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$96m track upgrade forces timetable change

The Wairarapa rail line is a gateway to the capital. PHOTO/FILE

Long term benefits

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The start of $96 million of track renewal work on the rail link between Wellington and Wairarapa will mean an even earlier start for travellers on Sundays.

From this week, the two morning services are being rescheduled to allow KiwiRail more time to do the work, which is being funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The 7.45am service from Masterton to Wellington will now depart 30 minutes earlier, leaving at 7.15am, and the 9.55am service from Wellington to Masterton will now be a bus, leaving at 9.25am.

The 4.25pm service from Masterton to Wellington will also be replaced by a bus.

The 6.55pm service from Wellington to Masterton will operate as usual.

Some bus times along route 200, from Martinborough to Masterton, have also been changed to ensure customers are still able to connect to the train and bus replacement services at Featherston.

KiwiRail aims to have the project finished by 2021 and the timetable changes will remain in place until further notice.

Though the timetable changes are unlikely to have an impact on regular commuters, they will cause some disruptions for regional tourism operators.

Martinborough Wine Tours’ business manager Jess Williams said the timing changes wouldn’t be much of an issue for the company, but tourists would be less keen to make the journey to Wairarapa by bus.

“When we tell customers that it’s going to be that winding bus journey which replaces the train service, it puts them off. It’s just not very appealing for them when they have to take the Remutaka Hill compared to what is a very nice scenic train journey.”

Williams said making the connecting bus service from Featherston to Martinborough could also be stressful for tourists.

But Stuart Edwards from Green Jersey Cycle Tours said the changes would be “short-term pain for a long-term gain” and would cause minimal disruption to their South Wairarapa tour operations.

“The only issue might be for people bringing their own bikes for the Remutaka Cycle Trail tours.”

He said bringing the earlier trains forward by 30 minutes would be beneficial as it would give people more time to spend in Wairarapa.

“Long-term, it will be very positive. It will be a massive benefit to the region.”

Destination Wairarapa’s general manager David Hancock said it was disrupting for some of the businesses, as the train was promoted as a major access way to the region, but the work would be beneficial in the
long term.

“We understand that the rail line needs to be shut down to allow for work to be carried out and Sunday is the most logical day of the week to do this,” Hancock said.

“Our main concern is that local businesses and visitors to the region understand that there continues to be a service on Sunday. Whether it be by train or coach, Wairarapa is only a short distance from Wellington.”

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