Tell the Minister of Finance to urgently fund regional rail
To: Hon Grant Robertson
Minister of Finance
Minister for Infrastructure
Tēnā koe Minister,
We are extremely happy that after 30 years of calling for it, we have a Government focused on cutting Aotearoa’s climate pollution.
Finally, we have solid climate targets.
We have a plan.
Now, we need action.
Today we write to you with hope for what we can build together. One of the simplest areas to cut climate pollution is from transport, and we’re happy to see the Government set the goal of reducing transport emissions by 41% by 2035.
But we were disappointed to see that Budget 2022 showed near to no change in funding towards new or improved passenger train services for commuters or those travelling between our cities. Instead, it reflected what we’ve seen from politicians for over 70 years; money from the National Land Transport Fund continues to be invested in oversized roading projects which lock us into a future car dependency.
As time runs out to keep our climate stable, every Minister needs to be a Climate Minister; especially the Minister for Finance and Infrastructure. If we are to significantly reduce our climate emissions from transport, we urgently need to provide fast, frequent and reliable alternatives to using cars.
Aotearoa once had an incredible rail service. In the Lower North Island, we’re fortunate enough to still have passenger train services between Wellington and the Manawatū and the Wairarapa. But in the face of the climate crisis, we can’t take this infrastructure for granted. We urge you to act now to save and rebuild the Lower North Island passenger trains.
“Save” might seem like an exaggeration, but we assure you it is not. The commuter trains from Palmerston North and the Wairarapa are over 50 years old. They’re at the end of their lives and the train services are at risk of being stopped if these trains no longer meet minimum safety requirements. We urgently need new trains, before the old set are forced into retirement by safety issues.
Horizons Regional Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi have already put together a Business Case for 22 new commuter trains, and have already committed over half the money required for this $762 million investment themselves. By replacing these 50-year-old trains with new hybrid-electric trains, and improving the train infrastructure, we can quadruple the services to the Manawatū, and double the services to the Wairarapa.
Government investment is not only needed to allow this service to continue but to cope with the 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, Manawatū line is predicted to have done the same.
We must act now, to provide frequent and reliable low-carbon alternatives to road transport, to meet a growing population and ensure the safety of those on board.
Minister, if we’re to meet the Government’s own goal of reducing transport emissions by 41% by 2035, we must provide the infrastructure to allow our people to change how they travel.
We are running out of time to address the climate crisis, and as Minister for Finance and as Minister for Infrastructure, you play a pivotal role in setting Aotearoa up for success.
We hope to see action from you on this matter soon.
Ngā mihi nui,
Hon Julie Anne Genter MP
Green Spokesperson for Transport
Teanau Tuiono MP
Green Spokesperson for Regional Development
Sam Ferguson, Horizons Regional Councillor
Rachel Keedwell, Chair of Horizon's Regional Council
Fiona Gordon, Horizons Regional Councillor
Brent Barrett, Palmerston North City Councillor
Renee Dingwall, Palmerston North City Councillor
Grant Smith, Mayor of Palmerston North
Aleisha Rutherford, Deputy Mayor of Palmerston North
Billy Meehan, Palmerston North City Councillor
Karen Naylor, Palmerston North City Councillor
Patrick Handcock, Palmerston North City Councillor
Lorna Johnson, Palmerston North City Councillor
Rachel Bowen, Palmerston North City Councillor
Zulfiquar Butt, Palmerston North City Councillor
Thomas Nash, Greater Wellington Regional Councillor
Roger Blakeley, Greater Wellington Regional Councillor
Bernie Randall, Kāpiti Coast District Councillor
Sophie Handford, Kāpiti Coast District Councillor
Rob McCann, Kāpiti Coast District Councillor
Gwyn Comptton, Kāpiti Coast District Councillor
Rail and Maritime Transport Union
Amanda Lindsay, CEO Manawatū Business Chamber
Simon Barnett, Founder of OBO Hockey
Celia Wade-Brown, former Mayor of Wellington
If your organisation would like to formally support this open letter, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch by emailing [email protected].
RPS Group. (2021). Proven innovation towards a decarbonised regional passenger rail solution for the lower north island and beyond.