Cheap rides in NZ budget

Seniors and the rail industry come up trumps in the 2015-16 New Zealand budget

Seniors will continue to get cheap bus travel as a further $10.2 million was invested in the Super Gold Card scheme as part of the New Zealand budget.

The scheme, which subsidises off-peak public transport for over-65s, has proven hugely popular and increased patronage on bus, trail and ferry services.

This, including earlier funding commitment s, will bring total funding to $28.1 million for 2015 and 2016.

Transport minister Simon Bridges says the scheme has achieved its goals by making public transport more affordable and increasing patronage.

"Considering that the number of eligible card holders has grown by over 150,000 since the scheme was introduced in 2008, and they made 11 million trips last year alone," he says.

"I’m pleased we can continue to deliver this service."

The government is delivering on its transport priorities by providing an additional $248.9 million for key transport projects over the next four years, Bridges says.

This brings the total transport spend to $4.27 billion for the year ahead, including $3.01 billion from the National Land Transport Fund.

KiwiRail will get a fair chunk, with $209.8 million to be moved across from the Future Investment Fund, with another $190 million earmarked for the organisation in the 2016 budget.

"KiwiRail is integral to New Zealand’s land transport system," Bridges says.

"This funding will allow it to deliver services and maintain the national network to a safe and reliable standard.

"The Government is committed to supporting the company’s progress towards meeting operational and performance targets over the next two years.

"But KiwiRail must continue to drive significant efficiency and productivity improvements to reduce the ongoing level of Crown funding required."

KiwiRail will get $6.5 million to complete signal upgrades on the Wellington Metro Rail network.

The 2015 budget also includes $6.5 million for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) over the next four years.

"Recent experience shows TAIC needs a boost to help with its increased workload, complexity of investigations and growing public expectation," Bridges says.

"This will ensure the ongoing effectiveness of its investigations."

The national weather bureau will also get $15.9 million over the next four years, so it can replace its meteorological forecasting system and establish a new disaster recovery backup facility.

"Transport systems and transport users rely on accurate weather forecasts," Bridges says.

"They’re essential for businesses, government and the public to minimise risk to life and property from weather events.

"This investment in the transport sector will strengthen the system – particularly increasing safety and reliability, improving resilience and ensuring older New Zealanders have continued access to public transport."

The $97 million that is expected to be generated from government-owned energy asset sales will also be used to improve regional highways.

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