Government Transport Statement is an existential threat to the national rail system

Published on 21/03/2024 at 12:00 pm.

Press release: The government's agenda to swiftly dismantle the New Zealand rail system is evident in the current Transport Government Position Statement (GPS). Notably, there are stark reductions in funding for rail, with the minimum allocation plummeting a staggering 94% from $360 million to $20 million. Moreover, all of these funds are earmarked exclusively for the Golden Triangle region, leaving KiwiRail to finance the system elsewhere using its own track access charges only. Additionally, a statement (p9) suggests speeding up the sale of disused transport land, signaling an intent to thwart any revival of rail services once the land is gone!

Niall Robertson, the national coordinator of TRAC says, “The government has no mandate to do this sort of thing. They did not campaign on it, so they should not contemplate continuing with the level of damage that this will do”.

Robertson adds that the GPS specifically states that all funding must be limited to the Golden Triangle. Robertson says, “This stance indicates the government's reluctance to invest in rail infrastructure south of Hamilton, putting the entire system at risk of managed decline and jeopardizing jobs for all rail workers in the southern regions”.

TRAC Chairman Guy Wellwood says, “Without the revival of the iReX rail ferry project, the situation could deteriorate rapidly, particularly with KiwiRail's inability to maintain adequate services to Christchurch, thereby undermining the viability of the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). This crisis is getting closer with the impending retirement of the rail ferry Aratere in just 2-3years”.

TRAC urges all people to carefully consider the ramifications of New Zealand without a railway south of Hamilton.

Robertson says, “Imagine the roads getting fuller and fuller of trucks, doing lots more damage, polluting and creating lots more emissions, congestion and road safety issues. Rail does none of this and is totally under-utilised in this country”.

Wellwood reminds us that this is all going to happen in a time of global shortages of truck drivers, and he adds, “…this could lead to more inexperienced drivers being hired to drive these big rigs which need skilled and experienced drivers”.

Robertson urges people to write submissions to the government and try to protect our railway asset.

Press release dated 21 March 2024. Authorized by Guy Wellwood Chair, The Railway Advocacy Collective (TRAC)

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