The government of New Zealand has released its long-term strategy for the development of the railway infrastructure which is seen as the main element to keep cities moving, connecting the country’s regions and attracting more cargoes to railway transport.
The Draft Rail Plan will enable a new long-term planning and funding system for rail. The Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill will have its first reading in Parliament within the next days and will enable the rail network to be funded through the National Land Transport Fund, with support of ongoing Crown funding. It also introduces track user charges.
The Draft Rail Plan will become final when the next government policy statement of Land Transport is finalised in the second half of 2020.
The priorities are divided into two parts. The first one establishes a new long-term planning and funding framework under the Land Transport Management Act. Under the second part, the vision underlines the investment priorities for a reliable and resilient rail network to maintain freight rail, and provide a platform for
future investments for growth. The investment to the metropolitan railway infrastructure to support the growth of the largest cities is also part of the strategy.
Separate lead investments are being made in regional rail to support regional development.
According to estimations, by 2041, the freight transport will increase by 55%, from 237 million tonnes to 366 million tonnes, and the railway transport will have the needed capacity to answer the demand. Also, the railways will reduce wear and tear on the roads, as well as carbon emissions by 66 per cent.
“Building alternative transport options for people and freight is a vital part of achieving the Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It also helps make our roads safer by reducing the numbers of cars and trucks on our roads,” Transport Minister Phil Twyford said.
Previous investment in New Zealand’s rail network has lacked a long-term view about rail’s role in the transport system and has resulted in a continued focus on short-term investment decision making. The country needs a new approach to planning and funding rail that supports it to play its role in the transport system.
The government begun investing in the national freight rail network with NZD 1 billion (USD 660 million), with NZD 741 million (USD 489 million) being allotted under this year’s budget.