Hidden Rail Report

Plans for rail cutbacks hidden by Brownlee

By Alan Tristram

The man behind the huge spend-up on motorways,Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, is now involved in a mounting row over suppression of details about a plan to cut spending on rail services.

Labour MP Phil Twyford asked Mr Brownlee in Parliament whether he’d been advised that KiwiRail will decline from 2014, that the risk of disruption will grow — and that the rail network will take many years to recover.

Mr Brownlee did not answer directly, instead defending KiwiRail’s management of the rail network.

Earlier the company won an interim injunction preventing Radio New Zealand from reporting on a draft planning report.

The High Court has subsequently changed the conditions so that comments made in Parliament can be reported.

Injunction to stop RNZ reporting

After Mr Twyford put his questions about KiwiRail to Mr Brownlee in Parliament, the Minister replied that KiwiRail is working hard to upgrade the network after years of neglect, and plenty will be spent on maintenance in the coming years.

The minister then blocked the tabling of the report — and was accused by opposition MPs of helping KiwiRail hide information.

Mr Twyford says attempts to block Radio New Zealand from reporting the contents of the report amount to a cover-up.

iwirail workers are warning the Government that they or the public may die because of poor maintenance on the main trunk line.

It comes as 181 workers face losing their jobs, but Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says their claims are “a beat-up.”

Green Party’s claims on road spending

Minister of Transport Brownlee has been swimming furiously against the arguments put forward by Julie Anne Genter from the Green Party.

Ms Genter has suggested that the RoNs (Roads of National Significance) programme is a poor way to spend billions of dollars, given that many of the RoNs are projected to deliver economic benefits that are less than their costs, i.e. NZ is likely to be poorer because of these projects.

She says that, if one was interested in improving New Zealand’s economic performance, as National claim to be, then they would avoid spending billions on projects that will make NZ poorer .

Recently, however, the National Government have used a new strategy. They have argued that when considered as a  ”total package” the RoNs deliver a net economic benefit.

KiwiRail workers worried about safety

Meanwhile, TV3 reports that Kiwirail workers in Hamilton held a stopwork meeting, angry that 181 workers are being laid off nationwide. Many do maintenance work on the main trunk line, which they now claim is dangerous as sleepers are loose and rotting.

“We don’t want to see any one get killed, it’s as simple as that,” says Paul Spanswick. “We don’t want to see anyone die.”

The workers say there have been six derailments in six weeks.

“I’m extremely concerned,” says NZ First MP Brendan Horan. “We’ve got to stop this insane turnaround plan, lives are at risk here.”

Ministers sought safety assurances from Kiwirail management last night.

“They tell us they are taking that very, very seriously and we’re taking their advice they have got it under control,” says State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall.

New Zealand First wants an inquiry into the state of the main trunk line, and Kiwirail workers are clearly voicing their concerns – but the Government says it’s simply not necessary.