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Public transport funding gap highlighted

Public transport funding gap highlighted in ARC Draft LTCCP

27 February 2006

A funding gap of at least $700 million is threatening to slow down progress on public transport, the Auckland Regional Council says.

ARC Chairman Michael Lee says the Council's Draft Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) will clearly show which public transport improvements can be funded and those that are necessary but are currently unaffordable.

At the full Council meeting this evening it was agreed that the draft LTCCP would go to Audit NZ and then go out for public consultation on 29 March.

"The ARC's transport spending has increased from $36m in 2001 to a proposed $134m for 2006/07. Approximately half of the rates collected by the ARC are spent on public transport each year," Mr Lee says.

"Our public transport system is better than ever before and will continue to improve, but we can't afford to improve it to the level that Aucklanders are crying out for.

"Public transport is getting better, but we can't afford to expand services at the rate necessary to stay ahead of population growth," Mr Lee says.

"We believe that any more than the proposed 4.9 per cent per cent average rate increase is beyond the limits of public acceptance."

To stay within available funding the ARC is proposing to consult on an incremental upgrade of rail services along with delays to planned increases in bus and rail services.

"This is less than we need and it is less than what the ARTA Board is seeking, but it is at the limits of our available funds," Mr Lee says.

The Council is still working with ARTA to confirm the extent of the funding gap. However, at this stage the gap is at least $700m and quite possibly a lot more.

Mr Lee says an incremental rail upgrade is not the option that either the ARC or ARTA believes the region deserves and needs in the long-term.

"However it is a practical and affordable option that enables ARTA to make immediate progress and keeps long-term options open until additional funding is secured.

"With more funding we would get a more frequent, more reliable and quicker public transport system much sooner. If the funding gap isn't closed public transport will improve, but not as much as the people of Auckland are demanding.

"Without increased funding for better public transport traffic congestion will be worse and our economy held back. The ARC is looking at a variety of alternative funding sources," Mr Lee says.

The draft LTCCP adopted by Council today now goes to Audit NZ before being confirmed for release to the public for formal consultation. Public submissions will be received between 29 March and 3 May.

Background information

Public transport achievements in 2005:

* Ferry patronage up 3.9 per cent

* Rail patronage up about 30 per cent compared with the equivalent six month period the preceding year
* 40 per cent increase in the number of trains since 2000
* 80 per cent increase in services since 2000
* Completion of Stage One double-tracking of the Western Line
* New rail timetable introduced in October which expanded the level of service by 25 per cent and improved the level of on-time trains from 50 per cent in September to 85 per cent in December
* First regular Sunday rail services in more than 40 years
* Friday and Saturday late night services
* $4 million upgrade of Kingsland Station

* Stage 1 of the new Northern Busway opened in November with two new bus stations at Constellation Drive and Albany. ARTA's new Northern Express Bus service began operation between the new bus stations and Britomart
* Patronage on the Northern Express grew rapidly with peak hour trips strongly patronised and car parks at the Park and Ride facilities almost full on occasions.


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