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Making Rail Great Again

Making Rail Great Again

It seems politicians lose their grip on economic reality at election time. Already they are pouring out pledges of what they will do if they are in a coalition governing after the Sept 23 poll.

As reported in the trans-Tasman’s sister publication, NZ Transport Intelligence Business Alert, the Maori Party is talking up a new “IwiRail” network in the regions, starting with Gisborne and branching out. NZ First is committed to a new rail link to Northport as it campaigns to win Whangarei and hold on to Northland.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has promised a rail link to Auckland Airport from the CBD. Labour wants to restore the engineering workshops which used to build and maintain rolling stock.

The Govt has spent over $4.2bn on rail since taking ofce in 2008 and KiwiRail is still battling to become anything other than a leaking bucket to pour more money into. The May Budget allocated nearly $1bn toward rail infrastructure.

The Govt is funding half of the expected $2.8bn to $3.4bn cost of Auckland’s City Rail Link. KiwiRail has its own challenges in restoring the Main Trunk route after the Kaikoura quake, as well as the Midland Line.

Now, pledges for new rail lines are being made without any business case being worked through. Indeed, among Winston Peters many “promises” was to sack people at KiwiRail for being “incompetent” by pointing out the cost of his plan.

The Maori Party, meanwhile, wants $350m to build a new “IwiRail” railway network for both freight and tourism in NZ’s regions, starting with Gisborne. To be fair, the party says success around Gisborne would be the “proof in the pudding” the scheme would work. This presumably means if it didn’t work they wouldn’t insist on trying elsewhere.

As National has shown, throwing more money at rail has not provided an economic return so far. Proponents for spending even more should be honest and admit it is a subsidy to achieve wider aims than a functioning transport network.


Trans Tasman’s sister publication, The New Zealand Transport Intelligence Business Alert, is a weekly source providing you with in-depth news, analysis and opinion on NZ’s transport and logistics sectors.

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