Simeon Brown is still finding his feet as National's spokesman for transport but he told a Levin audience of around 30 this week that the Horowhenua Expressway was a critical connection for the lower North Island for his party.
He said National had committed to a four-lane expressway years ago and would like to see an expressway all the way from Wellington Airport to Palmerston North.
"The Government can speed up the process for the Horowhenua Expressway by getting on with property purchases and the consent processes." He said the Kapiti Expressway proved that can be done. "That went from an idea to completion in seven years. So O2NL can and should be done sooner."
Sadly, the minister of transport is more interested in public transport and has recently promised $14.2bn for light rail in Auckland between the CBD and the airport, to be completed in record time too, as well as $7.6bn for Wellington light rail, Brown said.
"While New Zealand has limited resources, transport policy must deliver for the entire country," he said. He said Auckland had transport issues other than light rail. In the lower North Island progress has been made from the Kapiti Expressway to Transmission Gully, but O2NL and a route to Wellington airport remain on the drawing table.
While Transmission Gully has problems, and no one knows what they are, the road itself is completed. He said it was time for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to be more transparent.
He jokingly picked up a suggestion from the audience stating that there is a need for a quick reporting process for potholes such as an app.
"Our roads have too many potholes and they take too long to be fixed, but the money available comes from the Land Transport Fund and that is not bottomless."
He said that while safety improvements and lower speeds were important the biggest causes of road deaths had to do with motorists being drunk or on drugs while driving and the fact that the police, who are stretched, are doing fewer breath tests, 1.5m as opposed to the expected 3m, last year alone.
"The Government is stalling on laws regarding random drug testing of motorists."
He said everyone deserved decent roads to drive on but did not believe blanket speed limits would help reduce the death toll. "Speed is no silver bullet."
While he praised the incentives for people to go to electric cars he also pointed out that this would mean a reduction in road tax and thus less revenue for the Government. "While rail is important, road tax money should not go to rail projects," he said.
Members of the public made helpful suggestions, such as establishing a sprinter train a few times a day from Palmerston North to connect to the train to Wellington in Waikanae.
Tim Costley said plans to extend the electric rail line to Otaki were railroaded on the fact that the trains have no toilet facilities on board and these would be required for train journey of over one hour. "It takes an hour to get from Waikanae to Wellington," he said.
Attendees of the meeting held in Levin's War Memorial Hall also questioned whether anyone oversees roading works and if so who?
"So often we see cones everywhere, which are put down and taken up every day but no one at work. Do road workers only work 9 to 5? Why not around the clock to speed it up?"
"There seems to be just one company doing roads and doing it badly. It is time for overseas competition."