Horizons offers Connection cash
Hold that train!EMMA HORSLEY
Horizons councillors have voted to offer a bandaid to the Capital Connection by earmarking money for the struggling rail service to keep going for another year.
Although the NZ Transport Agency has refused to throw the financially-strapped service a cash lifeline, both Horizons and Greater Wellington regional councils have said they want to pursue funding options and are preparing a business plan in an effort to change its mind.
Any subsidy from both councils would be contingent on receiving a subsidy from the agency.
Using the reserves funding would mean that the train service could continue for at least another year before Horizons discussed funding options with the community.
The regional council yesterday agreed to use funding available in transport scheme reserves for the 2012-13 year, and from 2013-14 onwards rates for the service would be collected in the urban areas that benefit from the service. That would be if consultation with ratepayers showed the council that the service was wanted.
Horizons said it classed the areas benefiting most from the service as Manawatu and Horowhenua districts and Palmerston North City.
NZTA regional director Jenny Chetwynd has repeatedly said the agency cannot justify funding the Capital Connection.
Earlier this year, KiwiRail approached both Horizons and GWRC about the possibilities of financially supporting the service, as patronage and revenue has dropped since the introduction of TranzMetro services to Waikanae.
KiwiRail figures show about 15,000 people travel on the commuter train each month and Horizons figures state that 22 per cent of passengers board the train at Palmerston North.
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said any funding from the regional councils was reliant on NZTA coming to the party.
"If they [NZTA] put in 50 per cent, we will split the rest between us."
In May the council resolved to approve pursuing a joint Horizons/GWRC/NZTA funding proposal for a five-year period, coupled with a further fare increase and negotiations to extend the service in the interim. Shortly after that decision the transport agency announced its decision to withdraw support.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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