Ratepayers face bill to keep capital train service

Ratepayers may have to foot the bill to keep the Capital Connection rail service alive.

Horizons Regional Council chairman Garrick Murfitt said it was discussing the rail link's future with owner KiwiRail.

"So we're looking if we could be a part of that or if we could take a shuttle service from Palmerston North and Waikanae".

Should this occur, ratepayers' money would be needed to help run the service, he said.

The completion of double tracking and electrification of Wellington metro rail services to Waikanae within the next six months threatened the Capital Connection service.

This was acknowledged by KiwiRail, he said.

"[But] there are a number of options they're looking at so it's not dead in the water. It's not a them and us at all.

"We're all working together."

Cancelling the service would cause "huge disruption" and clog up roads, which was what successive governments had been trying to avoid.

KiwiRail marketing communications manager Neil Parry confirmed meetings had taken place with "territorial authorities and other stakeholders", but said it was too early to say anything more.

There was no time frame for a decision on the Capital Connection's future.

"It's still a long way off electrification reaching Waikanae."

Since breaking the news of the service's uncertain future, the Manawatu Standard has had a steady stream of texts and letters favouring its retention.

Palmerston North MP Iain-Lees Galloway has set up a Facebook group called "Save the Capital Connection". It had 321 members by last night.

Mr Lees-Galloway told the Standard that Palmerston North needed some form of rail connection to Wellington.

"It could be that we can show KiwiRail that the Capital Connection is worth saving.

"It's very important that KiwiRail sees that Palmerston North residents value their rail service."

In the 12 months to June 2009, 185,472 passengers used the service.

Manawatu Standard