Using Road Funds For Rail “highway Robbery”

The Government’s plan for “user-pays” road funding to further subsidise KiwiRail is highway robbery, Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says.

“The RTF opposes funding rail from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), which is funded by road users, and we have made a submission to Parliament’s Infrastructure Select Committee considering this law change,” Leggett says.

“We believe the excessive funding planned for rail is ideologically driven, rather than based in any business reality, and we don’t believe road users should have to pay for that. It’s highway robbery.

“The Government is expecting the NLTF to cover the already depleted road and rail infrastructure from a finite revenue source, and it will be road users paying for that. As the road money gets siphoned off for rail, we expect to see even more unsafe roads.

“Despite this Government’s desire to control markets, customers decide which freight mode best suits them. The Ministry of Transport’s National Freight Demand Study 2017/18 shows demand for road freight increased by 16%, while demand for rail freight declined by 17%. This is because the advantages of road over rail are many.

“Rail’s environmental benefits over road are simply illusionary, as any level of success for rail transport is entirely dependent on truck transport. Measuring environmental performance solely on the basis of the relative performance of the truck versus train, instead of the reality of point-to-point sender to receiver, is a very narrow perspective, typically favoured by academics without any interest in economics.

“This Bill stacks up the rail track network, owned exclusively by KiwiRail, against roading infrastructure utilised by all road users, owned by the Crown and a number of road controlling authorities (RCAs).

“Road users who pay into the NLTF have no ownership rights whatsoever, but are obliged to pay prescribed fees to use and maintain roads, ensuring safety expectations are met.

“Road users are also subject to property rates for providing accessibility to the roading network. This makes the suggested funding model in this Bill inequitable for road users.

“While the Bill attempts to counter this inequity with reference to track user fees (TUCs), there is no evidence of what those TUCs might look like.

“The road freight sector does not believe TUCs are going to meet the rail programme spend, which the Government has indicated will be significant. The principal rail operator arguably has no mandate to operate on a full cost recovery basis, so this puts road freight at a disadvantage to its heavily subsidised freight competition. “We agree rail services need support to provide a service complementary to road freight, however, rail freight’s strength is in long distance transportation (over 500km) of high volumes of relatively low value products, such as coal.

“In New Zealand’s freight market, the two modes should operate as complementary, not competitive,” Leggett says.

Government to buy land for rail to Northport and Marsden Point

Charlie  Dreaver

Charlie Dreaver, Political Reportercharlie.dreaver@rnz.co.nz

The government has announced it will be buying land to build a spurline to Northport and Marsden Point and upgrading rail in the Northland region.

Railroad tracks. Railway tracks. generic

$40m has been earmarked to to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point. Photo: 123RF

Today’s announcement comes as ministers are still considering the New Zealand First-backed policy of moving the bulk of Auckland’s freight operations to Northport.

State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today said $109.7 million would be invested into upgrading Northland’s rail infrastructure through the Provincial Growth Fund.

They said $69.7m would be spent to lower the tracks through tunnels on the Northland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, reopening the rail line from Kauri and building a container terminal at Otiria.

Another $40m was earmarked to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point.

Jones said the investment would allow KiwiRail to secure the land needed for a new rail line to Northport.

“Having this land means that when the government does make its final decision about a future port in Northland, we will be ready to get going,” he said.

Last year it was announced $95m of provincial growth funding would be used to undertake maintenance on the rail line to Whangarei.

Peters said this second phase of funding was a game changer, allowing more freight onto rail and help reduce road congestion, road maintenance costs and lower carbon emissions.

“It will also mean that modern shipping containers can be carried through the tunnels on the North Auckland Line,” he said.

Mayors back move

In a joint statement, Far North mayor John Carter, Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai and Kaipara mayor Jason Smith welcomed the announcement.

“These are historic investments, the start of a decade-long economic transformation for Northland to make an ever-greater contribution to the prosperity of the Upper North Island and all of New Zealand,” they said.

Carter hoped today’s announcement was a sign of good things to come for Northland, and said it was now up to the mayors to tell Northlanders and those in Auckland of the benefits of moving to Northport.

“It’s an indication of the fact that we now need to do our part so that then the parliamentarians, particularly during an election year, can do their part and they know they will get the support of the people if they come up with the goods,” he said.

He said moving the Auckland’s main port to Northport would be good for not only Northland but the whole of New Zealand.

National criticises spend on rail link before port decision

National Party Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said the government was going about it the wrong way.

“The first thing to do should be to decide if the port is going to move to Northport and then you go about creating the infrastructure to make that happen.

“Instead what New Zealand First has essentially forced on the government is spending $40 million to buy the land for a spurline to Northport, in advance of a decision being made to move the port,” he said.

Bishop said if the port did not move, the government would have spent $40 million on a line that was irrelevant.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it showed they were a common sense government.

“It makes sense to connect your port to rail, regardless.”

She would not say whether it signalled a move to Northport.

