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Government Package Positive Step For Rail

Tranz Rail says changes to Transfund policy and the allocation of funds to Alternatives To Road included in yesterday’s Government Transport Strategy package are a step in the right direction in sustaining the social aspects of rail.

Tranz Rail Managing Director Michael Beard said the allocation of additional funds and the changes to Transfund’s policy could tip the balance in favour of rail in some marginal projects seeking Transfund assistance.

“The Government has said it wants Transfund policy to reflect its own policies and clearly this Government is looking for a more level playing for rail versus road in funding of land transport projects. That may tip the balance in favour of rail in a region such as the East Coast where there are obvious social benefits attached to rail that may not necessarily be compatible with the running of a commercially focussed, privately-owned business such as Tranz Rail,” says Mr Beard.

“That Government desire is also reflected in the additional funding for Alternatives to Road projects and in the funding boost for public transport including rail. Allowing Regional Councils to own transport assets assists the Wellington Regional Council in their wish to negotiate with us on resolving the sale of Tranz Metro Wellington.

“There could also be scope to include rail in some of the projects that may come under the Regional Development Fund of $30 million.

“Another positive in the Minister’s statement yesterday was a comment about encouraging heavy freight onto rail where appropriate. There is no detail attached to that comment but we would obviously welcome any measures that bring this about.

“Those opposed to further truck movements on our roads and the possible introduction of heavier trucks will, like Tranz Rail, welcome this statement.”

While Mr Beard was positive about these initiatives, he cautioned that they were not the panacea that some may want.

“For example the project in Northland to build a spur line to Marsden Point to service the deepwater port by rail would cost $40 million alone. However, I do believe we have a clear indication from Government that rail is to receive greater priority and a more level playing field in relation to the trucking industry.

“That is certainly a very positive step in the right direction for our business.”

Ends

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