There is mayoral consensus on the need to improve rail services between Wellington and Wairarapa, however local parliamentary candidates have yet to make their voices heard.
The chairperson of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Chris Laidlaw told Talking Business “There are several issues which complicate the Wairarapa service. The biggest is the inadequacy of the line on which minimum maintenance has been carried out for years in spite of regular requests to KiwiRail to include the work in its budget”.
He says we are repeatedly told “the business case for this work doesn’t stack up”.
Media based opinion polling of Wairarapa residents say they would use trains to and from Wellington more often, if extra services existed.
Some passengers say the present service is not up to scratch, and is poorly co-ordinated with Hutt line services at off-peak times. Passengers are sick of having to stand up on some services others don’t like being turned away with their bikes.
A Greytown woman who drives to and from Wellington on a Wednesday night would be happier to commute to her Wednesday singing practice by train. Others would like buses to link Greytown to the Sunday Wellington trains.
A social gathering of Carterton residents said they would like a carriage to include breakfast in the morning and gin and tonic on the way home. They called for train carriages to include wifi for passengers.
With these bright ideas in mind a clutch of Wellingtonians suggested a Greytown entrepreneur could meet the train at Woodside, or elsewhere, and take tourists on a tour of the neigbourhood. Imagination and local knowledge could be used to design tours that feature shopping, dining, house inspections and short walks to Cobblestones museum and other features. Drinking laws need be taken into account.
Masterton resident Jo Waitoa-Hall echoed the sentiments of many others in Wairarapa when she said the weekend service was not good enough, and deterred people from travelling into Wellington.
“It is frustrating that, in order to do a day trip on the weekend, we have to leave before 8am and don’t get back until after 8pm. It doesn’t work for young children.”
Where does the buck stop?
Greater Wellington Regional Council are very conscious of the build-up in peak time demand and are exploring the case for more carriages and facilities on peak services. Off-peak demand is being monitored and if a case for extra services can be genuinely made then we will act on that says Chris Laidlaw.
Chris Laidlaw says he has discussed both these issues with the three Wairarapa mayors and agreed a collective approach to the government on improving the line.
In a statement to Talking Business KiwiRail spokesperson said “KiwiRail has been working closely with GWRC on issues relating to the Wairarapa Line, including the increasing need for maintenance due to ageing assets such as rails, sleepers, ballast and drainage on the line.”