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Govt Working On Passenger Rail In Regions

27 June 2001


The Government is ready to work in partnership with local authorities, communities and regions to secure the future of rail services where there is a prospect of making them viable, Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton told Parliament today.

"The Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand are working in a number of regions on integrated transport plans. All of the issues have to be taken together and lasting solutions developed," Jim Anderton said.

"Assistance is available through Industry New Zealand's Regional Partnerships Programme.

"Regional councils can use subsidies available through Transfund's Alternatives to Roading fund, to fund passenger services on the same basis as buses and ferries."

Jim Anderton said there are multiple causes for the potential loss of services, including the fact that on most routes car travel takes about half the time of the equivalent train trip.

"Regional networks of all descriptions are struggling, because the regions have been left to decline for thirty years. The loss of services has been a vicious cycle – as services have moved away, populations have moved away, and that in turn has made remaining services less viable.

"We can bring back services to the regions by making the regions more viable again, but we cannot undo thirty years of decline in eighteen months.

"There are positive environmental, social, road safety, tourism and economic development benefits to maintaining and enhancing passenger rail services. But we cannot say that services will be subsidised at any cost and no matter how few passengers are prepared to travel by train."

Ends

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