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Greens urge Government to 'Get Back On Track'

27 March 2001

Greens urge Government to 'Get Back On Track'

The Green Party today urged the Government to start talking with Tranz Rail to negotiate the return of New Zealand's physical rail network into public ownership.

The Green Party today launched their detailed plan to bring the national rail track (and associated bridges, tunnels, signals and communications systems) into shared public ownership between central government and interested local bodies.

"Tranz Rail wants out of all passenger services and is looking at closing the Napier - Gisborne line, and maybe the Rotorua line as well," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Tranz Rail is not interested in further investment in the rail infrastructure such as connecting the new port of Whangarei to the rail network and investing in new signalling equipment that would enable both passenger and freight services to run on the Auckland line," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said it was unfortunate that at a time when New Zealand needed significant investment in rail to meet projected industry demands, and to meet our environmental commitments, Tranz Rail was moving in the opposite direction.

* Much of New Zealand's forestry will be ready to harvest in the next five years and log volumes being freighted across the country are projected to double in the next few years; * If the spur line is not built to connect the Whangarei port to the rail network around 700 logging truck movements will be on the roads around Whangarei per day; * In a few years, trips by logging trucks between Napier - Gisborne will increase from 20 to 350 per day; * Rail is five times more energy efficient than trucks per tonne - kilometre; * Rail produces only a fifth the CO2 emissions than trucks per tonne - kilometre; * In 1999 trucks were involved in almost 20 per cent of all road fatalities and without investment in the rail network the numbers of trucks on the roads is projected to skyrocket; * Rail has a crucial role to play in urban passenger transport and tourism.

Ms Fitzsimons said the Green Party's proposal would allow the Government to regain ownership and control of a critical piece of New Zealand's infrastructure - in conjunction with local bodies - for little up-front cost. This would be done by negotiating the return of the track ownership with Tranz Rail in exchange for Government taking on the maintanance of the lines and giving Tranz Rail an exclusive right to run freight trains on the lines. [detail and explanation on proposal, fact sheet and questions and answers attached].

"The Greens are certainly not suggesting that the Government take on the provision of rail services, just the ownership and management of the track. Rail is crucial to New Zealand's environmental and economic future and the rare opportunity exists right now for the Government to regain control of this strategic asset."

ends

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