28 Jan 2019

Govt 'lip service' to concerns about Chch commuter rail

11:31 am on 28 January 2019

A public transport group is disappointed that Labour's pre-election promise for commuter rail in Christchurch appears to be off the cards.

The first passenger train on the newly reopened Coastal Pacific Rail Line arrives in Christchurch from Picton.

Christchurch Railway Station Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The Canterbury Regional Public Transport Plan, which was put together by the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee, was formally adopted by Environment Canterbury (ECan) in December last year.

The plan outlines how in the next three years, core bus services will be extended to include four proposed routes which will run every 15 minutes, and there will be increased frequency on existing core bus services.

However, the Public Transport Users' Association Christchurch spokesperson Tane Apanui said he was disappointed there was no commitment to a commuter rail service.

"We've had no assurances whatsoever from local council, regional council or central government - in fact it seems to have dropped off their radar completely.

"It appears that all the councils and the government pay lip service to our concerns but when it comes to the crunch they never follow through."

Mr Apanui is proposing a rail service that joins the North Canterbury townships of Amberley, Waipara, Rangiora, and Rolleston and Darfield, with the city.

A business case for rapid transit would be investigated over the next three years, which could include rail, ECan said in a December press release.

The Minister for Transport Phil Twyford said in a statement that investment in Canterbury passenger rail remained Labour Party policy.

"The Coalition Government didn't advance this in our first year but we are well aware that people in Canterbury would like to see investment in rapid transit.

"So, we are talking with the local councils about their transport and urban development plans.

"Even though passenger rail wasn't in Canterbury's regional land transport plan, we look forward to hearing the council's' proposals."

ECan has been contacted for comment.

This story was originally published on 27 January. Environment Canterbury subsequently sent this statement:

"Commuter rail has not been excluded from the Regional Public Transport Plan. It will be included as part of the rapid transit work signalled in the Plan.

"No funding has been provided to Environment Canterbury by central government in support of rail services. The $100 million referred to was an election campaign statement from the Labour Party, but has not transitioned into any government funding for public transport in Canterbury."

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