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RTF opposes tolling for public-private partnerships

RTF opposes tolling for public-private partnerships

Road Transport Forum News

 August 2020    RTF News

Much of this month’s content from the Road Transport Forum is focused on providing New Zealand Truck & Driver readers with a clear understanding of the positions of the various political parties ahead of the 2020 General Election. 

With COVID-19, the lockdown, border quarantine issues and considerable concern over the extent of the economic damage wrought, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the election, yet for the road transport industry there’s a lot riding on it. 

What plans do our political parties have for transport, the provision of transport infrastructure and funding over the next few years? How will they treat the safety issues around cannabis and what support can they give our industry to help us with our environmental challenges?
RTF takes our advocacy role extremely seriously and I hope that the answers to the eight questions we put to the parties will provide the information to help you make an informed decision on September 19. Unfortunately, NZ First refused to provide any responses to our questions. 

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Much of this month’s content from the Road Transport Forum is focused on providing New Zealand Truck & Driver readers with a clear understanding of the positions of the various political parties ahead of the 2020 General Election. 

With COVID-19, the lockdown, border quarantine issues and considerable concern over the extent of the economic damage wrought, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the election, yet for the road transport industry there’s a lot riding on it. 

What plans do our political parties have for transport, the provision of transport infrastructure and funding over the next few years? How will they treat the safety issues around cannabis and what support can they give our industry to help us with our environmental challenges?

RTF takes our advocacy role extremely seriously and I hope that the answers to the eight questions we put to the parties will provide the information to help you make an informed decision on September 19. Unfortunately, NZ First refused to provide any responses to our questions. 

RTF recently submitted on NZTA’s proposal to impose tolls on the new PÅ«hoi to Warkworth motorway. We have a number of concerns over this proposal and as such do not consider tolling to be appropriate for the route’s development. 

Firstly, we have no confidence that the proposed toll of $4.80 will remain at that level once construction of the project begins. If we look at other similar projects, such as Transmission Gully, it is difficult to believe that the project will run smoothly and that government will not be forced to step in to finish construction or micro-manage ongoing maintenance. 

The complete mess that is the Transmission Gully project and the continual rehabilitation of the Kapiti Expressway clearly illustrate our concerns.

In announcing the tolling proposal, NZTA signalled its intention to have separate tolls for each section of motorway. This is impractical for commercial transport operators and will result in unnecessary administration costs. 

We believe NZTA must consider an alternative approach that has lower front-end administration costs and does not include multiple tolls for travelling relatively short distances.

RTF does not dismiss the idea of tolls on new roads, especially where they can accelerate the start of important roading projects that would otherwise not get off the ground.

However, with the Government determined to fund marginal rail projects using road-user funds generated from Fuel Excise Duty and Road User Charges, we have no confidence that tolling will be used exclusively for roading infrastructure improvements. 

The Government continues to argue the economic benefits of rail investment and is committed to developing the Northland rail route. Tolls on the new road could be seen as a cynical incentive for freight movers to shift their freight to rail. 

The public-private partnership (PPP) approach must be heavily scrutinised. When it all goes bad, road users end up footing the bill. As a resident and former Mayor of Porirua, I have watched the unravelling of the Transmission Gully PPP with utter dismay. 

It is true that COVID-19 and the lockdown presented complications for the project and it was inevitable that there would be a delay, but to now hear that it may not open until 2022 – two years after the due date – is, frankly, completely unacceptable.

NZTA needs to start telling people what is going on. After all this is public money and nobody has any idea of what is actually happening behind the scenes. Those who live in the lower North Island and all NZ road users have been expecting the completion of this project for well over a decade. Minister Twyford, who I am sure has made sorting the contract out with the private partner a priority, needs to communicate where things are at. I understand that there are commercial imperatives at the heart of the negotiation but NZers deserve some answers.  

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