CityConnect - the national public transport network

Published on 24/05/2024 at 5:48 pm.

Imagine, travelling from Kaitaia to Bluff, as you 'tap' and travel on an unified national passenger transport network connecting Aotearoa New Zealand's six main cities with provincial cities, major towns, semi rural towns and rural communities, across the country's 16 regions, traveling on subsidised urban, regional and inter-regional, frequently scheduled 'turn up & go' bus, ferry, passenger rail services, with accompanying mobile device app containing national travel information and schedules.

Can this happen? Yes it can.

In October 2022, the previous government announced the introduction of a national 'open' integrated 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system from 2024, for use on all subsidised 'turn and go' urban metro rail, bus, ferry, on-demand buses and regional passenger rail services across the country's 16 regions.

In September 2023, that government passed the Land Transport Management (Regulation of Public Transport) Amendment Bill, that changes the Land Transport Management Transport Act 2003, allowing regional councils to work together in providing better urban, regional and inter-regional public transport services.

With passing of the Land Transport Management (Regulation of Public Transport) Amendment Bill, the planned introduction of the nationwide 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system from 2024, allows for the creation of an unified national passenger transport network, linking regions with frequent regional and inter-regional travel connectivity and flexibility, with less fossil fuel emissions, allowing for population growth and spread across the regions, as Aotearoa New Zealand population increases to 6 million by 2030.

What is CityConnect

CityConnect is a national integrated inter-urban passenger transport network, connecting majority of communities across 16 regions in Aotearoa New Zealand, operating subsidised, frequently scheduled urban, regional, inter-regional 'turn up & go' bus, ferry, passenger rail services, a national 'tap & travel' payment/ticketing system and a national travel information and schedule website with accompanying mobile device app.

CityConnect services consist of the following:

  • CityConnect branded and non branded urban bus, ferry and passenger rail services
  • CityConnect branded and non branded regional bus and rail services
  • CityConnect branded and non branded regional and inter-regional bus and rail services

What would be CityConnect passenger rail network routes

The following would be the core CityConnect urban, regional and inter-regional passenger rail routes -

North Island

  • between Auckland and Whangarei
  • between Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Te Puke, Kawerau and Murupara
  • between Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua*
  • between Auckland, Hamilton, Matamata and Tokoroa
  • between Hamilton and Palmerston North
  • between Palmerston North, Whanganui and New Plymouth
  • between Palmerston North, Woodville, Hastings, Napier and Gisborne*
  • between Palmerston North and Wellington
  • between Wellington, Masterton, Woodville, Hastings and Napier
  • between Wellington, Masterton and Woodville (Wellington regional)

* Subject to upgrading of the track within the Rotorua city boundaries

* Subject to the rebuilding the rail line between Napier and Gisborne

South Island

  • between Christchurch, Blenheim and Picton
  • between Christchurch and Greymouth
  • between Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill
  • b´╗┐etween Christchurch, Timaru, Ashburton and Waipa (Canterbury regional)
  • between Christchurch, Rangiora, Rolleston, Burnham and Lyttelton (Christchurch Metro)
  • b´╗┐etween Dunedin, Mosgiel and Port Chalmers (Dunedin Metro)

C´╗┐ityConnect passenger rail services between Invercargill and Bluff, Greymouth and Hokitika, between Greymouth. Stillwater and Westport and Dunedin metro services to Mosgiel and Port Chalmers using 'Light Rail for Branch Lines' options.

All CityConnect urban (Christchurch and Dunedin), regional and inter-regional passenger rail services would have connecting CityConnect branded and non-branded urban, semi rural and rural buses services to destinations that don't have rail connectivity.

What type of trains would be used

C´╗┐ityConnect passenger trains would be a mixture of 56 seat single carriage, 150 seat twin carriage and 220 seat 4 carriage bi directional railcars using sustainable, environmentally friendly fuels, designed and built to suit Aotearoa New Zealand conditions and the existing national rail network.

How will C´╗┐ityConnect be funded

The day to day operational funding of CityConnect national inter-urban public transport network, would be from fares collected, regional rate payer subsidies through a Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) entity, jointly own by the 16 regional councils and from taxpayers through central government funding, based on population density of the region.

T´╗┐he council controlled entity would ensures clarity around lines of accountability and responsibility through standardised procurement and operational guidelines, employment contracts, etc, with its regional council partners through their respective Regional Public Transport Plan's, are aligned with central government strategies, for national-level planning and funding of public transport.

What happens to current regional public transport services

T´╗┐here will be no changes to those region's who have branded public transport services like Auckland's Metro bus, ferry, train services, Wellington's Metlink bus, train, ferry services, Waikato's Busit bus and Te Huia train services, etc, as they will be components in the CityConnect national public transport network, retaining their respective branding.

Regions like Gisborne, Marlborough, etc who don't have branded public transport services, their services would have CityConnect branding.

What about travel on long distance buses, ferries and passenger trains

These services will not be part of the CityConnect national inter-urban passenger transport network, as they are non subsidsied, commercial 'book and travel' services, where a passenger makes a reservation/s and pay directly with the bus, inter-island ferry and/or train operator they are planning to travel on.

If any 'book and travel' bus and/or train service operating any route/s, that is providing essential rural community connections, like between Fox Glacier to Wanaka, it would receive funding and be part of the CityConnect national inter-urban passenger transport network, as these services would be deemed to be essential service/s.

T´╗┐he Public Transport Forum New Zealand will be holding its second Lets Connect Communities Workshop on 17 June 2024, so come along, find out and help further define the future of public and passenger transport in Aotearoa New Zealand. The workshop will be a mixture of presentations and interactive discussions.

For information, visit Lets Connect Communities Workshop 2024

For further information concerning the points raised in this concept:

If you support a national public transport network concept, have your say or become proactive by getting involved in local better public transport campaign groups.

The CityConnect - the national public transport network is Better Passenger Transport New Zealand initiative and supported by Public Transport Forum New Zealand.

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