Gareth Hughes (Green-7, candidate for Ōhariu) has said "Rail freight and coastal shipping are more sustainable, safe, and energy efficient modes for moving freight." ACT hasn't been too impressed with this, and the shipping part is bad timing with the oil spill, but finally there is a case for railways.
Public transport (especially for Auckland) has always been a contentious issue, ever since planning policy back in the 1950s advocated a sprawling car-dependent city, it has been difficult to implement public transport where necessary. People live too far from where they work now, too far apart, and Auckland's geography with all the hills and estuaries makes it sprawl even further. Industrial and commercial areas are actually well situated for railways though, since many industrial areas grew up around them (think the mass of railway tracks around the old slaughterhouses in Otahuhu). The problem is, railways have been neglected for goods transport, and this has happened before, during, and after the privatization of them, so it's not a case of private railways. In fact the biggest interest in railways has been shown by Fonterra and Mainfreight, so there is interest in their commercial use.
Problem is, it's extremely hard to justify railways on public transport alone, Len Brown is working extremely hard to push for the CBD rail link, and the opposition is coming from those who say it is not economically justifiable. Giving commercial use of railways does help though, the amount of goods that can be moved, the efficiency of goods being moved, and the added capacity this has to our total transport network - can provide huge benefits. Doubling the use of the tracks for commercial use is not a big deal in practice, but the economic potential is huge.
- India: The British originally built the railway tracks to move goods around the country, so they could be exported to Britain and other markets. Now they're famous for their use as public transport.
- Europe: What is often the model for other railway networks, France and Britain are well known for their railway pioneering and high public transport usage. From living in the UK near the trunk line between London and Birmingham, they sure as hell get used for moving goods around.
- Auckland's Onehunga line: There are plans to get this extended to Mangere and Auckland International Airport. A railway line that started out serving the industrial areas of Penrose and Te Papapa is now looking at a new role as a major commuter line as well.