PHOTO/FILE

New funds for rail service welcomed

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

A $193.7 million injection to improve the rail link between Wairarapa and Wellington, announced on Friday, is a potential game-changer for the region, leaders say.

The money comes from the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme and is part of the Government’s record $16.9 billion investment into the country’s transport system.

Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty said the rail investment would unlock Wairarapa’s potential for economic growth in business and tourism.

“We have been pushing hard for this as a priority for goodness knows how long,” he said.

“Growth was limited with the substandard rail line, but now it could potentially be a game-changer for the region.”

McAnulty said the primary focus of the Wellington Metro Rail track infrastructure funding was “catch-up renewal activity on the Wairarapa line and other critical track infrastructure”.

An estimated $52 million of the $96 million in that fund will go directly to Wairarapa.

“This will ensure that the track is fit-for-purpose,” he said.

“It will give the Greater Wellington Regional Council the confidence to invest in improving the rolling stock, knowing that the Government has come to the table.”

The region’s three mayors were unanimous in their delight that government money was finally coming into the region.

But Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott was unimpressed with the amount allocated to the Wairarapa line, saying more money was needed to get the track up to a high standard.

Scott said he needed more information on time frames before he was convinced.

“You want to do it properly and you want to do it as soon as you can,” he said.

Government funding has long been seen as the only way forward for the train line. Over the years, commuters travelling between Masterton and Wellington have endured engine breakdowns,
over-crowded carriages, and have described the service as unsatisfactory.

A further $97.7 million from the Unlocking Capacity and Improving Resilience Infrastructure Fund would unlock network capacity, McAnulty said.

“It will enhance the performance of the Wairarapa line by ensuring greater reliability from Upper Hutt south due to the double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt which accounts for $46.2 million or 47 per cent of this project,” he said.

Scott said the double-tracking was a good idea, but that was a project announced by National last year.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson was “ecstatic” with the news that the region was again on the government’s radar, hot on the heels of recent news that 70 social houses will be built in the wider region.

She called it a “dream come true”.

“This is just huge for our region and we should not underestimate the importance of it.”

Adrienne Staples, Greater Wellington’s Wairarapa representative, was thrilled there was finally going to be investment in the trains.

“It will future-proof the rail line,” she said.

Carterton Mayor John Booth said the Government had finally acknowledged Wairarapa was a “rapidly growing region” and needed a “good transport link” to thrive.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said the funding was thanks to the three mayors, MPs, and the regional council working together.

“It was also thanks to the Government being open to listening to our concerns and taking them on board,” she said.

NZ First list MP Ron Mark was “particularly pleased” Wairarapa was getting its fair share of transport funding.

“This is the type of investment our region has been asking for,” he said.

The Government is also investing $146 million in the development of a new State Highway 3 route to connect Manawatu, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa replacing the Manawatu Gorge route, which has been closed by unstable land and slips.