An affordable intercity passenger rail network that can compete with flights should be a priority for government, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says.
Genter wants subsidies for the KiwiRail-run Northern Explorer train service so it can be transformed from a premium tourist service to a low-cost passenger train.
“The service hasn’t been very reliable recently. But it still could serve a really basic need for people to get between cities without a car,” she said.
The Northern Explorer’s 680-kilometre journey along the main rail trunk of the North Island has been running since 1909, but has been paused indefinitely since March 22 due to Covid-19.
The Greens really do not understand what motivates people to make travel choices.
The notion that people who fly between Auckland and Wellington will take the train instead if it is cheaper is bollocks.
People fly between Auckland and Wellington because it is a one hour flight against a 12 hour train. If I have to attend a meeting in Auckland I sometimes fly there and back in the same day. For me to take the train, I would be away for three days.
I am one of the rare people who has taken the train multiple times. When you are not working and don’t have kids, it can be a great way to travel. But it is unsuitable for most travelling NZers.
The train service between Wellington and Auckland competes on price with the bus service. It doesn’t compete with the planes on price, but on time.
If one had a spare $20 billion to put in a 350 km/hr train between Auckland and Wellington, then it might compete with planes, but that would be even more uneconomic.
The reality is tourists, not NZers, were the main users of the train service and without them you are just pouring money down a black hole to have a train travel 650 kms with half a dozen people on board.
You could make the fares half price and you wouldn’t get any significant transfer from planes to trains, because it is an 11 hour journey.