2 Sep 2023

KiwiRail review: Public transport group hopes next government will properly fund rail

2:46 pm on 2 September 2023
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Transport Minister David Parker says KiwiRail makes just about all of its revenue from freight (file image). Photo: Wikicommons

A public transport advocacy group says it hopes the next government will properly fund rail, now that a review has found the current funding insufficient.

The review of KiwiRail was prompted by big disruptions to Wellington train services in May, caused by the country's only track evaluation car needing repairs.

Released on Friday, the report said safety standards and procedures were not keeping up with growing metro networks.

It said Waka Kotahi, as the safety regulator, was becoming more proactive but was still considered to take a 'light touch' approach.

The reviewers also said more central government funding was needed ahead of the opening of the Auckland City Rail Link and to protect Wellington's tracks from slips and weather events.

Public Transport Users' Association coordinator Jon Reeves said many in the industry were well aware that KiwiRail has been starved of funding.

"Hopefully the new government will read into it and allocate funding for the railway network to ensure we don't have the major problems that we've already had this year."

Reeves said this group was calling for a new entity to oversee the rail network and all train services.

The review also found the governance of passenger rail services was siloed.

Reeves said that needed to change.

"What we do need to see is one overall agency that really watches the railway system and that would make it a lot easier, even for KiwiRail to operate, because they would just know the one group they had to go to to make sure everything is running correctly."

Although Waka Kotahi did oversee rail in its role, it was more of a roading organisation, he said.

Transport Minister David Parker acknowledged that the ministry needed to look at the funding model for KiwiRail - and changes may be necessary.

KiwiRail makes just about all of its revenue from freight, he said.

"KiwiRail makes just about all of its revenue from freight because the fares that are paid in metro commuter rail actually go to the provider of that service which is not KiwiRail.

"So one of the things that is being recommended is that we look at the funding model for rail."

In an earlier statement, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the company took full responsibility for what had happened in Wellington in May and it was committed to providing a safe and reliable rail network for all commuters in both Wellington and Auckland.

"Commuter rail is very important to New Zealand, particularly as the country seeks to reduce its carbon footprint," he said.

Reidy said KiwiRail was looking forward to working through all the recommendations in the report with the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Auckland Transport.

"We have already made a number of changes within our business. These directly address specific failings that led to the TEC being unable to complete its required assessments of the Kāpiti Line in time and will help ensure its reliability in the years ahead."

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