Julie Anne Genter: Why the ‘New Zealand Upgrade’ falls short


Julie Anne Genter
 | Guest writer
Opinion

The Green Party transport spokesperson writes on the good, the bad and the ugly of the big infrastructure announcement.

It is election year and it is time to decide where we are heading.

The Green Party will be laying out bold plans this year for reducing our climate pollution, ensuring people have enough to thrive, and protecting nature.

This week’s announcement on the NZ Upgrade falls short of what is needed to deliver this work for the country.

We have been celebrating the wins we fought hard for in the NZ Upgrade. There is $200 million that our Green minister for climate change has won specifically to replace the coal boilers that are fuelling our schools and hospitals. This money will make a difference.

In transport, we got a lot more for the climate than you might expect. Over $1.6B for sustainable transport for rail, bus priority and a long overdue dedicated cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

But we have to be honest as a country that we need to go further and faster if we are to meet the goals in our Zero Carbon Act.

Generation Zero wrote in the Spinoff that they were very disappointed at some of the incredibly expensive motorway projects that make up the lion’s share of the transport spend in the NZ Upgrade.

They are absolutely right. It is nowhere near what we need.

Reducing climate pollution is not a “nice-to-have”. It is a physical imperative.

Either we reduce pollution enough to limit dangerous global over-heating, or we face an increasingly insecure future plagued by drought, fire, floods and famine.

If we’re going to borrow billions to invest in the future, we must ensure that every cent helps us protect that future.

Every one of us needs to do our bit in this fight, and every sector needs to pull its weight in cleaning up our act. Transport has been one of the worst, and increasing in recent years.

A few things need to happen for us to reduce transport pollution in line with our 1.5C goals. We need a step-change in public transport, active transport, rail and sea freight; and we need rapid electrification of our car fleet.

It’s true that the NZ upgrade transport package frees up more money in the National Land Transport Programme (the three-year transport budget). Our expectation is that public and active transport, rail freight and coastal shipping, and road safety will continue to be the priorities for future investment.

But the decision to resurrect a few very expensive highways won’t reduce emissions, won’t reduce deaths and serious injuries across the country, and won’t make it easier to get around for most people every day.

A Green Party upgrade would have prioritised differently, including:

  • Electrification of more rail lines around our major cities to shift trains away from diesel.
  • New rolling stock to increase the services for people, making rail more reliable and accessible.
  • Re-scoping roading projects to focus more on safety rather than increasing capacity far beyond what is needed.
  • Bus and other rapid transit projects, including light rail.
  • Supporting cycling and walking infrastructure in our towns and cities.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

So what’s next?

I’ll be working to maximise the wins we’ve already won, including reviewing the scope of projects like Mill Road and the Tauranga Northern Link to make sure they include continuous bus lanes and modern off-road cycleways. It’s quite possible we can re-focus these projects to make them better for people and planet. And we will be bringing much better alternative projects to the election campaign.

To do more, to go further and faster, we will need more power in the next governing arrangement.

We have little time to act, but we have so much to gain by doing the right things in the transport space; a stable climate, cleaner air, happier, healthier more connected communities, lower petrol bills, and jobs that help people and the planet.

Government’s transport package takes the wind out of the Opposition’s sails, but new promises put it under more pressure to deliver

Jenée Tibshraeny's picture

30th Jan 20, 8:30am byJenée Tibshraeny

Phil Twyford, Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Labour and NZ First have pocketed political wins from Wednesday’s big infrastructure project reveal.   

The Coalition Government has taken the wind out of the Opposition’s sails; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern now adopting National’s “we’re the party of infrastructure” line.

Both the business community and unions are broadly pleased with the $6.8 billion of transport projects to be brought forward and funded.

The Government is now under pressure to execute its plans well.

With KiwiBuild under-delivering and it still being undecided whether the New Zealand Transport Agency or New Zealand Super Fund will run the Auckland light rail project, the public’s tolerance for teething problems/stuff-ups related to much-needed infrastructure is near zero.

The same goes for the construction sector, which is crying out for certainty and continuity.  

Some of the transport projects announced on Wednesday were consented under the National-led Government, and some were earmarked in the second phase of its Roads of National Significance, criticised by Labour when in opposition.

Even though the designs of these projects have been “improved”, National leader Simon Bridges can legitimately claim parts of the Coalition Government’s big reveal are a “copy” of his party’s plans.

He also makes a fair point that the Government wasted time “tearing up these plans and putting them back together again”.

But the reality is, these roads weren’t built under National, so in the eyes of the public (which just want the work done), the Coalition Government comes out on top.

Bridges said National will “go even further” on infrastructure investment.

But the question is, where will it get the money from, especially as it wants to borrow less as a portion of gross domestic product (GDP) than the Government is.

National is open to public private partnerships. It also wants to introduce “revenue neutral” congestion charging, which it will need to pitch carefully so it doesn’t get slammed for going back on its word and introducing a “tax”.  

But the Government has left National little to attack it over in election year when it comes to this new infrastructure spend.

