Roads v Rail: Political parties at the crossroads on transport
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Transport has turned into a roads versus rail contest with key points of difference between the major parties at this election.
National has returned to a familiar theme with a $10 billion plan to build 10 major highways around the country, while Labour and the Greens have latched onto modern trams in Auckland and long distance trains between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Also in the mix is NZ First, with a strong emphasis on upgrading heavy rail, including improved access to Northland and its port at Marsden Pt, trains to Auckland Airport and re-opening the Napier to Gisborne line.
The most visible battleground is Auckland, where congestion is choking the city at a cost of $2b a year and people are flocking to trains, buses and ferries to travel to work. Transport, and the crucial role it plays in housing and growth, is on everyone's mind - and don't politicians know it.
National's record in office dealing with Auckland transport is mixed, from rubbishing the City Rail Link to embracing it, the crazy decision to upgrade the Northwestern Motorway without a busway and completing the $1.4b Waterview tunnel - a huge pre-election success story.
In fact, National is using figures showing the tunnel has halved travel times from the city to the airport to stick with cars and buses to the airport in the foreseeable future, while other parties argue over trains or modern trams along the route.
Jacinda Ardern's first public appearance as Labour leader was to announce the party would spend $3b to build tram lines from the Auckland CBD to the airport and West Auckland within 10 years, and complete the first leg of the airport route to Mt Roskill by 2021.
This would be followed by light rail to the North Shore in the second decade.
The Greens have gone one step further and promised to build the full 21km tram route from the CBD to the airport by 2021. They are also promising light rail from the Wellington railway station to Newtown by 2025 and Kilbirnie and the airport by 2027, and a wholly electric bus fleet for the capital city.
Labour and the Greens would allow Auckland Council to introduce a regional petrol tax - possibly 10 cents a litre to raise $100m a year - to hop on board a more ambitious public transport programme for the city.
The two parties have adopted the tram policy from lobby group Greater Auckland, which has also persuaded them to adopt the first stage of its 'Regional Rapid Rail' policy for a $20m trial train service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
If it's a success, Labour and the Greens will invest in stages two and three of Rapid Regional Rail, delivering trains that can travel at 160km/h, new rail lines to Rotorua and Cambridge, and a tunnel through the Bombay Hills to reduce travel times from Auckland to Hamilton to 70 minutes.
Labour's decision to adopt Greater Auckland's agenda is blatant pitch into Green territory, but it doesn't bother Greens transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter, who believes voters know who is more committed to implementing the policies, and will vote Green to be sure Labour follows through.
The Greens have also made a pitch for the youth and student vote by promising these groups free public transport costing $70m to $80m a year, which they say is less than 1km of new highways being built by National.
Not everyone is on board Greater Auckland's agenda, and debate still rages within transport circles over trams versus trains to the airport.
NZ First's plan is for a 7.5km rail line from Puhinui to provide a 30-minute journey by train from central Auckland to the airport terminal - part of its "Railways of National Importance" programme.
The party's transport spokesman, Denis O'Rourke, says NZ First is not afraid to intervene and invest heavily in rail. The party has 13 immediate investment priorities, including upgrading rail in Northland to allow containers and cars to be moved from Northport to an inland port at Kumeu, and extending commuter rail to Kumeu and Huapai in West Auckland.
The Maori Party has proposed a new "IwiRail" network for freight, tourism and regional employment. The party believes the project has the capacity to add $1b into the regions and will be asking their potential coalition partner to invest $350m.
The plan involves connecting Gisborne to the East Coast Main Trunk Line in Kawerau and bringing back the mothballed Napier to Gisborne rail line to create 1250 jobs on the East Coast.
National's focus is unashamedly on roads while recognising rail has a role to play. It is centred on extending its "Road of National Significance" - begun in 2009 and largely complete - into a new set of major roading projects.
Motorists would get a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei, the $1.8b east-west link through Auckland's industrial belt and other highway projects throughout the country.
National has also come up with a $2.6b election transport package for Auckland that includes building a new highway alongside the Southern Motorway costing $955m and $615m for the Ameti transport project in southeast Auckland.
That's not to say, National is all about roads and Labour and the Greens are all about public transport and long distance trains.
National has spent $1.7b electrifying rail in Auckland, it is paying half the cost of the $3.4b city rail link, committed $267m to rail over the next three years, a third rail track on the busy southern line between Westfield and Wiri, and $835m for a Northwestern Busway.
Labour has announced it will increase regional transport roading projects from $140m to $280m a year, and will proceed with the east-west link in Auckland, albeit a scaled back version of National's $1.8b scheme.
One area all the main parties agree on is the need to improve cycling and walking in our cities, with National keen to build on a $333m urban cycleway programme and Labour promising to pay for the $30m SkyPath cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
- NZ Herald