Should the NZ Transport Agency subsidise the Capital Connection to ensure it is financially viable?
Capital Connection users face a second price rise in six months as the commuter train service between Palmerston North and Wellington continues to haemorrhage money and passengers.
KiwiRail has announced that from November 1 passengers using the south-bound train from north of Waikanae will pay 10 per cent more. Those boarding the service in Waikanae or Paraparaumu face smaller fare increases.
It follows a price hike in May and is the latest attempt to make the train service commercially viable.
About 2685 passengers use the service each week. Numbers remain steady out of Palmerston North and Otaki, but there is a continuing decline in users from Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Levin.
KiwiRail says it needs to boost passenger numbers and increase fares to make the train profitable, but instead the service is losing about $38,000 per month and has shed about 40 passengers per trip since Easter.
"KiwiRail has been open with Capital Connection users about the challenges facing the service," KiwiRail passenger services general manager Deborah Hume said. "KiwiRail understands how important this service is to our passengers and we are endeavouring to make it commercially sustainable."
Under the change, a 10-trip ticket from Palmerston North to Wellington will cost $240.50, up from $218.50. A single ticket would rise from $27.50 to $30.50.
Passenger Stefanie Backhous said the latest hike broke a promise from KiwiRail, made when the May price increases were announced, that ticket prices would increase by 10 per cent per year.
The increase would potentially result in even fewer passengers on the service, she said in an open letter to Ms Hume.
"One wonders now whether this is indeed KiwiRail's attempt to lose more patronage in order to be able to finally announce the closure of this essential commuter service."
Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway, who has campaigned for the train's retention, said the fare increase was a "blow for passengers".
Early feedback he had received from train users was that this would result in fewer people using the train. He also raised concerns about the service's long-term viability.
Mr Lees-Galloway said KiwiRail's need for the train to be profitable was due to it not receiving a subsidy from the NZ Transport Agency, something all other commuter trains relied on.
Prices for single and 10-trip tickets will increase on November 1 while monthly and quarterly tickets were already being sold at the new price.
Prices for passengers from Paraparaumu would go up about 6 per cent, with Waikanae passengers paying about 2 per cent more.
"To maintain our existing position, we have had to ensure that Capital Connection monthly fares from Waikanae and Paraparaumu remain competitive with the subsidised Metro fares from these stations," Ms Hume said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with increased oil exploration?