Greens plan to adopt rail, ships to move freight

Greens plan to adopt rail, ships to move freight

Half of New Zealand's freight would move to rail and sea under an ambitious Green Party plan to get more trucks off the country's roads, but it is being criticised by some in the industry.

Released today, the policy would use the transport budget to fund rail projects rather than just roads.

It would go into the electrification of rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga -- something transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter calls the "Golden Triangle".

They plan to invest $860 million into electrifying the rail lines between three cities which are the country's busiest freight corridors.

"This will help to move freight safely off the road, and create a zero emissions freight service," she says.

"Instead of demanding that rail return a profit, which has set rail up to fail, we'll fund it from the transport budget in the same way roads are, providing the investment needed to move freight in the most effective and clean way."

Ms Genter says adopting more rail and ship freight will be safer, cheaper and better for the environment. It would also remove congestion from the roads and save lives -- around 55 people are killed in crashes involving trucks and 850 are seriously injured each year.

She estimates it would be the equivalent of replacing 1.6 million petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles.

But Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the Government has invested significantly in rail since they came to power.

"What we've seen from the Greens is an almighty spend-up on behalf of the taxpayer.

"What they're wanting to do is take a balanced system where we do invest across the various modes and turn it upside down on behalf of rail and I don't think that makes sense."

It doesn't seem to make sense to the Road Transport Forum either who say the policy is "naive and in complete disregard of the realities of the New Zealand freight task".

Chief executive Ken Shirley says the flexibility and speed of road freight can't be met by any other mode of transport.

"The economic benefits of New Zealand's road freight sector are not because politicians have screwed the scrum in its favour; it is because it offers the best service to customers and suppliers.

"Misguided political intervention that unfairly favours one mode over another will inevitably result in misplaced investment, inefficiency and poor outcomes across the economy," he says.

He says the New Zealand Transport Agency, KiwiRail and the road freight sector are already working together to integrate road and rail at ports and transport hubs.

Mr Shirley believes the Greens are "yearning to go back to the bad old days" where politics dictated the movement of freight.

The rate of injury and death involving trucks on the roads has also come down significantly from the 1990s with electronic stability control and ABS brakes now coming standard, Mr Shirley says.

He also says emissions from trucks have declined 75 percent since 1990 and modern trucks use 33 percent less fuel than their counterparts from 30 years ago.