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Commuters back on track

Wairarapa commuter trains will be back on Monday. PHOTO/FILE

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The Wairarapa commuter train will roll through the towns on its way to Wellington from Monday, May 4, and it’s free under covid-19 Alert Level 3.

Buses have been taking passengers over the Remutaka Hill this week and were supposed to again next week but Greater Wellington regional councillor Adrienne Staples requested Metlink get the trains running sooner than planned.

The train was not set to go when the other networked trains did to discourage inter-regional travel.

Alert Level 3 requires the public to stay home if they don’t have to go out for work.

But Staples said more people were on the buses than expected.

“It is not economical to run trains for one or two people but evidently a lot more people returned to work than expected so I asked for the trains to get going again,” she said.

Before confirming the trains would run, the Transdev personnel who staff the trains, [apparently many of whom are part-time commuters] needed to ensure it would have enough staff available and their health was protected.

Late Thursday afternoon, Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher confirmed the trains would run.

“The team has listened to customers and are preparing for an overall increase in patronage during covid-19 Alert Level 3 as more people return to work or school,” he said.

“This is why we are bringing back the Wairarapa line, which was replaced by bus services during Alert Level 4, at the same time as we resume normal services across the rest of the network.

“We are asking people to be aware that there may be some service changes, reduced carriages or cancellations as we transition to this timetable, which we will update passengers on through the Metlink website and app.”

But many Wairarapa commuters working from home in lockdown are now questioning whether they need to go into a Wellington office to work at all.

More than 20 comments on the Wairarapa Commuters Facebook page are from people saying they intended to approach their managers about working from home.

The main reasons given for this were that it would save time for the Wairarapa-based employees and save money for Wellington businesses that were leasing office space.

There is also comment that it would save managers from having to “manage” them in the office.

The commute to the Wellington CBD from Masterton is a three-hour return trip and just over two hours return from Featherston.

It costs more than $100 to travel by train for the Monday to Friday working week.

Treasury ministerial adviser Jean McDowell was working two days a week from home in Featherston and three days at The Terrace before the covid-19 lockdown.

“This schedule was ideal for me, but the team being separate from each other all week means we don’t have those casual, decision-making moments that are really efficient,” McDowell said.

“We would just swing our chair around and speak to each other and then move work along quickly.”

McDowell said nothing really beats face-to-face contact but admits she and her husband John have spent a lot less cash by not going into the CBD.

“It’s been an ‘eye-opener’ on how those extra coffee costs add up, we’ve saved heaps of money.”

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