Political pundits have enjoyed delivering easy to digest soundbites disguised as analysis

The road transport industry is realising that the Greens are now in charge, and it has given them the willies.

Political pundits have enjoyed delivering easy to digest soundbites disguised as analysis during coverage of the recent election and the formation of a new Government, but to declare it to be a victory for road or rail in transport priorities shows an ignorance of how the freight transport industry works.

Road and rail freight are complementary. Freight transport is an integrated service between road and rail available to all companies who need goods shifted.

The inland ports at Metroport Te Papapa, at Wiri and development of the Ruakura facility at Hamilton are all about co-ordinating rail and road freight movements and depend on both rail and the road freight industries working together.

Trucks deliver and collect from these and other major rail freight hubs throughout the country. Customers depend on trucks to deliver the freight from the rail head to the final destination, or get the freight from its initial source to the rail head.

We’ll use self-composting horse-drawn carts for that.  Don’t you worry!  You’ve heard of flogging a dead horse?  Consider the benefits:  no more greenhouse gas emissions once you use dead horses.  

Rail freight’s second biggest customer, after Fonterra, is the road freight transport industry. Some of our biggest nationwide trucking companies have made a conscious decision to move non-urgent freight by rail.

They will then collect it at its town or city of destination and make the final delivery.

As a general rule road freight is more cost-effective over shorter distances but rail, especially with large bulk freight, is cheaper over longer distances.

Customers who have time-critical deliveries, often any perishable goods, use road freight, but if there is no urgency rail is often a better option over longer distances.

Our organisation, National Road Carriers, welcomes the new Government’s plans to build a third main trunk line between Wiri and Southdown/Metroport while not compromising commuter trains, to shift the growing amount of freight coming in and out of Auckland. There will be more freight arriving and departing from both rail hubs.

Long-term projections by the Ministry of Transport show that while the overall volume of freight will increase, the relative amount of freight being moved by road, rail and coastal shipping will remain much the same as now.

In 2013 there were 216 million tonnes of road freight nationwide and 17 million tonnes moved by rail. By 2042 those numbers are expected to rise to 335 million tonnes and 25 million tonnes for road and rail respectively.

Less than 10 per cent of the road transport industry’s freight is line hauled over longer distances in direct competition with rail. Most is trucked around large urban areas, or where rail freight does not operate.

You ask courier and small truck drivers how much fun it has been to see roads stolen for bicycles and pedestrian zones.  Every time a council takes road away, they generate more problems.  Now that we are likely to see a shift from road to rail, this will be the next assault on the free movement of freight.

Even postal delivery has shifted from walking and bicycles to small vehicles that need roads.  When it comes to Trademe and online purchase deliveries, we need more roads and better access right up to the front door.  We’ve seen this strategic vision for the Internet, but for ideological reasons the very traffic we rely on to have an income, get emergency vehicles from A to B, to move the very food and people around we need to survive, we seem to be hell-bent on making sure that more people can go for a bike ride.  One day.

 

– David Aitken is chief executive of National Road Carriers, via NZ Herald

 


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