Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Cam Slater: Burning Cash on the Rail Bonfire

The only thing this Government knows how to do is burn cash on the proverbial bonfire of vanities, and there are no bigger or more expensive vanity projects than rail projects.

This Government, when led by Jacinda Ardern promised light rail to the airport by 2022. Millions of dollars later and they still haven’t built even one millimetre. And yet they are still talking about the project like it is going to happen.

Wayne Brown is sensibly telling the government to stick it while the functional idiot masquerading as the Transport Minister is arguing against Wayne Brown:

Transport Minister Michael Wood has hit back at a claim by Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown who labelled light rail a “dead duck”, saying that is certainly not the case and as recently as two weeks ago early works started on the $14.6 billion project.

Speaking this morning at the completion of Auckland’s western motorway project, Wood said the Government was continuing to work with all its partners on light rail, including the mayor, who told Newstalk ZB yesterday afternoon, “light rail is a dead duck mate, let’s be real” and previously ruled out council funding.

Wood today said the CBD to airport project – promised by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2017 and meant to be built from the CBD to Mt Roskill by now – was firmly on track: confirming the route and station locations this year, main construction beginning in 2025, and the first stage could be completed before an earlier date of 2030/2031.

This week, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said light rail would now be built in stages, the first expected to be confirmed by the middle of the year.

Wood defended the cost of the project – which a Treasury report has suggested could rise to $19.2b – saying breaking it down into stages could reduce the costs and the $14.6b cost included a large contingency.
NZ Herald

You can be assured that the actual cost will be billions more than that if the experience of the City Rail Loop is anything to go by:

The price of Auckland’s big City Rail Link project has risen by just over $1 billion, with the chief executive blaming Covid-19.

The price of the project will now be $5.5 billion and its completion will be at least a year later than previously thought.

Auckland Council and the Government are expected to split the higher cost between them.

The project was initially costed at $1 to $1.5 billion. It is now looking to cost at least $5.5 billion. It’ll be much more than that for sure.

Now consider this, Labour’s light rail plans are costed at $15 to $29 billion. Imagine if they actually proceed, then using the CRL as an example they might end up burning an inconceivable amount of taxpayer cash – it could end up being $50 billion, or $60 billion? $70 billion!

Furthermore, the rail projects will endlessly burn cash as rail projects almost never turn a profit, and end up sucking up huge amounts in the form of fare subsidies. Even in Auckland, the largest population centre in New Zealand, there simply aren’t enough people who want to suffer the indignity and inconvenience of public transport to make it pay.

But as is always the case, the people who are vociferously in favour of these boondoggles like underground rail loops, light rail to anywhere, cycleways and silly bike bridges almost never use these projects. You see public transport in their minds, and their supporters’ minds are for other people to use.

This is an extremely poor use of taxpayer cash and is really only a vanity project for Jacinda Ardern who is following her own vanities and decamping from politics, presumably for a high-paying gig elsewhere to lecture even more people about how she thinks they should live their lives.

These projects disgust me, as the legacy is always a huge debt and a white elephant with a feeding bill of massive proportions that the promoters never have to pay for.

Wayne Brown is right, it should be a dead duck, but for the vanities of big spending Labour politicians intent on spending as much as possible but delivering nothing in return. Ardern’s rail flight of fancy should be shot like the dead duck it is.

Cam Slater is a New Zealand-based blogger, best known for his role in Dirty Politics and publishing the Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog, which operated from 2005 until it closed in 2019. This article was first published HERE.


K said...

Just buy everyone an EV. Probably be cheaper.

Anonymous said...

there is already a rail+bus to airport (i hope someone has heard of the expensive renovation of puhinui). in addition, there is an airport bus from onehunga that is well connected to mt roskill. what's wrong with pushing their usage instead?

boston made it free for people coming to the city by having a free bus from airport take them inside a train station where people could switch over to any route for free. not the best option with lots of luggage, but a good enough incentive to reduce the pickup lanes & need for parking.

Robert Arthur said...

The only virtue of light rail (trams) is that the drivers cannot apply the skill elsewhere. Not having to learn the route another plus but I suppose with modern facilitie drivers no longer have to ask passengers where to go.
When riding my bike and noting busses and trains sweep past with two or three passsnegrs I am comforted to know I am not the only one saving the planet.