Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s defence of his unpopular light rail to the airport plan in the Herald recently was heavy on references to “experts”. He will need to do better than this to convince Aucklanders he is right to exclude the electric train option.
In a Herald online poll of 13,300 readers, 82 per cent indicated they would prefer to take a train to the airport, 9 per cent preferred to drive and park while only 6 per cent opted for “light rail” (trams). This should be giving the Government pause.
Not a scientific poll but still somewhat revealing.
Despite the minister’s airy references to “experts” it is the worrying lack of expert contestable advice that is his scheme’s greatest weakness.
Time was, transport projects of this cost and scale were the subject of widespread public debate and public input. But in recent years the statutory Regional Land Transport Plan and the Regional Public Transport Management Plan with its public input processes, have been marginalised by the top-down and informal ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Process).
ATAP has become the means by which the government-of-the-day imposes on Auckland what it wants. Twyford’s tramline to Mangere is the outcome of a “refreshed” ATAP replacing the previous Government’s 2016 ATAP.
But he needs to be reminded we live in a democracy. Unless he stops acting as some sort of transport tzar, trying to impose his will on an increasingly sceptical public, the 94 per cent of Aucklanders opposed to his light rail scheme, are likely to stay opposed.
As with the backlash against the regional fuel tax, now halted nationwide by a “captain’s call” from the Prime Minister, Twyford’s $3.7b light rail scheme is likely to carry political consequences.
At least it isn’t as nuts as the light rail madness in Wellington where the left demand light rail despite A BCR of 0.05.