Capital Connection decision drags on

Capital Connection users’ lives are in limbo while they await a decision on the fate of the service, says its strongest supporter.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said commuters on the Palmerston North to Wellington service were putting their lives on hold while they waited for news.

The train service faces the scrap unless a business case for making the train part of Wellington’s metro network is accepted by Treasury and the Ministry of Transport.

However, when that decision is likely to arrive is unknown.

That case, prepared by the Greater Wellington and Horizons regional councils, was presented to the NZ Transport Agency in August. The agency said a decision would come that month.

‘‘This wait is much longer than was initially indicated by the NZTA.’’

Mr Lees-Galloway said while the absence of a quick rejection of the business case was taken as a positive by train users, commuters now just wanted to know what would happen.

‘‘It’s leaving the passengers in limbo. There are some major decisions that some of these passengers have to make [that are] dependent on the continuation of that service. 

‘‘People are feeling that they’re having to guess what’s going to happen and adjust their lives accordingly.’’

Mr Lees-Galloway, who organised a petition to save the train, said some train users had told him they would have to consider changing jobs or moving to Wellington if the train service was scrapped.

‘‘There are some quite major decisions that have to be made.’’

KiwiRail announced earlier this year it would drop the service as monthly losses on the service of about $500,000 were unsustainable.

The two regional councils created the business case to seek a subsidy for the trains from NZTA.

While the decision to save the service originally sat with the transport agency, it was now being considered by Treasury and the Ministry of Transport.

‘‘The decision is not just one about NZTA funding,’’ agency regional director Jenny Chetwynd said.

‘‘The business case raises wider issues concerning ownership of the rolling stock and other assets, and whether any continued service would be managed as part of the TranzMetro network. These all need to be worked through together.’’

The business case includes a proposal to move the ownership of the trains, part of KiwiRail’s TranzScenic network, to the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Horizons councillor Colleen Sheldon said she felt for the commuters still waiting for a decision.

‘‘I am concerned that it’s taking two months.’’

Manawatu Standard