Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Transport infrastructure priorities

The problem with politicians is that the extent of their long term vision is usually limited to the next election. Anything which involves spending now for paybacks in 10 years or more is rarely given any favourable consideration.
We have seen another example this month in the announcement of yet another billion-dollar-plus extension to Auckland's motorway network through Mt Albert. In the short term this will please many thousands of motorists (probably not those whose houses will be bulldozed but, hey, it's in a safe Opposition constituency so no matter), but in a year or so when the price of petrol shoots back up to levels that we saw in mid-2008 and probably higher, which is inevitable as the world economy improves, some of these motorists may well wish that a rapid railway system existed in Auckland, as was in fact planned in the early 1970s before the Muldoon government in 1976 decided it was 'too expensive' and cancelled it.
Auckland is already the world's seventh largest city on a geographical spread basis but has a pathetic public railway transport system. "Why can't we have a decent system like London, Copenhagen or even Sydney?" is what increasing numbers of Aucklanders are asking, and a lot more will start asking when they discover that the billions of dollars spent on their motorways haven't produced any real improvement to the ability to get from A to B compared to what the same money spent on their railways would have achieved. "We can't afford to spend money on both and the road transport option is worth a lot more votes," will be the government's honest reply. Yeah, right.

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