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Time To Really "Save Rail"

New Zealand must set up a nationwide railway strategy before the free market destroys or seriously downgrades the rail network, Green Party Transport Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

There is speculation that TranzRail will today announce at its annual meeting getting out of some or all of its passenger train business and even closing some lines.

"In the event of TranzRail conducting a fire sale of its assets to boost its share price, the Government needs to ensure our railway services and tracks are preserved and open access to the network is maintained," Ms Kedgley said.

"At a time of fluctuating petrol prices and increasing fossil fuel emissions which increase climate change problems, it is vital we have an alternative to roads."

Railways are much more fuel-efficient and should be regarded as an essential part of the country's infrastructure - like the national electricity grid, Ms Kedgley said.

"There's no more sense selling off branches of the rail network than there is in putting a `for sale' sign on the Auckland Harbour Bridge," she said.

"The previous Labour regime, and especially then-minister Richard Prebble, promised to `save rail' and we hope this government will make the same commitment. The process TranzRail is going through highlights the folly of selling a vital piece of our transport infrastructure.

"The Government has the option of buying back the lines and allowing other operators to run a service on them. It seems there's an urgent need to properly explore that option."

Note: Sue Kedgley will be asking oral question 8 on this issue in Parliament today.

Ends

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