Transport has been a hot topic this week, with politicians throwing around ideas for a commuter train service between Auckland and Tauranga, and the road north of the city bestowed a new importance.
The Labour Party has touted, or in the case of trains, tooted, the idea that local roads and a rail network would connect the ‘Golden Triangle' of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
We're not sure when Hamilton was allowed in the Golden Triangle, but that's a debate for another day. If we left Hamilton out of it, we could have a Golden Straight Line, and this would be much cheaper to build. Because it's a well-documented fact that corners are the tricky parts.
But anyway, let's just assume for the purpose of this story that Hamilton does qualify for the lofty role as one of the corners of said Triangle.
So Jacinda Ardern, the new leader of the Labour Party, rocked into town this week and announced her government, should that become a thing, would invest $20 million in commuter trains connecting the three cities.
The plan was immediately derailed by the Port Company, which rightly points out a flaw in the plan… the tracks are already pretty darn full of freight trains.
Port CEO Mark Cairns told SunLive he admired the vision, but 74 freight trains a week, soon to be 90 a week, would mean the already under-pressure single track wouldn't be able to handle the volume.
Or the speed, since the commuter trains belt along at 160km/h and the freight trains 75, on a 80km/h rated track.
Mark Cairns pointed out: “You can't just have a train doing 160km/h passing a freight train doing 75km/h on the same track – they just can't pull out and pass them.” Although here at RR it's something we'd be keen to watch, if anyone wants to give it a crack. Just give us a chance to get the camera rolling before you try.
Tauranga MP and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges calls Labour's rail plans ‘unrealistic'.
“The Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga rail line is our busiest freight route and simply doesn't have the capacity to also be a commuter rail line,” says Simon.
"The only way you could use it for both would be to double track large sections of the line, and Labour doesn't have any plan to invest for that.”
Which is a shame, because the commuter rail line could provide some proper jobs for those who need them.
Such as Mr Dotcom, who would make an excellent Fat Controller.
Our budget does stretch far enough to appoint Ringo Starr as narrator, but we could see if legendary radio star Grayson Ottaway could drag himself away from aeroplanes long enough to focus on trains.
Other characters could include:
Wayward Winston Wagon
Paula the Second Carriage
Collins the Coal Crusher
Metiria the Dodgy Cash Caboose
Grant the Night Shunter
And of course the main character, Jacinda the Smoking Hot Buffet Cart.
This is significant
We reckon commuter trains are a jolly good idea. Mainly because we've seen how badly you drive cars. Any system that removes a percentage of Tauranga people from roundabouts has got to be healthy.
Here at RR we don't know why you'd want to go to Hamilton, or Awkland for that matter.
But we know a lot of people are clamouring to escape them both. So the trains might be full but only one way.
In other transport news, State Sloway 2 north of Tauranga, recently maligned here in a Rogers Rabbits column, has been given a morale boost, being named a ‘Road of National Significance' by the government.
MP Todd Muller says the investment will be a game changer. Of course it's been criticised by the Labour folk, who still think the train thing will take off.
But the Tauranga–Katikati section of the highway gets a fair whack of $10.5 billion towards four-laning and other improvements.
Being named a Road of National Significance is the transportation equivalent of winning ‘Best Trier' award at the annual naked Twister convention.
It doesn't mean a lot to regular folk and you don't see any difference for a while, but it sounds good and the certificate on the wall is a great conversation starter.
Whatever you call it, what we really need for our roads is a ‘start'.
These improvements, ideas and concepts are all wonderful to talk about. We just need some of them to actually be done.
Let's not fall prey to this prophecy, from SunLive AndyCap:
“You can promise a new road to the moon and back and some will lap it up, but more and more New Zealand voters are smarter than you give them credit for. The days of a last-minute lolly scramble with the promise of roads and other stuff are gone.
“Years and years of policy to maintain and enrich the elite at the cost of our way of life in New Zealand – sorry chaps we've heard it all before!”
Yep, sometimes I think us voters must be all a few bogies short of a carriage to believe half the stuff trotted out in election year.
In the famous words of a previous leader who coined the phrase ‘show us the money!' we have a challenge for the government: ‘Show us the tarseal!'