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A Huge Leap Backwards In Transport

A Huge Leap Backwards In Transport

Wednesday 17 Jul 2002

News today that Qantas has shelved plans to expand its New Zealand domestic services, and that the government is negotiating to buy back the railway track, signals a huge step backwards to the 1970s when New Zealanders had no choice and transport services were appalling, ACT leader Richard Prebble says.

"If Qantas buys into Air New Zealand, it will take us back to the bad old days of NAC, of high-priced air travel.

"Once we have a monopoly again, I predict that every Christmas holidays we will be held to ransom by strikes.

"The government's willingness to talk about buying the railway tracks must make the owners of Tranz Rail think it's Christmas. What the government should be doing, is saying to Tranz Rail - `You bought it, you fix it'.

"The fact that Tranz Rail has under-invested in railway track is not an excuse to pull out the taxpayers' cheque book. The under-investment is already reflected in Tranz Rail's share price, and at some point a new investor will calculate that it is a worthwhile investment to put in the capital to upgrade the tracks.

"It is the European model where the state owns the rail tracks and private enterprise owns the trains - and I would have thought even the Labour government would know about the woes of the British rail system. Why the government wants to buy into this mess is beyond me.

"As for Air New Zealand, all we have seen for the $1 billion the government has spent on the airline is higher fares, less choice and now the prospect of less services and less competition if Qantas buys into the airline.

"One of the comparative advantages New Zealand has enjoyed since my deregulations of the 1980s has been a world class, competitive transport system. Now it seems we are going to step back into a regulated, inefficient, Polish-shipyard of a transport system," Mr Prebble said.


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