Rail transport in New Zealand : system utilization, energy efficiency and future potential
This report investigates current utilization of the rail system in New Zealand and proposes alternative criteria with which to more effectively assess its function and value in a national multi-modal transport network. Rail transport has declined over the past decade in terms of system extent, service provision and traffic movements. In part, this has been due to increasing competition from other modes (notably road) and to a lack of understanding and exploition of rail's unique operational characteristics. Traditional measures of system performance regard rail in isolation from other transport modes. This study demonstrates the additional benefits conferred by rail when, consideration is made in terms of its contribution to the whole country. Suitable criteria to assess this wider role are developed within the broad divisions of energy, society and economics. Their application to rail is made with recognition of two important features of the mode – high fixed costs of operation and low specific energy use. If regarded as potential rail goals, each has individual benefits and costs to the nation; the inevitable conflicts are approached on the basis that efficient utilization of rail can only be achieved with an efficient utilization of all transport mode resources. The increasing vulnerability of New Zealand to foreign manipulation of energy supplies, suggests that energy will become relatively more significant in future than other transport resources. Short term conservation measures and long term replacement options for rail locomotion are assessed for their viability in terms of the energy use characteristics of both rail and other transport modes. Enhancing the efficient utilization of rail resources for the national benefit, is shown to be possible by 'fine-tuning' the existing system without the need to resort to drastic re-structuring. Such a process requires the integration of all transport modes into complimentary, rather than competitive, functioning and for decision making on rail services to be made on the basis of their full external impact.... [Show full abstract]
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