Rail - just the ticket for sustainable transport
14 September 2004
Rail strategy just the ticket for sustainable transport
The Green Party is welcoming today's launch of the Government's Draft National Rail Strategy, seeing it as an important step towards restoring and properly developing the best option for New Zealand's freight and passenger transport.
"Eleven years after the disastrous privatisation of the rail system, we are hopefully seeing the country getting back on track to a sustainable transport future," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Co-Leader and Transport Spokesperson.
"A strategy is, of course, welcome, but the important thing is tangible action on the ground, which requires a budget commitment and clear intent from the Government and its agencies.
"The Greens want to see initiatives that will make it easier for people to choose rail for their freight and passenger transport needs.
"For instance, it is absolutely critical that rail is integrated with other modes of transport, so that commuters can mix and match their transport options. This can involve simple things like making it free again to take bikes on the train, a major discouragement identified in surveys of Wellington commuters, through to providing sufficient parking at Auckland's suburban stations.
"There has been significant progress in getting people on to trains in Auckland, which is great news for reducing pollution and traffic jams. But this growth is dependent on investment in rolling stock staying ahead of the growing demand.
"People take trains when they are clean, cheap, un-crowded and on time, all of which are achieved via money being spent on engines, carriages, staff and coordination. Such capital investment may not lead to the rail company being hugely profitable, but it will be paid for through savings across the entire economy and the wider environment.
"In turn, the Government, as the newly restored owner of the tracks, must be willing to expand the network nationwide while the cost of the energy involved in doing so is still relatively low. Like all public transport, rail uses a lot of energy to build, but very little to run. The end of cheap oil in the next few years means that now is the time to be building railways and completely electrification of the main trunk line.
"When it comes to freight, what we have now is not being fully utilised; there is lots of capacity on the rail system and very little on the roads, we need to get freight back on the tracks, where it belongs. The 'wall of wood' due to be harvested in the next few years should be carried on safe, manageable trains and not filling our highways with huge trucks," said Ms Fitzsimons.