Wellington Scoop

Electricity failure stops trains leaving Wellington Station for four hours

All Hutt Valley, Melling, Johnsonville and Kapiti train services from Wellington Station were shut down for four hours this afternoon by an an overhead power fault.

The fault started at 3pm. It wasn’t till 7pm, after four hours of confusion and congestion, that MetLink reported:

We have now received track clearance following the overhead power fault. Train services are beginning to resume from Wellington across all lines. However we will be experiencing substantial delays as services return to timetable.

The first train service running from Wellington to Johnsonville will be the 7.02pm service.

The first train service running from Wellington to Upper Hutt will be the 7.05pm service.

The first train service running from Wellington to Waikanae will be the 7.14pm service.

The 6.18pm service from Wellington to Masterton has not yet arrived in Wellington and will be substantially delayed departing.

Earlier report from Wellington.Scoop
All Hutt Valley, Melling, Johnsonville and Kapiti trains leaving Wellington have been suspended since 3pm this afternoon due to an overhead power fault.

KiwiRail staff were working to fix the breakdown, but MetLink expected that the service disruption would continue till at least 7.30pm.

Due to the train disruptions, peak-hour road traffic was very heavy heading in and out of the city. NZTA warned drivers to expect congestion throughout the region. It said there were delays for northbound traffic of more than an hour between the Airport and the Ngauranga intersection.

Train services on the Hutt Valley Line kept running between Upper Hutt and Petone, but not to a scheduled timetable. Limited buses shuttled between Wellington and Petone.

Train services on the Kapiti Line were running between Waikanae and Porirua; these services were also not running to a scheduled timetable. Limited buses shuttled between Wellington and Porirua.

Train services on the Johnsonville kept running between Johnsonville and Ngaio, but not to a timetable. There were limited buses between Wellington and Ngaio.

The replacement buses weren’t running to a timetable. They departed from Wellington Station (from a congested platform of stranded travellers) when full.

MetLink advised: We have sourced as many replacement buses as we can find, but we will never be able to source enough buses to replace a single train on some lines during peak service. We recommend alternative transport.

The Wairarapa Line was unaffected, however there were substantial delays. The 3.38pm service from Masterton had to terminate at Petone, with limited buses provided to get its passengers into the city.

Earlier News from MetLink
Due to high temperatures in the Wairarapa today, there are heat restrictions along the Wairarapa Line. A blanket 40km/h speed restriction has been put in place from the Rimutaka Tunnel to Masterton. This will cause delays to Wairarapa services this afternoon.

Hot weather can create issues for the rail network.

Rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20°C hotter than air temperature. Because rails are made from steel, they expand as they get hotter, and this can cause misalignments.

The rail network is monitored by a remote system, which measures the temperature of the track and the air temperature. When these reach a certain point, usually 40°C, heat inspections are carried out. Temporary speed restrictions are introduced in selected locations as a precautionary measure.

News from MetLink – January 29
Due to today’s extreme temperatures, we have buses with air conditioning supplementing the 4:25pm train service to Masterton.

The train will still be running, but today you have the option of an air conditioned bus or train. These buses will be used on a first come first served basis departing from the Wellington Railway station bus stop on Platform 9. The buses will run all stops from Featherston Station.

The 4.25pm is most effected by warm weather due to being the busiest afternoon Wairarapa train service, which travels at the hottest time of the day.

Air Conditioning Update

While the air conditioning on the Wairarapa services is functioning as designed, we accept it is not proving affective in dealing with Wellington’s latest heatwave, especially on busy services. We are working to improve comfort levels. The air conditioning system is turned on hours in advance of journeys and curtains are being closed to reduce sun exposure. We are also trialling changes on some carriages to improve the system’s air flow. If successful, we will make these changes across the fleet.

We also have an international expert in rail air conditioning systems here who will be able to advise on other improvements we can make.

To find out more about the situation on the Wairarapa line visit: https://www.metlink.org.nz/customer-services/making-your-train-journeys-better/improving-the-wairarapa-line/

Earlier: MetLink apologises for heat and delays on Wairarapa line


  1. Barbara, 29. January 2018, 19:02

    What happens if you get stuck in the Rimutaka tunnel?

  2. Dave, 30. January 2018, 11:16

    Barbara, in answer to your query, there was a case of a locomotive catching fire while traversing the rail tunnel a few years ago. As there is a natural incline built into the tunnel (so water flows out from the middle to either entrance) the driver ran the engines till the train was over the ‘hump’ and then shut them down and coasted to the open where a fire appliance was waiting. Even if power was lost on the “up hill” journey the grade, I understand, is steep enough that by removing the brake (a completely independent back up brake system separate to the powered braking systems) a train would free wheel in reverse till it could exit.

  3. Barbara, 30. January 2018, 13:37

    Thanks Dave. Sounds scary and hot for passengers in the air sealed carriages. Pity there are no windows to open.

  4. MetLink, 30. January 2018, 16:15

    Sorry everyone. Air-con buses won’t be running to Masterton tonight.

  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. January 2018, 16:47

    Have you put out a plea for car-commuters to call in to pick up passengers? What about the army? Don’t laugh, it’s been successfully done before. [via twitter]

  6. michael, 30. January 2018, 17:03

    I heard on the news they are handing out ice-blocks this evening to help with the heat.

  7. Concerned Wellingtonian, 30. January 2018, 17:06

    There must be some Regional Councillors with big air-conditioned cars who would come to the rescue.

  8. Will de Cleene, 30. January 2018, 17:14

    One day Wellington might have a car pool park by the railway station for vehicle commuters to pick up train commuters when there’s an earthquake or it’s too wet and/or too hot for trains to work. [via twitter]

  9. Dave Armstrong, 30. January 2018, 18:37

    If the Wellington and Wairarapa train network was a school, the minister would have disbanded the board and appointed someone competent to come in and run it years ago. [via twitter]

  10. Dave Armstrong, 30. January 2018, 18:52

    What caused the power cut?
    1) Aging infrastructure of a state corporation that has been underinvested in by govts for years.
    2) Privatised power company reluctant to invest in infrastructure.
    3) I’m too hot, busy and furious as I walk to Petone to even think about it.

  11. Trevor Hughes, 30. January 2018, 21:53

    Why the surprise? This is the normal state of affairs for Wellington’s public transport and it’s going to get worse. Incompetent management at every level.

  12. Morris Oxford, 31. January 2018, 7:21

    Trev, I’m not surprised.

  13. David B, 31. January 2018, 13:14

    No Trevor Hughes, this is not “the normal state of affairs for Wellington’s public transport”. A serious train-outage like this only happens once in a blue moon.

    It’s just unfortunate that there *was* a blue moon last night, and apparently it will be there again tonight, followed by a total lunar eclipse.

    But I doubt the trains will be affected again. “Twice in a blue moon” is surely too inconceivable.