Safer highways at cost of local roads

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 08:37 15/11/2012

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State highways are predicted to become safer over the next decade but at a cost to local roads which will become more dangerous, new documents show.

A ministerial briefing by the Transport Agency, obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act, shows the rate of death and serious injuries on state highways is forecast to decline from 1036 last year to 841 in 2021.

However, deaths and serious injuries on local roads is expected to rise from 1624 last year to 1721 in a decade.

Over the same period the number of deaths and serious injuries for car drivers and passengers is predicted to fall from 1761 to 1466, but those for motorcyclists are expected to rise from 457 to 632 and cyclists from 172 to 240.

The briefing from August said although the proposed investment in the Government's National Land Transport Programme offered "improved value for money", modelling indicated "the positive outcomes are unlikely to be spread evenly across networks or across users".

The Government has frozen funding on local roads until 2015 and that freeze is likely to continue past that date under current settings.

At the same time the Government is investing about $10 billion on seven "roads of national significance" which will make up part of the state highway network.

Labour's transport safety spokesman and the MP for Palmerston North, Iain Lees-Galloway, said safety on local roads was being sacrificed to improve safety on state highways.

"The provinces again are being overlooked. There is a disparity between provincial roads and state highways."

Funding had also been frozen or reduced in other areas including local road maintenance and road safety promotion.

''What we are seeing is councils either having to increase their component of road safety promotion or cut back what they do."

The funding cuts came at a time when the Government was reforming local government to ensure their costs were reduced.

"It's ironic that the Government is pointing the finger at local government for increased costs when they are making decisions that are forcing councils to either increase their costs or to reduce services."

The forecasts also predicted an increasing use of motorcycles and bicycles.

Lees-Galloway said the Government should be encouraging more environmentally friendly and healthier modes of transport.

"Rather than encouraging a shift from cars to bicycles, what the Government is signalling is that it wants you to stay in your car and if you make a shift to your bicycle you are going to have to accept a reduction in safety to do so. That's not good enough."

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