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LAST week’s announcement by KiwiRail was a big disappointment for everyone.
Local people worked hard to try and keep the Gisborne to Napier freight line open — and I lobbied hard in the Beehive. While we didn’t get the desired outcome, I managed to secure a boost of many more millions for our roads, which is very welcome.
It’s disappointing but predictable that some people are trying to make political capital out of this issue. But the reality is that successive governments have been in charge while there was a lack of necessary maintenance on the line.
I completely understand the passion generated by this issue. In fact, as the local elected MP I accepted a petition with thousands of signatures on the steps of Parliament from the Gisborne Mayor.
I stressed at the time that this wasn’t just about the rail link. It was also about securing the safe and efficient transport links which are so vital to our region.
It was always going to be tough to argue the case to repair, operate and maintain the rail line. In the end the figures just didn’t stack up.
KiwiRail announced it would take $4 million to repair the storm damage and around $6m a year to maintain the line. That $6m would be a direct subsidy — meaning that taxpayers would be paying in the order of $37,000 every time the line was used. That’s a huge amount of money at any time, but especially in such a tough economic environment.
So KiwiRail has decided that, for the moment, the freight line isn’t viable in the long-term — but it has made clear that the option is there to reactivate it should things change.
Estimates are that only five extra trucks are using State Highway 2 due to the problems with the rail line.
And that road route between Gisborne and Napier remains very important for businesses and members of the public alike. That’s why the additional $4m in transport funding which I fought hard to secure from Cabinet is extremely significant for our region.
The new funding will be used to design and construct passing opportunities on State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Napier, and is on top of the $9-$10m investment in the area to maintain and improve SH2 through the National Land Transport Programme.
So everyone will benefit. All motorists will be able to take advantage of the improved roading, including the small number of extra trucks which will use SH2 each day.
I want the people of our region to know that I will continue to fight for the best interests of our region.
But we also have to be realistic.
I understand that there are moves to argue that the rail freight line can be viable. I would certainly welcome anything that showed it can be run without massive Government subsidies.
In the meantime, millions of dollars are going to be pumped into our road transport links and that is a great result for everyone in our region.
04:49 p.m. Friday, Oct 12, 2012
Millions of dollars of subsidies for road transport. That's a great result for someone. If you could tell us who it would help.
The safety aspect of taking heavy vehicles off our roads seems to be collateral damage.
There is no political capital in securing unsafe and inefficient highway funding at the expense of safe and efficient rail.
The scientists back rail and the National Government backs roads.
Is that really such a great result for everyone in our region?
This article first appeared on www.gisborneherald.co.nz
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