Lower North Island rail on the right track, but more investment needed

Government investment in a new fleet of trains in the lower North Island is another win for Green Party solutions - but much more ambition will be needed to build a truly climate-friendly network of intercity passenger services across Aotearoa.

“The time is now to invest in affordable, inclusive, and climate-friendly transport options that work for everyone,” says the Green Party’s transport spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter.

“The Green Party has been campaigning for this specific proposal for well over a year now, after securing initial funding for track upgrade works and the business case for the train purchase in the New Zealand Upgrade programme in 2020. 

“In 2022, we sent an open letter to the Finance Minister, signed by thousands of people as well as many local body representatives and mayors in the towns that will see more frequent and reliable trains as a result of this funding.

“We are delighted the Government has finally listened to our call and put us on track for better regional rail in the Lower North Island.

“But we can’t stop here. A much more ambitious programme of funding is needed to modernise our rail network, including more electrification, realignments to allow for faster speeds, and the extension of services to other cities across the country. The time is now to put more Green MPs into Parliament to deliver it.

“New Zealand was once a country with frequent, affordable bus and train services joined up right across the country - even to very rural areas. We can connect our communities and safeguard our climate. All it takes is political will,” says Julie Anne Genter.

Green Party Regional Economic Development spokesperson and Manawatū-based MP Teanau Tuiono, added:

“The new trains and expansion of services will help bring the Lower North Island closer together and make it easier for more people to easily connect with work, business, friends, and families. However, the government also needs to think about the region’s long-term needs, not just short-term pressures. 

“Four years ago, Horizons Regional Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi put together a Business Case that outlined the need for 22 new commuter trains. The Government’s decision to stop four short of what the evidence said was needed is disappointing. 

“Replacing existing 50-year-old trains with 22 new hybrid-electric trains, and improving the train infrastructure, would not only have doubled the services to the Wairarapa, but quadrupled them to the Manawatū. These additional services would make it possible for more people to find affordable housing while still being able to easily connect with Wellington.

“If we’re to meet the Government’s own goal of reducing transport emissions by 41 percent by 2035, we must provide the infrastructure to allow our people to change how they travel, and it will benefit our communities, our people and our environment in so many ways,” says Teanau Tuiono.

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