I’m still to find a copy of it anywhere on the internet, but it seems that Radio NZ have seen the draft version of the 2012 Government Policy Statement for transport spending. Their description of it is unsurprising, but also depressing:
The Government intends to increase spending on new state highways but cut or effectively freeze funding in all but one other area of transport spending.
That’s according to the draft version of the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding 2012, in which the Transport Minister proposes higher limits for spending on new state highways – $1.3 billion by the 2014-15 financial year and $1.7 billion by 2021.
Funding would be cut in four areas, including road user safety, while funding for public transport infrastructure, road policing and local roads would be kept at current levels.
The draft document also tags four highways as possible future roads of national significance.
They are Hamilton to Tauranga, Cambridge to Taupo, further development of the Hawke’s Bay expressway and improvements north and south of Christchurch on State Highway 1.
It looks like all of our worst fears. Goodness knows how a motorway between Cambridge and Taupo (a road that carries around 50% fewer vehicles than the single lane Kopu Bridge) can be a more important project than most of Auckland’s big future rail projects. We might finally see a transport project with a cost-benefit ratio beginning with 0.0 (can they go negative?)
Labour transport spokesman Shane Jones says some good things in response to the draft GPS:
The Labour Party says the Government’s transport plans are a mess and it should go back to the drawing-board.
The party’s transport spokesperson, Shane Jones, says Transport Minister Steven Joyce should change his name to the tarmac king.
“Those particular roads will prove to be illusory,” Mr Jones says, “just as the Puhoi extension is illusory, and I doubt you’ll find that there’s enough to fund those pet projects that he and his National Party colleagues have in mind.”
Mr Jones says more money should be spent on public transport.
I’ve always thought transport seemed a more obvious area to critique government policy, because all these big roads of national significance just don’t seem to accord with the general stated desire to be careful with spending. Here’s the short interview with Shane Jones from this morning.
While all this isn’t a surprise, it does reflect a transport policy that seems out of touch with reality. Over the last three to four years there simply hasn’t been growth in state highway traffic use – while at the same time public transport patronage has increase massively. That’s most clearly illustrated in the graphs below, which look at how things have changed from 2007 to 2010:
The graph above looks at how things have progressively changed over the past three years on a month by month basis, looking at percentage change in PT patronage and state highway traffic compared to the same month the year before. The graph below compares the patronage and state highway traffic for each month in 2007 against each month in 2010. I’m still trying to work out the logic of increasingly focusing spending on state highways when their use is declining, while capping funding for public transport even though its use is skyrocketing. I must say I’m really struggling to find any logic.