Green party announce transport policy

POLICY ANNOUNCED: Green Party co-leader Russel Norman announced the party's transport policy this morning from an electric train.
POLICY ANNOUNCED: Green Party co-leader Russel Norman announced the party's transport policy this morning from an electric train.

Aucklanders may be the biggest beneficiaries of the Green Party's transport policy which will see $10.4 billion invested in the country's public transport.

Party co leader Dr Russel Norman announced the policy this morning from one of Auckland's new electric trains on a trip from Onehunga to the central city.

He and transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter criticised the Government's spending on roads and highways which they said kept people in their cars.

The Green's policy would prioritise getting people out of their vehicles and on to public transport by building better networks, increasing the number of services and making them more affordable.

The party pledged to invest $10.4b in public transport projects and rail throughout the country over the next decade, promising more trains and buses at peak hours and decongesting the country's roads.

It would focus on implementing the Congestion Free Network plan in Auckland by 2020 through seven key projects costing $2.2b.

These included completing the City Rail Link, building a rail extension to Mt Roskill, electrifying the rail network between Papakura and Pukekohe, building another bus lane on the northwestern motorway, extending the northern busway to Albany and Newmarket, establishing a "high quality" bus network on the Upper Harbour and extending the AMETI Busway into Ellerslie and Manukau.

No other cities were mentioned in today's announcement but the Greens said "ambitious plans" for Christchurch and Wellington would be announced in the coming weeks.

Genter said they would also look at a train service between Auckland and Hamilton and increasing passenger services in Northland once the North Shore had a rail network.

The plan would be funded through a "reallocation" of Land Transport funds which Norman said would ultimately cost less than what the Government was spending on transport now.

"Instead of spending all this money on new motorways which will do nothing to reduce congestion in Auckland and across the country ... we will make critical investments which will make a huge difference in the lives of Aucklanders," Norman said.

"It is critical - Auckland is our international city but it can't be without an international transport network."

Walking and cycling infrastructure would receive a 300 per cent increase in funding across the country and there would be a $423 million contestable fund for regional projects.

Public transport would become more affordable, particularly for students, who would get a free "green card" for free off-peak travel.

This could be extended for beneficiaries or low-income earners, Genter said.

The party's announcement was supported by Transportblog's author Patrick Reynolds who said it wasn't too late to fix Auckland's transport woes.

"Auckland has enough motorways and enough roads," he said.

"Congestion is simply too much driving. At the moment people in Auckland don't have a choice.

"We're very excited by this policy, we believe it's the most rational and economically sensible thing to do."

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the Green Party should identify which state highway projects would not proceed under its new policy, as the $11b removed indicated it would be all of them.

The National Party had provided $2.4b to public transport over the past five years, but 97 per cent of New Zealand's passenger travel and 91 per cent of freight movement was done on the roads, Brownlee said.

"Since being elected in 2008 the National Government has been rectifying a 30-year deficit in road transport infrastructure," he said.

"The Green Party proposal would put us back by decades."

The Greens' proposal to cut local road spending by more than $500m also put pressure on communities and compromised safety, he said.