Though the website is down at the time of writing this article one of the more interesting transport policies of New Zealand First was creating a fund/grant etc. to help fund private rail sidings.
For those unfamiliar, a rail siding for the purposes of this post is basically track used for loading/unloading trains so, for example, a factory will have rail sidings connecting to the KiwiRail network where trains can access the factory and load/unload.
These type of funds are in use across Europe such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Switzerland, Austria and Germany have all established sophisticated grant programmes for private sidings. The Swiss Ministry of Transport began supporting the construction and refurbishment of private sidings in 1986, using money hypothecated from a petrol tax. Since then approximately €9m a year has been spent. In 1995 this model was taken up in Austria, where it has proved just as successful; 65 sidings were supported with €25m of grants in 1999 and 2000.
The fund helps fund new sidings or restore old ones. In exchange, the funded party has to meet certain targets such as moving x tonnage by rail or they face penalties potentially having to pay all the money back however while the programmes have been successful one of the reasons it is being held back is the complex application process, varying targets and penalties for non-compliance.
If we were to implement a programme here we should learn from this experience creating a streamlined simple process with a focus on rewards rather than punishment.
A similar system called the Freight Facilities Grant existed in the UK as well which as deemed successful until abolished by the Coalition Government in 2011, however a more general funding system called the Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme to move goods to water/rail now exists. Scotland and Wales kept their Freight Facilities Grant programmes going.
The system also exists partially in the US with many states offering grant schemes or tax credits, as well as Federal Railroad Administration’s Infrastructure Financing loan programme.
So looking at a Rail Siding Scheme might be a good way of creating mode shift to more sustainable modes to help us reach our environmental and economic goals especially considering how affordable these schemes look to be.