Waikato RWC rail link

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The Waikato Times reports that KiwiRail will be laying on charter trains for Rugby World Cup games in Hamilton.

An Auckland-to-Hamilton train service is being touted for the Rugby World Cup as a way to boost visitors to the city.

KiwiRail public affairs general manager Kevin Ramshaw confirmed it was “looking at excursion trains… between Hamilton and Auckland”, linked to 10 games in either Hamilton or Auckland.

KiwiRail Turnaround Plan

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KiwiRail’s long awaited “Turn Around Plan” was announced today, along with an announcement from the Government that they chipping in $250m from the Budget 2010 to support the plan.

This is a welcome (and somewhat surprising!) move from the Government, along with a pledge for an additional $500m over the next 2 years.

Of course it comes with the tag that the rail freight business has to “become sustainable within a decade by getting it to a point where it funds its costs solely from customer revenue.”

No word on when the trucking industry loses its subsidies from motorists and ratepayers.

KiwiRail Lambasted By Analyst With Poor Grasp Of Facts

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I’m sure it is just a wind up by the Herald, but the opinion piece by Luke Malpass  today is astonishing for its total lack of supporting evidence.

What does a billion dollars mean to you? It is a huge amount of money, an amount so vast that most us cannot quite comprehend how much it is. This is how much KiwiRail has cost the taxpayer – so far.

The majority of the billion dollar figure is to make up for the complete lack of maintenance over the last two decades when rail was owned by private companies with short term profit objectives.

KiwiRail operates by government subsidy, and like all subsidies it is dispersed across all of society thinly enough not to be noticed too much. Some of it comes from Auckland and Wellington ratepayers, most of it from the entire country’s taxpayers…Maybe when people realise how much extra hard-earned cash they have to part with to sustain rail, they will appreciate what an expensive indulgence KiwiRail is and thus scrutinise it more critically.

Well, yes.  Luke doesn’t bother to mention the actual figures involved though. So no mention of the fact that up to 40% of local rates are spent on roads. The typical ratepayer spends about $700 a year subsidising local roads.  The same ratepayer spends about $182 a year on public transport capital and operating subsidies.

However, given the affordability and widespread access to cars in New Zealand, expensive fares for few services will see commuters voting with their feet and pressing down on the accelerator rather than stepping on to the carriage.

Who says cars are affordable?  The operating and depreciation costs of a car can run into the thousands of dollars every year.  Add to that the cost of parking and the fact that cars benefit from ratepayer subsidies to a far greater degree than public transport does. Its no wonder that until recently, cars have been the only option available for many.

Luke clearly dwells in Wellington, as he is oblivious to the fact that in Auckland rail is enjoying unprecedented popularity – 14.3% more trips in March this year than last year, almost a million trips.

However, there is always the risk that as long as rail is in public hands (or private ownership with the wrong regulatory framework and incentives), political imperatives can override sensible decision making or prevent commercially sensible decisions.Short-termism and vague, woolly social goals could ride roughshod over the only aim rail should have: providing the best service to its customers at the lowest price.

He is right about this. This has been the problem in the past.

The approaching Budget will reveal the extent of government support, especially capital injections for KiwiRail over the next few years. The $1 billion already spent on KiwiRail was a lot of money, so the question is whether consumers and taxpayers are prepared to pay a bigger price in the future.

Correct. Other questions are why is so much being spent subsidising the trucking industry which competes against rail? If the price of diesel reaches $3 or $4 a litre, will trucks represent the most economic method of shifting freight around the country?

It would be more useful if Luke would put some effort into analysing the $10bn the Government will be spending over the next 10 years on roading projects.  The majority of this is a direct subsidy to the trucking industry to pay for the Roads of National (Party) Significance.

Rudman: All Aboard for the Waikato Express

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Brian Rudman sums up the situation quite nicely in today’s Herald:

Just as people from all around the south of England think nothing of jumping aboard a train to go to London for a day’s shopping, or to catch a show or a concert, Auckland, as New Zealand’s equivalent for entertainment, shopping and just about everything else, should be making it as easy as possible for our Waikato cuzzies to do the same.

Taken For A Ride

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Taken for a Ride is an amazing documentary by Jim Kleina and Martha Olson that documents the efforts to derail mass transit in America. Using historical footage and investigative research, this film tells how GM fought to push freeways into the inner cities of America, and push public transportation out.

All aboard please, we’re tired of waiting

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Brian Rudman writes in today’s NZ Herald:

Talk about trying to board the train after it leaves the station. For nigh on 100 years, efforts to build a commuter train service in Auckland have been stalled by squabbling politicians, local and national.

Bennett Blocks Petition

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As covered by the Waikato Times this morning, the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee will not be considering the CBT led petiti0n for a Hamilton to Auckland rail service. 

The report is here, but petition is effectively dismissed in one sentence:

The majority of us note that this service has recently been considered by the relevant local authorities and they decided not to establish such a service at this time, and therefore we have no matters to bring to the attention of the House.

The problem for David Bennett though is that is manifestly not true.  Cr Dave McPherson goes as far as calling it “complete crap” and that “Hamilton City Council has continued to support it and has not pulled its support”.

Environment Waikato is yet to meet with the NZTA to discuss the matter.

David Bennett is clearly wrong.

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