So yesterday the government revealed its budget for 2017. So here is a look at the relevant announcements related to Transport
As we expected, the government included funding for the City Rail Link in the budget, but only $436 million so far. This is of course not unexpected as the government announced last year they would be funding half of the project. They say the rest of the money “will be provided progressively through Budgets 2017 to 2020”. What I did find interesting though was some of the language they used to describe the project.
“The CRL is a game-changer for central Auckland and this funding demonstrates the Government’s commitment to Auckland and its public transport systems.
“CRL is Auckland’s top new transport priority. It will double the capacity of the existing rail network and cut travel time for commuters.
“The CRL is already bringing economic benefits to Auckland and New Zealand creating hundreds of jobs during construction,” Mr Bridges says.
Newsflash to the government, it’s been Auckland’s top transport priority since at least 2012 when the Auckland Plan was adopted. I welcome the government now realising the CRL is a game-changer for Auckland but that’s tempered by recalling just how much opposition the government threw at the project. For example, let’s not forget that quip from 2012 by then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee who said
The Spinoff covered a few other quotes from ministers rubbishing the project here.
So what else did Auckland get, here’s a list:
No Pukekohe electrification, no funding for any PT to the airport, no funding for the third main, not even any money to cover some of the governments share of the funding shortfall identified in ATAP. And we’re not the only ones disappointed, Mayor Phil Goff is too.
The Budget does nothing to tackle the key issue of growing transport congestion in Auckland, says Mayor Phil Goff, who left home at 5.30 this morning to beat the weekday crawl on the Southern Motorway.
His disappointment was matched by business and lobby groups, who wanted to see more help for Aucklanders caught in traffic or struggling to buy a house.
Asked if he thought National was holding something up its sleeve for the election, Goff, the former Labour MP and leader, said: “I certainly hope so”.
“What is really disappointing is given we are projecting Government surpluses of $7.2 billion by 2021 there is a whole lot more that could have been done,” said Goff, noting the Government had previously announced measures in the Budget for the City Rail Link and freeing up Crown land for housing.
Goff wanted to see radical moves in the Budget to meet the needs of 45,000 new residents a year, 800 new cars a week and Aucklanders “fed up to the back teeth with congestion”.
The only good thing is that there were also no stupid projects announced.
So what else was in the budget. Surprisingly there wasn’t much new at all in it. The most notable new transport spending being $450 million for Kiwirail with another $98 million to upgrade the electrification of parts of Wellingtons rail network.
Budget 2017 will invest $548 million of new capital funding to maintain and upgrade New Zealand’s rail network, supporting freight movement, exporters, tourism and public transport, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
$450 million of that funding will be invested in KiwiRail over the next two financial years.
“KiwiRail has achieved significant productivity and efficiency improvements over the past two years, despite the challenges of the November 2016 earthquake and the Midland Line fire,” Mr Bridges says.
“Budget 2017 investment in New Zealand’s rail infrastructure and systems will ensure that KiwiRail can improve its resilience and reliability, while continuing to support tourism, freight and export industries.
“The Government wants to put the rail network on a longer-term sustainable footing. In the year ahead we will be conducting a wider review of KiwiRail’s operating structure and longer-term capital requirements.
The Government is also investing $98.4 million in Wellington’s metro rail network.
“This investment acknowledges the importance of a functional, safe and reliable public transport rail network in the Wellington region,” Mr Bridges says.
This funding will allow the replacement of the remaining timber poles and overhead wires that provide power for trains on the Hutt Valley, Melling and Johnsonville rail lines.
The press release from Kiwirail only states the money will be invested in “rolling stock and network to ensure the reliability gains of the past two years continue”. I’ve asked them for a list of projects they’ll be using the money for. The review of the operating structure is certainly interesting. I wonder if that will include looking to shift the planning and network management under the NZTA like we and many others have suggested.
Lastly there is the funding for roads. The biggest announcement, and one confirmed prior to the budget, was that the government would spend $812 million to reinstate SH1 around Kaikoura. That’s part of spending $9.17b over the coming four years on state highways but all of the projects mentioned are ones that have existed for some time. With many of those projects due to be completed in the next few years, they included this fact
“The Government expects to open 540 new lane kilometres of state highways over the next four years. This will be the largest increase in state highway capacity in decades,” Mr Bridges says.
To put this in perspective, there are currently 23,455 lane kilometres of state highways in New Zealand (and 155,700 lane kilometres of local roads) so this additional 540 represents a 2.3% increase.
The announcement also briefly mentioned Public-Private Partnerships which Joyce has said he’d announce more on in the coming weeks.
Overall, while there are some big sums being bandied about, there was really not much new in this year’s budget for transport. How much are the government holding back for the election?