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Rail woes spark letter from mayor

The Carterton District Council has put train bosses on notice. PHOTO/FILE

CHELSEA BOYLE

[email protected]

The appalling state of Wairarapa’s passenger rail service has prompted Carterton Mayor John Booth to pen a hard-hitting letter to the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).

The draft letter, to be considered by Carterton District Council at a meeting today, contends GWRC may be profiting from the grief of commuters – with the penalties inflicted on the service provider for tardiness not being handed on to benefit passengers.

A GWRC representative says the penalties were not large and the council is continuing to work on the problems.

But retaining the penalties is the bone of contention pushed by Mr Booth in his letter, addressed to GWRC chairman Chris Laidlaw.

“It almost leads to a situation where Greater Wellington benefits financially from the provision of a poor service,” he said.

“We would like to see the passengers receiving some compensation for the inconvenience the poor levels of service currently being provided.”

He said Metlink seemed to no longer publish performance statistics by line, combining performance across all the lines since September last year into one network figure.

“But we note that the number of txt messages to passengers recently advising of train issues is substantial.”

Metlink recorded punctuality at only 88 per cent for 2016/17 – “and history tells us that Wairarapa will have been well below that figure”.

Previous statistics up until September last year showed punctuality on the Wairarapa line at about 75 per cent and trending downwards.

Mr Booth said the council wanted punctuality and reliability statistics for the Wairarapa line.

It also wanted to know the definition of services not run and late running service, as well as the level of penalty imposed each scenario this year.

Mr Booth said the level of communication from GWRC to commuters had also been poor.

“The txt service seems to work reasonably well for the day-to-day issues, but there seems less communication of the higher-level issues,” he said.

“We have heard about the plans to upgrade the track, to make funding applications to Government, to sort out the connection issues between the SE and SW carriages, and more frequent off-peak services.”

But little direct communication with passengers seemed to have happened.

It would be easy to put pamphlets on the seats of the train and to have used the Wairarapa Commuters Facebook page.

The letter, which is in draft form to be put to Carterton District Council today for approval, ended on a simple note.

“We don’t wish to tell you how to do your job, but we are concerned for the welfare of our district and the people who live here.”

Mr Laidlaw said there were engineering issues and problems with the track that they were “struggling with”.

“This is a problem that we have with our contractor.

“It is a very unsatisfactory situation, we all know that.”

There was nothing new in the letter but he welcomed the fact they were putting it on paper, he said.

Mr Laidlaw said it was not as easy as it sounded.

“There is no quick fix here, we are dealing with problems that have been around for quite a long time.

“But we are on to it, you can take that from me. It’s going to have to be fixed.

“In the meantime it’s very frustrating, and I know that.”

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