English Dismisses Rail Plans
Finance Minister Bill English today poured cold water on Auckland’s planned rail projects such as the CBD link, airport rail and North Shore rail.
He labelled the plans so far “airy fairy” and declared: “We have much higher priorities than potentially uneconomic public transport projects in Auckland.”
Speaking on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme, he told Kathryn Ryan he could not rule them out but had not seen “any propositions anything like clear enough to be able to cost them.”
Asked if that meant no government money for Len Brown’s promised three rail projects, Bill English replied:
“We are not in a position to be able to rule anything in or out just because the propositions are still pretty airy fairy.
“I mean there’s a few people in Auckland who want extensive rail throughout the city.
“Rail, at our experience as owners of KiwiRail, is horrendously expensive,
“There is a very little return. Unless you have millions of people stacked up in high rise apartments such as they have in Hong Kong or Singapore, then its almost certainly wont be economic.
“So Auckland has to think through very carefully where to put their dollar. Then after that, I presume they will come and talk to government.
He said the government spent around 5b on infrastructure around Auckland – $3b on roads about $1.5b on rail.
“So that’s spreading our investment across both private and public transport, though many of those projects were 20 or 30 years in the making, some of them just recent. So the idea was to finish the highway network, to get the current configuration of rail working well.
“Any further development from there will have to involve willingness on the part of Auckland users and ratepayers to pay for it.”