Thousands of Wairarapa Ed Sheeran fans faced hours of delays travelling not only to, but from, the singer’s sold-out Wellington concert.
A broken-down logging truck blocked Remutaka Hill Rd from 1pm to 5pm on Thursday, while Metlink had replaced all off-peak trains with buses to enable track maintenance and failed to schedule any extra services for the stadium event.
The last Wellington-bound service left Masterton at 3.38pm but because it was a bus replacement, it had to wait for Remutaka Hill Rd to reopen.
Metlink general manager Samantha Gain said the track maintenance was scheduled months in advance and involved booking shared resources across several organisations [including Metlink and Kiwirail].
“Getting a good block of time to get this work done without impacting daily commutes is important, and delaying this work would add significant time, cost, and resources,” she said.
“With a limited number of available staff, running a Wairarapa train with additional carriages on Thursday evening was not possible.”
After the concert, thousands crowded into the Wellington Station to buy train tickets to Petone and Upper Hutt after Metlink announced they would not accept cash on board.
Metlink eventually opened the gates and allowed passengers to board for free because paper tickets were sold out, and the overcrowded station presented a health and safety risk.
There was no return train to Wairarapa, but some concertgoers took a return train to Lower Hutt, where they had parked their cars.
One Wairarapa concertgoer reported trains were so full that some people were left on the platform unsure how to get home.
“The concert was epic, but the infrastructure was not set up to deal with that many people,” she said.
Metlink said running a return Wairarapa train was impossible due to a limited number of staff. Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell was stuck in traffic for four hours trying to get to the show.
“The logging truck breaking down highlighted how much we rely on Remutaka Hill Rd.
“We don’t have any other way in or out except heading all the way to Palmerston North.
“There were 48,000 people at the concert; I’m sure a hell of a lot of Wairarapa people would have loved to catch a train there and back, especially people who finished work in the evening,” Caffell noted.
“It would have been good if Metlink ran extra trains for such a big event.”
Despite the delays, Caffell said the concert was “terrific”.
“Ed delivered – he’s pretty magical, and he’s got a great voice.”