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Rail Network Bill just the ticket

15 March 2005

Rail Network Bill just the ticket for sustainable transport

The Green Party is welcoming the Rail Network Bill, tabled in Parliament today, seeing it as an important step towards restoring and properly developing rail as a key part of New Zealand’s freight and passenger transport networks.

The Bill changes the status of ONTRACK from being a State Owned Enterprise to a Crown entity. It also gives the new agency a statutory role of contributing to a safe, sustainable, integrated and responsive land transport system. As part of this new role, it requires ONTRACK to prepare a 10-year capital development programme utilising $200m of funding for infrastructure and safety improvements.

“Twelve years after the disastrous privatisation of the rail system, the country once again has a publicly-owned rail network that will play a key role in creating a more sustainable land transport system,” said Green Associate Transport Spokesperson Sue Kedgley. “With the end of cheap oil looming and a pressing need to deal with climate change, New Zealand needs fuel efficient options such as rail for commuters and freight.”

Ms Kedgley said there were many positive, long-term effects of a secure, publicly-owned and funded rail track network.

“This Bill is good news for motorists, who can expect to see fewer heavy trucks on the road as travelling by rail becomes more attractive. It is good news for Auckland and Wellington rail commuters, who can expect a better-funded railway system. And it is good news for the environment, because the more we use rail for moving people and freight, the less we emit carbon into the atmosphere.”

Ms Kedgley said the Greens and the Government had a formal agreement to work cooperatively on transport issues, and the Rail Network Bill was the latest fruit borne by that arrangement.

“This Bill helps give effect to the commitment in the New Zealand Transport Strategy to expand the role of rail as an essential carrier of people and freight.”

But there was still much to be done to allow rail to reach its full potential in providing New Zealanders with many of their transport needs, Ms Kedgley said.

“For instance, it is absolutely critical that rail is integrated with other modes of transport, so that commuters and freight operators 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, or Government assisting in the development of freight transfer stations for logs at railheads.”

ENDS

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