Government slams rail funding plan

The Government is continuing to put the brakes on Auckland's rail plans.

Yesterday Mayor Len Brown stated the taxpayer should fund half of the $2.4 billion project.

But a spokesperson from Transport Minister Steven Joyce's office said current business cases for the project didn't add up and the cost to benefit ratio would need to be higher before "any responsible government would seek to invest in it".

At present the Government believes the cost benefit ratio is at 0.3-0.4.

Brown told yesterday's Strategy and Finance committee the case for the city rail link has been made "many times".

"Ratepayers cannot fund this project alone."

He said the city rail link, which would include an underground loop with stations in Aotea Square, Newton and Karangahape Rd, had the potential to quadruple passenger numbers through the central city and would "future proof" rail travel for 60 years.

Brown listed the project as a "game changer" for the city in the draft Auckland Plan - which closes to submissions on Monday - and said it was the most important initiative for the next 30 years.

At yesterday's meeting, he suggested general rates contribute to 16.6 per cent of the project's costs, developers contribute 2.5 per cent and alternative transport funding contributes 30.9 per cent.

Brown has previously floated congestion and network fees as an alternative way to fund transport projects while keeping rates low.

The fees were all but rejected by Joyce who said motorists already contribute enough to public transport through fuel taxes.

Brown said a discussion document about how to fund the project would be released next February, believing the general election was the wrong time to be seeking public feedback.

"Auckland needs this investment and we should not be afraid to go and talk to our communities about how we fund it."

Councillor Mike Lee told the meeting the mayor was being "too reasonable" and the Government should be "paying the lot".

"The City Rail Link will be owned by the Government through KiwiRail.

"It will be part of the national rail link, which is absolutely vital for the Auckland economy."

Joyce's office conceded the project may go ahead in the future but the council needs to do more work before the Government commits to it.

Auckland Now