Could regional rail hold answer to affordable travel around New Zealand?

May 15, 2024

Could regional rail hold answer to affordable travel around New Zealand?

The success of Te Huia shows that New Zealanders want and will use regional rail if it is available. PHOTO: Ryan Bos

Investing in regional rail could create affordable and sustainable travel solutions in light of the latest surge in the price of domestic airfares, according to rail proponents.

Air New Zealand says it has been forced to hike its fares on domestic routes to cover increases in operating costs.

More generally, according to data released by Stats NZ, domestic air fares rose 7.4 per cent in February alone.

Sustainability advocates, Climate Liberation Aotearoa, spokesperson James Cockle said the lack of regional rail around the country is forcing people to pay expensive airfares.

“It means high costs to them and sadly because they have very few alternatives, they’re going to be stuck with those price increases.”

Cockle says the issue is made worse due to the lack of investment in alternative travel options across the country, which includes regional rail.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a passenger rail service across the country anymore and that means people really are stuck and struggle when it comes to going to meet their friends and family or travel for work.”

Green Party transport spokesperson and MP, Julie Anne Genter, claims the current government’s priorities need readdressing to incorporate more regional rail investment.

“New Zealanders really love rail and would happily take it. It just needs government vision and prioritisation, and we all stand to benefit from that.

“But unfortunately, National is wedded to spending all of that money on a few really expensive highways.”

Regional rail would not only benefit New Zealanders by providing more travel options but also lower greenhouse emissions, which are both important issues for New Zealanders, Genter says.

“The current government has announced they’re going to be spending millions of dollars on infrastructure, so it could go into rail and that would make a difference.”

A spokesperson from Kiwirail says regional rail services  “help reduce transport emissions and take pressure off the roading network.”

The Te Huia service between Hamilton and Auckland is an active regional rail trial currently on track to reach all targets set within the trial’s timeframe.

“It’s hugely popular among the people already but the politicians don’t seem to want to actually put the money in to make it happen, even though it would be far better for us economically and in terms of our environment,” says Cockle.

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