Steven Joyce likes saying he’s tired of the “road versus rail debate” – implying that his government recognizes both roads and public transport are needed and important. But what does this government’s record on transport in Auckland, especially when it comes to 7s, really suggest?
It’s more than 7 months since Steven Joyce announced he was cancelling the regional fuel tax which would have paid for the new electric rail cars Auckland’s aging rail system desperately needs.
Despite Keith Locke’s written and oral questions to the Minister about electrification there is still no clarity about when and how the government will provide the $500 million needed to finish off the electrification project. First, electrification was going to be finished in 2013 – now Joyce has admitted it might take until 2014.
What we do know for sure is that Auckland will be getting an awful lot of new motorways very soon as part of the 7 Roads of National Significance. $5 billion plus of motorways including Waterview ($1.4 billion), Puhoi to Wellsford ($2.3 billion), Victoria Park ($320 million) and the 8 laning of SH16 (just under $900 million).
To put that into perspective – according to the graph on page 5 of this report by ARTA 80,000 is about the same number of people* that travel down Great North Road past Herdman Street through Waterview every day. It is easily twice as many people as travel down SH1 south of Warkworth (i.e., between Puhoi and Wellsford every day). Yes, that’s the same two roads that the government is pushing NZTA to spend $3.7 billion on in the very near future. Why? To relieve congestion and improve driver convenience.
Despite this, Steven Joyce wasn’t willing to intervene in the industrial dispute between Infratil NZ Bus and the workers to improve bus user’s convenience…
So why so many 7s? Well, perhaps National isn’t quite as over the “roads versus public transport” debate as they like to suggest…
* According to the Ministry of Transport on average there are 1.56 passengers in each car in Auckland and the graph shows that 50,000 vehicles go down the Gt North Road each day – so that’s almost exactly 80,000 people.