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94 per cent of commuters can’t get no satisfaction

Commuters at Carterton’s train station on Thursday. PHOTOS/JOHN LAZO-RON

Commuters praise staff

With Metlink’s public transport survey showing overwhelming satisfaction with services, the Times-Age did its own research, and found quite the opposite.

It’s no secret that Wairarapa’s train service – or lack thereof at times – has been an issue for a while.

But you wouldn’t have thought so based on Metlink’s latest passenger satisfaction survey that showed 94 per cent of customers interviewed were confident in the region’s public transport network.

It is an increase compared with 87 per cent satisfaction in its last survey undertaken in May 2019.

The survey interviewed 3228 people on board Metlink services [buses, trains, and ferries] across the Wellington region during October to November last year to understand their first-hand experiences.

The Times-Age asked Metlink how many people from Wairarapa were surveyed, but Metlink was unable to provide the specific information at the time of print.

The Times-Age conducted its own survey and asked Wairarapa commuters on social media if they were satisfied with the current service.

Results didn’t match up to what Metlink’s overall survey found.

In Wairarapa, more than 900 people use the train every day commute to Wellington for work.

Of 84 people who responded to the Times-Age survey, 79 were not satisfied with the train service.

Many cited regular delays, bus replacements, the single rail track, and infrastructure as significant issues with the Wairarapa Line.

Carterton resident Jasper Irvine has been catching the train from Carterton to Wellington for work for just under a year now.

Irvine said the lack of communication about the regular delays made him a dissatisfied passenger.

“You can understand [the delays] when things go wrong that are out of their control, however there’s a complete lack of communication around that, so you find out things retrospectively.”

Irvine said the delays were disruptive to people’s lives.

“I don’t think commuters are concerned with being five or 10 minutes, or even 15 minutes late,” he said.

“[It’s] when it’s half an hour to 45 minutes late which throws out other commitments.”

Despite the frustration, Irvine said that it was a great ride when the service was running on time.

“When [the train’s] on time, when it works, it’s such a good service.

“It doesn’t stop that often, and there’s beautiful views so I’m more than happy to spend an hour and a half on it.”

“Over winter, I thought the service was really good for commuters. There was the odd delay but nothing crazy but coming into summer it’s been absolutely horrendous.

“It’s almost a surprise when it’s on time.”

Wairarapa commuter Rod Wingate.

Fellow Carterton commuter Rod Wingate couldn’t agree more and said 2021 had been “pear-shaped” when it came to the Wairarapa Line.

“I can’t remember the last time the train’s been on time except for [Thursday],” he said.

“The delays are incredibly common and then it gets worse if there’s a bus replacement.

“It’s not worth it. My wife has had to come over the hill to pick me up in Upper Hutt, but that costs you money.”

Wingate said the delays had come to a point where it had become a joke at his work.

“There’s a few of us at work that catch this train, and [colleagues] will take bets on what time we’re going to come in.

“But what can you do?

“We all shake our heads.”

Wingate has raised questions and offered solutions with Metlink’s managers, but he felt it all fell on deaf ears.

“I said to one of them, what are you doing about the issues. He said, ‘oh, we’re doing things, we’re speaking to people’.

“I then said if the train is consistently late and you can’t depart at 4.25pm, publish it at 4.40pm because that’s the time it’s leaving every day, and then people will know.”

Wingate also acknowledged that at the time of Metlink’s satisfaction survey, the service was much better. But if Metlink conducted it now, results would differ, he said.

“Around that time, it seemed like they were making an effort,” he said.

“It’s been this year where the system has collapsed.”

Greytown commuter Sam Rossiter-Stead, who has travelled from Woodside train station regularly for the past 18 months, said he was not happy with the service but was pleased with the customer service.

“The infrastructure has suffered from years of under investment and is too old to cope with the volume, and the service has become increasingly unreliable.”

All commuters spoken to had nothing but praise for the train staff.

“Everyone thinks the staff are great,” Irvine said.

“They do the best they can. You can see the pain on their faces when they have to tell a train of tired people, ‘sorry, it’s going to be half an hour late’.”

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