Brown’s rail loop to cost $2B

Saturday 30 Oct 2010 4:29 p.m.

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By Charlotte Tonkin

It’s not just trains Auckland is waiting for, it’s also the money to pay for an extended rail network.

Mayor elect Len Brown’s plan for a central city rail loop is expected to cost around $2 billion.

Speaking on TV3’s The Nation this morning, Transport Minister Stephen Joyce says the Government can’t afford it.

“When you’ve got a Government that is faced with debts rising very quickly, it’s keeping the economy going. With the injection of money we’re putting into the economy to then say on top of that we’ll have several billion more dollars for this, you’d have to have a pretty strong justification,” he said.

So far, Mr Joyce isn’t convinced.

“I think in principal, central Government knows it has to make a contribution to these sorts of projects,” he said.

“In practice there is going to be a lot of competition.”

So Auckland rate payers will have to help pay for the project, which Mr Brown is determined to see completed within seven years.

“I don’t want to keep postponing this type of inter-generational upgrading and stepping up of Auckland as an international class city to another generation – this is our time.”

In Wellington, newly elected Mayor Celia Wade-Brown thinks it is time for the capital to embrace a light rail system, and for the Government to fund most of it.

But Mr Joyce says it is not a priority, before it’s even known whether the project is feasible.

“They’re meant to be economically rational,” says Ms Wade-Brown.

“So I’m hoping that if we can show it is an efficient way of moving around that, with improved investment and economic outcomes as well as environmental outcomes, I would at least expect a rational Minister of Transport to listen very carefully.”

Both Mr Brown and Ms Wade-Brown have made green promises about extending rail networks, but it’s increasingly irrational they will be able to rely on the Government to keep them.

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