Capital Connection rescue package rejected

All aboard: Otaki commuters bound for Wellington board the troubled Capital Connection from Palmerston North.
All aboard: Otaki commuters bound for Wellington board the troubled Capital Connection from Palmerston North.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has scotched a proposed rescue package that could have saved the threatened Capital Connection rail service.

Yesterday Horizons Regional Council agreed to pursue a three-way funding proposal with Greater Wellington regional council and NZTA that would have required the three organisations to split the service's estimated $435,000 shortfall.

The KiwiRail-operated commuter service between Wellington and Palmerston North has been losing money since the capital's Tranz Metro service was extended to Waikanae in February last year.

NZTA central regional director Jenny Chetwynd said about 150 commuters got on and off the train between Palmerston North and Waikanae every day.

That was not enough to fulfil the agency's requirements for investment, as it did not relieve traffic congestion.

"We don't think it's fair to expect the motorist and ratepayer to subsidise approximately 150 passengers to travel by rail to the annual tune of $2770 each when we understand a commercially viable coach service could be provided, at no cost to the motorist or ratepayer, to get passengers to Waikanae, where they can pick up an already subsidised metro rail service into Wellington."

NZTA was encouraging both councils to promote a fully commercial coach service as a more cost effective solution.

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said that, if the Capital Connection was discontinued, alternatives would be explored.

"We don't want commuters left in the lurch and, if we are unsuccessful in maintaining the Capital Connection, then other services need to be looked into."

Contact Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter
Email: matt.stewart@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @smatape

The Dominion Post