City charged ‘too much’ to use rail cor­ri­dor as cy­cle­way

The Press - - Front Page - TINA LAW

Ki­wiRail is be­ing ac­cused of charg­ing an ‘‘ex­or­bi­tant’’ amount of money to al­low the Christchurch City Coun­cil to use its rail cor­ri­dor as a cy­cle­way.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the or­gan­i­sa­tions have al­most reached a stale­mate which has led to the cy­cle­way’s progress be­ing de­layed.

The coun­cil wants to build most of its 10 kilo­me­tre-long North­ern Line cy­cle­way on the rail cor­ri­dor from Blen­heim Rd to Main North Rd. Half the route al­ready ex­ists as a pop­u­lar walk­way and cy­cle­way, and the coun­cil wants to use an­other 3.5km to ex­tend the path at both ends.

A pep­per­corn rental has his­tor­i­cally been charged by Ki­wiRail for use of the rail cor­ri­dor.

But Ki­wiRail has in­tro­duced a na­tion­wide cy­cle­way pol­icy, which re­quires the coun­cil to gain a li­cense to oc­cupy the land and pay a rental, which a Ki­wiRail spokes­woman said was sig­nif­i­cantly dis­counted from mar­ket val­ues.

Christchurch city coun­cil­lor Phil Clear­wa­ter said Ki­wiRail was ask­ing the coun­cil for a ‘‘huge rent’’, which he be­lieved was ‘‘ex­or­bi­tant’’.

‘‘I think that is ridicu­lous. Ki­wiRail is a state-owned en­ter­prise. The peo­ple that are go­ing to have to pay this rent are go­ing to be the lo­cal and na­tional gov­ern­ment. They are rob­bing Peter to pay Paul.’’

Clear­wa­ter would not say what the ex­act rental fig­ure was, but The Press un­der­stands it is close to $100,000 per an­num.

The his­tor­i­cal pep­per­corn rental was quite rea­son­able and showed one form of trans­port sup­port­ing an­other, Clear­wa­ter said.

‘‘I can only sur­mise they want to make a huge profit at the ex­pense of tax­pay­ers and ratepay­ers. I don’t think it’s fair.’’

He ques­tioned how Ki­wiRail de­ter­mined the land’s mar­ket value as he was un­sure who else would want to use a rail cor­ri­dor.

Coun­cil trans­port head Chris Gre­gory told the coun­cil’s in­fra­struc­ture, trans­port and en­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee on Thurs­day staff had al­most reached a stale­mate with Ki­wiRail over the rental fig­ure. He said the is­sue had been el­e­vated to a na­tional level by staff.

The com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended the coun­cil write to the rel­e­vant Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters.

The coun­cil’s bi­monthly trans­port re­port said the cy­cle­way’s route had been ap­proved for de­sign and con­struc­tion, but de­tailed de­sign could not be com­pleted un­til the Ki­wiRail leases were signed.

A Ki­wiRail spokes­woman said the coun­cil had orig­i­nally re­quested 6212 square me­tres of rail cor­ri­dor and Ki­wiRail of­fered the coun­cil a sig­nif­i­cant dis­count off the land’s mar­ket value. The coun­cil ac­cepted this fig­ure.

How­ever, the coun­cil then re­quested 32,594sqm of rail cor­ri­dor for the cy­cle­way. Ki­wiRail had the land in­de­pen­dently val­ued and pro­posed a new rental cost. It dis­counted the rental for the cy­cle­way in its en­tirety, the spokes­woman said. ‘‘The coun­cil has not re­sponded to this of­fer, nor has it ever made a for­mal counter-of­fer which would be nor­mal prac­tice.’’

Ki­wiRail would not say what the mar­ket value for the land was, cit­ing com­mer­cial sen­si­tiv­ity. It would also not con­firm how much it was charg­ing the coun­cil be­cause ne­go­ti­a­tions were on­go­ing.

‘‘Ki­wiRail sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of cy­cle­ways across our rail net­work and where they in­ter­act with our rail cor­ri­dor and as­sets.’’

Coun­cil plan­ning and de­liv­ery man­ager Lynette Ellis said the coun­cil was work­ing closely with Ki­wiRail to ne­go­ti­ate con­di­tions to lease land along the rail cor­ri­dor. She would not com­ment fur­ther.

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