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Call to Suspend Motorway Projects


From The Campaign for Better Transport, for immediate release

18 June 2008

Call to Suspend Motorway Projects

Alarmed at the lack of any contingency plan from central Government in the face of soaring petrol prices, the Campaign for Better Transport has come up with a plan of its own.

Should oil prices reach $US150 a barrel, the Auckland based transport lobby group is recommending that all uncommitted motorway projects be placed on hold, and funds diverted to increasing the capacity of transport modes that aren't reliant on cheap oil.

The group says that a number of motorway widening projects are being built on the assumptions of future demand growth, and that petrol prices will not increase further.

"Petrol prices are already reaching levels where people are driving less and switching to alternative forms of transport.  We don’t need extra motorway capacity - we need to fund alternatives like electric rail and networks that support bicycles, scooters and low power vehicles, as well as pedestrians." said Campaign for Better Transport spokesperson Cameron Pitches.

Motorway expansion projects like the $250m second Manukau Harbour Crossing and the $2bn Waterview extension in Auckland were conceived when transport planners relied on a long term oil price of $35 a barrel, points out Mr Pitches.

"Now that oil is $100 a barrel more than predicted, I think it is time to reassess transport projects predicated on cheap oil."
The Campaign for Better Transport has also been pushing the Government to fund Auckland’s rail electrification outright.  In May of last year, the group presented its "Electrify Now" petition to Parliament, which was received by Green MP Keith Locke and National Party deputy transport spokesperson David Bennett.

Since then, the Government has made funding for Auckland’s electric trains reliant on passing regional fuel tax legislation into law later next month, however it is not clear if the law will get the support needed from all political parties.

"It would be a tragic irony if funding for electric trains, which would reduce our reliance on oil, was withheld because politicians think oil is getting too expensive," says Mr Pitches.

"In the meantime billions of dollars of motorways, which are totally dependent on cheap oil to be viable, are guaranteed funding until 2011.  This is totally nuts."

The Campaign for Better Transport says that recent correspondence from Transport Minister Annette King - available from www.bettertransport.org.nz - confirms that the Government has no contingency plans in place and has only recently commissioned  a study looking at the impacts of rising oil prices on transport decisions.
"We know that oil exports from producer nations dropped by a million barrels a day in 2007.  We know that reputable firms like Goldman Sachs are picking $200 a barrel within 24 months.  If oil goes to $200 a barrel tomorrow, what’s the plan?," asks Mr Pitches.


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