Wellington Scoop

Fixing the trains, slowly


by Lindsay Shelton
The Regional Council’s poor reputation for overseeing public transport took another blow this week, with Barbara Donaldson’s explanation of why many of Metlink’s commuter trains have been running without enough carriages. The reason, she told us: maintenance inadequacies.

She announced that maintenance backlogs at the Wellington depot mean train operator Transdev “is struggling to even get the base requirement out for service.”

So travellers have at last been given a reason for what they’ve been putting up with for weeks – not only cancellations but also shorter trains instead of the four, six or eight cars that they’ve been expecting.

After explaining the problems, Ms Donaldson states that nevertheless

“Wellingtonians have a great passenger rail system…”

Then she becomes hopeful:

“… with more trains available, Metlink customers will see a real difference in performance.”

And what’s being done to achieve this real difference?

“We’re working with Transdev and the maintenance team at Hyundai-Rotem, the original manufacturers of the trains, to turn around a downward trend and start delivering a higher quality service to our fast growing number of customers.”

But there’s no urgency.

Barbara Donaldson says it’ll take 100 days to review existing processes – “making sure the right checks, measures, plans and people are in place for a well-functioning depot.” Then it’ll take another 100 days for “addressing known issues, balancing resources and trialling and perfecting new routine maintenance tasks and overhauls.”

Two hundred days of continuing cancellations and inadequate trains. Two hundred days when the maintenance backlog continues to grow.

Counting the days as Barbara Donaldson has explained things, it won’t be till the end of the year that the maintenance crews will start “implementing the new processes and preventative maintenance activities.”

So maybe next year, there’ll be enough carriages again …

The Regional Council chose TransDev in 2016 to take over from KiwiRail “to provide Wellington with a friendly, reliable and world-class rail service that meets the needs and expectations of current rail users.” Transdev’s website says it runs approximately 2,189 services in Wellington each week and employs over 430 staff. Internationally it operates in 19 countries, with 83,000 employees and 43,000 vehicles. (And any maintenance issues?)

In February, TransDev published the results of a passenger survey which showed that 94 per cent of train passengers were satisfied with their trip. Was this before the maintenance problems had started to show up?

And who can remember the days of KiwiRail? What was their maintenance record?


  1. greenwelly, 14. May 2019, 17:06

    Time to review processes, 100 Days; then another 100 days for “perfecting new routine maintenance.”
    How about instead of this 200 day time frame, we consider another one…
    Time to Council elections…. less than 150 days.

  2. Alan, 14. May 2019, 20:14

    Trouble is greenwelly unless someone puts themselves up against Donaldson she’ll be back for another eleven lots of 100 days (three years). That doesn’t bear thinking about!

  3. Marion Leader, 15. May 2019, 7:22

    The point about Alan’s worry is that Porirua was not affected by the decision to remove the seats from Wellington’s buses in order to make more room for passengers. The voters in Porirua are probably cheering!

  4. Alan, 15. May 2019, 11:57

    Let’s not forget how many people from Porirua and the Tawa valley (and other parts of greater Wellington) use PT to the city and then have to use the buses that Marion refers to. No cheering out in Porirua.

  5. Steve Doole, 20. May 2019, 8:20

    Reducing the number of seats in buses to fit more people on (or wheelchairs or prams) makes perfect sense.