Capital gets $88 million rail upgrade

Last updated 12:30 10/03/2011

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Wellington commuters are being promised a rebuild of the region's train services, but it will come at a price.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce this morning announced the Government would fund an $88 million renewal of the rest of the signalling and traction assets on the network.

Greater Wellington Regional Council, meanwhile, will take over and refurbish the network's 30-year-old Ganz Mavag trains at a cost of $80 million.

While the announcment will give ratepayers full ownership of all the region's metro trains and all the stations apart from Wellington Station, it will also hit them in the pocket.

Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said the council was considering a rate increase in order to secure the next phase of rail improvements.

"The proposed rate increase comprises a 1.98% increase for Greater Wellington's general activities and a 2.60% increase for a proposed regional rail package being negotiated with the Government."

Final decisions would not be made until later this year.

The rail network has already undergone $550 million of improvements, but Ms Wilde acknowledged there was still work to do.

Mr Joyce said the Government and the council were determined to bring Wellington's rail network back up to a high and reliable standard.

"The Wellington rail network has been a considerable and ongoing source of frustration for many commuters."

The funding package, combined with previous investment and the new Matangi trains would transform the service into a "modern reliable public transport option", Mr Joyce said.

The package will give Greater Wellington Regional Council ownership of all metro rail rolling stock, stations, station car parks, and the electric train depot.

Ms Wilde said the council had funded much of the work undertaken on the rail system in the past, but had minimal control over assets.

"Local permanent and public ownership of the trains and most of the stations gives the people of Wellington region, through Greater Wellington, control over the long-term future of these assets. [...] It means that assets won't be neglected and allowed to run down as happened previously."

The funding package will allow for more services on the Wairarapa line and give the council the right to test the market for an alternative operator and maintainer of metro rail trains in the future.

The council's Long-term Council Community Plan also indicates a railway station and car park upgrade, worth about $6.5m, will start in the next financial year, and additional rolling stock to be purchased beyond 2012.

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The move to begin refurbishing the Ganz Mavags comes as the public increasingly questions when the new Matangi trains will start to carry passengers.

One person on The Dominion Post website questioned their existence yesterday. "I am beginning to think TranzMetro have faked those photos of the Matangi trains cos they still haven't started running," Derek wrote.

Ms Wilde said she had heard rumours that there were problems with the trains, but labelled them "unsubstantiated crap".

STILL FAILING, COMMUTERS SAY

TranzMetro has a self-imposed guideline of 95 per cent of trains arriving and departing within three minutes of their scheduled time.

In the past week and last month, it failed on every line.

Week ending March 6: Johnsonville line: 91 per cent on time. Kapiti line: 84 per cent on time. Upper Hutt line: 80 per cent on time. Wairarapa line: 48 per cent on time.

February: Johnsonville line: 82 per cent on time. Kapiti line: 77 per cent on time. Upper Hutt line: 83 per cent on time. Wairarapa line: 73 per cent on time.

- The Dominion Post

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