The election result on the weekend was obviously not particularly conducive to achieving where I think the country’s transport policy should be heading, but I wasn’t quite expecting things to go bad quite so quickly. First, here’s new North Shore MP Maggie Barry talking about the City Rail Link and a duplicate harbour crossing (road based, one assumes):
Maggie Barry hit the ground running as the North Shore electorate’s first woman MP.
The morning after National’s resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.
And the former broadcaster also affirmed her support for the Puhoi-Wellsford motorway extension.
She attacked those who have labelled it the “holiday highway.
“I refuse to use the `H’ word. It will be an umbilical cord for the far north and its economy.
“It is an arrogance for the critics to take money already set aside for this purpose and use it for something else.”
It’s a bit difficult to know how much thought she has put into these matters before sounding off on them. Does she realise that the cost of a road-based tunnel is around $5 billion, or does she support a bridge option? Does she understand how pointless the additional crossing is in the next decade or so, because traffic across the harbour bridge is falling? One suspects not.
Second, we have the two councillors who continue to oppose the City Rail Link – George Wood and Cameron Brewer – using the election result to continue to push their argument (not shared by the rest of the council) against the project:
The returning National Government is unwilling to commit to Auckland’s city rail link and the project should be put on the backburner before the expensive plans topple the council’s credit rating, two city councillors say.
The proposed 3.5km underground loop would include stations at Karangahape Rd, Aotea Square and Newton at a cost of $2.4 billion and, according to council, unlock the economic potential of the inner city and transform Auckland’s rail network.
But uncertainty about how the project will be funded, and a lack of support from the National-led Government, is putting Auckland Council at risk of a credit downgrade.
Earlier this month Standard & Poor’s put the council on a 90-day credit watch due to projected levels of debt needed to fund major transport infrastructure.
Councillors George Wood and Cameron Brewer say as a result the council needs to consider reprioritising the ambitious project which the Government is yet to commit funding for.
The council has indicated it expects the Government to contribute 50 per cent to costs but incumbent Transport Minister Steven Joyce has previously said he is not convinced by the council’s business case for the project.
The details of the credit-rating downgrade show that its impact on borrowing cost is relatively minor. Most of the former councils have the same rating as Auckland Council now does.
I feel it’s going to be a long three years as we try to push forward with this project.