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Complaints mount with Remutaka breakdown

Wairarapa passengers on a rail replacement bus service from Wellington endured a mechanical breakdown on the Upper Hutt side of the Remutaka Hill on Monday afternoon.

Railway line maintenance from Masterton to Wellington Station is currently underway, and the Wairarapa line has consequently been closed for 14 days over Christmas and New Year and is due to reopen on January 14, 2024.

It’s understood that while the driver got help, a passenger who was a former policeman directed traffic because the bus sat on a low visibility corner, and was given a high-viz vest by a passing driver in a black ute who was on the way to Featherston.

Metlink manager Samantha Gain told the Times-Age that passengers waited about 20 minutes after the bus breakdown before they were transferred to a new bus.

The bus was one of two replacement buses between Upper Hutt and Masterton for the train that usually departs Wellington at 4.25pm.

“Metlink is grateful for their patience” and “greatly appreciates the understanding of our Wairarapa passengers while this vital work goes ahead” Gain said.

That’s not the end of commuter complaints, however.

Commuters between Wairarapa and Wellington were also frustrated on Monday when there were only two buses for the first evening train replacement, resulting in passengers being temporarily stranded in Upper Hutt when the vehicles reached maximum capacity.

Two replacement buses were dispatched to load those left behind, Gain said, and “for the rest of this week, three buses have been scheduled to replace each of the three evening train services that usually run to Masterton on weekdays”.

According to one Wairarapa commuter, the same issue occurred last week: “Three half-empty busses for the first train replacement and one over-full bus for the next service.”

Others have raised concerns about bus safety, citing several occasions in which commuters have been forced to stand in buses travelling over Remutaka hill that had their exceeded maximum seating capacity.

The improvements being made to the railway line aim to increase general safety, as well as safety in bad weather conditions, reliability, smoothness, and efficiency, with more options in daily services and increased freight.

The renewal work includes upgrades to rail sleepers and ballast, and renewed bridges and tunnels. KiwiRail has installed 55,000 new sleepers on most of the Wairarapa Line, and re-railing was done between Upper Hutt and Masterton.

Work is scheduled to replace rail sleepers and ballast in the Remutaka and Maoribank tunnels next Christmas in 2024.

The existing condition of the 8.8km Remutaka tunnel track restricts speeds to 60 km/h.

“Track replacement is a big job and presents a unique challenge,” a KiwiRail spokesperson said.


  1. A broken rail system? A broken road system? A broken hospital system? Didn’t the last government do well ( sorry not our fault) 😅 😐. But they were in charge THERE FAULT. We need to wait some time before the new government fixes the systems.

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