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 Nationals criticise Auckland light rail timeline

The New Zealand National Party have thrown cold water on promises by the NZ Transport Minister that a light rail line from Auckland’s CBD to the airport will be finished by 2030.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford commented on NZ radio that there will “absolutely” be a light rail line connecting Auckland CBD’s to the airport.

The National Party’s transport spokesperson, Chris Bishop, doubted that such a timeframe could be achieved.

“Auckland’s light rail has been a fail from the beginning. Labour promised during the election campaign to have it finished between the CBD and Mt Roskill by 2021, only to quickly abandon that target when it became clear Phil Twyford could not deliver on it.”

Bishop criticised the structure of the proposed delivery of the line.

“His bizarre decision to entertain a bidding war between his own Transport Agency and NZ Infra has set the project back years, and set progress on Auckland’s transport woes back even further because critical roading projects have been put on ice in the interim.”

Currently, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, a project led by the NZ Transport Agency along with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and HLC, is committed to providing light rail between Auckland’s city centre, Māngere – the suburb where Auckland Airport is located – and Auckland’s north west, by 2028. A business case submitted by the NZ Transport Agency is now being evaluated against a proposal by NZ Infra, a joint venture of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Canadian institutions investors.

At the time of its announcement, Twyford said that the proposal from NZ Infra was a first for NZ.

“There are significant differences in how the two options would be financed and delivered. The NZTA is exploring a range of procurement, financing and delivery models, including alliances and public-private partnerships, and will continue to develop these.”

Bishop critiqued the time it has taken to put a proposal together.

“After more than two years in Government, there is no exact route, no delivery model, no design work done, no costings, no consents, no designations, no business case – nothing.”

KiwiRail responds to NZ Government’s Zero Carbon Bill

KiwiRail has expressed its support for the New Zealand Government’s proposed amendments to the Climate Change Response Act.

The governing Labour Party’s Zero Carbon Amendment Bill proposes that the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in keeping with the aims of the Paris Agreement.

KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller stated that the company was well-placed to “help New Zealand move to a low-emissions future”.

Miller added that rail produced up to two-thirds fewer carbon emissions than road per tonne of freight carried.

This approval is in keeping with KiwiRail’s own attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it reduced by three per cent in the 2017-18 financial year.

The company’s chief executive officer Peter Reidy was also one of 14 CEOs to join the Climate Leaders Coalition in July 2018.

The government-backed operator’s initiatives in this regard include the fuel-saving Driver Advisory System (DAS) and introduction of new electric vehicles to its rail fleet.

Last year, the government reversed a decision to replace 15 KiwiRail electric locomotives on the North Island’s Main Trunk line with diesel equivalents, announcing that it would instead refurbish the trains for continued use at a cost of $35 million.

The NZ National Party said that it welcomed the propsed amendments to the act but argued that its methane reduction targets were too severe.

“We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response,” said Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.

Methane emissions are particularly prominent in the dairy farming industry, which represents a highly important export market for the country.

Research from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in 2017 stated that 49 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the agricultural industry.