Capital Connection may close within weeks

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 09:32 17/08/2012
Capital Connection
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

LIMBO OVER: Capital Connection travellers are no longer in limbo over the service's future.

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The end of the line is a little bit closer for the Capital Connection.

A further blow to the prospects for the troubled commuter train came yesterday with the release of the minutes from the latest Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee meeting.

The committee considered a petition organised by Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway that supported retaining a train service between Palmerston North and Wellington.

The current service, the Capital Connection, will end within weeks if the NZ Transport Agency does not agree to fund a subsidy for it alongside the Horizons and Greater Wellington regional councils.

KiwiRail, which operates the service, says it is losing too much money.

The select committee decided not to invite Mr Lees-Galloway to make a submission, but it did say KiwiRail and the NZTA could provide it with written submissions about the petition.

"I'm pleased that the petition hasn't been dismissed outright but I don't honestly think the committee will learn anything new from the written submissions they will receive from KiwiRail and the NZTA," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

"If KiwiRail, the NZTA and I had all been asked to appear before the committee, the MPs could have explored the issues such as the true cost of the Capital Connection and the criteria used to make public transport funding decisions.

"I can only hope that after receiving the written submissions the committee will decide to get us all there in person. Without doing that, I don't believe the committee can make meaningful recommendations to the Government."

NZTA is considering a business case from Greater Wellington Regional Council and is expected to make a final decision about the subsidy by the end of the month.

The agency has so far said the train does not meet its funding criteria.

If the final decision from NZTA is along the same lines then it is possible KiwiRail will end the train service as soon as the last weekday in September.

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