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Views linked to rail expectations

Calls for a national public transport agency and services from Wairarapa to Palmerston North and Napier are all part of the feedback submitted to the government’s parliamentary inquiry into interregional passenger rail.
Submissions on the inquiry have now closed, after 1738 submissions were received.
Save Our Trains spokesperson Paul Callister said a majority of those submissions were positive.
“We were really disappointed when the Greater Wellington and Horizons Wairarapa and Capital Connection plan wasn’t funded.
“We’d really like to see electrification of the lines to Masterton and Palmerston North – it’s a high priority.
“We want to see the rebuilding of the whole national network that used to be there.
“But we are also quite realistic that nothing is going to be quick.”
In addition to line extensions from Masterton to Palmerston North, Wanganui and Napier, train activists were calling for increased frequency and speed, and night trains.
Other than Te Huia from Hamilton to Auckland and Capital Connection from Palmerston North to Wellington, there are no inter-regional trains in New Zealand.
This is far cry from the public transport available last century, when at the turn of the millennium there were 10 interregional passenger lines in service.
Many argued that the Wellington-Wairarapa rail service, although not technically interregional because it was operated by Greater Wellington, was a good example of how interregional travel in New Zealand could one day look.
“The main thing is that the government makes it a top priority,” Callister said.
“I’m old enough to have caught trains on the Wairarapa line to Eketahuna and elsewhere.
“A lot of people were travelling by train when the population was small, there’s a demand for it.”
Committee chairman Greg O’Connor said Labour was “committed to expanding passenger rail in New Zealand”.
“Since 2017, this government has invested approximately $8.6 billion to build a resilient and reliable network after decades of neglect and decline.
“Now we’ve got the network back to an acceptable standard, we can consider how rail can be integrated into our regional transport network and how we can increase use.”
National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown also backed the inquiry, saying National wanted to “understand the benefits and costs of inter-regional passenger services in New Zealand”.
“Services such as Te Huia are being massively subsidised by taxpayers and ratepayers to the tune of about $280 per passenger per trip.
“New Zealanders need to understand these subsidies and whether they are financially viable.”

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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