Pay for light rail in Auckland by charging tolls: Phil Goff

Auckland Transport is currently looking into introducing light rail onto the city's streets.
Auckland Transport

Auckland Transport is currently looking into introducing light rail onto the city's streets.

Light rail is a priority for Auckland and the best way to pay for it is by tolling the region's motorways, Phil Goff says.

The mayoral candidate told a Committee for Auckland meeting on Monday that if he gets the city's top job he will make a light rail system on its main arterial routes one of his top priorities.

Auckland congestion was costing the country $1.5 billion a year in lost productivity, and no city had ever built its way out of the problem by constructing more roads, he said.

Mayoral candidate Phil Goff says he makes no apology for arguing that Aucklanders should pay motorway tolls.
Chris Skelton

Mayoral candidate Phil Goff says he makes no apology for arguing that Aucklanders should pay motorway tolls.

"Light rail will dramatically increase public transport capacity and, as it's electric, reduce pollution."

Funding was a major challenge and the answer was not to increase rates or take on more debt, he said.

"Some form of road charging will be necessary, both to raise revenue and to encourage change of travel modes.  I make no apology for making my views clear on that.

"We cannot pretend that there is some magic way of funding infrastructure that doesn't impose any costs on anyone," he said.

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Goff made his comments ahead of his first public appearance alongside rival mayoral hopeful Victoria Crone.

He and the centre-right Crone will speak at a "meet the candidates" event on Monday night organised by the Ellerslie Residents Association.

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The four other mayoral contenders - Mark Thomas, Stephen Berry, David Hay and Penny Bright - will also speak.

The current Auckland Council has lobbied for motorway tolls to be introduced as a means of helping to fund transport infrastructure improvements.

However tolling state highways would require a law change and the National government has said it is not in favour of the move.

Auckland Transport (AT) is currently conducting a scoping study into building a Light Rail Transit (LTR) system.

It would be a public transport system similar to a tramway, but operating principally along exclusive rights-of-way, with less frequent stops, higher capacity and higher average speeds than local bus services, the agency said.

LTR could carry 450 people per vehicle at a frequency of one every 8-10 minutes.

A line from the Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street, Symonds Street and down Dominion Road would be the first priority, Goff said.

Reports from the Ministry of Transport, AT and others suggested that congestion would get worse at current levels of investment in Auckland's transport infrastructure, he said.

The city already suffered from bus congestion. 

"Funding is a major challenge. It can't be done out of rates - a one per cent rise in rates raises just $14 million. That is a drop in the bucket.

"By the time the Council has borrowed to meet the costs of the ($2.5 billion) City Rail Link there is limited scope for raising debt levels further," he said.

He would also be a strong advocate for central government meeting a greater share of the costs that growth was imposing on Auckland, Goff said.

"The transport infrastructure deficit goes back to the 1990s when Auckland was subsidising the rest of the country. We need to ensure that government funding matches the expected rate of our growth."

The city would also need to look in part to private sector options, he said.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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