It looks like Auckland’s going to be commuter hell for the next few years.
Yesterday, Kiwirail and Auckland transport announced they need to do huge maintenance work to the rail network. They’re shutting down big chunks of the train network on all three lines for the next three years.
The Eastern line, for example, is going to be down for nearly a year next year.
There is no one to blame here, from what I can see at the moment at least. This work needs to be done. It’s as fundamental as piling your house. They’ve got to do it.
But, it’s going to be really hard. Auckland’s already hard to get around and now we’re forcing thousands and thousands of people out of trains and into their cars every day.
And they are going to be getting into their cars. Be under no illusion, they are not all going to be using the replacement busses.
I heard one woman on the radio today say she once caught the replacement bus and her normally 23 minute train journey took 55 minutes in the bus, and she’s not doing it again because she doesn’t have the time.
And frankly, the bus system isn’t worth it. They’re short of 500 drivers and there are record numbers of cancellations at the moment, so these people are getting in their cars.
Trouble is, our roads can’t take them. The roads are already full, because for the last five years the Government’s cancelled Auckland’s planned roads to encourage us into public transport. Public transport, which is shutting down for 3 years’ worth of maintenance.
If there is a lesson in this, it’s that it is silly to only invest in one or the other: Only in public transport or only in roads.
That is the mistake Labour’s made by cancelling roads for five years. You need both. Because if one goes down, you need to be able to fall back on the other. Especially in the economic powerhouse of the country.
Everyone’s going to be cross about this: The public transport advocates who worry this is going to put people off catching the train in the future, the roading advocates who are going to say ‘I told you so’ and most importantly, the people stuck in their cars with even more cars on roads that should have an alternative route to take.
The next few years are not going to be pretty.
Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.
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