Saving Capital Connection may cost $200,000 a year
Ratepayers would have to cough up about $200,000 a year and some passengers would need to stomach a 10 per cent fare increase if a plan to save the Capital Connection rail service gets the green light.
A business case prepared by Greater Wellington and Horizons regional councils proposes a split in the operation and maintenance costs, with the councils paying a total of about $200,000 and the NZ Transport Agency about $300,000 a year for the next five years.
Fares for passengers north of Waikanae would rise by 10 per cent in the first year and 3 per cent each year thereafter. A single fare from Palmerston North to Wellington now costs $26.
The councils have also proposed making better use of the Capital Connection carriages by running off-peak services to the Wairarapa during the day.
KiwiRail, which operates the Palmerston North to Wellington commuter train commercially under its Tranz Scenic banner, says the service has been losing money since Tranz Metro extended its Kapiti line to Waikanae in February last year.
That caused patronage to drop 10 per cent, to about 160,500 passengers last year, leaving the service about 20,000 passengers short of being viable. It will cease at the end of September if no-one else puts up their hand to fund it.
Both regional councils have proposed saving the beleaguered rail service by incorporating it into Greater Wellington's Tranz Metro service, but that would require NZTA to subsidise about 60 per cent of its running costs.
An agency spokesman said yesterday that it could not comment on the business case before it had been discussed with both councils.
But central regional director Jenny Chetwynd has previously said the Capital Connection did not fulfil requirements for investment because it did not deliver enough relief from traffic congestion.
Greater Wellington economic wellbeing committee chairman Peter Glensor said the councils disagreed with the agency, and believed keeping the service would reduce congestion and alleviate a predicted strain on parking at stations in Waikanae and Paraparaumu. "I think NZTA takes a very optimistic view that people will be quite happy to get on a bus at Palmerston North and get out at Waikanae and change to a train," he said.
"We're not so confident that people will behave like that. We think they'll just hop in their car."
The Dominion Post