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Not “whether” but “how” for light rail

by Brent Efford
Well, I was wrong in my expectation that Winston Peters would anoint the old status quo. As details of policy agreements and ministerial posts emerge, it is apparent that there is a lot of commonality between the Labour, Green and NZ First positions on many issues. None more so than rail transport, with regional freight rail, passenger rail and light rail all featuring.

(My favourite commentary is this one – the photo of a patient, expert, Julie Anne Genter trying to educate Gerry Brownlee is priceless.)

Building up rail rather than managing its retreat will require a culture change and reorganisation of KiwiRail and NZTA, and confirmation of new funding mechanisms, before anything physical happens. Rail advocates will need to be patient!

If there is any disappointment to be had in the announcements so far, it is that there is no mention of Wellington – unfortunate because the Green Party and NZ First both specifically promoted light rail to Wellington Airport during the election. The Greens even went as far as producing a pamphlet with a route map. (See also the Wellington.Scoop commentary After the election: time to keep the trolleybuses and start planning for light rail.)

Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that, with central Government support for light rail looking likely, the negative attitude manifested by the GWRC in recent years will abate.

One requirement is for the regional council to return to the integrated ‘regional’ model – light rail to complete the rail network with a through-CBD connection – which was taken for granted as the reason for light rail in Wellington until the ill-fated Public Transport Spine Study was set up.

Paralysis by analysis must be avoided. We have had enough ‘whether’ studies of light rail in Wellington. Any further studies must concentrate on ‘how’ – and even that is pretty obvious, given work already done by the GWRC in more enlightened days.

Brent Efford is the NZ Agent for the Light Rail Transit Association.

6 comments:

  1. luke, 26. October 2017, 12:45

    maybe an order for various light rail infrastructure rolling stock etc could be piggybacked onto Auckland’s about-to-go-ahead light rail order to get a better price.

     
  2. Ross Clark, 27. October 2017, 2:22

    Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that, with central Government support for light rail looking likely, the negative attitude manifested by the GWRC in recent years will abate

    I suspect that challenges in finding the money were a big part of the GWRC’s attitude, even if they couldn’t admit it. Now: given that we cannot get any more money out of the rates base to pay for transport investment, what would the buy-in be for a regional petrol tax in the Wellington urban area? (ie out to Kapiti, not including the Wairarapa).

     
  3. Wellington Commuter, 27. October 2017, 9:25

    I disagree with your statement that “I suspect that challenges in finding the money were a big part of the GWRC’s attitude, even if they couldn’t admit it.” It is NOT that the GWRC believes it “cannot get any more money out of the rates base to pay for transport investment” … otherwise they would not report, in their upcoming meeting, that:

    “Two Crown business cases are being prepared jointly with KiwiRail for submission to Ministry of Transport on 1 November. The first covers KiwiRail network track infrastructure deferred renewals, which predominantly affect the Wairarapa Line. The second business case is to remove network constraints to enable increased capacity (more frequent and longer trains) to operate principally on the Hutt and Kapiti lines.”

    No, the real challenge for those who want investment in Wellington City Rapid Transit is to stop the GWRC obsession with spending every spare cent on its rail network to the North. The above business cases are asking the government for more than $50M to improve the service for the 1,000 passengers/day using the Wairarapa Line. The Wellington City bus service carries more than 30,000/day yet the GWRC total planned investment in Rapid Transit is less than the amount they are asking for now to improve the Wairarapa Line reliability.

    Wellington City ratepayers fund a majority of the region’s PT (bus and rail) but good luck in trying to get the Greater Wellington Railway Company to spend money on the city itself.

     
  4. Andy Mellon, 27. October 2017, 10:03

    @Wellington Commuter. There may be fewer commuters coming from the Wairarapa, but their combined commuter-miles would be on a par to Wellington’s commuters.

    Let’s say on average 75km per Wairarapa commuter. 75,000kms of road distance saved. Wellington’s bus commuters – well a more difficult average to work out, but let’s say ~7km per commuter, that’s 210,000kms. Wellington’s commuters also have the option of walking or cycling which it probably isn’t reasonable to expect for Wairarapa commuters.

    Why can’t we have both? And at the same time, maximise the use of infrastructure across the region to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.

     
  5. Wellington Commuter, 27. October 2017, 11:27

    I am not saying we cannot have both … I am saying that until GWRC puts investing in Wellington City Rapid Transit as a priority it will not happen. GWRC directs all PT funding for the region and the only PT investments that actually happen are those decided by the GWRC

    The GWRC track record for the past 15 years on investment is for every $1 not spent on Heavy Rail, they spend $100 on Heavy Rail. There is no indication in GWRC PT plans that is a will to change and so I doubt the calls for Wellington City Light Rail will go anywhere.

     
  6. Ian, 27. October 2017, 15:57

    Isn’t democracy wonderful. GW Councillors who represent commuters that benefit most from GW expenditure on public transport make sure they keep it this way – always out-voting GW councillors representing Wellington City commuters. Paul Swain and Fran Wilde liked it that way and recent leadership has not had the courage to change this direction.

    To be fair, it was the intention of the National Government’s legislation to have Regional Transport Committees + NZTA make decisions so that no NZ city would ‘go off the rails’ and try and develop a sustainable, or carbon-neutral public transport system. Regional Councillors could always out-vote the city councillors… but then the Govt made the ‘mistake’ of merging the Auckland councils – the flood gates are open.

    Disruption and congestion was inevitable without new public transport modes within cities – but rural voter representatives have continued to stop the development of more progressive, sustainable and liveable cities. Has this cycle been broken? It will take some bold and innovative moves by Government. We shall see!