Wellington Scoop

Is your station in danger?


Click here for a large version
Weekday use of Wellington Region rail stations based on 2004 on and off counts for Tranz Metro

by Neil Douglas
How endangered is your railway station? The Regional Council has just announced its second rail station closure in three years. Since it took over the job of looking after our fifty stations, it has closed two and opened none.

The first station to go was Muri, which the Regional Council closed in May 2011 – it had 166 ons and offs per week day according to counts done for Tranz Metro. The second was Kaiwharawhara which was closed last week. It had 255 ons and offs per weekday, according to the same counts (but only 14, according to the council.)


Matarawa station has only 50 ons and offs a day but has been upgraded by the regional council with a new platform, lighting and access ramp.

But now closures are being justified by low use coupled with safety concerns due to maintenance neglect. So how safe is your rail station? Well we can’t do the safety assessment because that needs an engineer to poke around. But we can give you some usage figures.

Our figures are based on a comprehensive survey done for Tranz Metro in 2004. It counted every train service in the timetable (weekday and weekend). You might say that 2004 is a bit dated, but that is as up to date as we can get. Some stations will have higher use such as Waikanae, and Paraparaumu will have correspondingly less as a result of the Waikanae electrification.

To help you find your station, we have put them on a schematic map radiating out from Wellington. Next to each station we give the combined total of the number of passengers who get on and off trains on an average weekday. Then, next to the number we have ranked them. Wellington station is ranked number 1 with just over 29,000 ons and offs per weekday. Waterloo is a long way back at number two with 4,779 with Porirua coming in third with 3,759.

Shannon is 54th and last with just six ons and offs. Fortunately, it’s outside the Regional Council’s area, otherwise Fran Wilde and her engineers might well have been expunged it from the network by now. Otaki, Levin, and Palmerston North are also beyond the council’s reach – all four are part of the Capital Connection network.


Within the Regional Council empire, Ngauranga has the lowest use, with just 52 ons and offs. That is a fifth of Kaiwharawhara which has just been closed. What is saving Ngauranga is the subway connection (above, with Scoop Dogs) which looks pretty ugly, but which has so far not attracted the interest of safety conscious engineers.


The Kenepuru station has poor street access through a narrow tunnel and its shelter is in a disgraceful state. Potentially serving the nearby hospital, it has low usage at only 311 ons/offs a day. Attempts have been made to close the station in the past and it looks like it is on borrowed time.


At Waikanae, however, the regional council needs to be applauded for the fantastic upgrade of this station as part of electrification extension from Paraparaumu. The station has all the features and is highly rated by users. Usage has increased from the 220 when only the ‘once a day’ Capital connection stopped to as many as 1,500 based on recent surveys I’ve been involved in.

In our table (at the top), we have used shading to help you spot the thriving stations from the endangered ones. The top ten stations are in bold and shaded, whereas the low use stations are shown with a thin circle, a red endangered exclamation mark, and an italicized name. The two ‘dead’ stations are marked with a † rest in peace sign.

What can you do to help stop your station from becoming another Muri or Kaiwharawhara? Well, you can start using it and encourage your friends to do so too. Use it or lose it should be our motto. Oh, and pester the Regional Council to start counting you when you do get out and about on a train, and tell them to start publishing some reliable figures.

Neil Douglas is a Wellington transport economist


  1. Sue Hurst, 25. November 2013, 10:43

    Otaki is within the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s responsibilty for the provision of Public Transport.

  2. Traveller, 25. November 2013, 11:08

    So it’s in danger …

  3. Rail Express, 25. November 2013, 17:19

    What about trips between stations? We may know on/off boardings, but what would be interesting is the number of trips from one potential closed station to a new potential closed station? I assume not all trips are just to Wellington.

    Regional Stations provide not only accessibility but local Amenity and a “Value” Option to the community. You can’t put a true price on the Option as each user has a different Willingness to Pay.

    The cost of servicing the network should be offset by those inner city types with high disposable incomes. Fringe dwellers for once should not be bearing the cost. It’s time for the yuppies to put down the Cognac and help others.

  4. Jeremy Bentham, 25. November 2013, 20:22

    More reliable figures needed as Neil Douglas states. Well said.

  5. Neil Douglas, 25. November 2013, 22:58

    Rail Express:

    Full station to station trip matrices are in the Douglas Economics report based on questionnaire surveys factored to the on and off totals.

    If you are interested I can send you full ‘OD’ matrices by time of day. For Ngauranga it will be a sparse matrix but there are a 255 flows for Kaiwharawhara.
    Send me an email to DouglasEconomics@ihug.co.nz

  6. Kara Lipski, 29. November 2013, 8:26

    I’d like to kick off discussion on why Tranzmetro/ GW /Kiwirail choose to close down the Kapiti line on long weekends to do endless maintenance. I found out by accident that all the long weekends next year are targeted by Tranzmetro to do work on the Kapiti Line. Surely they must have finished the job by now!

  7. Cr Paul Bruce, 30. November 2013, 11:41

    Thanks to Neil Douglas for providing this background information, and for the useful comments.

    I did not support Kaiwharawhara Station being closed permanently. However, the station bridge cannot be used in its present state, and Councillors made a decision based on the limited information supplied to close it. The task now, is to make a strong case for its reopening, based on predicted future use from customers, shop staff who do not have adequate bus connections, and possible use as a connector to the Great Harbour Way (GHW), Kaiwharawhara infill, estuary and beach if CentrePort, InterIslander and KiwiRail were to agree.

    We need a survey of local business and their customers, economic indicators to show what the trends are for this community, and a feasibility study from WCC with costs and logistics of a connector bridge (or subway) to potential GHW route.

  8. Traveller, 30. November 2013, 12:17

    Why did councillors make a decision based in limited information? Neil Douglas makes it clear that many more facts were available, had councillors taken the time to request them.

  9. Neil Douglas, 1. December 2013, 7:41

    Traveller – send me an email and I’ll send you my report on Rail patronage in the Wellington region.

    Yes, I certainly agree that important decisions must be based on facts, and evaluations based on these facts.

    In future, I would like to see numerical financial and economic evaluations done on asset closures as well as the sometimes ‘dream land’ of proposed investments. There wasn”t one for Kaiwharawhara if you check the GWRC report – see Kaiwharawhara closure article for the link. 47 pages but no evaluation as such.

    Finally there is too much secrecy. Not only here but in NSW. Check out this article by the investigive journalist Jacob Saulwick of the Sydney Morning Herald.


  10. Simon, 1. December 2013, 17:48

    I find that figure for Kaiwharawhara surprisingly high. Seems like the train seldom used to stop at that station on the way into town, ‘cos so few people wanted to get off there.

    Might be worth adding to that diagram a symbol indicating which stations are well serviced by buses (like Kaiwharawhara).