Editorial: Transport plan insufficient to win voters over

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

It is conceivable that one day, the Labour Party's plan to ban trucks from the fast lane on three- and four-lane motorways will be implemented.

Increased congestion and a larger number of mega-trucks on the road will, in the interests of car drivers' speed and safety, make it a welcome move.

Such an initiative would also address the obvious anomaly of vehicles able to travel up to only 90km/h being in a 100km lane.

Delays for car drivers are inevitable unless the trucks exceed their speed limit.

Already, such factors have led to Labour's proposed ban becoming the law in Britain, many American states, Victoria and South Australia.

At the moment, however, imposing it in this country seems much like a solution in search of a problem.

Trucks on New Zealand's motorways do not cause anything like the trouble that they once did in Britain.

Indeed, motorists are far more likely to point the finger at other car drivers' indiscretions than the trucks that occasionally delay them for a short time.

All that may well change with New Zealand's freight "task" forecast to increase by more than 70 per cent over the next 20 years. Much of that extra load will be carried by trucks, many heavier than the current fleet.

Auckland's Southern Motorway is being prepared for that eventuality.

Nonetheless, Labour's ban would apply to only a small section of the country's roading system. Three- and four-lane motorways make up only 840km of the 11,000km of state highway, much of this in the Auckland and Waikato regions.

Somewhat surprisingly, these shortcomings were not the ones pinpointed by opponents of the proposal, such as the New Zealand Trucking Association. It deemed the policy unworkable because trucks often had to use outside lanes, as when they exited motorways on the right-hand side. That, however, would be applicable in only a small number of cases.

The association strained belief further when it insisted truck drivers kept to the left lane unless passing.

But as interesting as the criticisms, valid and misguided, is what the policy says about Labour. That is not encouraging.

The ban and other parts of the plan, including removing the annual registration charge for light trailers and caravans and reducing costs for motorhome owners, smack of a grab-bag of items that the party believes may just be alienating motorists.

In the absence of anything else, they appear to have been plucked out of the air and rushed out for the Easter break.

Labour leader David Cunliffe highlighted this timing when he insisted that "on public holidays like Easter and Anzac weekend, fun can quickly turn to frustration when the family realises the rego for the caravan has expired or there's a big truck hogging the fast lane".

Such, however, is the least of many people's frustrations.

Mr Cunliffe had the chance to address these on the same day that the transport policy was released when he delivered what could have been a major speech to the Institute of Directors.

Yet its content was insubstantial and riddled with platitudes and cliches.

The transport plan is equally unconvincing.

Labour will need to come up with more cogent and coherent policies, especially in health and education, if it is to make an impact before the September 20 general election.

- NZ Herald

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