Labour 'on track to fund Capital link'

Labour has confirmed its commitment to saving the Capital Connection by pledging to fund it on a similar basis to other commuter rail services.

Labour's transport spokesman, Phil Twyford, said the next Labour Government would work with local councils to keep the rail link, which runs between Palmerston North and Wellington.

Labour Party candidate for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway said the state's long-term investment to ensure the continued operation of the service would be small in comparison to other transport operations.

Lees-Galloway said Labour would commit $800,000 for deferred maintenance over the first two years and an additional $250,000 of ongoing operational costs.

"This is absolutely tiny in comparison to the billions of dollars being spent on roads of national significance," Lees-Galloway said.

KiwiRail revealed in 2012 it was struggling to run the loss-making service as a commercial operation.

Greater Wellington and Horizons regional councils put a business case to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee in July 2012 seeking to run the service with the aid of subsidies from local councils and the NZ Transport Agency.

Before NZTA responded KiwiRail announced it would continue the service for another two years.

"What we want to do is implement the type of funding model that is used for all other commuter trains around the country," Lees-Galloway said.

"It has been an orphan, really, it has been expected to act like a commercial tourist service and that has not been viable.

"We've looked at the proposal and looked at the value for money that taxpayers would get out of the investment into the Capital Connection and we see a very good business case."

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said he was pleased with the announcement because it levelled the playing field.

National Party candidate for Palmerston North Jono Naylor said the money Labour had proposed had not been proven to be required, and labelled the announcement premature. "No-one's determined whether or not that's needed yet.

Manawatu Standard