Gareth Hughes

Round up of transport news

by Gareth Hughes

I’ve been whipping around the country a lot lately visiting students at Orientation. So I haven’t had a chance to post much.

But here’s a bit of a round up of the big transport stories of the last few weeks and my reaction.

More funds for rail upgrades in Wellington. The government has announced an additional $88.4 million of funding to renew the Wellington rail system. This is great and long overdue as the Wellington rail network has major reliability issues. A newer signalling system should help to resolve this.

Cuts to public transport subsidies. The Sunday Star Times picked up some research I did around the cuts to the rate of public transport subsidies the government has just bought in.

These cuts will have major negative impacts on the ability of councils like Hamilton and Auckland to provide quality services. Their only options really are to cut services, raise fares or raise rates. This is such short sighted thinking from the government – especially when public transport patronage is soaring and vehicle traffic on our state highways is dropping.

The release of the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport which allocated $36 billion of funds over the next 10 years. I’ll be writing several more blog posts about this because it’s so important. For now, let’s just say it puts a ridiculously large amount of money into uneconomic and unnecessary state highways and far too little into improving our public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. You can see more of my reaction to the government’s tragically unbalanced transport funding policies in this  TVNZ interview.

Nikki Kaye comes out in support of trams for central Auckland. Despite various critical responses to this, I think it’s great to see a National MP supporting smarter transport solutions. However, like Jacinda Ardern, I am a little dubious about whether Nikki’s own government would pay for this proposal.

I’m also doubtful about whether it’s wise to call for a tram system without doing a proper cost-benefit analysis of whether it is the best option for this area. I’d like to see a study which compared the costs of a tram versus a better bus service.

It might be possible for us to get say 80% of the benefits of a tram service just from upgrading the bus service at one fifth of the cost. So I’d support Nikki in calling for a study to find out what the best solution for the area is. I’d also like the study to consider whether this should really be a transport priority for Auckland region. There may be other areas that are more in need.

The driving age has risen from 15 to 16 years old, a change that I support as it will mean safer roads for us all.

Finally, I’m co-hosting with Shane Jones the first ever Smart Transport for NZ conference in Parliament on the 19th of August. This should be awesome – I’m excited as we’ll be having some amazing keynote speakers like Dr. Paul Mees, a leading Australasian authority on smart transport. Register online if you’re interested.