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Regional Council notes

July 6, 2020 July 2020 No Comments

Wairarapa Trains have been in the news recently with the announcement of five million dollars of government funding to progress a detailed business case and commence procurement for regional trains for Wairarapa and Manawatu.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has been working with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency for some time to secure this funding with GW Chair, Daran Ponter, presenting government ministers with cans of sardines to demonstrate what commuters will experience in peak times if additional trains aren’t purchased.

Population growth in the Wellington region has accelerated much faster than forecast over the last five years according to census data.   Wairarapa has had a fair share of that increase so any capacity for growth built into the Wairarapa line, when the trains were upgraded in 2007, has been used and our trains are full.  Couple this with few off peak options and increasing unreliability makes locals feel that Wairarapa deserves a better deal.

Well, this latest funding announcement along with the already committed money for track and signal upgrades have us well on the way to a brand new train set with increased reliability that modern equipment and technology brings.

The trouble is that getting new trains is not a quick exercise.  We need to make sure that what is ordered will serve us well both as transport and environmentally not just now but for the future.  We need trains that are compatible with the metropolitan ones but supply resilience as well.

Why not just electrify the Wairarapa Line and run the metro trains through to Masterton people ask?  At first glance this seems the right thing to do but electrification of the line, especially through the tunnel, is extremely expensive.  That expense does not deliver one extra seat in our crowded trains and more seats is actually what we need most.  

We are better off to buy some form of hybrid units that run on the grid in Wellington and are powered by an alternative form from Upper Hutt onwards.  That way we have not only our extra capacity but trains that can still run if the electricity network fails.

All these challenges will be scrutinised as the business case and specifications are worked through in detail but things are looking bright for Wairarapa rail.

Adrienne Staples

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