Govt buy-back huge boost for Auckland rail

The Government’s buy-back of the rail tracks will provide a shot in the arm for solving Auckland’s commuter woes, Green MP Keith Locke said today.

Mr Locke, the Green Associate Transport spokesperson, said the new track ownership would make it easier to provide efficient commuter rail services.

“It’s just the boost the Auckland rail system needs,” said Mr Locke. “Auckland’s relations with TranzRail have been bedevilled by uncertainty over the future of the company.

“The Government takeover will be a plus for track maintenance. Because of its financial troubles TranzRail was skimping on upkeep of the system.

“It would undermine the potential of the Britomart centre and the ‘Signature Stations’ network if the tracks remained in such a neglected state.

“There’ll now be no reason why the tracks in Auckland and elsewhere can’t be kept up to scratch.

“The match between Auckland passenger rail and freight will also be easier to negotiate now the long distance freight operator does not also control the national track.

“Auckland plans for electrification and double tracking will proceed quicker in a government-owned nationally integrated system.”

Mr Locke hailed the decision as making longer distance services more viable.

“This is a good opportunity to relaunch rail services from Auckland to Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga. When TranzRail closed them down they weren’t attractive to new operators because of high track access fees and speed restrictions because of poor track maintenance.

“Restarting the Hamilton Connection as a regular commuter service would take pressure off the Auckland-Hamilton highway, and there is a certainly a big tourist and local user potential in both the Kaimai Express and the Geyserland service.

“As a Green MP I will be doing what I can to get these services re-started,” said Mr Locke.