The Campaign for Better Transport today launched a campaign to highlight uncertainty surrounding the future of public transport projects in Auckland.
Launched today at the Mt Albert railway station, the aim of the “Action Stations” campaign is to gain assurance from central Government that funding for a range of public transport initiatives such as integrated ticketing, new stations, ferry terminals, Onehunga rail and electric trains will proceed as originally intended before the withdrawal of the regional fuel tax.
The Auckland Regional Transport Agency (ARTA), which oversees public transport improvements in Auckland, has now been forced by central Government to apply for funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency for the funding of railway stations for Onehunga and other projects.
Campaign organiser Dr. Francis Reid encouraged the public to participate in the Action Stations campaign by sending key transport decision makers a postcard, which can be downloaded from the bettertransport.org.nz website.
“These projects need to be completed. The Government appointed Auckland council transition agency is threatening to delay all of these projects even further,” says Dr Reid.
Ancient tracks on the Onehunga branch line have now been replaced, but the location of passenger rail stations and how they are to be funded has yet to be determined.
“The withdrawal of $200m worth of funding through the regional fuel tax has left a gaping hole in Auckland public transport funding”, said Campaign for Better Transport Convenor Cameron Pitches.
“The ridiculous thing is the Government said they did so out of concern about rising petrol prices hurting people the pocket, but in the meantime petrol companies have increased the price by 5c a litre anyhow.”
Mr Pitches also spoke of the “deeply depressing” news that the Government had confirmed that it will slash up to $250m from public transport infrastructure spending over the next three years in order to boost expenditure on new state highways.
Total expenditure on new state highways is now set to be 22 times that of public transport infrastructure over the next three years, a multiple that Mr Pitches describes as “astonishing underinvestment, given the record 20% growth in Auckland’s public transport we have consistently seen year on year.”
“The Government is putting all of its eggs into one basket. Putting $3bn dollars into new highways which have not been assessed yet for their costs and benefits is extremely risky. If the price of oil increases again, it will look like an incredibly foolish strategy.”
“Central Government just doesn’t get it”, concludes Mr Pitches. “Aucklanders want more investment in public transport in Auckland, not more and more roads that only encourage more and more single occupant cars.”