Rail electrification to Otaki 'too costly'

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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The long-awaited electrification of commuter rail services to Otaki looks unlikely to happen, with the regional council saying the cost cannot be justified.

Electrification from Waikanae to Otaki would cost between $115 million and $135m, including new trains, Greater Wellington Regional Council rail operations manager Angus Gabara told Kapiti Coast District Council this week.

"It is just too expensive, [and] cannot be justified," Mr Gabara said. New trains would be required, with toilets, as the trip to Wellington would take more than an hour.

"Rather than spending all that money on electrification, we would be better to buy diesel trains, saving about $40,000," he said. He did not completely rule out electrification, but said there were other options and steps to go through first.

Although electrification to Otaki would relieve parking congestion at Waikanae railway station, where commuters' cars lined State Highway 1, it would attract only about 250 new passengers, he said.

The council's rail plan had always been based on demand, and the first step would be to provide high-frequency bus trips from Otaki to Waikanae.

"The focus has to be on demand, not saddling the project with the cost of extending electrification."

The extension of electrification from Paraparaumu to Waikanae, completed three years ago, had been a huge success, he said. "It is obvious a lot of people are driving from Otaki and further north to Waikanae. We are really keen to work with the district council and local landowners to find a solution to the parking problem."

There would be opportunities for more parks when SH1 became a local road once the Kapiti expressway was commissioned, he said. The speed limit would be lowered and there could be angle parking.

Kapiti regional councillor Nigel Wilson said Otaki's public transport was always being neglected. "It is part of the Wellington region and needs to be serviced. It makes sense that now electrification looks like it is going to be difficult to make a case for, it is time to look at an alternative. Some sort of diesel shuttle service to Otaki could be extended to Levin and Palmerston North."

Mr Gabara said any new commuter rail services between Otaki and Waikanae could affect the threatened Capital Connection. "It would probably be another nail in the coffin."

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- The Dominion Post

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