NZ First one-ups the Greens

NZ First leader Winston Peters was chipper at Wednesday’s announcement and even had to be dragged away from the media by NZ First MP Shane Jones (who made his presence known) to get to his next engagement.  

Just over $1b was secured for rail, as well as $692m to upgrade SH1, Whangarei to Port Marsden, to four lanes.

Questions were raised at the press conference over whether this signalled the Government was leaning towards moving the Ports of Auckland north.

Cabinet is expected to report back on the matter in May. It wasn’t sold on a working group recommendation last year to move the operation to Northport, as NZ First wishes.

As for the Green Party, it looked a bit like the neglected sibling in the Coalition Government family.

While some of the roading upgrades will include cycle and walkways, some investment is going into public transport, and funding has been committed to the Skypath over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the transport package is unashamedly road-heavy.

The party’s co-leader James Shaw acknowledged if he could have things his way, the mix of projects would look different. 

He characteristically kept face, but will yet again have to tell Green supporters something to the tune of: “We know it isn’t perfect, but we’re doing what we can within the bounds of the political system.”

James Shaw defends transport spend-up: $5.3b on roads

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today's announcement marked the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time he has been alive. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today’s announcement marked the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time he has been alive. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

By: Georgina Campbellgeorgina@newstalkzb.co.nz

Climate Change Minister James Shaw is defending the Government’s $12b infrastructure announcement, in which roads are the big winner, amid criticism from green lobby groups.

Greenpeace and Generation Zero have criticised the package as a missed opportunity to clean up New Zealand’s transport network.

Although Shaw said as co-leader of the Greens it should come as no surprise that the party would have prioritised a different mix, he backed the package as Climate Change Minister.

“You can’t take away from the fact that there’s $1.8-billion of this package that is devoted to rail, light rail, cycling, walking infrastructure, the $200m that we’re putting into the clean-powered public service.”

Major roading projects announced were being rescoped to include, where possible, things like public transport, he said.

Roads make up $5.3b of the $6.8b spend on transport in the infrastructure package announced today.

That gives the green light to several four-lane highways, including State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Port Marsden, Mill Rd in South Auckland, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, the Tauranga Northern Link and SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin.

It was a coalition Government and the Greens had influenced the shape of the package overall, Shaw said.

He was particularly “delighted” with projects like the Auckland Harbour Bridge “SkyPath” going ahead, and the $1.1b for rail.

“When you consider the overall mix it will it will lead to a real shift in a congestion-free network for New Zealand.”

But Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson has slammed today’s announcement as a missed opportunity.

More roads would lead to more cars, which would contribute to more emissions, she said.

“The climate crisis is fundamentally an infrastructure challenge. We can move away from our dependence on dirty fuels by building lots of solar, wind, batteries, electric trains, busways, and cycleways. All of this creates thousands of jobs,and gives people options that they currently don’t have.

Generation Zero was equally disappointed.

Spokesman David Robertson said the Government had allocated an excessive amount of money for roads.

“These roading projects are paving the way to a climate disaster. This money should instead be spent on accelerating public transport infrastructure across New Zealand which in turn would encourage a mode shift, and reduce both congestion and emissions.”

But Shaw wasn’t worried today’s announcement would come back to bite the party in this year’s election campaign.

“If you look at the scale of what we’re investing here in cycleways, in walking infrastructure, in heavy rail, in light rail right around the country and in some of our most congested cities, I think this upgrade is the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time I have been alive.”

KiwiRail details $1b infrastructure spend

KiwiRail is already locking in suppliers and specialist services as it prepares to spend the government’s cash injection to upgrade and expand the national rail network.

The government has allocated more than $1 billion on major big rail projects over the next four years, in addition to $200m to develop rail freight services in Northland.

“It’s a good problem to have,” said KiwiRail chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon, who is responsible for coordinating the rollout of the state-owned enterprise’s many infrastructure projects over the next few years.

The four projects include the $315 million improvements to the Wiri to Quay Park corridor in Auckland, as well as construction of a third rail line; $371m to extend electrification of the Auckland metro network from Papakura to Pukekohe; and $247m to develop a railway station in the fast growing area of Drury, with two new stations at Drury East and Drury West.

The third Auckland rail line will also improve freight services between Ports of Auckland and the Port of Tauranga.

Wellington will get $211m to overhaul services and amenities on the Wellington, Wairarapa and Palmerston North network and beyond. A further $40m has been allocated for a new freight hub at Palmerston North.

Gordon said KiwiRail had hit the ground running and was ready to meet the considerable challenge ahead, with contractors in place and training and apprenticeship programmes under way.

“(It is) undoubtedly a challenge, but clearly a good one to have,” he said.

“If this had suddenly sort of been dropped on us out of the sky, you’d think how on earth would you do this, but we’ve building to(wards) this for awhile.”

He said the projects would create direct and indirect employment for hundreds of people, with many of them to be employed by KiwiRail’s contractors.

“We are the contractor of contractors, so a lot of the work is done for us by third parties,” Gordon said.

“We’ve been locking down contracts with some key suppliers for quite a time.”