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Ontrack, Toll on track for collision

4 October 2006

Ontrack, Toll on track for collision

Media reports that Toll may be considering shutting down large chunks of the North Island rail network should be motivating all the parties involved to sort out a proper balance of user charges across road and rail, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley says.

" The immediate solution for the current destructive dispute between Toll and Ontrack would be for the parties to arrive at a lower access charge regime for Toll that was conditional on Toll growing rail volumes, and with the Government making up the shortfall that Ontrack would face."

"Such a solution would be consistent with the national interest in increasing rail's role in our overall transport strategy, as both a freight and passenger carrier. This makes good economic and environmental sense, given the threat posed by climate change. It would also serve to redress the imbalance between rail charges and road user charges identified by the Government's own Surface Costs and Charges Study in 2002..

"The amounts involved are peanuts to Government. Yet, as he was with Wellington's trolley buses, Michael Cullen seems obsessive about Government inputs into rail or public transport, whenever there is a private operator involved.

"Dr Cullen seems to have no such qualms however, about pouring billion-plus amounts into roads, despite the benefits that accrue to truck operators and other private firms from that investment

"The future of the main truck line, and the Napier Gisborne freight line, are too important to the regions and to the nation to be used as cannon fodder in these kind of conflicts. It is time the parties sat down and worked out the best balance between road and rail, and then worked out the sort of access charges and appropriate fee levels to achieve those goals."


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