MP tries new tack to save train
The man leading the fight to save the Capital Connection tried a new argument when he took his case to a select committee.
Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway spoke to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee in Parliament yesterday in support of a petition to save the commuter train.
The Capital Connection's future is in doubt unless the Government, through the NZ Transport Agency, agrees to a subsidy worth about $300,000 a year.
At yesterday's select committee Mr Lees-Galloway reiterated the economic, social and environmental arguments for keeping the train and added a new approach.
Mr Lees-Galloway said about 27 car drivers and 18 car passengers died for every 100 million kilometres travelled on New Zealand roads.
He used a ''conservative'' estimate of how many train users would, if the service was scrapped, drive to Waikanae to catch a train to calculate how long it would be until they had collectively travelled 100 million kilometres.
''It worked out at just less than a year, about 357 days on those assumptions,'' Mr Lees-Galloway said.
''It's a fair thing to say that the Capital Connection probably saves about one road death a year.''
The social cost of an early death had been calculated at $3.5 million, he said.
The NZTA was being asked for $300,000 a year.
''Whatever the robustness of my maths it's fair to say over a seven-year period you would easily save one life from all of the kilometres that were travelled.''
In mid 2012 KiwiRail announced its intention to do away with the Palmerston North to Wellington service, citing a drop in passenger numbers and a loss of some $500,000 a year.
In response Mr Lees-Galloway dhorganised a petition in support of the train, which collected close to 2000 signatures in under a month.
He was supported at yesterday's select committee by about 30 users of the train.
''What I basically sought to do was restate all the economic arguments for supporting the Capital Connection,'' Mr Lees-Galloway said.
''My main message to the select committee was any public money spent on maintaining the Capital Connection, there would be a good return on investment.''
The Greater Wellington Regional Council, with support from Horizons Regional Council, submitted a business case in August for transferring the train from KiwiRail's ownership to Greater Wellington's.
The councils were looking for the NZ Transport Agency to help them fund a subsidy which, along with a fare increase, would keep the train breaking even.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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