De­lays force timetable changes

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - DAMIAN GE­ORGE

There are no im­prove­ments in sight for off-peak com­muters on Wairarapa’s trou­bled rail line, with timeta­bles be­ing ad­justed to re­flect the fre­quency of de­lays.

Off-peak trains to and from Welling­ton and Master­ton are meant to be up to 10 min­utes faster than peak-time ser­vices, but var­i­ous fac­tors mean that is rarely the case.

That is be­cause in­creased pa­tron­age on the ser­vices, in­clud­ing many el­derly pas­sen­gers and peo­ple with prams or bikes, are cre­at­ing longer wait times at sta­tions, while re­pair and up­grade work done off-peak is also slow­ing things down.

The re­pair works are ex­ac­er­bat­ing speed re­stric­tions al­ready in place on the line be­cause of aging tracks that are in need of an es­ti­mated $60 mil­lion up­grade.

A Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil spokesman said ad­just­ing the timetable was the only vi­able op­tion un­til the track was up­graded.

A pro­posal to elim­i­nate some of the Hutt Val­ley stops on the route to speed up ser­vices was con­sid­ered, but ul­ti­mately re­jected be­cause so many peo­ple used them, he said.

The coun­cil, to­gether with track owner Ki­wiRail, will this week sub­mit a busi­ness case for a $90 mil­lion re­newal of track in­fra­struc­ture to be in­cluded in next year’s Gov­ern­ment Bud­get.

Most of that money would go to­wards im­prov­ing the Wairarapa line.

Other changes be­ing con­sid­ered in­clude charg­ing a pre­mium for Hutt Val­ley com­muters us­ing 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.

Test­ing of mod­i­fied car­riages, which were ex­pected to in­crease ca­pac­ity, had also started, the spokesman said.

The changes, which come into ef­fect on Novem­ber 19, will af­fect mid-morning and afternoon ser­vices on week­days, and morning and even­ing ser­vices on week­ends.

They will re­sult in jour­ney times be­tween and four and six min­utes longer than is cur­rently sched­uled, with the big­gest change on the mid­morn­ing ser­vice from Master­ton.

That will leave 19 min­utes later, at 10.44am, and ar­rive at 12.24pm, a travel time in­crease of six min­utes.

Master­ton Mayor Lyn Pat­ter­son said the Wairarapa com­mu­nity had been cry­ing out for rail in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment for the past decade.

‘‘At the end of the day, this ser­vice can’t be im­proved 100 per cent if we can’t get the in­vest­ment in the track that the Gov­ern­ment hasn’t funded.

‘‘A lot of [the de­lays] are due to the track re­pairs.’’

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said pub­lic meet­ings held by the re­gional coun­cil in Wairarapa ear­lier this year had given peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to have their say on the ser­vice.

‘‘I’m hope­ful the feed­back that was put for­ward in the meet­ings has been taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.’’

Napier was also hope­ful the much needed track im­prove­ments would go ahead.

The coun­cil spokesman said there had been pre­vi­ous timetable ad­just­ments over the years, and more pow­er­ful lo­co­mo­tives with greater ac­cel­er­a­tion speeds had been in­tro­duced.

The coun­cil’s sus­tain­able trans­port com­mit­tee chair­woman, Bar­bara Don­ald­son, could not be reached for com­ment.

ILLYA MCLEL­LAN/ STUFF

A timetable change will mean off-peak Wairarapa train ser­vices should now be on time.

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