Don’t short-circuit rail electrification

Auckland Green Party MP Keith Locke has warned against any ‘pause’ in Auckland’s rail electrification project.

It was today revealed that Transport Minister Steven Joyce sent a letter to the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) asking it to take ‘a short pause’ in going ahead with its rail electrification commitments. Mr Joyce wanted the ‘pause’ so that the ARC could digest the ramifications of the, as yet unreleased, report on the Royal Commission on Auckland’s Governance.

“Keeping Auckland moving is vital to New Zealand’s economy. It would be a shame if the decision making around the electrification project became as gridlocked as our motorways,” said Mr Locke.

“There have been enough delays already in electrifying Auckland’s suburban rail. Whichever way the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance goes, Aucklanders need efficient, electrified suburban rail as quickly as possible.”

“It took a lot of pushing from Auckland local bodies, public transport advocates and the Green Party to get the previous government committed to a funding strategy.”

It appears the new Government is changing tack and may buy new electric commuter trains for Auckland and Wellington. This move would see the Government drop a regional fuel levy.

“It is not in principle wrong for the new units to be paid for and owned nationally,” said Mr Locke.

“The key thing is that the quality and number of units is adequate, and that the Auckland region is able to control their operation both to ensure an integration of rail, bus and ferry timetables, and to enhance the way in which Auckland develops.”

The ARC’s transport arm, the

Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), is due to invite formal tenders for new electric units from a shortlist of four companies in a matter of weeks. Recent figures released by ARTA

for the year to 30 June 2008

show suburban rail use increasing steadily with nearly a 20% increase in commuters over the previous year.

Link to ARTA release regarding suburban rail patronage:

Link to earlier Green Party statement on electrification of trains: