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After Christmas upgrades, Ponter optimistic about improving services on rail network

News from Greater Wellington Regional Council
Regional Council chair Cr Daran Ponter says intensive work by KiwiRail staff over the holidays shows a real commitment by KiwiRail to improving the Wellington rail network, and represents a step forward on the pathway to better services for rail users.

More than 200 KiwiRail staff worked across 15 different sites over Christmas and the New Year on essential upgrades, installing the foundations for 80 new masts in a programme designed to replace ageing wooden power poles and install new overhead wires.

At the Hutt Valley Line’s Trentham Station, KiwiRail staff and contractors also began work on a new pedestrian underpass, removing rail tracks, disconnecting signal and power systems and completing major earthworks ahead of reopening the line for train services.

“We’d like to give a big thank you to KiwiRail staff on behalf of our regional rail users for working while most of us took a break, and doing so to minimise disruption to travellers.

“What a fantastic effort, and what a start to the year for Wellington rail commuters,” says Cr Ponter. “Renewing existing infrastructure is fundamental to ensuring service reliability and maintaining confidence in the network.

“Without doubt we are witnessing a new age of rail in the capital, driven by nearly $300 million pledged by the government for modernisation and upgrades, alongside usual annual maintenance.

”We’re looking for more advances over the coming year, and we know KiwiRail is committed to delivering them.

The Regional Council and KiwiRail are working together to upgrade the rail network to make services more reliable and to enable more people and freight to travel on trains in the future.

In the broader programme of work existing infrastructure will be renewed to ensure services run as smoothly as possible. This will involve, across the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley and Porirua lines, work building underpasses, upgrading level crossings and barriers replacing rail and sleepers, and improving slope stability and drainage, along with replacement of overhead power systems and signals power supply.

To increase the network’s capacity, and allow for regional growth, double tracking will go ahead between Trentham and Upper Hutt and improvements will be made to the congested approach to Wellington Railways Station and also to Plimmerton.

“For the Wellington region rail network, 2020 will be the decade of development,” says Cr Ponter, ”the outcome of which will be better and more reliable services.

“What we now need is for government to agree to our $414 million bid for new rolling stock.

“With annual metro rail patronage reaching a high of 14.3 million passengers in June 2019, a rise of 5.7 per cent year on year, we need to build the capacity to deal with growth. New rolling stock is essential to achieving that. Peak patronage rates were even higher, rising 7.3 per cent year-to-date, with our busiest lines being Hutt Valley and Kapiti.”

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7 comments:

  1. Wellington Commuter, 7. January 2020, 18:00

    Now the election is over it’s back to business as usual at the Greater Wellington Railway Company, which is to get another few hundred million for Kiwirail.
    Meanwhile we’re approaching the anniversary of the “suspension” of dozens of Wellington City bus services because they can’t get enough drivers due to poor pay. Oh, and if we’re lucky they might give us another consultation on if and how our bus service might be improved. Unlike rail there are no actual bus improvements underway but they are “engaging with the public” which is nearly the same thing … not.

     
  2. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. January 2020, 0:00

    Err, Wellington Commuter – fake news I’m afraid. Removal of suspended bus services started on Monday and more suspended services will be reinstated in February. Additional services are being added to NZ Bus routes in February. These developments are only possible because the bus companies have now largely overcome the immediate driver shortage issues that have bedevilled the Network.

    In addition, the Number 12 and 18 services are being extended in length (to remove the need for local transfers). Other service improvements are in development….and yes, we will continue consulting with local communities (no apologies for this).

    In addition, as timetables are updated more time is being built in to provide for driver breaks.

    Of course you know all this because you attended the Select Committee presentation in December where these developments were announced.

     
  3. Mike Mellor, 8. January 2020, 12:28

    It’s good that bus services are being reinstated, and in particular that from the end of this month the 12 to/from Strathmore Park will be extended from Kilbirnie to Newtown once an hour between the peaks Monday to Friday, and the 18 to/from Darlington Rd will be extended from Miramar shops to Kilbirnie at all times.

    The latter change will eliminate all scheduled transfers at the Miramar hub, a relief to many, but it’s by no means all good news. Darlington Rd currently sees a bus every 10 minutes Monday-Friday and every 15 minutes at weekends: this will be reduced to half hourly, and the current half-hourly service on weekend evenings will become hourly – major reductions in service. Patronage on the 18 has certainly been low, but part of that must be a consequence of the abysmal way that the connections at Miramar have been planned and managed – let’s hope that things will be better at Kilbirnie!

    GWRC also needs to learn lessons from the inept communications campaign it ran before the 2018 changes, accentuating the positives and ignoring the negatives (of which there turned out to be many). When it publicises the detail of the new changes (which can’t be far away) it must be as complete information, warts and all, not as propaganda. People see through that, and trust goes down the gurgler – as we have seen.

     
  4. Average Bloke, 8. January 2020, 15:28

    Daran Ponter. You say that the bus companies “have now largely overcome the immediate driver shortage”. Yet just today Metlink responded to a email I sent last year, saying that it wasn’t possible to alleviate overcrowding and buses driving past passengers waiting at bus stops on route 14 because “as you are most probably aware that we have a driver shortage which we are working hard to overcome”.

    “Largely overcome” or “working hard to overcome”? They can’t both be correct, surely.

     
  5. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. January 2020, 21:41

    @ Average Bloke Well, Nz Bus have committed to reinstatement of suspended services and adding additional services in February, requiring more drivers.

    The reality is that neither operators or Metlink can be complacent about driver availability – we need to continue withe the recruitment campaign and continue to work on driver friendly conditions.

     
  6. Edith, 9. January 2020, 11:59

    I’ll believe it when I see it! In any event, it’s mainly to ‘reinstate’ bus services which is hardly news. I guess GWRC is trumpeting any news that’s not bad as loudly as it can.

     
  7. Cr Daran Ponter, 13. January 2020, 13:48

    @ Edith – not the biggest of news, I agree, unless of course you were one of the regular users affected by suspended services.