Cars, not buses, will win Connection users

If the Capital Connection is scrapped up to half of its users will not use a bus in its place, according to a report obtained by the Manawatu Standard.

Presented to a public-excluded section of a Horizons Regional Transport Committee meeting in March last year, the report considered public transport options linking Palmerston North to Wellington.

Yesterday its author, transport consultant Don Wignall, said he stood by his prediction.

"They will vote with their cars if it's taken away from them."

Mr Wignall has masters qualifications in science: transportation and traffic planning from the University of Birmingham and in civic design: town planning from the University of Liverpool.

He said his prediction was based on his research in New Zealand and work by others overseas.

KiwiRail has warned it will close the Capital Connection in the coming months if the NZ Transport Agency, Horizons and Greater Wellington Regional Council cannot agree to fund a subsidy.

The councils are on board but the transport agency says the service does not fit its criteria for funding as there is not enough congestion north of Waikanae to justify a subsidy.

If a subsidy could not be agreed to, Horizons has said it would look at setting up a bus link from Palmerston North to Waikanae.

In the report, the Capital Connection was the most cost-effective public transport option. Yesterday, Mr Wignall said he could see no reason not to provide a subsidy to the service.

"The buses, especially if they're not well used, will cost a lot of money."

There would also be more cars on the road, both to Waikanae train station and between Waikanae and Wellington.

NZTA central region director Jenny Chetwynd said the relatively small number of people using the Capital Connection between Palmerston North and Waikanae meant the withdrawal of the service by KiwiRail would be unlikely to have any noticeable effect on traffic volumes, especially if the small number of daily train commuters had the option of a commercial coach service as an alternative means of public transport to Waikanae.

"Hundreds of thousands of people in New Zealand rely on buses to commute every day, and there's no reason that buses can't be effective in getting people to the subsidised Waikanae train service."

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway, himself a user of the Capital Connection, said the report's prediction was no surprise.

“Very few people will use a bus because travelling on a bus is very different to travelling on a train. Personally I can't work on a bus, I'd get motion sickness if I tried."

Having to change from a bus to a train at Waikanae would also put people off, he said.

Manawatu Standard