Investment in rail infrastructure
Investment in rail infrastructure would improve rail's contribution to freight movement
investment IN Rail infrastructure WOULD improve rail's contribution to freight transport movement
An investment of more than $400 million in rail infrastructure over the next five years would enable rail to contribute more effectively to the movement of freight in New Zealand, ONTRACK Chairman Cam Moore said today.
Cam Moore was commenting on an indication by Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen that in line with submissions made by ONTRACK in the past, the Government was considering significant investment in rail infrastructure as well as rolling stock.
"This level of investment would be very welcome. It would enable ONTRACK to continue to maintain and renew the freight network by improving its robustness and reliability as well as increasing its capacity. This would improve the overall efficiency of freight movement throughout the country," Cam Moore said.
ONTRACK supports the Government's goal to increase rail's share of freight movement to around 25 percent by 2040.
"Too many people look at spending on the rail network in isolation," he said. "It's more a question of rail complementing the roading network and contributing to the transport mix where it makes more sense to put goods on rail than road."
Mr Moore said the distance travelled by heavy vehicles has increased by almost 70 percent in thirteen years. In that time, there has been little difference between the proportion of freight carried by road and rail.
"This simply tells us that the growth in freight traffic, if it continues at the same level, will put severe pressure on the roading network. By contrast, the rail network is under-utilised and has significant capacity for handling increased traffic.
"Since 2004 ONTRACK has worked to meet the challenge of under-investment in the network over the previous decade but it would be fair to say that we have barely scratched the surface.
Our current levels of bridge, rail and sleeper replacement are only sufficient to prevent us slipping back from the levels required to sustain the network.
"The investment the Government is considering would enable us to improve the reliability and capacity of the network while we continue with maintenance and renewals work. As with most other infrastructure in New Zealand, we too must make progress against the advancing tide of infrastructure replacement.
"It concerns me when rail infrastructure investment is referred to as a 'black hole' for spending. Compared with some other forms of infrastructure development, the planned investment in rail is modest.
"For example, an investment of more than $400 million in rail infrastructure would pay for only a small part of the planned Transmission Gully highway near Wellington. "
Mr Moore said further investment in the rail network would be spent on rehabilitation and improvements to key lines carrying export traffic. The priorities for spending any additional investment over the next five years include:
o Double-tracking parts and increasing crossing loop lengths on Auckland to Tauranga Line and parts of North Island Main Trunk Line
o Improving the Hamilton to Tauranga East Coast Main Trunk Line that moves containers and commodity traffic between Auckland and Tauranga.
o Improving the robustness of the North Island Main Trunk Line
o Improving tunnel clearances and line robustness on the North Auckland Line to cater for dairy and other traffic
o Improving the forestry lines in the Eastern Bay of Plenty for wood products traffic
o Improving the robustness of lines for milk trains in the lower North Island
o Continuing work on the Midland line to enable increasing volumes of coal to be railed from the West Coast to Lyttelton
o Improving the rail connections for export customers in the lower South Island
"The Government has in the past allocated money for upgrading the Auckland and Wellington urban networks. This recognises the important role rail can play in getting people out of cars and onto public transport.
"This indication that it is considering further investment in the freight network sends the same positive messages about rail. It is particularly timely given the steady rise in petrol and diesel prices."