Rail moves over­due, says freight leader

The Dominion Post - - Business - HENRY COOKE

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’’.

PHOTO: LEILANI HATCH/STUFF

Rail cur­rently car­ries just under a third of our ex­ports to port. The Gov­ern­ment wants to in­crease that.

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