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Britain provides lesson on rail leadership

10 October 2001


Britain provides lesson on rail leadership

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today urged the Government to follow the lead of the British Government in taking back the ownership of the national rail infrastructure.

The British Government has taken back control of the poorly performing company Railtrack this week and has placed the rail network into a non-profit company without shareholding.

The British Government will not run services but will charge fees for service providers to access the track and all profits will be reinvested into the assets.

"Since the Greens released our plan for the New Zealand rail network in April we have been calling for our Government to save our own rail track from disintegration and fragmentation in much the same fashion," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Ms Fitzsimons said if the Government was committed to preserving rail in New Zealand it had the opportunity just a few months ago to buy the whole TranzRail company for a price of around $400 million - similar to what TranzRail paid for the rail assets in 1993.

"Based on the share price at the time, if the Government had then sold all the rolling stock, the services to service operators and charged access fees to the tracks, the Government could have secured the entire rail network for little more than the $81 million they paid for the Auckland rail corridor," she said.

"We have been promised a rail strategy for months now and the strategy seems no closer. Despite legal requirements there is also no national land transport strategy.

"The absence of this planning is making the provision of rail services difficult through sheer uncertainty and is contributing to the decline of both services and the physical rail assets," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said rail was crucial if New Zealand was to meet our climate change obligations.

"The British experience with rail has mirrored New Zealand's. In only five years since privatisation Railtrack has performed increasingly badly and has forced the Blair Government to take back the rail assets in order to keep them," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"After two years in power it is now crunch time for this Government on rail. The Greens, once again, urge them to see what the Blair Government has done just this week to save rail and we urge them to seek a similar outcome for New Zealand."

ENDS

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