NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020N]: New Site Live, Webmaps Available 1 January 2021

The new NZ Rail Maps website is now operational. It looks just like the old one except that there are no webmaps available yet. These however are being created over the next week or two and will be available by 1 January 2021 as mentioned in the last blog post.

The webmaps that are available at that time will cover parts of the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch suburban and regional rail networks and include full aerial photography coverage of those regions. Due to the ability to update the web maps at any time, instead of waiting for full volume completion as would have been the case with previous development, it is now planned to have weekly updates to the web maps content.

Production of the e-book and printed formats is still subject to full volume completion schedules and the best way to achieve these will be under consideration. This means that development of the web maps is likely to proceed according to a volume schedule over coming years.

However the immediate priority is for a full set of webmaps for the whole of NZ. This means essentially to Basic level as this is the most complete level around NZ. This will be pushed ahead as the most important task for the coming year and the full coverage should be completed at this level within two or three months. Simultaneously with this the completion of the full set of webmaps for Greater Christchurch will be pushed through as this remains a high priority for the project also.

The process of web map creation is still manual but doing a weekly update makes the task of map creation considerably easier than producing a full volume at a time. In addition, it is possible to stage a few km at a time for map generation steps, depending on geographic considerations. There are currently 24 base layers – a “map” layer and 23 eras of aerial photography – and four overlays – current and former rail, non rail and proposed, the latter only used in Christchurch. One base layer can be displayed at a time in the web browser, the default being maps as it is always available. Overlays are transparent and can be displayed in any combination of zero or multiples. This is essentially an extension of the functionality that was trialed in the Volume 6 preview on the old web site.

It is also hoped to field test the web maps around Greater Christchurch early in 2021 but how this will be achieved hasn’t been worked out as significant parts of the MNL and Midland Line corridors are without cellphone coverage and it depends on whether Wifi is available on Great Journeys’ trains or an alternative offline viewer can be made available for the test.