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Mayors backing $608m rail bid

Wairarapa mayors have thrown their support behind a $608 million joint budget bid to improve rail services across the lower North Island.

The bid would double peak services on the Wairarapa line from three to six each morning and afternoon, and add off-peak and weekend services, using tri-mode trains that would emit eight times less carbon than current diesel locomotives.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell, Carterton Mayor Ron Mark, and South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly joined other regional leaders in penning a letter to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minster Michael Wood supporting the Lower North Island Rail Integrated Mobility proposal.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said supporting the bid was “a no-brainer”.

“We have more people than ever moving to and commuting from the Masterton district,” he said.

“With our goals of reduced carbon emissions, increased economic development and positive local growth, coupled with government’s ‘Road to Zero’ initiative seeing slower commute speeds – this all makes perfect sense.”

He said new trains are desperately required now to replace end-of-life carriages on the Palmerston North and Wairarapa lines, which by 2027 will be 55 years old and are unlikely to be certified for further operation.

The proposed investment would also bring significant economic and social benefits to Wairarapa by enhancing wellbeing through improved connectivity, inclusive access to public transport and improved safety, Caffell said.

“The ability to move more people, more frequently, and faster, would provide endless benefits – both to those who live in Masterton and to the towns with rail connections,” Caffell said.

“Given rising petrol costs, reduced road speeds, and people’s desire to do the right thing for the climate – maybe grabbing a train for a faster, cheaper journey between local towns to get to work will have more appeal.”

He said the recent investment made in improvements to the Wairarapa rail line was much needed – “but it won’t be enough to sustain a viable passenger service into the future”.

“What equates to a relatively small investment in government terms will pay dividends in the long run against a range of goals to make our district, and our country, a better place to live.”

-NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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