Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Council duo attack rail link spend

C&R ticket divided on Mayor Brown's $2.86 billion policy, with some comparing it to a 'black hole of Calcutta'.

Spending on rail in Auckland has been compared to a 'black hole of Calcutta'. Photo / Thinkstock
Spending on rail in Auckland has been compared to a 'black hole of Calcutta'. Photo / Thinkstock

Spending on rail in Auckland has been compared to a "black hole of Calcutta" as right-leaning councillors take an increasingly strident line against Mayor Len Brown's $2.86 billion city rail link.

Communities & Residents councillors George Wood and Dick Quax are openly contradicting their ticket's policy of support for the rail link by saying it does not stack up and calling for a halt.

C&R leader and rail supporter Christine Fletcher is playing down the divisions in the caucus, saying Mr Wood and Mr Quax have always had "extreme" views and the ticket is a broad church.

Mrs Fletcher insisted the C&R policy of supporting the rail link and land purchases, but not approving a start on construction until funding is in place, "was the policy" and had the backing of candidates chosen for next year's local body elections.

The views of Mr Wood and Mr Quax - half the C&R caucus of four councillors - have hardened in the past week with the release of a Horizon Research poll showing 64 per cent of Aucklanders support the rail link and a leaked report saying rush-hour traffic in central Auckland will slow to walking pace in 10 years without the rail project.

Mr Quax said the rail project made little sense because it would gobble up 80 per cent of the public transport capital budget over the next 10 years when much-needed bus lanes and ferry terminals received a "paltry" 20 per cent.

"The Government has made it quite clear that it does not see the central rail link as a transport priority project. The numbers don't stack up. For every dollar it returns just 40c and will only remove 1400 cars per day from the road."

Mr Wood said he supported the project "sometime in the future", which Auckland Transport said could be 2025 and the Government 2030, subject to it being financiallyviable.

"Rail is a 'black hole of Calcutta' and is soaking up 80 per cent of the public transport budget and costing ratepayers around $461 million over the next three years," he said.

"There is a lot to be done in other areas before we get into sucking all the lifeblood out of Auckland into this one project."

Centre-right and independent councillor Cameron Brewer is also becoming increasingly concerned about the cost of the rail link after initially supporting the project and work to secure the designation and buy properties along the 3.5km underground route.

Mr Brewer said he had yet to be convinced about the cost and benefits of the project, including the benefits to nearly 90 per cent of Aucklanders who do not work or live in the CBD who may have to pay for it through tolls or a regional petrol tax.

Mr Brown did not want to comment about C&R's internal wranglings on the rail link, but said he could not see how councillors could ignore the latest poll.

"The poll showed overwhelming support for the city rail link and integrated bus and rail improvements to public transport across Auckland."

Rail wrangle

•C&R councillors George Wood and Dick Quax blast the $2.86 billion rail link
•C&R leader Christine Fletcher says the ticket supports the link
•Mayor Len Brown points to a poll showing 64 per cent support

- NZ Herald

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