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Auckland Rail System - A Blind Leap Of Faith

Spending tens of millions of dollars on the Auckland rail network will do little to reduce traffic congestion in the city, Road Transport Forum chief executive Tony Friedlander said today.

“Trucking operators who use Auckland roads are as keen as anyone to see the problem alleviated, but spending millions on buying the railway tracks is not the answer.”

Mr Friedlander said 1996 figures showed that only 1 percent of Aucklanders used rail to get to work, and nothing suggests this figure is likely to increase to a level that would have any significant impact on traffic congestion.

He said the movement of many Auckland jobs from the Central Business District (CBD) to the suburbs over the years is a major factor in the decline in the numbers using rail in the region.

“Services to the CBD were once used because many places of work were within walking distance of railway stations. But the suburbanisation of many jobs has meant that is no longer a viable option for most people, or the rail operator, as Tranz Rail has found.

Mr Friedlander said this point was highlighted by the fact that only 11 percent of Aucklanders jobs were now based in the CBD.

“When people working outside the CBD need to drive to a railway station, catch the train and then transfer to another form of transport to get to work, rail is not an attractive option due to inconvenience, time and cost. Under these circumstances, they prefer to drive directly from home to work.”

Mr Friedlander said this was a fact that must be faced by the decision-makers. “Trucking operators and their clients are sick and tired of seeing freight costs rise because of road congestion and desperately want it alleviated. But they take offence when their money is squandered for extravagant ‘alternatives to roads’ that look unlikely to work.

“We’re not opposed to the development of an efficient passenger transport system if it gets a significant amount of cars off the roads, but rail does not appear to be the answer.


“Clearly, the current Auckland rail system is not working. But it seems a detailed analysis of all the costs involved in reversing this has not been done, or an accurate estimate of the numbers likely to use the service. Upgrading stations, car parking, tracks and the trains will all be needed, but no one has produced any figures to show how much this will cost or who will pay for it. On-going subsidies would probably also be needed. Until all this is accurately costed, how can the deal be seen as anything more than a huge leap of faith?” said Mr Friedlander.

“The primary means to fixing the problem is to complete the Auckland motorway system and compliment it with an efficient passenger transport service that works. Any move to commit the region to the dream of a complete railway system before it has been fully budgeted and its viability determined, would be totally irresponsible.”

ENDS

Details: Tony Friedlander Ph: 04 472 3877 Mob: 025 483 163

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