Stock image via Getty
Stock image via Getty

OPINION: Light rail a heavy burden

Opinion 09/11/2021

OPINION: For those living in cities like Auckland or Wellington, congestion on our roads is the new normal. It’s infuriating and costs us all productive time that we could otherwise be spending with our families, at work, or doing anything else except being stuck in traffic. 

This is where you would expect the Government to be taking some responsibility. They do, after all, build all the roads. So where have they been?

We know they understand the issue – Jacinda Ardern’s first campaign promise in 2017 when she became Opposition Leader was to pledge light rail down Dominion Road in Auckland in four years. Well, that time is now up, but light rail seems to still be in a working group.

It’s worse than that though, the Government slashed funding for new transport projects around the country in anticipation for building light rail. Then they raised fuel taxes to help pay for it as well. That means while the Government has been mocking up pretty pictures of trams and patting themselves on the back about how nice the political lines sound, congestion has become worse, roading projects have been cancelled, we’ve all been paying more, and New Zealand has been moving slower.

Finally, we saw some progress over the past couple of weeks. The Government announced that there would be a future announcement of light rail in Auckland that would only cost between $9-14 billion to build! To put that in context, the cheapest they are expecting it to cost is the same as twice the total transport budget for a single project.

Wellington was also tempted with light rail, with the caveat that they wouldn’t start construction until 2028. What on earth was the point of announcing a plan when you don’t intend on building anything for another seven years.

The approach taken in both Auckland and Wellington is to sell spin instead of solutions.

For people who already find Auckland traffic a nightmare, we have not been delivered anything tangible since this government was elected in 2017. Instead, we have been sold a plan that will take years to get off the ground, cost an eyewatering amount when it does, and will condemn our cities to a decade of disruption while the government figures out whether they want their tram to run over ground or through a tunnel.

New Zealand deserves better.

We need to get the politicians out of the transport game, they have been making it worse not better.

Motorists and commuters deserve a Government that can deliver solutions, regardless of mode, as soon as possible. New Zealand has a dedicated Transport Agency (NZTA) who already has responsibility to deliver transport projects.

Instead of being side-lined because of Labour’s ideological pipe dreams, they should be tasked immediately to deliver solutions, regardless of mode of transport, that are cost effective and will reduce congestion.

Simon Court

Simon is a Civil and Environmental Engineer with 23-years’ experience in roles for the private sector and local government, including 10-years leading engineering, planning, tendering, and construction teams.

Simon believes in the principles of the ACT party where communities, individuals and business lead the way. 

ACT Transport spokesperson Simon Court