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I like to think he meant people are clever, and the human mind is always joining the dots between different pieces of knowledge.
This is what the recently released report on the Value of Rail in New Zealand does – it joins the dots between our reality and an imagined world where there is no rail.
That reveals the $1.5 billion per year value that rail delivers for New Zealand.
The report, put together by accounting firm EY, calculates the $1.5b value delivered by rail by combining the costs of congestion, additional road maintenance, carbon emissions, and the additional fatalities and injuries New Zealand would face if KiwiRail's tracks were ripped up and passengers and freight had to go onto the roads.
It carefully measures some of these impacts if KiwiRail didn't exist:
There would be an extra 76 million car hours per year on our roads, mostly from commuters who would not be using the rail network KiwiRail provides for metro services. That's the equivalent of 100,000 daily car trips on our roads, every day of the year.
There would be 11 million more truck hours on our roads each year. That's the equivalent of putting 30,000 more trucks on the road for an hour, every day of the year.
There would be an extra 488,000 tonnes of CO² emissions from vehicles in our air per year. That's the equivalent of the emissions from 87,000 cars, or a 747 flying non-stop, every day, all year.
There would be an extra $63 million needed for annual road maintenance costs each year.
There would be at least 271 more safety incidents on our transport systems each year. That's 271 more deaths, injuries or accidents a year that affect someone's loved ones.
This picture of life in New Zealand without KiwiRail is a bit grim, but thankfully it's imagined. The reality is we have had rail in New Zealand for more than a century and over time it has been an economically sustainable contributor to the nation.
New Zealand can thank Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel for starting rail in the early 1870s, and beginning to connect New Zealand by building 1600km of railway in nine years.
His vision continues to benefit us, and not just with transport solutions.
At the heart of our communities, KiwiRail helps provide connections. That can mean offering a fast, comfortable, relaxing alternative for commuting, business or leisure journeys. It can also mean connecting regional exporting businesses to global markets via ports.
Rail provides resilience to the transport system against the threat of storms, earthquakes or man-made events like a traffic accident.
The cost of rail and its value to the nation are two quite different arguments. KiwiRail is a sustainable economic contributor to New Zealand over time.
The benefits of rail are for our customers and New Zealand as a whole – and now we have data to show this. As these wider benefits of KiwiRail become a bigger part of the public consciousness, there is an opportunity to make informed choices about how New Zealand allocates its resources across the transport system.
The data isn't the whole story, but it is an important part of the discussion about the value of rail to New Zealand, and how we can ensure it continues to play a vital role in keeping our communities connected.
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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