CAPTION: A Wairarapa commuter train on its way to Wellington. PHOTO/FILE
Young children were forced to sit on the floor and women holding babies had to stand on an overcrowded Wairarapa train as it left Wellington on Tuesday afternoon.
A video taken by commuter, Grant Jackson, was posted on the Greater Wellington Regional Council Facebook page demanding answers on what the council and Wairarapa MPs were doing to solve the overcrowding situation.
But the council say standing is a “reality on peak services in Wellington – as it is around the world”.
Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said those not giving their seats up for women with babies have “no manners”. Likely Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty was not surprised by the jam-packed carriages and said capacity issues should have been solved at least five years ago.
Mr Jackson, who works in Petone, had been commuting from Masterton five days a week for the past year and said overcrowded carriages was not uncommon.
“It has definitely built up over the year, and it varies – Tuesday’s are always busy but every now and then you just get a crazy one, and that was [Tuesday],” Mr Jackson said.
“And there are people like sardines just packed in, it’s really upsetting to see pregnant ladies standing, and elderly people standing, and kids and mums just shoved on the floor.”
Those are the most vulnerable passengers on the train, he said.
“If there was an emergency I would hate to think what would happen.”
While the women and children on Tuesday’s 4.35pm train out of Wellington were offered seats by other passengers later in the journey, “they had the kids settled and bags on the floor, and it’s tricky to move around”.
Mr Jackson moved from Tauranga to Masterton about a year ago, and one of the draw cards was the ability to commute to Wellington.
“I think a good suggestion for Metlink and the regional council would be to sit down and have a meeting about it and I would like to suggest they have that meeting on the floor of the train at 4.30pm on a Tuesday.”
The video was shared 27 times, with many comments, including replies from Mr Scott and Mr McAnulty.
Regional council acting general manager of public transport Angus Gabara said offering a seat to the elderly and parents with young children was “a common courtesy”.
In June, the council announced it was working to make the two carriage types used on the Wairarapa line, SE and SW, compatible to boost capacity.
Mr Gabara said he hopes to trial these modified carriages next month.
At the same time, discussions around the purchase of Auckland Transport’s surplus carriage were underway.
“We have made inquiries with Auckland Transport about its surplus carriages, but at this stage it is not cost-effective to buy and convert them,” he said.
The council is working on business cases with KiwiRail and the Crown that will provide more peak time capacity, he said.
Local MP Mr Scott said, referring to the video, “people sitting down should be standing — that’s bullshit”,
Bad manners were obvious on Tuesday’s “not hugely crowded” train, he said.
While “this is a regional council issue”, the government has already committed to funding double-tracking at Upper Hutt which will improve the Wairarapa service, he said.
“When parliament gets back together, I will get regional council back into my office and get an update from them — I’ll give them a call actually,” he said.
Mr McAnulty said solving capacity issues needed to be done five years ago and now it needed to be a priority.
“When I was commuting to Petone [nine years ago] that was quite common on a normal day, but also during school holidays it was exacerbated and it is a real worry,” Mr McAnulty said.
Specific funding from government for the Wairarapa service is what Mr McAnulty believes would fix the issue.
“It is quite a complex situation, we have on one hand GWRC and NZTA and then Kiwi Rail, and Transdev as the operator — there needs to be more capital funding put into the carriages,” he said.
If he is confirmed as an MP he will continue to commute.
“I have just as much interest in this personally as I do as a representative of Wairarapa in Parliament.”