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Get the trains back Ontrack

6 March 2008

Get the trains back Ontrack

The time has come to reintegrate the rail system, says Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"The experiment of an ownership split between the track and the services was worth trying, but it has failed to provide the rebuild of rail services we desperately need in a world defined by climate change and the end of cheap oil.

"The impasse reached over four years of negotiations between the Government and Toll mean that the revenue source to continue to upgrade the track is just not there.

"We are trapped in a vicious circle where the system is so run down that the service is poor and so is under used; because the system is under used, there isn't the revenue to pay for upgrades," Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"Nowhere is this more apparent to the public than in the state of Wellington's commuter rail services, though the failure to attract more heavy freight off the roads on to rail is arguably even more important.

"Bringing the track and the services under a single ownership will enable the Government to fund the upgrade needed and expand services to pay for it.

"There has always been a question of how dedicated Toll is to a good rail service given its large investment in trucking. For some time the Green Party has given them the benefit of the doubt. But while their trucking business is profitable, they have not succeeded in attracting enough business to rail and so cannot afford to pay the track access fees that were always part of the deal with Government.

"After the disastrous privatisation of 1993, our rail system was left run down and debilitated. The Green Party lobbied Government for two years to take the track back into public ownership and repair it and was finally successful. We supported the ownership split because the priority must be to get good rail services. That has not occurred and it is time to look at a different model.

"We remain open to another leasing arrangement with an experienced and dedicated rail operator if that will produce the best results and a favourable contract can be secured. If not, the job should be given to an enlarged Ontrack.

"The Green Party support rail services where we can. Today Co-leader Russel Norman and others are on the Overlander travelling to our campaign training conference which begins in Auckland tomorrow."


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