Greens say fuel tax cut could have saved regional passenger rail, reduce fossil fuel reliance

For the cost of cutting taxes to petrol for three months, the Government could have ensured the future of a transformational increase to passenger rail services between Wellington, the Wairarapa and Manawatū, says the Green Party.

The Green Party has launched an open letter calling on the Minister of Finance to urgently act for our climate and save the passenger trains between Wellington, the Wairarapa and the Manawatū. The letter is supported by local politicians and sector groups from across the region. 

“Trains connect communities and are an important part of climate action by providing fast, frequent, low-carbon transport options,” says Julie Anne Genter, Green spokesperson for transport and finance.

“We know how easy it is to make public transport more affordable, but the Government is pumping $585 million into making fossil fuels for cars a little bit cheaper for five months, when it could have used that same amount of money to save and transform the ailing passenger rail network and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in the first place. 

“The first three months of the fuel tax cut cost $350 million, which is the level of central government investment needed to ensure the future of lower North Island rail,” says Julie Anne Genter.

Teanau Tuiono, Green spokesperson for regional development, says: “Aotearoa once had an incredible regional rail service that connected most cities and towns across the motu. As someone who calls Palmy home, I’m grateful we still have passenger train services between Wellington and Manawatū.

“But we cannot take these existing services for granted. The passenger trains are 50 years old and on their last legs. We need to future-proof these existing services so more people can make the switch from car to train.

“The $762 million business case for new hybrid-electric trains and improved train infrastructure has already been put together by Horizons Regional Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi. Better yet, they have already committed more than half of the money required.”

The open letter is publicly supported by Save our Trains and local politicians from across the regions including the Mayor of Palmerston North Grant Smith, Greater Wellington Regional Councillor Thomas Nash, and Horizon’s Regional Councillor Sam Ferguson.

Julie Anne Genter added: “Government investment is not only needed to help this service continue running, but to cope with growing demand. By 2025, just three years from now, it’s predicted that the Wairarapa line will have exceeded its passenger capacity, and by 2030, the Manawatū line will be in the same boat.  

“The Government can prevent this from happening by coming to the table with a mere $350 million, which will at least quadruple the services to Manawatū and double the services to Wairarapa. 

“The goals of the Emissions Reduction Plan are clear: we need new, more sustainable transport infrastructure, like regional passenger rail, and we need fewer cars on our roads.”

“We are running out of time to address the climate crisis, and every decision we make today must set us in the direction of creating a stable climate. Fast, frequent, low-carbon transport is crucial to providing our communities with choices for climate-friendly alternatives to using the car.

“Any delay in funding decisions is simply a political decision to delay climate action,” Julie Anne Genter says.

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