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More money needed for rail

More funds will be needed to complete the Wellington Metro Upgrade Programme. PHOTO/FILE

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Wairarapa’s metro rail track infrastructure catch-up renewals programme is behind schedule and an “overspend is forecasted”.

So says the agenda for the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Transport Committee, which met on Tuesday.

But a GWRC spokesperson has since told the Times-Age “the project will not overspend, but to complete the full scope planned within the business case, additional funds will need to be obtained”.

The project’s forecast spend is $95.8 million.

The Wellington Metro Upgrade Programme’s key benefits are to maintain regional connectivity, improve service quality, and improve whole-of-life cost of network infrastructure and safety while supporting regional growth.

The package of catch-up renewals on track infrastructure included the Wairarapa Line permanent way [track and sub structure] refurbishment, major tunnel [Remutaka and Tawa Tunnel] permanent way renewal, slope stability risk reduction, and to eliminate remaining timber bridge structural elements.

A GWRC spokesperson said the upgrade programme was scheduled to be completed by 2026.

They would not confirm how much of a delay was expected.

“We are currently working with Kiwirail to determine if there is a material impact from the delays to implementation to date.”

They said GWRC was “working with our partners to potentially scope cost adjustment to this programme of works”.

GWRC had also called for more protection and certainty around public transport, as part of the government’s post covid-19 recovery planning.

An item presented at a meeting for consideration [known as a remit] addressed the need for clear and transparent policy to keep transport viable during the recovery phase of covid-19.

Roger Blakeley, chairman of Greater Wellington’s Transport Committee, said the remit helped set a course for the future of covid-19 recovery and helped to protect public transport as an essential community service.

“In New Zealand, Wellington in particular, recovery of patronage on public transport has been relatively fast compared to overseas but that’s still only a partial recovery,” Blakeley said.

The remit called on the president of Local Government New Zealand, which represents local and regional councils, to work with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Local Government.

– Additional reporting by Arthur Hawkes.

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