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Monster Gobbles Real Rail Funding

The City Centre to Mangere light rail project is set to gobble anything from $15 -$30 billion of funding when that money could be better spent elsewhere. TRAC national coordinator Niall Robertson says, “The light rail monster will gobble up so much in materials to build it, it won’t save one carbon molecule until about 2052. This is inexcusable in a situation where millions die or are displaced due to climate change”.

The money should be diverted to projects that really do save carbon and really do provide more social equity. TRAC believes the Mangere light rail project should be replaced by the extension of the heavy rail system from Onehunga to Wiri via Mangere and the airport. Further, TRAC supports the proposed line from Avondale to Southdown for freight from Northland and to connect the west of Auckland to the south of Auckland.

Further south, there is a need to complete the electrification of the NIMT and to electrify to Tauranga. There is a need to reopen lines to Rotorua, from Stratford to Taumarunui, from Wairoa to Gisborne, North of Whangarei and to open a new connecting line to NorthPort.

There is also a need for the government to fund rail forms of regional and long distance public transport, and to develop a well connected network throughout the country using trains, buses and ferries. New Zealand has these networks in place, but they are currently not used to potential or not used at all.

The recent budget has restricted KiwiRail to treading water. There is provision to replace locomotives and rolling stock on a one new for a one old basis and to replace track on existing used infrastructure but no increase in the amount of rolling stock or extensions to the rail network. Rail carries just 12% of the New Zealand freight task, and just 36% of the potential freight that could be carried by rail. Apart from Auckland and Wellington and a couple of fledgling regional services, there is no rail public transport anywhere else in New Zealand.

The Budget’s failure to contribute funding for a fleet of hybrid electric trains in the lower North Island has surprised and disappointed the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Horizons regional council.

Horizons Cr Keedwell said, “Given this is a health and climate budget, it’s incomprehensible that these trains are not being funded,” The business case estimates every dollar spent will yield $1.83, and Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell said that the government had turned its back on commuter wellbeing by not supporting New Zealand’s first low-emission long-distance rail services. Meanwhile work continues on a motorway that will extend to Levin with a business cass yield of just $0.20c.

On TV One’s Q&A programme, Climate Minister James Shaw said that the government was committed to reducing, as he said “VKT’s”(vehicle kilometers travelled), yet there was no mention of developing long distance, or even, regional public transport.

Robertson says, “There is a growing chasm of regional inequity regarding public transport and rail services as politicians seemingly splurge on expensive vanity projects in their city electorates, but ignore the regions. We need to get serious in Aotearoa New Zealand about both social and regional inequality and climate change. We have to stop planning transport based on where the votes come from, and base developments on the best ways to save emissions and to provide transport equity”.

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