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Auckland Rail Agreement Signed By Councils

Auckland Rail Agreement Signed By Councils: Focus Now On Crown

Auckland region's councils' have now signed a jointly drafted Crown/Auckland region Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU details the agreement between the Crown and the Auckland region to work together to negotiate purchase of the Auckland rail assets from Tranz Rail.

“By signing the MoU, the councils of Auckland have shown that we are prepared to work as closely as we can with the Crown. We want to get the best deal at the best price to deliver what Aucklanders need to help solve our transport problems,” said chair of the Auckland Mayoral Forum and Auckland City Mayor, Chris Fletcher.

“The Government has promised it will deliver the Auckland rail corridors to Auckland. The region is committed to doing everything possible to assist this process.”

The MoU follows the Minister of Finance Dr Cullen’s announcement that the government would take over purchase of Auckland’s railway network on 29 March. In the MoU the Crown is the lead negotiator. It agrees to work closely with the region to draw on the region’s considerable experience from the previous deal. The MoU also commits the Government to ensuring the final deal will be able to deliver what Auckland requires to build a rapid transit network.

“It’s now July and we have two concerns,” said Mrs Fletcher. “First, that the agreed deadline for delivery of a satisfactory deal with Tranz Rail – 31 August – is not far away. We want to see evidence that progress is being made,” she said.

“The 31 August deadline is important to us. We don’t want to be left high and dry with railway ownership issues unresolved. We have to make some urgent major decisions about how to simply keep the rail service going beyond the end of Tranz Rail’s contract in mid 2003.

“Secondly, what we need from the deal is the ability to deliver rapid transit for Auckland. Attention to the detail is important – it’s not just a case of doing a deal for the lowest possible price.

“It is important that the Crown does not compromise the regions access to the railway to simply drive the price down. The critical point for us is that we end up with control over the corridors.

The region has spent a lot of time and effort determining the best way to get the level of service and the facilities to deliver not only our Regional Land Transport Strategy goals, but our Regional Growth Strategy goals. Our experience after years of negotiating with Tranz Rail to get improvements to the rail tracks is that we need to have adequate control over the assets to allow us to develop them.

“Only if we are able to determine what happens to the station facilities, able to site them where Aucklanders most need them, and put in the service levels and facilities that Aucklanders need, can we build a network that will meet Aucklanders’ transport and growth needs and deliver on our regionally agreed strategic goals.

“If we have the air rights as well, we will be better able to make sure developments around the tracks fit with transport developments, and be able to plough any revenue from air rights back into public transport, lowering the overall public cost of rail,” said Mrs Fletcher.

“Auckland must continue to improve its competitiveness as an international city. We have one third of the country’s economy. Healthy regional development must be echoed by strong urban economic development.

“There is a variety of ways to structure the delivery of an effective rapid transit system for Auckland. We are keen to explore potential long-term partnerships with the Crown to meet Government’s important regional development objectives, for example to accommodate Northland freight needs, and achieve our aims.

“We want to make sure that local and central Government work together to actually solve Auckland’s transport problems – for public transport and for roads.

“We’re now waiting for the Crown to meet its obligations under this MoU,” said Chris Fletcher.

ENDS

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