does face an uncertain future if present trends continue. At the very least it should be speeded-up to its former schedule by focussed training of drivers and eliminating certain very-conservative practices and speed-restrictions. Fitting of an automatic supervisory system (“European Train Control System”) which is proposed to happen to all trains in the medium future should help with this. But beyond this the future of the line is dependent on measures to make it more useful to more people and at the moment any vision for this is lacking. If the entire metro service including the Johnsonville Line gets extended further south, then its fortunes will likely turn around. Likewise if it gets converted to Light Rail and also runs further south, but I do not advocate this since the region’s real need is to have the entire system extended, not just Johnsonville.

  41. Dave B, 1. November 2020, 15:20

    @ Wellington Commuter: Of course there are bus services in the Crofton Downs-Ngaio-Khandallah-Raroa corridor, but they are not high-frequency direct routes. They wind around the suburbs and tend to get caught in peak Ngaio-Gorge traffic. Unless people live much closer to the bus route than to the train, they will tend to take the train.

    KiwiRail now has very little to do with the metro train service as this is managed and run by Transdev, so I can’t see why you allege that GWRC disallows competition between bus and train “to support KiwiRail”?? KiwiRail now only supplies the network for the trains to run on. As I said earlier, there is competition between bus and train between Johnsonville and Wellington, but this is due to the logistics of providing efficient network coverage rather than for some ideological reason for or against competition. I am not familiar with the bus services to Wainuiomata or Stokes Valley (both non-rail-served places) so am not clear on the point you are trying to make here.

    You suggest that busways are more popular than rail services because buses can continue beyond the end of the ‘fixed-route’ and diverge into the suburbs, thereby saving people the walk to the station. This is an argument commonly trotted-out in support of busways but the benefits do not stack-up as-claimed, since bus-frequencies after-diverging are much lower that over the fixed-route section. Rather like the high-frequency No1 bus route, the 10-minute frequency to Johnsonville disperses into half-hour frequencies once the service diverges into three. But it is the high-frequency and predictability-of-service that is the chief drawcard. Beyond the end of the busway the service becomes ‘just a bus’, and the experience of many busway operations is that people prefer to drive to stops on the high-frequency-route and take the bus from there, rather than wait at a remote low-frequency stop in the suburbs. Auckland’s North Shore busway is a case in point with massive carparking demand at stops on the fixed-route. In other words, the same features that make rail services popular! Converting the single-track Johnsonville Line to buses would have led to the worst of both worlds: a bizarre and confusing ‘quasi-uni-directional’ fixed-route, with a low-frequency divergence at its end. Hopeless for example for the many school children who traditionally have travelled counter-peak to schools in Johnsonville. I think many people breathed a sigh of relief when this ill-considered proposal died.

    As per my reply to Julienz above, the “relatively empty” Johnsonville trains that you are seeing “all the way to the CBD”, are off-peak ones. The off-peak Johnsonville service suffers from inadequate frequency to be attractive and no-one seems to be interested in growing it. Due to the line’s configuration, it cannot be boosted to a 20-minute inter-peak frequency as-per the other lines. It must either run half-hourly or quarter-hourly, so it is left at half-hourly. However the late evening hourly service could easily be restored to half-hourly and continued up to midnight as it used to be prior to 2004. The cuts in 2004 virtually collapsed the late-evening patronage overnight.

  42. Mike Mellor, 1. November 2020, 20:13

    D’Esterre: my comment about your “pointless question” was because it would have been very easy for you to check that the bus tunnel is in fact very much in use, including by the largest buses, carrying most passengers from the east to/from the city. (Your candidate’s knowledge of the buses was clearly more appearance than substance.) If it weren’t, short of reboring it (i.e. effectively a new tunnel), it would make little sense for cars to use it, its capacity for small vehicles being minimal, and resulting queues horrendous. No-one is going to turn Pirie St or Waitoa Rd into a major through-traffic route!

    Agreed that the number of cars is critical: their number and their low capacity are precisely why they cause congestion.

    Light rail doesn’t necessarily require roads: it requires a right-of-way, which may be road space. If it does use road space it will use it much more efficiently and effectively than a large numbers of cars (as the bus tunnel currently demonstrates).

    WC: the unsubsidised “white” commuter buses from Stokes Valley, Upper Hutt and Wainuiomata barely exist any more – just one return trip from Wainuiomata survives. Using your terminology, people did not value them enough. GWRC excluded them from the network because they were unsubsidised (“exempt”, in the legislative jargon) and therefore outside its public transport framework, not because of any policy about competition with rail (which is there to make best use of ratepayer resources, not to support KiwiRail).

    The Bus & Coach Association did carry out a very effective PR campaign in favour of the busway, making it very easy for people to support that option (which would have meant entirely different routes for peak and off-peak buses and a flood of counter-peak buses on ordinary streets, presenting difficulties for both passengers and operators). Unfortunately nobody had the vested interest nor the financial backing to conduct such a campaign in favour of any of the other options. Despite this campaign, the busway was by far the most opposed public transport option, and it’s understandable why the local MP was against such an unpopular proposal. As for ONTRACK (as it was at the time), nobody bothered asking them!