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'What a waste': Residents on $230m scrapped light rail budget blowout

Jan 15, 2024

Locals of an Auckland suburb, which has missed out on being connected to the city by light rail, have mixed feelings about the cancellation.

In line with its 100-day plan, the coalition government scrapped Auckland Light Rail, which had been six years in development without a metre of track being laid.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown issued a statement on Sunday officially axing the plan.

Work was already stopped on the multi-billion dollar project in November.

Mount Roskill would have been a key stop in the rail line, connecting it to the airport and the CBD.

Locals out and about in the suburb said they were torn by the decision.

"I support infrastructure generally," one local told RNZ, "but $230 million with no development whatsoever is concerning."

"There's just no public transport," said a shopper, "traffic out to the airport's horrendous, motorway [is] awful, so something needs to be done.

"But, yes, it is horrendous the amount of money that is being spent on consultation, what a waste."

"I'm not against light rail, but I'm against money overspending just to get to there," said another.

While some outright said they never supported it in the first place.

"About time, I mean really if anyone goes to the airport they take the motorway," one man said. "If people are going to use the light rail, where do they park? They've got to drive to the station."

"I was never fond of the idea of light rail," said another.

Some were hoping for an alternative.

"Why can't they upgrade the actual rail out of Britomart and put in a line out to the airport?

"I think Auckland needs better public transport so I think if it was going to work it's a pity, but if they're not going to do light rail, they've got to do something else.

"I just thought the extension of the rail system would have been more sensible if you wanted an airport connection."

Agreement needed to sort 'on-again, off-again planning' - Heart of the City

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said on balance, it was a good decision because the costs and risks had become too high.

However, it was vital Auckland and Wellington could agree on a transport plan, which could run through new governments, Beck said.

"We don't need any more of this on-again, off-again planning."

Beck told Morning Report she believed discussions between Auckland Council and the government were under way.

"But we do need to get agreement quickly and get somethings happening."

She pointed to some areas of development. Taking the Northern Busway system along the northern motorway, and fitting it for the north-western was one positive development, Beck said.

Auckland Transport was also working to improve public transport generally, she said.

"But a plan with certainty and action is what we need overall."

In his statement, the transport minister said the cost of the previous Labour-led government's project was unsustainable.

"Auckland Light Rail would have cost taxpayers $15 billion, with advice showing the cost could increase to $29.2b," Brown said.

"The previous government committed to building light rail to Mt Roskill within four years of being elected. After six years and over $228m spent on the project, not a single metre of track has been delivered and congestion has only worsened in the city."

Labour's light rail plan had the potential to take up to 14,500 cars off the road but the price soared to $14.6b when it was decided to partly tunnel the rail line.

Read: Queenstown "super consultant" paid $32,000 a month to work on Auckland Light Rail.

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