Commuter rail on track for sweeping changes
Sweeping changes have been proposed for the Wellington region’s commuter rail services, with passengers who use the Wairarapa’s notoriously laterunning trains set to be the main beneficiaries.
Sometime after Easter 2018, offpeak trains are set to begin running every 20 minutes, rather than every half hour, on the Johnsonville, Kapiti and Hutt Valley lines.
Peak-time services will also be adjusted to improve spacing between trains.
Greater Wellington Regional Council is also pondering increasing the premium that Hutt Valley commuters pay to use Wairarapabound trains instead of Hutt trains, which share the same track. The aim would be to have fewer Wairarapa trains stopping in the Hutt Valley.
The Wairarapa line, which runs between Wellington and Masterton, has become so bad that only 64 per cent of trains arrived on time between July and May, a decrease of 18 percentage points over the previous 12 months.
While the track will ultimately need an estimated $60 million
upgrade to fix its problems, a number of short-term solutions have been proposed to reduce delays and disruptions in the meantime.
They include running extra trains during peak times, possibly by bringing in surplus diesel trains from Auckland, as well as adjusting capacity to meet demand.
Timetable changes are also being considered to prevent Wairarapa trains, with few scheduled stops in the Hutt Valley, getting stuck behind frequentlystopping Hutt trains.
Low-cost track improvements are also being looked at.
The suggestions for the Wairarapa line come after regional councillors requested an explanation for the line’s poor performance, and that subsequent urgent improvements be made.
The ageing track mean Wairarapa trains are subject to speed restrictions, and the council is hoping funding for repairs will be allocated in next year’s Budget.
Public transport general manager Wayne Hastie said it was unclear when the proposed changes would come into effect.