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Commuters leg it after latest train ‘shambles’

Wairarapa commuters walked along the train tracks near Maymorn station to buses that would take them to Wairarapa. PHOTO/MARK BEATTY

BECKIE WILSON

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Wairarapa commuters were forced to trek along train tracks to Maymorn station on Monday night after yet another engine failure.

Frustration was at its peak following the incident, with the break-down delaying the ride home for some commuters’ trip by more than two hours.

Passengers were given the option to remain on the train and wait for a replacement locomotive or walk down the tracks to the next station, being Maymorn in Upper Hutt, to reach buses put on to ferry them the remainder of their destination.

Most of the passengers then filled the three buses and were driven over the Rimutaka Hill Rd to Wairarapa.

As a response, the Greater Wellington Regional Council has launched an independent investigation to find the cause of the ongoing breakdowns and delays.

The council will also offer Wairarapa passengers a 30 per cent discount to all monthly passes and 10-trip tickets bought in February.

Monday night’s incident was the latest of five locomotive failures and eight locomotives faults to have caused interruptions on the Wairarapa line in the past six months, a Metlink spokeswoman said.

Masterton commuter Grant Jackson, who was on the delayed 5.30pm train from Wellington, said the first sign of engine problems was when the train broke down for about 15 minutes at the Upper Hutt station.

It was then restarted, and moved through the first tunnel stopping just shy of Maymorn station, he said.

Mr Jackson was one of the passengers who chose to take a bus home, hoping to shorten the delay time.

“It was at that point where it was ridiculous that we are having to walk and then get a bus, then we will be home late again, but if I stay on the train I will be even later,” Mr Jackson said.

Mr Jackson arrived home shortly after 9pm, almost two hours later than usual.

He has been commuting for a year, and over the past couple of months he had noticed an increase in mechanical breakdowns, saying “it’s like what is going to happen this week . . . it’s just a shambles”.

Mr Jackson said he was considering driving to work in Wellington next year.

Greytown commuter Helen Fielding arrived at the Woodside station to find no bus waiting to take passengers into Greytown.

She had chosen to stay on the train in Upper Hutt, along with a handful of others, while the locomotive was changed over.

“We got to Woodside at 9pm, and I assumed that there would a bus there to take us into Greytown, but there wasn’t.

“I was pretty flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe my eyes that there was no bus.”

Fortunately, a couple offered to drop her at her West St home – saving her from what would have been a 5km walk.

Described as the “worst train trip” in many years of commuting, Mrs Fielding will request a refund for Monday night’s trip.

Wairarapa councillor on the Greater Wellington regional Council, Adrienne Staples, declared the train issues as a “crisis situation”.

“This has been ongoing for a little while, we have had assurances from contractors that they are making sure there is adequate staff etcetera, but last night, well, nothing has changed,” she said.

Mrs Staples said she did not know what more she could do.

“People are giving up on it, it’s affecting their ability to get to work, it isn’t funny.”

She wanted commuters to know that it was being taken seriously at a senior management level.

GWRC sustainable transport committee chairwoman Barbara Donaldson said the investigation would give the council a better understanding of these mechanical faults.

“Wairarapa customers know that many of the issues on the line are longstanding and go back to the age and condition of the track — it’s in need of significant investment to bring it up to a reasonable standard,” she said.

The council put in a $100m long-term investment plan to the government to upgrade the track, Mrs Donaldson said.

“Without investment, Wairarapa passenger numbers will stagnate and it will be hard to improve performance.

“We’re working with local councils and politicians to present a strong investment case.”

A Metlink spokesperson said the fault to Monday’s nights service was with the auxiliary generator on the engine.

In addition, many unrelated incidents have affected the Wairarapa line over the last month.

“The causes of disruption have ranged, and many of these have been out of our control such as a fatality, truck striking a bridge, a broken window, and medical emergency.”

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. i think they need to look after the passangers and metlink to wo wake up and give better service i say and if they do brack down they should work in with the bus companys out there and get them home safe and well

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