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Transport & Logistics

The freight train of progress

21 Apr 2015, by Informa Insights

It is well known that rail plays a key role in facilitating trade and industry growth, and is an efficient mover of people and freight.

The 2015 NZ Rail forum is an important event for the industry, featuring high-level speakers from across Australasia. We were lucky enough to sit down with two of those speakers – the Mayor of New Zealand and the CEO of Sydney Trains – and hear their thoughts on how rail impacts the economy.

Mayor Len Brown
Mayor Len Brown

Interview with Mayor Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland, NZ 

The theme of the conference this year is “Rail as the driving force behind economic growth”. What do you think this means for New Zealand?

There is much economic, social and environmental upside to rail.  It gets heavy freight off highways and urban commuters of urban roads – these have real economic value.  It’s long been understood that heavy freight causes almost all the wear and tear of our roading network – getting trucks off roads saves government and councils considerable sums of money and provides financial returns to the high-fixed-cost rail sector.  Getting commuters off the road reduces the economic losses to road congestion.  In Auckland losses to congestion cost the regional economy many hundreds of millions each year.

What are the major concerns for the industry this year and looking forward to 2016, particularly in Auckland?

Auckland has phenomenal growth in passenger rail transport.  It is currently running at 21% per year and that rate is accelerating. That’s good for commuters, they’re voting with their feet, it’s good for motorists because it removes congestion and it’s good for the environment.  With the purchase of Auckland’s 57 electric multiple unit trains, we have sorted capacity, efficiency and environmental  issues in our rolling stock.  We now need to get the constraints out of the network.  Currently Britomart can only handle 20 trains an hour.  We have already hit that constraint in our daily peaks. Britomart will hit its people handling capacity in 2018 – we will literally run out of escalator capacity and floor space.  Building the City Rail Link fixes both these problems, allowing trains to pass through instead of having to reverse out, and 40% of passengers who would have to use Britomart will choose to use the new Aotea station on the CRL.  It will also give commuters large chunks of their day back – commuters from west Auckland will see up to 50 minutes a day reduction in commuting times.

What will you be discussing at the conference?

Primarily a “transport accord” between the Government and Auckland.  Auckland has several unique features.  Its population grows by the equivalent of the population of a city the size of Palmerston North every two years.  It has distinct demographic features, especially ethnic diversity. Its economy is heavily and increasingly services oriented and that means the primary economic input is people – so the transport priority for the economy is to move people from their homes to work.  The vast majority of transport movements are within, not into, nor out of, nor through Auckland.  It is also has a single local authority making service delivery and regulatory decisions.  And it has the scale to afford it the sophisticated decision making mechanisms normally only available to Government.  These features strongly suggest that Auckland needs decision making mechanisms that reflect its unique circumstances.  A transport accord will provide such a mechanism, where the two major and equal transport decision makers share the same knowledge base, plan together, explicitly agree what they can agree and agree to continue to discuss those matters on which they are yet to reach agreement.

Why is the conference an important feature of the rail industry calendar?

A service and infrastructure sector as important as rail needs to gather together its decision makers and influencers at least once a year to share understandings of today’s critical issues, in order to map its future.  This conference has clearly succeeded in gathering those decision maker.  We now need to hear each other and ensure that rail has a growing future in freight and passenger movements throughout New Zealand.

Whose other presentation are you looking forward to hearing?

This year’s speaker line up is first rate.  I want to hear everyone and I and my office will be there for the entirety of the conference.

Howard Collins - Sydney Trains
Howard Collins, Sydney Trains

Interview with Howard Collins – CEO of Sydney Trains 

Howard, could you tell us a little about your background and how you came to your current position?

 I started as Chief Executive in the new organisation of Sydney Trains in July 2013.  Previously I held the position of Chief Operating Officer of the London Underground, having had a 35-year career with London transport, from front-line roles to major projects.  I also held part-time appointments with the British Transport Police, Pension Fund Trustee and London Transport – Heritage.

 The theme of the conference this year is “Rail as the driving force behind economic growth”. What do you think this means for New Zealand?

 We know that rail can be a driver of economic growth and productivity as it is an efficient and economical way to move people and freight.  Rail can also generate growth by facilitating new development and allowing access to markets – essentially improving the connectivity and accessibility of people to other people, opportunities, goods and services.  It’s all about “mobility”.  I have seen many global cities and countries transform their “mobility” through sustained rail investment.

What are the major concerns for Sydney Trains this year and looking forward to 2016?

 Our goal is to keep Sydney moving and our customers are at the centre of everything we do.  We are focused on customer satisfaction, reducing travel times, improving punctuality and all the things that will help improve the customer experience and grow patronage.  In under two years, customer satisfaction has improved 10 per cent to 88 per cent, so we know our customers are happier with safety, cleanliness, journey times, air-conditioning and improved connections.

Looking forward my concern is to maintain this trajectory of improved performance and to continue to adapt our organisation to meet the needs of our customers.  We are also making changes which will accommodate future passenger growth and ready our network for the not too distant future when new railways feed into the existing network.

In addition, whether we are in the public or private sector, creating greater efficiencies by reducing costs and improving revenue streams, are a key focus going forward.

 Why is the conference an important feature of the rail industry calendar?

 The Rail conference is the annual and primary forum for the rail industry to focus on the development and growth of rail operations. Being held in New Zealand this year it is an opportune source of directly engaging with stakeholders such as rail industry leaders from Australia and New Zealand, government agencies (i.e. NZ Transport Agency and, NZ Ministry of Transport), rail customers and wider transport participants such as construction companies and major engineering project consultants.

 Key speakers include:

  • The Hon Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport
  • Peter Reidy, CEO, KiwiRail
  • Bryan Nye, CEO, ARA
  • Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Council
  • Philip Chalk, Director Asset Management & Maintenance, ANZ, Network Rail
  • Megan Drayton, Foundation Manager, TrackSAFE
  • Simon Wood, Associate Director, AECOM
  • Brent Efford, NZ Agent, Light Rail Transit Association
  • Anthony Eid, Operations Director, Sydney Trains
  • Noel Burton, Head Engineering NZ, Siemens Rail Automation
  • Ken Shirley, CEO, Road Transport Forum

View the full agenda here and book for this exciting event.


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