KiwiRail needs to be relieved from having the responsibility for infrastructure

Published on 5/05/2023 at 12:30 pm.

Press release - KiwiRail is once again embarrassed by the failure of key equipment and infrastructure as Aucklanders struggle to get to where they work learn and attend appointments. A key part of the overhead wiring has failed near Grafton bringing the entire system north of Othahuhu to a standstill during the morning rush hour.

Niall Robertson, National Coordinator of The Rail Advocacy Collective (TRAC) says, “This is another fail for KiwiRail regarding infrastructure maintenance and reliability, and it is time that the government faced up to their responsibility to provide reliable transport infrastructure for rail”.

Robertson says that the Ministry of Transport has responsibility for the nation’s state highways through Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry should also have an appropriate agency to administer the rail network.

Robertson says, every time there is a failure like this the minister can hide behind KiwiRail and accuse them of incompetence. This just perpetuates the myth in New Zealand that rail doesn’t work and this is very damaging for this mode of transport.

TRAC believes that KiwiRail needs to concentrate on running a profitable above rail business hauling freight and people and concentrate on that as most trucking and bus companies do.

TRAC also believes that the fortunes of rail services in New Zealand should not be entirely tied to KiwiRail’s fortunes.

As it is KiwiRail does not have the resources to serve many regions such as to Gisborne and New Plymouth, so many lines are mothballed or in managed decline. These lines could be quite profitable for a short line operator to offer a good freight service, perhaps under contract to KiwiRail, but the government uses KiwiRail’s lack of resources to truncate large tracks of the system as an excuse to do nothing.

Robertson says that if it wasn’t for the governments previous coalition partner the North Auckland Line would have been mothballed by now and says, “There is a groundswell of support in New Plymouth for a local passenger train service and a train to Wellington, but KiwiRail is rapidly relinquishing rail freight contracts as part of its seeming overall goal of closing the line to New Plymouth”.

Robertson says that it needs to be understood by all that a lack of rail service to many industries in the Taranaki area is not due to rail not being the best mode to move that freight or a lack of freight, but due to KiwiRail not having sufficient resources to serve the regions as opposed to the more lucrative Golden Triangle and main trunk routes”. Robertson says that it is unconscionable that the government allows this to happen by hiding behind either the incompetence or the business needs of KiwiRail.

It is time that the government fronted up to its responsibility to fund rail infrastructure properly and regional rail services appropriately to allow some short line operators to run services in areas where KiwiRail does not have the resources and then to allow the possibility of regional rail forms of public transport to return to these places.

Press release dated 5 May 23. Authorized by Guy Wellwood Chair, The Railway Advocacy Collective (TRAC)

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