Wellington Scoop

Questionable numbers in Regional Council plan to close Kaiwharawhara station

Scoop dogs Henry and Harriet outside the (closed) Kaiwharawhara station today

by Neil Douglas
We were watching the excellent Kenneth Branagh suffering a bout of black dog depression in Wallander last night but were uplifted by seeing a spaniel board a train in enlightened Stockholm. Not so on dog-averse Wellington trains. Happily we were down at Animates today where dogs, cats and assorted pets are customer kings and queens.

Animates is in the midst of the thriving activity centre of Kaiwharawhara where there is warehousing, Spotlight, DIY shops aplenty and some light industrial activity. There is also a new Harbour View residential development which adds some population that the nearby La Cloche French cafe taps into. A good place for a rail station you might think, at least to get the workers to work. But you’d be wrong according to the Greater Wellington Regional Council. They have the opposite opinion with an Engineer’s report recommending closure of Kaiwharawhara rail station.


The reason for closure is that the overbridge which was built in 1934 has recently been deemed unsafe because too little has been spent on maintenance and it is now heavily corroded from the sea air. As a result the station has been temporarily closed. Tranz Metro and the Regional Council are now considering what to do ‘long term’ with the least cost scenario to repair the bridge requiring half a million dollars. However, the mention of this work apparently triggers the legislative need for a passenger ramps to meet wheelchair users which would raise the cost to $2.4 million. So the Regional Council Engineers want to close the station, citing – in their report to be put to the Council tomorrow – that only 14 commuters use the service in the AM peak.

The basis of this number is highly questionable. It looks suspiciously low but it can’t be checked because the station is now ‘closed’. A nine year old estimate but an estimate that was rigorously estimated puts the use of Kaiwharawhara much higher. The estimate was based on a detailed passenger survey undertaken in 2004 by Douglas Economics for Ross Hayward of Tranz Metro. The survey counted the ‘ons’ and ‘offs’ at every station on every train service in the Tranz Metro timetable. 16,000 passengers also completed a questionnaire which asked for details of their trip including the stations used.

The study estimated the use of Kaiwharawhara at 1,340 ‘ons’ and ‘offs’ per week or 255 per weekday. That equates to 125 people using the station a day (one ‘off’ in the morning and one ‘on’ in the evening). That’s nine times more than GWRC estimate of 14 commuters.


Kaiwharawhara was not the lowest used station in the Wellington metro network either, as the GWRC Engineers claim in their report. It ranked 38th out of 54 stations on the Tranz Metro (including Wairarapa and Capital Connection stations). Three stations with lower use included next station Ngauranga with 309 ons and offs per week (only a quarter of Kaiwharawhara), Manor Park with 919 per week and Boxhill with 1,249. Are these stations to go the way of Muri, which has already been closed, and Kaiwharawhara?

To end, let’s just compare the cost of Kaiwharawhara with the proposed and divisive Basin Reserve Flyover. The Flyover will cost around $100 million so we could put forty ramps in at Kaiwharawhara and still have $4 million left over to paint the station and re-tarmac the platform. Barking mad economics or what?

Still cheap compared to the $100 million Basin Flyover.

Neil Douglas is a Wellington transport economist. He’s also the owner of the two Scoop Dogs.

UPDATE: Councillors vote to close station

The report recommending closure of the station


  1. anon, 20. November 2013, 19:17

    The difference between Kaiwharawhara Station and the Basin Flyover is that politicians don’t use the former to get from the airport to the Beehive. Therefore it is not important.

  2. Mike Mellor, 20. November 2013, 21:29

    The paper to Greater Wellington Regional Council tomorrow (Thursday) says “Officers recognise that the matters referenced in this report have a high degree of importance to interested or affected parties”, and then proposes permanent closure of the station without any discussion of these matters with any of the parties – in fact, with no public consultation at all.

  3. Daryl Cockburn, 21. November 2013, 7:39

    Yes but motorists don’t use it. Only they count to NZTA, and they are queens & kings in this game. All urban areas should only promote non-car transport. Our rail system should be as attractive as possible and Kaiwharawhara should be kept open to attract us out of our cars

  4. Fred, 21. November 2013, 14:40

    At least three people got off my train each morning; the afternoon train would only stop if there were commuters waiting, and it nearly always stopped. After all, the trains would be more efficient and run on time if they they didn’t have to stop for the customers. Close all the stations and the trains might run on time. But I doubt it.

  5. David Bond, 22. November 2013, 19:43

    Looking at the photo in the engineer’s report, of corrosion at the base of one of the piers, the loss-of-section appears to be restricted to where the iron was in the ground. Above ground the piers look OK. Can this corroded below-ground section not simply be cast into a new reinforced concrete footing which extends a little way up the sound iron? This would be a lot cheaper than all new piers!

  6. Brent Efford, 23. November 2013, 12:15

    The Kaiwharawhara closure symbolises the regional council’s indifference to retaining existing rail access points where they are inconvenient, or to developing new travel markets by extending rail.

  7. Fei, 23. November 2013, 21:45

    Closing the Kaiwharawhara station would be a vicious circle. It will isolate that area from others due to the inconvenient public transport. Instead of hiding behind a unreliable report, I hope the regional council could compare the money they lost or wasted by closing an already built up railway station to the money they should have spent on repairing a bridge.

  8. Bob, 24. November 2013, 0:11

    I bet if you let some of the nearby panel beaters have a look they’d quote less than $100k to fix the rust and give it a thoroughly modern luminous yellow spray paint look. Bureaucrats and councillors!@#$

  9. Polly Smyth, 24. November 2013, 18:53

    The two scoop dogs should have a weekly column.

  10. Adrian, 25. November 2013, 7:58

    Canine street journalism is where it’s at.

    Harriet’s facial expression says it all: more disappointment than anger, more resignation than surprise. So it goes.

  11. B Smyth, 25. November 2013, 13:27

    There is no excuse for not maintaining these stations. I am so disappointed in the Regional Council. All they are interested in are the big projects e.g. the PT Spine study which cost a million dollars on consultants and what do we get – a report that will never be used. You could repair the Kaiwharawhara bridge for that price, and it would then be used every day by workers.

  12. Tony Randle, 25. November 2013, 15:52

    “Closing the Kaiwharawhara station would be a vicious circle. It will isolate that area from others due to the inconvenient public transport.”

    What a load of rubbish. Kaiwharawhara is on one of the best PT routes in Wellington. Just look at Bus Stop 5028 (northbound: http://www.metlink.org.nz/stop/5028) and Stop 5486 (southbound: http://www.metlink.org.nz/stop/5486). Bus services past these stops are not only more frequent than the trains but, southbound, are direct through to Courtenay Place. Sure you need two trips if you need to travel to/from the Hutt Valley or north of Johnsonville, but this is the same for most Wellington City residents.

    It is always sad to see the loss of any PT asset but to say the residents and business in Kaiwharawhara will be isolated due to poor public transport is just wrong.

  13. B Smyth, 25. November 2013, 17:23

    Tony: buses are good, we agree. But the numbers given by the regional council are plain wrong. Kaiwharawhara is a great place to enhance public transport use. Linking to your favoured buses is a good idea, but don’t bash the trains please. The regional council needs no help to do this.