Parties set out election transport plans for New Zealand

The New Zealand Green Party has set out its plan for major investment in rail ahead of the New Zealand general election.

The party’s co-leader James Shaw said the plan would connect the country via rail.

“We will connect our major cities through a major new investment in inter-city passenger rail. This new network will transform how people move throughout our country, making getting out to the regions faster, easier, and better for the planet,” he said.

“Rail will carry thousands of people a day from Auckland to Hamilton, from Wellington to Masterton and Palmerston North, and from Christchurch to Rangiora and Ashburton, eventually including Dunedin and Timaru.”

The part would also invest $6.5 billion in rapid transit networks in the major cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

“This includes pushing ahead with a much-needed rail crossing to Auckland’s North Shore, which we’ve now seen is desperately overdue,” said Shaw.

Specific projects in the plan include two new light rail lines in Auckland from the CBD to Māngere and Westgate, light rail in Wellington from the train station to Newtown and subsequently to the airport, and passenger rail between the Christchurch CBD and Rangiora, Ashburton, Rolleston, and Hornby.

As part of the current coalition government, the Green Party had pushed for a light rail line linking Auckland airport and the CBD, however despite receiving proposals, the government declined to pursue the project. The Ministry of Transport and Treasury will provide a report to the government on the potential of the project after the election.

The opposition New Zealand National party has also released its transport plan, which includes heavy rail to the airport and a new road-rail harbour crossing. The party also committed to building the third and fourth main line and investigating a new line from Southdown to Avondale.

In Wellington, the National party plans to purchase new trains as part of upgrades to the metro network.

NZ Greens propose electrification, fast regional rail

The New Zealand Greens have put forward the construction of fast inter-city rail links as a way to stimulate New Zealand’s economy.

Currently under stage 4 restrictions, economic activity in New Zealand has almost been shut down, but the country is looking to come out of its self-imposed hibernation by the end of April.

To get the economy back up and running the NZ Greens are looking at electrification and improvements to regional rail.

Although the fourth largest party in the New Zealand parliament, the Greens have supported the leading Labour Party with confidence and supply. Green Party Transport Spokesperson Julie Anne Genter is Associate minister of Health and Transport in the current government.

The proposal of works includes connecting Auckland with Hamilton, Tauranga, and Whangearei, Wellington with Masterton, Palmerston North and Whanganui, and Christchurch with Rangiora, Ashburton and Timaru.

Currently, train services between Auckland and Wellington are partially electrified, while rail services out of Christchurch are hauled by diesel locomotives. Green Party Co-leader and Climate Change spokesperson James Shaw said the project would tackle the twin issues of economic growth and cutting emissions.

“The large intercity rail project proposed will provide meaningful work whilst driving us towards a sustainable, green, zero carbon future.

“Building rail creates more jobs than building motorways and helps us tackle climate change at the same time.”

The party has broken up the proposal into two stages. The first stage would involve electrification and improvements to existing track to allow for speeds of up to 110km/h. The second stage would include building new higher-speed track for tilt trains capable of travelling up to 160km/h and bypasses to create more direct routes. The party estimates that the cost of the program would be NZ$9 billion ($8.6bn) over 10 years.

Genter said that the investment would tie together metropolitan centres and the regions.

“We’re proposing a nation-wide intercity rapid rail programme that would bring our provincial centres and biggest cities closer together through fast, electric passenger rail. This will create real alternatives to driving or flying for people who want to travel around the country for work, to see their family and friends, or for domestic tourism.”