Phil Twyford responds on Gisborne-Napier rail

It’s good that some MPs respond to requests for clarification as Phil Twyford has done here.

1.       We are pretty confident a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis would justify keeping the line open now, and likewise re-opening it. However if the costs of re-opening massively blow out between now and when we are elected then we would have to take another look at it.

2.       Under MMP all political promises have to be seen in light of the need to win majority support for them. You will know the Greens are also committed to re-opening the line.

3.       There are good indications local horticulture, and more importantly forestry, will deliver an increase in freight that may over time get volumes up to the break point identified  by BERL. Obviously the success of the line depends on local businesses stepping up.

4.       This debate is to some extent about what you mean by ‘unprofitable’. Kiwirail applies a narrow financial sense of profitablility to justifiy mothballing the line. If you applied this logic to the country’s roads you would have to close half of them. Labour believes a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis is more sensible. With this kind of infrastructure decision you need to be extremely cautious about destroying a sunk asset and closing off future options.


Phil Twyford
Member of Parliament for Te Atatu

Labour Party Spokesperson on Transport, Auckland Issues, Associate Environment Spokesperson

My comments on this:

  1. Sounds reasonable. That in effect makes the pledge to reopen the line a pledge to seriously look at reopening the line and do so if cost-benefits stack up.
  2. That’s a practical view on how policy pledges work – nothing is guaranteed until coalition agreements have been negotiated, and sometimes individual policy support is subsequently negotiated.
  3. Quadrupling freight volumes is a huge hurdle, especially if reliant on “local businesses stepping up”.
  4. I think this needs a lot more discussion. Labour have also talked about taking account of wider costs including social costs in relation to the closure of Hillside Workshops. Changing the current business-like models for SOEs like Kiwirail would be a major shift for Government, and their would be significant issues to resolve, for example how to prevent ad hoc political interference in the running of SOEs, or whether ministers can have any say on the operation of SOEs.
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