Can't Get There From Here


Urban passenger rail patronage in Auckland and Wellington is now booming after many years of decline. Outside these two centres, however, the situation is quite different: intercity and regional passenger rail services are scarce, and no other city possesses suburban rail. Not only does this hamper the mobility of regional New Zealanders, it is incongruous in light of the climate emergency declared by many local councils.


Can’t Get There from Here traces the expansion and – more commonly – the contraction of New Zealand’s passenger rail network over the last century. What is the historical context of today’s imbalance between rail and road? How far and wide did the passenger rail network once run? Why is there an abject lack of services beyond the North Island’s two main cities, even as demand for passenger transport continues to grow? This book seeks to answer these questions.


In this fascinating study, Andre Brett argues that the trend away from passenger rail might appear inevitable and irreversible but it was not. Things could have been – and still could be – very different. We need to understand the challenges that brought passenger rail to the brink of extinction in order to create policy for future transport that is efficient and sustainable.

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