Christchurch Needs More Trains


Here now in Christchurch, I’m going through train withdrawals.

This beautiful city so needs a train system - and the good news is the mayor is rail - friendly and planning for an environmentally-realistic new 30 year transport plan is underway.

What I didn’t realise until I came here is that Canterbury has some of the highest rates of car ownership in the world.

In 2002, vehicle ownership in Canterbury was 0.75 per capita.  By 2008, this figure had risen to 0.80 - only the Nelson/Marlborough and Southland regions have higher vehicle ownership rates than Canterbury.

The chart below shows how usage of non-car based modes of transport for the journey to work has decreased over time in terms of mode share.


No wonder Canterbury is so polluted –  which I had always read in the media as being from burning winter fires. The following chart outlines how Canterbury land transport CO2 emissions have evolved since 1998:

CO2 Emissions

Canterbury has started developing its 30 year transport plan.

The Canterbury Regional Land Transport Strategy 2011 – 2041 is being led by the Canterbury Regional Transport Committee - a committee that brings together representatives from Environment Canterbury, the New Zealand Transport Agency and city and district councils in the region. The committee also has representatives to address economic development, safety, public health, access and mobility, environmental sustainability and cultural interests.

The aim is to have a brand new RLTS in place by the middle of 2011.

Christchurch needs to start ordering hybrid buses

Christchurch needs to start ordering hybrid buses

Timaru’s Michael Oliver said that for his area it was important to consider how they’re going to ensure freight networks (road, rail, and sea) are adequate to service agriculture and its associated processing industries. He asks: “How can we meet the needs of our more rural towns if the price of oil rises significantly as it is expected to do?”

The information inviting submissions makes no mention of rail. But Christchurch Mayor, former TV host, Bob Parker appears to be a commuter train fan.

Bob Parker’s office confirmed  comments I heard he had made on local radio recently calling for the reuse of existing rail and the development of new light rail in conjunction with the existing buses in Christchurch.

He says that until now, he doesn’t think people are being smart enough or thinking long-term about how the city uses public transport.

BPHe says there are some key entry points at the moment that are pushed to the max or beyond at peak times such as Riccarton Rd and Papanui Rd.

The Mayor says taking off the road say 500 people driving in from Rangiora each morning would make a big difference.

He’s advocating introducing commuter rail services and says the building of park and rides at Rolleston, Rangioria and maybe Kaiapoi would capture a lot of vehicles.

Good thinking, Mr Parker. We like that. Let’s hope there’s a lot of that in the 30 year plan.

At the same time, the council says its proud of Christchurch being well served by a comprehensive public transport network, including its vintage trams




  1. dsadas says:

    The biggest obstacle to commuter rail from places like Rangiora is the lack of a central railway station. Putting a station in close to the CBD would be very expensive.

  2. James says:

    The same was said of Britomart, that seems to have turned out pretty well. Impressive proportions of walkers and cyclists.

  3. Jeremy Harris says:

    I know the council has looked at re-introducing some form of train service before…

    Hopefully the 30 year scope will include the possibility of some use of the rail corridors, I do some rough figures once and to double track the city (except the Lyttleton tunnel), upgrade stations, electrify and buy EMUs would run about $800 million… Maybe they could start with some DMUs..?

  4. Roger says:

    Maybe Veolia could pass on the ex-Perth DMUs. They must have a few more years left in them. The lack of hills in Christchurch would help!

  5. Brent C says:

    Its a pity that the new Pegasus development hasn’t happened near the railway line

  6. Jon R says:

    Why are trains in a 30 year plan? Is 30 a nice sounding number for “never” really?

    Onehunga line reopening was in a 30 year plan… then became 3 after getting the public on board.

  7. Chris Hutching says:

    You guys must be from Planet Rail. Christchurch doesn’t have anything like the commuter problems or the population or the rating base as anyone can immediately discern on a trip from Auckland airport to that city centre. And why should central city dwellers in Christchurch pay hundreds of millions to service a tiny number of lifestylers who want to live at Rangiora? As for pollution -try living next to coal and wood burning neighbours like I do and compare that with the average relatively clean burning modern car. Jon you’re obviously a rail enthusiast like Bob Parker. Fine, but don’t ask ratepayers to fund your hobbies or use simplistic “green” arguments to justify them. How about creating urban forms where people don’t need to drive cars so much - and I don’t mean tenements and apartments - just smaller centres with decent safe cycleways criss crossing the city. Of course there’s that other wee problem - peoples’ freedom of choice to live where they like and drive where they want.

  8. Jeremy Harris says:

    Chris have you seen the projected traffic increases in ChCh over the next 30 years..?
    Thought not…
    Rail or similiar will definitely be needed within the next 30 years so why not use an existing system..?
    Also the lines run through the suburbs, not just the lifestyle blocks…
    Better have a look whats happening in the world, re. climate change to peak oil to realise that even though little old NZ hasn’t got it yet we are all living on PlanetRail…

  9. Chris Hutching says:

    yes maybe Christchurch may need to consider this option in 20 or 30 years but not yet. The geography and layout of Auckland and Wellington makes it work in those places but the garden city doesn’t have enough urban satellites to make it financially justifiable. Forget the magic bullet train and focus on achievable goals - let’s all get on our bikes and half the problem will be resolved


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