Once bitten

Written By: - Date published: 1:48 pm, March 7th, 2008 - 32 comments
Categories: privatisation, same old national - Tags: ,

key_unspun1.jpgNo surprise to see English fronting the Toll debate given Slippery John’s abysmal performance this week. Check out Bill in the background of this shot, are those daggers coming out his eyes?

To his credit English gave much straighter answers about Toll than we would have got from Key and left little doubt about where National really stands on privatisation. Hint: they’re all for it.

The NBR reports English as having said that a National government would consider selling off a renationalised railway company. Makes sense. They sold it before and they’d sell it again.

The more they say the more apparent it becomes – this really is the same old National Party.

32 comments on “Once bitten”

  1. Matthew Pilott 1

    Slippery Bill might have a nicer ring to it, but it just doesn’t sit as well! He was refreshingly candid, after listening to the Eel.

  2. higherstandard 2

    Is foreign investment in NZ this rage du jour for the standard.

    xenophobia maximus – so we’d like all foreign investment out of NZ grow up and get real.

    If you have the same views as Rexel God Help us all .

    Rexel
    Mar 7th, 2008 at 4:07 am
    The Nats will strip us of every asset we have. I believe they will even sell our parks as they have no economic need for their under their far right leadership.

    If National wins this election it may be the last one ever as our countryy will be foreign owned by 2011 and we will have lost all control.

    Electing them is that dangerous

    Only a sustained period of repurchasing New Zealand assetts and nationalising key industries will win votes

  3. You could almost feel sorry for Bill having to nurse such a plonker

  4. Steve Pierson 4

    Foreign investment is fine. But there is a record of foreign companies asset-stripping our strategic assets.

    Last time the railways were sold, they were asset-stripped. If National gets in again, they’ll repeat the mistake.

  5. Camryn 5

    In this case, isn’t “the same old National party” a good thing? What’s the case for nationalized rail operator? The state already owns the part that’s arguably a natural monopoly (the rails). Do we want the old NZR back that was essentially a work for the dole scheme except we pretended that everyone was really gainfully employed.

    How about a middle road? The government allows Toll to sell for a price they like by promising the rail use charges will be low, but attach various conditions on the new owners (ideally more than one operator) around not owning any trucking interests (to keep them focused on competitive rail), incentives to develop their own additional lines under a PPP model, and incentives to promote public transport and tourism-supporting services.

    I’m not expert, but a little market forces with some light regulation to enhance the social outcomes seems cool.

    P.S. Is Ontrack ever going to get around to electrifying Auckland lines? When legislation favoured rail and we had a spur into every factory I’m sure it was daunting but there are only a couple of lines now.

  6. Luke C 6

    “consider” selling off the railways? yeah right.
    Look at his next few statements –
    Mr English said the last thing New Zealand wanted was the Government to own the rail company.
    “We would be back to strikes in school holidays on the ferries and featherbedding in the system”
    Mr English even gets his facts wrong calling Mike Williams the Chairman, when he is actually a director.
    Also saying governments had a bad record on operating rail companies is certainly not true. NZR was reasonably successful in its last few years of public ownership, and Queensland’s railways seem to be doing well, and they are owned by the Queensland govt.

  7. rjs131 7

    have you got any evidence that the state will do a better job running the railways? Can you cite any evidence that the railways were efficiently run in nz when they were under state ownership.

    I guess Key must be taking the same kind of leadership position as Helen Clark did regarding issues such as electoral finance act and foreshore and seabed. Did Helen Clark speak in defence of the bill during its final reading in parliament or did she simply think Jill Pettis would do a better job?

  8. Camryn 8

    Actually, I suppose I could cope with a well run SOE. The model has improved since last time. I still think it could just as well stay private though. The main thing is not to sell monopolies e.g. Telecom being sold with lines and number allocation powers instead of just as a retailer.

  9. infused 9

    They govt couldn’t run it any better than Toll. It didn’t before, it won’t now.

