Government Expenditure on Rail Pitiful in Comparison to Roads

You wonder why we suffer


I was checking rail patronage figures for Auckland yesterday (August was our highest month for 2016) when I came across a graph for expenditure on rail by the Government. You can see the chart below:

Government expenditure on rail in New Zealand.  Source:
Government expenditure on rail in New Zealand.


As a comparison $11.5b (resulting in a 9c/litre petrol tax) is being spent on Roads of National Significance allowing you to drive five minutes faster to the next parking lot (laws of induced demand with roading). Meanwhile rail is staved of funds despite it enjoying success and efficiencies roads could never match resulting in continued jammed motorways (even after the works are done) and lost productivity. Rail is also (alongside shipping) proving to be the most resilient of the freight transport modes after a natural disaster strikes as seen here: UPDATED: Wellington Quake Damage Raises Auckland Capacity Issues. And again rail is the mode capable in moving a lot of people around quickly when connected to other modes: New Otahuhu Interchange Causes Surge in Rail Patronage.


So why is the Government starving our most efficient land transport mode of funds while pouring money into our least efficient land transport mode? Doesn’t make sense does it?

It would be a start to separate the tracks out from KiwiRail’s freight division (that turns over a profit each year) and give them to NZTA allowing the transport agency to be an actual transport agency not a MOAR ROADS agency. That way the rail network would be able to complete (and mostly win out) against roads for funds from the National Land Transport Fund in capital expenditure. This is remembering if the NLTF is working as it should the mode with the best Benefit Cost Ratio gets built.





  • A freight train hauling 50 wagons is 100 trucks off the Southern Motorway
  • A single EMU passenger train fully loaded is 288 cars off the Southern Motorway


EMU savings