Auckland politicians say the prospect of scrapping light rail to West Auckland is creating confusion about public transport and wasted precious time to tackle congestion.
Politicians have reacted with bemusement at Transport Minister Phil Twyford saying the Government may have to scale back its $6 billion light rail programme for Auckland by scrapping a line from the city centre to West Auckland.
Rodney Local Board member Phelan Pirrie said different messages about light rail, rail and buses over the weekend are a "bloody shambles", while Waitakere councillor Linda Cooper said the West was back to where it was two years ago with a North Western bus agreement.
Councillor Mike Lee said "Mr Twyford's version of light rail is KiwiBuild on wobbly wheels".
"Let's save billions of dollars and get trains to Kumeu and Auckland Airport," he said.
Twyford told the Herald it was his strong preference to see light rail built from the city centre to the west and to the airport, but if it is not possible to fund and finance both lines, then light rail to the airport will get priority.
If that happened, a rapid bus network - along the lines of the Northern Busway - would be considered along State Highway 16 to the north-west, he said.
Pirrie said on Facebook today that at a "Get West Auckland Moving" public workshop organised by Twyford on Saturday, speakers said a busway for SH16 was not on the cards because it did not provide a future-proofed solution.
"Today the Minister seems to be backing away from light rail for the North West. He ruled out heavy rail to Huapai, but now a busway is back on the table, maybe.
"Auckland Transport wanted to put in a busway and NZ Transport Agency rejected this, years have been wasted and no solution is in sight. What a bloody shambles!" Pirrie said.
Cooper told the
she was not surprised at the possible scrapping of light rail to West Auckland, saying it was never a viable option to deal with the urgent need for fast, frequent public transport to the north-west.
"Ten years was far too long to wait (for light rail) when there was already an agreed and funded busway option on the table in the last ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project) that could be delivered sooner. It's good to see the minister wake up to this," she said.
ATAP is a joint council and Government transport programme for the Super City.
Opposition transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith was not surprised the Government could scrap light rail to West Auckland, saying Labour had made huge promises with no practical plans about how to implement them.
He said National was not ideologically opposed to light rail if it stacks up, but is waiting for the business case and had not seen anything to show that the very high cost of light rail is justified.
Along with KiwiBuild, light is rail is one of Labour's flagship policies. It was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her first public appearance as Leader of the Opposition in August 2017 where she called it a "game-changer" and a solution to the city's congestion.
Ardern promised to build light rail Mt Roskill within four years, followed by light rail from Mt Roskill to the airport and to Westgate in West Auckland within 10 years. Labour later said it would extend the western line a further 9km to Kumeu.
Twyford said Cabinet decided last year that light rail from the city centre to the airport (renamed city centre to Mangere) was the priority and earmarked $1.8b in seed funding for light rail.
He said it is envisaged there will be some kind of public-private partnership to build light rail and the NZ Superannuation Fund had made an unsolicited proposal with long-term financing.
Twyford said he had not seen any advice from officials, including a rise in the cost of light rail, for not building both lines.
"It's only a contingency. If we weren't able to fund and finance it, there are many, many calls on the transport purse, then with that corridor (to West Auckland) we would need to look at some other options. It could be bus rapid transit or other things," he said.
"Obviously money does not grow on trees," he said.
Twyford has repeatedly rejected calls from Kumeu residents and the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) to extend rail from Swanson to Kumeu/Huapai and possibly on to Helensville.