National Party leader Christopher Luxon is accusing the Labour government of wasteful spending on slow trains and poor investments in public transport instead suggesting more buses be added.
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Luxon clarified today on Morning Report that his party supported public transport operation and capital costs would continue to be underwritten. However, subsiding it for commuters was not the preferred option.
Fares have been halved from April through to the end of June as part of a package to ease financial pressure. Public transport use in Auckland hit record highs in the first week of April, coinciding with the start of the reduced fares.
The Green Party has called for the subsidy to be increased to fully cover public transport, permanently.
Luxon has said the case for ongoing subsidies does not stack up.
He said his party was "broadly supportive" of the current short-term subsidies on public transport fares.
He said it had been helpful in a cost of living crisis but "ultimately public transport needs to stand on own feet" rather than being propped up by taxpayers.
"You've got to build good-quality public transport options that people choose to use," he said.
Luxon said National stood behind the City Rail Link, electrifying the Auckland and Wellington metro rail.
"We'll continue to subsidise operational and capital requirements for public transport.
"We're not up for is subsidising white elephant public transport projects like a slow train from Hamilton to Auckland. There's an example where we waste $285 per passenger, $100 million a year. It's a lot worse on an emissions basis ... on a convenience, connection basis."
He said that money could be better spent by "putting a lot more buses on the network, bus expressways".
"Public transport needs to be really compelling and convenient."
Luxon did not support the $29 billion investment in light rail saying it was poor return on investment.
He said he was committed to a responsibility on climate change.
"Climate change is real. We're not here to deny it. We're very committed to net carbon zero in 2050, the NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) commitment in 2030.
"Renewable energy is gone from 85 to 75 percent, emissions are up 4.6 percent ... and we've got Indonesian coal coming in here by the boatload because we actually didn't think about a transition out of oil and gas."