There’s an interesting NZTA board paper passed on to me by Jon C of AKT, which discusses NZTA’s role in funding public transport – most particularly their role in helping to fund rail projects. This board paper came about as part of a solution to the $30 million rail funding gap that Steven Joyce has created. Here’s some background to NZTA’s role in funding rail projects:
One useful thing the Board Paper does is give a good analysis of why NZTA should be helping to fund rail. Remember that at the moment NZTA can help fund rail operating costs, but for some illogical reason they cannot contribute to rail capital costs. That’s the most amount of sense I think I’ve ever seen out of NZTA. Recognition that motorway corridors are finite and often can’t continue to be widened. Recognition that rail offers enormous capacity opportunities, recognition that electric rail can be operated independent of fuel price fluctuations. Wow, Steven Joyce would be furious if he saw this board paper!
Looking at things in more detail, there is a growing “crunch point” in the funding of rail in both Auckland and Wellington. At the same time as costs have been increased by improving infrastructure and service provision – in some cases leading patronage increases – we’re seeing the introduction of the mental 50% farebox recovery policy and the placement of limitations on the amount NZTA can spend on rail. The worry is that this ‘crunch point’ will lead to big increases in rail fares over the next few years. This is picked up further, later in the board paper (I’ve chopped together a few paragraphs that are separated by annoying withheld sections): The cynic in me suggests that perhaps the farebox recovery ratio has been deliberately imposed to limit patronage increases. After all, NZTA never undertook any research to determine whether 50% was the most appropriate number or not.
There’s a lot of withheld information later in the board paper, but the important thing is that the NZTA board did approve the allocation of $15 million as their contribution to helping to close the rail funding gap – this is recorded in the minutes: The paper is quite interesting in showing that there is an understanding of the importance of rail within NZTA, it just generally struggles to reach the surface of that organisation. It’s also good that NZTA are making a contribution to closing the rail funding gap – and ensuring that rail services can continue to be improved over the next few years.
I have a really big OIA request of NZTA due to be sent to me on March 7th. It should be quite interesting to see what’s in it.