New hope arrives on the Johnsonville line

OUT WITH THE OLD: New Matangi trains (right) replace the old English Electric trains (left) on the Johnsonville line.
Kent Blechynden
OUT WITH THE OLD: New Matangi trains (right) replace the old English Electric trains (left) on the Johnsonville line.

It was out with the old and in with the new as the new Matangi trains replaced the old English Electric trains on the Johnsonville line this morning.

The first new trains on the line in more than 60 years are expected to improve services and reduce delays.

KiwiRail's passenger services manager Deborah Hume said the milestone meant reliability and capacity would improve.

''Johnsonville rail commuters have been waiting a long time for these new trains, and while it is both a happy and sad moment to see the English Electrics retired from service on the Johnsonville line, we have had our challenges in keeping them running,'' she said.

Extensive mechanical issues and passenger calls for more a more reliable service forced Tranz Metro to pull trains off the Johnsonville line in February.

Passengers using trains on the line have been plagued by cancellations, delays and disruptions due to landslips, mecahnical problems, staff shortages and derailments over the past year.

The new Matangi train left Wellington Station at 11.02am, crossing paths with the final journey on the outgoing English Electric at Ngaio Station.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said there were more than 100,000 journeys on the 10.5km line each year.

Ohariu MP Peter Dunne said when he first became the electorate MP in 1984 he was told the English Electric trains had ''eight to ten years of service left in them''.

''They have done a magnificent three-told job in that time,'' he said.

The launch takes the number of Matangi trains in the Wellington rail network to 28.

The first Matangi train arrived from Korea in July 2010 and 28 out of 48 trains have been approved for service.

All the trains are expected to be in Wellington within the next six months and in service before the end of the year, Ms Hume said.

Passengers on the Johnsonville line will be able to take cycles on the new trains at any time.

Related story: Old trains pulled from J'Ville line

The Dominion Post