  10. Matthew Pilott 10

    Camryn – have a trawl through the Herald’s articles – there was a rathe large article detailing eletrification rogress in Auckland you might find answers your questions. The gist was it’s hapening but slowly…

    On another topic, rail, when well used, is far mroe efficient and less carbon-intensive. Given the market fails to internalise emmissions thus far (and fair enough I suppose, how you’d set a high enough level that can be agreed upon is beyond me), there’s an external incentive to have well-operated rail – even if it’s not so profitable in teh short term…

  11. insider 11

    English basically said railways are a dog as an investment and he would rather others suffered than the taxpayer in funding them. Sounds like good policy to me

  12. Steve Pierson 12

    insider, The railways are vital infrastructure and their degradation hurts the nz economy by forcing more freight on to the roads, where transport emissions are higher, there is more damage caused to our roads by more and heavier trucks, and more accidents from the same.

    Not every piece of infrastructure that is vital to an economy is also a great money making prospect in itself (consider, rural phone lines, rural roads, public hospitals, public schools, the Police, the Army, etc etc), that is not grounds for the government not owning them. There are wider economic costs and benefits to be considered.

    Moreover there are successful government-owned train systems overseas.

  13. Draco TB 13

    (ideally more than one operator)

    You can’t have more than one operator on rail – the shear physicality of it prevents it.

    incentives to develop their own additional lines under a PPP model,

    How much waste do you want? Because that’s all you’re proposing. Multiple lines to one location isn’t going to happen because all that can be carried to/from that location can be done on one line (with the exception of passenger rail in highly built up areas). Lines going out to locations that don’t already have rail aren’t likely to be commercially successful so the PPP option just becomes massive state subsidy of private profit.

  14. higherstandard 14

    Steve

    Why not sell the railways to those governements who are running the successful government owned train systems overseas. I’d have far more faith in someone who’s doing it well at present than than our own governement.

    As an aside I’d be interested in which countries are doing it well I’m assuming some of the operators in Europe and Nth America – no reason we sholdn’t copy someone who’s doing it well.

  15. Luke C 15

    “You can’t have more than one operator on rail – the shear physicality of it prevents it.”

    Try and tell that to railways in England, Europe, USA, Australia …. etc. Multiple operators seem to work well in many countries overseas.
    Whether NZ’s system is large enough to sustain more than one large scale operator is a different matter.
    Already there are several operators on the current network. As well as Toll (freight, wellington metro, long distance passenger) you have Veolia who operate the Auckland suburban trains, and then there are the heritage operators who run steam excursions on many weekends.

  16. insider 16

    Steve

    Rail can’t be vital infrastructure if there is a viable non rail alternative…that’s just your political belief. I suspect 95% or more of the country would see little material change if the railways shut down.

  17. Patrick 17

    Since the 1930’s the French rail network has been very successfully run by the government owned public enterprise SNCF.

    They have high speed (TGV) links between all major urban centers, light rail, the works.

    We can’t even catch a passenger train between Christchurch and Dunedin.

  18. Steve Pierson 18

    so. insider votes for shutting down the railways, the most efficent form of land transport over distance. Who else is with insider?

  19. all_your_base 19

    How far into the future are you looking insider? Strikes me that the way oil prices are rising and the acdelerating public response to climate change might mean that a decent nationalised rail system may indeed turn out to be vital infrastructure. Of course you’re free to take the short term view, just doesn’t seem to me like a sensible way to go about developing transport policy. Maurice Williamson’s infrastructure funding anyone?

  20. insider 20

    Steve

    If it is so efficient, why does it never make money and why do so few use it? WHy are we all so wrong and you right?

    ayb

    Yes it might be, but then it might not. All the evidence is that today it is not, and has not been for 30 or 40 years – and there are redundant tracks and empty embankments around NZ toprove that.

    I’m sure there are plenty of things that might be vital “if”…the question is are we willing to wear the cost until that time that none of us can put a date to or better passing that risk to some other party?

  21. IrishBill 21

    insider, rail’s main competition is trucking which is the recipient of massive subsidies in terms of infrastructure.

  22. bill brown 22

    Go to Western Europe,

    RIDE the trains owned by the state on the rails owned by the state.

    Only the state can provide a long term strategic asset for moving people and freight economically.

    Private enterprise will only play at this to satisfy the near term bottom line.

