The "miserly" $750 million boost for KiwiRail should be
seen against the $11 billion the Government is spending on
roads, says Labour's transport spokesman Darren Hughes.
Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Steven Joyce
announced yesterday that tomorrow's budget would put $250m
into KiwiRail and there would be another $500m over the next
Mr Key said a plan was being worked out that would aim to
turn KiwiRail into a sustainable, freight-based business
within 10 years.
In the end it will cost an estimated $4.6 billion, but most
of it is expected to come from profits generated by the
Some minor rail routes are expected to be closed as KiwiRail
gets itself onto a firm financial footing.
Mr Hughes said the "tentative" support was to be applauded
but it didn't compare with the amount the Government had
allocated to major roading projects.
"Steven Joyce remains obsessed with building motorways," he
"The Government needs to take a long-term view of how it's
cutting up its transport spend -- with the volume of freight
expected to skyrocket over the next 20 years,
"New Zealand needs a balanced transport system to ensure
freight is moved efficiently."
Mr Hughes said careful thought should be given to closing any
regional lines because many were vital in emergencies and
they were operating efficiently.
The Rail and Maritime Union (RMTU) said it was encouraged by
the funding which it saw as an "apparent" commitment to keep
KiwiRail in public ownership.
"The long-term plan has many important elements, including
wagon and locomotive upgrades...and an investment in
infrastructure to undo the neglect of 18 years of private
ownership," said RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson.
The union was involved in discussions about improving
productivity, although KiwiRail already had some of the most
innovative and productive operating systems in the world, he
Auckland Regional council chairman Mike Lee said the
investment was welcome but the Government should clarify its
long-term funding arrangements for Auckland's commuter
"We will continue working with the Government to reach an
outcome but I hope my message is clear -- if New Zealand is
to increase its economic productivity, our major cities must
be well served by rapid rail," he said.