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KiwiRail's decision to close the Gisborne-Napier rail line is a huge disappointment for the Gisborne community and a result of the National Government's wrong-headed transport policy, Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said today.
"While billions of taxpayer dollars are being poured into uneconomic motorway projects, energy-efficient rail is being strangled for want of a few million dollars," said Ms Genter.
"Rail lines are expected to generate maximum profits, but the wider economic benefits they create are ignored. The opposite seems to be the case for the National Government's uneconomic motorways.
"KiwiRail says that the Gisborne-Napier rail line takes 1,700 truck trips per year off the road. Yet the cost in road damage of moving that freight by trucks has not been factored into its decision to close the line. In fact, the National Government is now planning to spend $4 million to on the Gisborne-Napier highway, the same amount needed to repair the rail line.
"It's obvious that the Key Government wants to get KiwiRail into a position to privatise. Why else would they have such a narrow focus on profit margins?
"The National Government is wasting billions of dollars on a few big motorway projects that would never be able to pay their own way as standalone commercial projects. But it won't invest a few million dollars in getting our rail network back up to scratch and taking more trucks off the road.
"This is a huge blow to the Gisborne economy and to the local community, which has fought so hard to save its rail line. It is a disgrace that their pleas have been ignored for want of $4 million in repairs.
"New Zealand businesses benefit from rail. Exporters benefit from rail. Road users benefit from rail.
"The country could also be using the revitalisation of rail to create valuable green jobs.
"Most countries are now investing substantially in their rail networks because of the obvious economic benefits, especially as oil prices are expected to double in the next decade.
"Last year the Green Party prepared an alternative transport budget to the Government's, one that will save $3.5 billion overall but still include an additional $1 billion investment into KiwiRail.
"Not only can we afford to invest in rail, we can't afford not to.
"We need smart, green transport investment now so all New Zealanders can benefit from a resilient transport network in the future."