Ticketing plan may save train

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 03/06/2014

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A proposal to allow Wellington commuters to use their Metlink tickets on the Capital Connection could be the boost the troubled service needs.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is considering allowing the tickets to be used by commuters boarding the train in Waikanae and Paraparaumu.

At present passengers boarding the Capital Connection at these stations, which are also serviced by Wellington metro trains, have to use a different ticketing system, and so are unable to use metro tickets such as monthly passes or ten-trip tickets.

Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon said a Horizons-led delegation had broached the idea during a meeting with Greater Wellington about possible ways to save the train.

Gordon said allowing metro tickets to be used on the Connection could provide the increased revenue the train needed to be profitable, or at least break even.

Metro trains in the evening to Waikanae and Paraparaumu were crowded, he said, and he believed some passengers would switch to the Capital Connection.

"There's a need for it," he said.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said she did not want to comment on specific actions being taken to keep the Capital Connection running.

However, her council were supportive of the service, she said, and recognised its importance to the capital's economy. However, Manawatu and Horowhenua residents also needed to support the train by using it, she said.

An axe has been hanging over the Palmerston North to Wellington service after several years of losses for its owner KiwiRail.

The two councils had submitted a proposal in 2012 to run the train with the aid of subsidies paid by both councils and the NZ Transport Agency. Before the NZTA responded to that proposal KiwiRail announced in March last year that it would run the train for two more years

KiwiRail general manager passenger Deborah Hume said any decision around sharing tickets between the two services was a matter for the regional councils to resolve.

"KiwiRail owns Capital Connection and runs this as a commercial business. We are contracted by GWRC to operate Tranz Metro and decisions on ticketing are the responsibility of the council.

"We have not received any proposals on ticket reciprocity, however if it was agreed to by the councils, it may assist patronage on the Capital Connection."

In another move to support the train, the Horizons Regional Transport Committee, which counts several regional councillors and district mayors as members, will discuss setting up a steering group this week to investigate ways to keep the train service on track.

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A report to be tabled at the meeting tomorrow by Horizons transport manager Phillip Hindrup states there are 12 months left until KiwiRail's current commitment to run the service expires.

"It is therefore prudent that investigations into alternative funding options commence immediately," the report reads.

If Horizons was to subsidise or fund the service then an allowance for this would need to be made in next year's council draft Long Term Plan.

- Manawatu Standard

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