    Short term asset stripping administrations a la the young boys in the Nats can not grasp the long term implications of their narrow band “it’s good for me” aspirations for their own ego massaging. A long term vision can only be provided by a administration that can see the big picture.

  23. insider 23

    IB

    I keep hearing this subsidy argument from rail. I don’t know how it is justified. I pay 50cpl on petrol for road building plus more in my rates. I also pay rates for rail transport subsidy and bus subsidies, plus tax for buying and maintaing the rail network. Where is this subsidy for road?

    bb

    Western Europe has a much higher population density than NZ so comparisons are difficult to sustain. But I suspect even there rail loses money. Airlines seem to move people economically, so do buses and cars. Mnay of them seem to operate successfully under private ownership.

    Taxpayers have been regulalrly burned by long term visions of ambitious politicians of all colours. I’m not sure if they have learnt and I;m not convinced we are any better at seeing the future.

  24. IrishBill 24

    Insider, I’m talking about freight.

  25. Phil 25

    “so. insider votes for shutting down the railways, the most efficent form of land transport over distance. Who else is with insider?”

    Steve, can you please stop repeating-the-lie-enough-times-and-hoping-it-becomes-true.

    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002197.html

  26. higherstandard 26

    BB

    “Only the state can provide a long term strategic asset for moving people and freight economically.”

    Are you purely talking rail or airlines as well ?

    In terms of rail I think there may be a potential arguement if the state can’t find a suitable partner (although I’m not convinced state control will lead to a miraculous move by all and sundry back into trains).

  27. Luke C 27

    In response to ‘insider’ the argument is that trucks effectively cause all road damage but they certainly do not pay the full cost of this. The problem is that railways operate under a free-market system, yet the trucks/roads certainly do not. Also many major road upgrades are largely required because of the amount of trucks on the road, and often in these same places there is an under utilized rail line that will require a fraction of the money to carry the freight.
    The other problem is truckies do not have to invest in the roading network at all. The railways have to undertake very long term investments, which private companies are often not a fan of. They are also often difficult to justify because of the uncertainty in freight patterns, factories/mines/ports may close etc.

  28. bill brown 28

    You complain at paying your 50 cents for using the road

    “Where’s my subsidy”

    Well, where’s my subsidy for you using up precious land for roads and pumping carbon into the atmosphere. All this so you can sit in your car, alone, and not mix with the rest of us.

    You should pay a premium for this, just like the first class air passenger pays a premium for his or her solitude.

  29. So much misinformation. About time people read the MOT Surface Transport Costs and Charges report carefully regarding freight. Trucks more than cover the cost of state highway maintenance from road user charges. The environmental impacts of rail vs truck vary widly by route, the three case studies demonstrated rail beat truck between Kinleith and Tauranga, but not between Napier and Gisborne, or between Wellington and Auckland. Seems counterintuitive? Well it has a lot to do with the topography of the rail and road routes taken.

    LukeC said “many major road upgrades are largely required because of the amount of trucks on the road” utter rubbish, as most upgrades are about reducing congestion or accidents, both of which are almost entirely about cars. 50% of the cost of road maintenance is a fixed cost regardless of traffic volumes, as the road needs maintaining just to “be there” in the face of sunlight and rain.

    The answer is to run the roads as SOEs so that they invest in them as utilities, charging users directly. There are far too many myths about rail.

    Perhaps the starkest reality is with record oil prices, rail freight isn’t any more viable in competing for most freight than it ever was. Rail is good for bulk commodities and trainloads of containers – it is typically no good for lots of a wagon or smaller, or distances of less than 150km, because of the triple handling and the need for trainloads to make efficient use of a large fuel thirsty locomotive. Most freight in New Zealand is of the small lots over relatively short to medium distances, not freight rail has been competitve in handling for around 40 years.

  30. Camryn 30

    Draco – I was talked about new lines to new places, not double up. As for multiple operators, it occurs in many countries. They do have to co-ordinate with each other so they don’t use the same track at the same time but it’s obviously possible.

  31. higherstandard 31

    Liberty

    For a 1am post outstanding. Reasoned debate is always appreciated by whatever side of the political spectrum one comes from.

  32. randal 32

    get rid of all the nitwits clogging up the roads and rail would be right on track!

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