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Dunne: Rail users’ needs override ideology

Dunne: Rail users’ needs override ideology

It is essential that the needs of New Zealand’s rail commuters, manufacturers and exporters are the first priority when it comes to sorting out the Tranz Rail mess, according to United Future leader and Ohariu-Belmont MP, Peter Dunne.

“Plainly, Tranz Rail has no interest in running urban commuter services, yet for New Zealand, and especially Wellington, such services are essential. It is quite improper for Tranz Rail to run down and operate in an unsafe manner these services in an apparent attempt to squeeze the Government into paying over the odds in order to buy back the company’s rail assets,” he said.

“It seems to me that the first step the Government must take is to enforce vigorously all safety and maintenance requirements so that Tranz Rail, and not the taxpayer at some future date, is held accountable for maintaining and improving the national track network and all the rolling stock,” Mr Dunne said.

“If, despite this, Tranz Rail continues to perform abysmally, I would agree that the Government must buy back the network – at a rock bottom price – in order to provide New Zealand with the integrated land transport network it needs to progress economically.

“While I hate to see taxpayer money spent on bailing out incompetent companies, it seems to me this is one case where the pragmatic, commonsense needs of New Zealanders override the sterility of ideologically pure slogans.

“There are strong parallels here with Air New Zealand: an vibrant, efficient rail system is just as important a piece of our national infrastructure as is a national airline, and New Zealanders would expect a responsible Government to act accordingly in the overwhelming public interest.

“For Wellingtonians, the parallel is more striking: the Government acted to protect miniscule urban passenger services in Auckland, and would be expected to do likewise to ensure the future of the far more comprehensive Wellington urban network,” said Mr Dunne.

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