Government Rips Off Motorists To Fund Truckers – The Rail Advocacy Collective


The government is considering moving away from the current fuel excise tax (FET) and move all vehicles into the same road user charge (RUC) system that all heavy and other diesel propelled vehicles use. We can only be hopeful that the oil companies reduce the cost of petrol accordingly.

The government has also scrapped the iReX rail ferry project and has indicated a preference for non-rail capable ferries for the Cook Strait. This will lead to trucks only crossing the Cook Strait due to rail having to double handle freight on this route.

Niall Robertson, the National Coordinator of TRAC says, “…by scrapping the rail capable ferries, Nicola Willis has either unwittingly or knowingly condemned the rail system between Christchurch and Hamilton to being unviable going forward, with a large increase of heavy trucks on that route.”

Rail is extremely efficient in moving large volumes of freight and is able to offer the lowest possible rates for non-urgent freight. On some routes (currently Auckland to Christchurch) rail can even compete for urgent freight with the most competitive rates, provided volumes are large enough, which in many cases are. Rail is safe, doesn’t pollute or cause road congestion. Road transport cannot handle bulk freight items like export containers, logs, coal and milk. While successive governments have built more motorways and straightened roads, new solutions for rail infrastructure were never considered.

Robertson says, “There is a myth that trucks are cheaper and more efficient. They do well for door to door deliveries and just in time products. However, at what price and who pays? Trucks are road hazards, polluters and cause congestion. They also do 99% of all the road damage as road damage goes up exponentially with every tonne added to the weight of a vehicle. They are now subsidised by motorists”.

Robertson adds, “… when the fuel excise tax (FET) and road user charges (RUC’s) of vehicles under 3.5 tonnes are added up (2022-23 figures), the revenue collected is $1.892 billion, but the revenue collected by vehicles over 3.5 tonnes is a mere $785.4 million. Truck RUC’s do not reflect the effect they have on congestion, road damage, safety and pollution. They are being subsidised by other road users by a 3 to 1 ratio. These figures will be a surprise to most motorists and brings a lie to the idea that rail is so much more expensive. In fact, motorists would be far better off subsidising rail!”

Robertson says, “Trucks will usually have 70% of the freight task to deal with, but currently the road transport lobby and ideologists are trying to take over rail’s role”.

TRAC chair, Guy Wellwood says, “The current government has embarked on an erroneous anti-rail, pro-road set of policies which is not ideal during a climate crisis, with a high road toll, with new evidence appearing regarding the health effects of tyre dust. Also there is a list of road transport projects for which there is a $24 billion dollar hole. Now is not the time to destroy rail, but embrace it!”

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