TRANSPORT

Buy back of railways welcomed

Monday 5 May 2008, 5:59PM
By Auckland Regional Council
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AUCKLAND

Auckland Regional Council chairman Michael Lee congratulates the New Zealand Government on its decision to purchase Toll New Zealand’s rail and ferry business.

The Government announced this morning it would pay $665 million, with settlement on 30 June.

Mr Lee said: “The privatisation of NZ Rail 15 years ago is now recognised as a commercial disaster and a profound economic blunder for this country.

“I applaud the Government for at long last redressing this mistake.

“This recognises the critical role rail plays and will play in our economy and the need for a coherent, integrated rail system as a major component of a overall national transport system – integrating road, rail and coastal shipping.

“Passenger rail also has a bright future and is of course critical in the battle against chronic road congestion – especially here in Auckland.

The surge in popularity of Auckland’s passenger trains, with patronage rising from 2.5 million to 6 million per annum within four years, shows that a rail renaissance is both possible and necessary.

“We must make the best use of the existing transport system as well as increasing capacity,” Mr Lee says. “The rail network is vital and irreplaceable element of successful transport system.”

The Auckland region’s aim is to work closely with the government to electrify the system and raise patronage to 30 million per annum by 2016. This is an important step towards the development of an integrated, responsive and sustainable transport network. The Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy (2005) and Auckland Regional Freight Strategy (2006) both recognise the importance of rail to the region’s future.

“We’ve been steadily improving Auckland rail services day by day, year on year. The structure of rail ownership and management has been overly complicated and expensive and the present arrangements are inefficient to the point of being dysfunctional.

Though Toll and Ontrack have done a good job since the Government bought back the tracks in 2003 – they have been working in a rather impossible commercial framework.

“We don’t envisage major changes in Auckland over the short-term but we can look forward to a much more integrated, cost-efficient and coherent rail system in New Zealand overall.

“Again, our congratulations to the Government.”