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Which lines should close Mr Key?

2 July 2008

Which lines should close Mr Key?

John Key’s claims that public investment in rail infrastructure would not have been necessary if the government had not bought back the rail operation are absolutely wrong, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said today.

Following yesterday’s transfer of New Zealand’s rail asset back into New Zealand hands, a grumpy John Key began attacking the government for committing to hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in track upgrades and urgent rolling stock purchases.

Without these investments a number of regional rail services would be under threat. Importantly, freight services out of Auckland are in urgent need of investment and will cease operation without new locomotives.

Dr Cullen has reminded Mr Key that Toll had made it clear it would not make these investments and expected the government to foot the bill for long-term rail capital spending if it wanted to keep services running.

“The first day of operation for KiwiRail was not a happy one for John Key,” Dr Cullen said. “He has been advised to hide any ideological opposition to public ownership of major assets, but he failed to do so yesterday.

“But he needs to be careful not to go too far in his criticism. The government was going to have to invest heavily to keep urban and provincial rail services running regardless of who owned the rail operation.

“Mr Key has moved beyond criticising the buyback to now opposing the investments needed to keep lines running.

“If he is opposed to these investments, Mr Key needs to front up to New Zealanders and tell them which services National wants to see closed down.

“He could start by confirming whether he wants to shut down freight services into Auckland where urgent investments are needed.”


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