Labour, Greens divided over Waikato Expressway

Labour and the Greens stand united over wanting an immediate start to Auckland's underground railway, but are divided over whether to complete the $2 billion-plus Waikato Expressway.

Both potential coalition partners say they want to rebalance transport spending away from the Government's heavy focus on roads, but Labour policy issued today Sunday has the party undertaking to complete the expressway between the Bombay Hills and Cambridge by its timetabled date of 2019.

That is despite the Greens wanting to pull the plug on bypasses of Hamilton and Huntly, which the Government wants to start building late next year for $1.26 billion.

Labour's policy issued by its transport spokesman Phil Tywford promises a shift away from "low-value" projects allegedly chosen for political reasons, towards what the party says should be the best investments for growing the economy, reducing congestion, and moving the country's transport system to a more sustainable footing.

That means reviewing and delaying some of the Government's six remaining Roads of National Significance (RONS), to free up funds for upgrades to rail, coastal shipping, public transport, regional roads, safety and cycling.

Its main casualty would be an extension of Auckland's Northern Motorway to Wellsford for $1.7 billion, much of which Labour would divert to a half-share of the $2.2 billion revised cost of the city's underground rail project.

The Green are proposing 60 per cent Government funding for the 3.4km rail link.

Mr Twyford acknowledged earlier - after Labour's lone Northland MP Kelvin Davis came out in support of the motorway extension - that there may be a remote chance in future of traffic numbers stacking up to justify it, but said it now looked "a long way from becoming economically viable.".

Labour is also vowing to seek ways of reducing an "unjustifiable" $3 billion of repayments over 25 years on a $1 billion loan the Government wants to raise for Wellington's Transmission Gully motorway project, for construction to start this year.

But it promises to complete the half-built Waikato Expressway by the Government's completion date of 2019, despite the Greens belief that enough has been spent on roads around Hamilton, which already has a partial western bypass but is now in line for a 22km eastern link as well to divert most long-distance traffic away from city streets.

Labour is also promising to:

* prioritise rapid transit busways in northwestern and southeastern Auckland,

* integrate transport infrastructure with residential and urban developments,

* develop a national ports strategy

* fund coastal shipping

* re-open the Napier-Gisborne railway line, and

* upgrade Northland's main line with a possible rail link to the Marsden Pt port and oil refinery.

It vows to increase walking and cycling investment "substantially", improve regulations for bus and truck drivers to get enough rest breaks, and consider introducing rural driver training programmes.

- By Mathew Dearnaley of the NZ Herald

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