Rail moves overdue, says freight leader
The head of one of the country’s largest logistics companies says the Government’s focus on rail services for freight is long overdue.
Don Braid, chief executive of Mainfreight, is a big believer in getting freight off roads and onto rail for much of its journey.
He’s welcomed a policy shift towards rail from Transport Minister Phil Twyford, even though the proposed fuel tax hike could cost his company a lot of money.
Twyford’s draft Government Policy Statement on transport (GPS) puts millions more into rail while trimming back on costly state highway improvements. Roads still account for the overwhelming majority of the funding pie, with increases to regional and local roads along with state highway maintenance – just not improvements.
Braid said this general shift towards rail was welcome.
The Government understood that rail could take the load off the roading infrastructure, he said.
‘‘That’s not just for freight but for passengers as well. They are taking steps in that direction.’’
Braid is clear that the ‘‘last mile’’ is never going to be filled by rail – but much of the burden can be lifted.
Twyford is adamant that Kiwis already understand and support this argument, although the backlash in some quarters to the idea of petrol excise being used for rail may suggest otherwise.
Braid said the previous Government was ‘‘anti-rail’’ to an almost ideological degree.
‘‘It’s not just about more roads. We have to think deeper than that. Yesterday I was in Brussels, and their ring road is six lanes. It was jam-packed. Stopped.’’
National’s new transport spokesman, Jami-Lee Ross, said he hoped Braid would look closer at the Government’s plans.
‘‘Everything they are saying and everything they are putting in is gearing towards light rail and commuter rail and rapid transit. I’ve not seen anything that would improve freight journeys,’’ Ross said.
He agreed that the transport network shouldn’t rely exclusively on roads but argued the Government’s changes would simply provide ‘‘trams down Dominion Rd’’.
Rail currently carries just under a third of our exports to port. The Government wants to increase that.