Growing number of commuters using rail service. PHOTO/FILE

CAL ROBERTS
cal.roberts@age.co.nz

Three out of four trains leave on time, with more people on or waiting for them than last year.

More people were switching to public transport GWRC manager of rail operations, Angus Gabara told the council’s Wairarapa committee which met at Carterton Event Centre on Wednesday.

A report presented at the meeting said that in the year ending April this year, 632,119 people used the service – a 3.4 per cent increase.

Chairwoman of the committee Adrienne Staples said the numbers made her smile – as it proved the region was growing.

Data from the report showed that peak time punctuality, at 74.3 per cent, had improved.

“While still not the level of performance we would like to see, it is the highest for 12 months,” Mr Gabara said.

He told the committee that any increase in frequency of the service would put a strain on the infrastructure.

More trains running would not stress the track, rather, it would mean less time to maintain it.

He said adding a ninth carriage to the train would help, but they could not keep adding to an already lengthy train. “We’re pushing it at nine.”

Carterton Mayor John Booth said there was no point in a nine-carriage train if the track was not up to scratch.

Committee members heard GWRC had been communicating with service users directly via Facebook community page, Wairarapa Commuters.

The page had about 1300 members – which was about the capacity of the train service, Mr Gabara said.

Online engagement involved notification of the nine-car train trial to solve capacity issues at peak travel times and polling on stopping patterns.

Thirty-nine per cent of about 170 responses were in favour of a train stopping at Masterton, Carterton, Featherston, Upper Hut and express to Wellington.

Thirty-four per cent were in favour of stops at Masterton, Carterton, Matarawa, Woodside, Featherston, Maymorn, Upper Hutt, Petone and Wellington.

Mr Gabara said they were the two options up for consideration.

He was not in favour of losing stops.

“There’s no need for a nine-car train if you’re not picking anyone up.”

South Wairarapa councillor Colin Wright had concerns over online consultation missing people who were less tech-savvy.

“I know a heck of a lot who don’t use Facebook – or have left of late,” he said.

Mr Gabara allayed concerns saying traditional methods of consultation were still in place, including posters on the train.

Mr Wright said he recently rode a high-speed bullet train in Japan capable of travelling distances upward of 600km and arriving on time.

He found the system remarkable.

Mrs Staples weighed in, saying Japan’s rail was incredibly punctual and precise.

Kahungunu ki Wairarapa representative on the committee, Nelson Rangi, tempered expectations.

“I would hate to go 300km/h on this track.”