Geoff Simmons has a good piece at Interest where he points out that road and rail aren’t measured on the same basis and ripping up the rails could impose substantial increases in cost for maintaining and upgrading roads.
If you want to see what happens to roads when there is no rail or reduced rail have a look at the East Coast. The roads north of Gisborne are stuffed from all the forestry trucks and the roads to the south are stuffed because what used to be transported by rail now goes by road!
Over the next few decades tens of millions of dollars more than it would have cost to sort out the washed out rail link will be spent on keeping those roads alive will be wasted. Yes, the geography is difficult but forestry plantation owners not cleaning up after harvest should be sent that bill.
All of this obsession over roads and roading shows no one thinks clearly about the value of time. Yes it’s cheaper to build or buy way out in the suburbs but the cost of commuting is that you literally trade away years of your life over the course of a few decades in the labour force for the sake of “affordable” home ownership. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a tragic waste of the most valuable thing any human being has – time!