A new policy from the Labour party regarding Canterbury commuter rail has re-ignited debate on the topic.
“Labour [if elected to government] is promising to invest $100 million in Christchurch’s public transport, including adding commuter rail between Rolleston and the city.
Labour’s Canterbury spokeswoman Megan Woods said the party would work with the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Joint Committee and local councils to decide how to spend the $100m.”
While not mentioned in the news article Labour’s policy also proposes commuter rail between Rangiora and Christchurch. The last commuter rail service between Christchurch and Rangiora ended on 30 April 1976.
Previously this year a commuter rail service for Christchurch was floated but it failed to gain traction with Ecan despite public support for the proposal. In 2015 the idea was also proposed but not deemed financially viable by the Christchurch City Council. The Canterbury Metro service themselves have stated Rail may still be an option in the long term.
An apparent 2012 presentation by Lara Peter and Marcel Podstolski who it seems were students from Lincoln University, showed at least a $118 million dollar figure would be required for reasonably practical commuter rail services in Canterbury.
A number of stations including the Rangiora railway station and the Papanui station in Christchurch have been transformed into restaurants. The Kaiapoi station itself now acts as an i-site. Should commuter rail return to Canterbury there will likely be questions regarding the infrastructure to support it.
A review of the National Party website has not shown the release of any transport policy at this stage. However a $435 million dollar investment has been placed into the Christchurch Northern Corridor which will connect Rangiora, and an investment in the Christchurch Southern Motorway. Commuter rail has not featured as a significant feature in the National Party’s policy announcements. The curve ball of the Kaikoura Earthquake, and the rebuilding of transport infrastructure for Kaikoura, will likely be a factor in any future government budgets as well.
As Rangiora grows the issue regarding transport needs is unlikely to die down. With new technology being developed including driverless cars, trucks and buses, alongside challenges such as pollution and road congestion, there are challenges ahead for any new policies proposed.