Transport minister Steven Joyce told parliament this afternoon the Puhoi Holiday Highway ”carries more traffic and more people per day than the entire Auckland commuter rail network currently.”
He added to Labour’s David Shearer: “It is good that we are investing in commuter rail, because it has the potential to grow over time, but the member is deluding himself if he thinks that is the solution.”
The minister said the roading system carries by far the vast bulk of commuters.
JOYCE:" Roading system carries by far vast bulk of commuters"
The debate was about the global IBM global study in which investment in public transportation is key to reducing congestion and commuter stress.
It soon developed into discussing the Holiday Highway (a term the minister himself did not use) and the CBD loop.
(Greens) Gareth Hughes: Can he confirm that the majority of conventional economic benefits from the central business district rail loop in Auckland would be congestion reduction for road users?
Steven Joyce: Yes, I could. Unfortunately, the numbers are not as high as that, and it is not until we get out to the “transformational benefits”—which Treasury, for example, has rather severe doubts over—that we actually get to much larger benefit-cost ratios. But we will assess that project over time. It is important that we assess it carefully and with clear eyes because, as the member may have noted from earlier in this session, the Government has to be very careful fiscally.
Gareth Hughes: Given that the central business district rail loop will significantly benefit motorists, stimulate three times as many wider economic benefits as the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway”, and is supported by Auckland, will he now prioritise the central business district rail loop?
SJ: The member is well ahead of himself in that respect. I point out to him that he is talking about notional future demand versus current demand in comparing two projects. Also, he is comparing a commuter project with an interregional roading project. The two are rather different. There are many questions to be answered in the central business district rail case before we even consider who might fund it—for example, exactly how many cars it might take off the road 5 years after it opens, which is not apparent from the business case and would seem to be reasonably important for something that is promoted as a congestion buster.
Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister has said that more analysis is needed, why did he commit billions of dollars to the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway” in March 2009 when the business case was not completed until 9 months later, in December 2009, and, as the Minister said only 4 weeks ago, “No work had been done on this project prior to it being confirmed as a road of national significance”?
SJ: I point out to the member that the nomination of a road of national significance is not the final shape of the project; it continues, of course, to be refined. Again, I refer to the difference between a notional project, which talks about projected possible demand in the future, and a project that is creating the demand and is under spec right now. It is quite obvious that the road that he keeps trying to compare with this commuter rail project has demand on it right now and needs to be addressed for a range of reasons including safety, economic growth, and connection between Northland and the city of Auckland.
Gareth Hughes: When will the Minister admit that all the evidence demonstrates that public transport, like the central business district rail loop in Auckland, is a better way to cut congestion and reduce commuter stress than wasting billions on his pet uneconomic motorways?
SJ: I have to say I think that the member’s suggestion is reasonably adolescent. Debating which projects should proceed does not mean unquestioning support for any project on the grounds that one transport mode is good and another one is bad. We have to be slightly more mature than that.