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Mr Cunliffe and his transport spokesman Phil Twyford announced the plan in Christchurch this morning where they are campaigning with local MPs Clayton Cosgrove, Megan Woods and Poto Williams.
Speaking on Addington Road, where the nearby station would be the hub of the new network, Mr Cunliffe said the project would "help de-clog Christchurch's roads and help rebuild a vibrant modern city".
He said the quakes had changed Christchurch's population distribution and created traffic congestion particularly in the city's north.
"Commuter rail is the most cost effective way to reduce congestion." The project would use both existing tracks but would involve double tracking the city's northern rail line, would involve the upgrade of stations and the purchase of new rolling stock.
Mr Cunliffe said new services would operate with a 15-minute frequency during rush hour.
"This will be an investment in a public transport network that will serve Christchurch for the coming century. This money will come out of currently unallocated funds within the National Land Transport Fund. It will not mean cutting any other planned projects." The new network would link Rangiora, Rolleston and Kaiapoi with Christchurch where park ride facilities would be constructed ands opened those areas up for new residential and commercial development.
Mr Cunliffe said the network would also spark urban renewal in places like Papanui and Hornby.
Mr Twyford said there were about 5000 people currently commuting from Rangiora and Kaiapoi every day and they were routinely facing journeys of an hour or so in the morning traffic.
Modelling suggested about 10 per cent of those commuters would choose to take the train if the services were available which would halve the journey time for those travelling by car.
- By Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald