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Train derailment causes major commuter chaos

Wairarapa railway station platforms were empty on Wednesday. PHOTO/FILE

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The capital’s roads were thrown into chaos on Wednesday morning as rail commuters attempted to reach work in the capital after a freight train derailment close to Wellington station on Tuesday night closed down most of the region’s rail network.

The incident damaged eight sets of points and sections of track, when four container wagons on a freight train derailed at the junction as it was leaving the Wellington rail yard.

Featherston resident and commuter advocate Greg Kerr took more than two and a half hours to get to work in Petone, offering fellow train passengers a ride to Wellington after getting a text on Tuesday night saying there might be disruptions.

He said he didn’t know about bus replacements until he read about it on the commuter Facebook page, and he knew six buses would not be enough to replace the three regular morning services.

While “stuff happens and we appreciate that”, he was frustrated by the scale of the outage and level of disruption.

“The whole of Wellington has been inconvenienced. It costs, especially with people going over for work with meetings organised for in the morning.”

He said Metlink needed to show some goodwill and offer commuters a free travel day.

Another Wairarapa commuter stayed up past midnight on Tuesday to get the latest information on the train cancellations.

Martin Grimshaw managed to get a lift to Wellington with his daughter, as he knew the bus replacements wouldn’t be enough.

“There have been quite a few problems on this line, but I have never known complete cancellation,” he said.

“If there is, it would tend to be [organised] in advance with bus replacements.

“They put six buses on but that would be nowhere near enough for the commuters from Wairarapa.”

Grimshaw said it was annoying that he had already paid for the cancelled train service in advance by signing up for a monthly pass.

“Anyone with a monthly pass is going to lose out on a day’s travel.”

KiwiRail is investigating the cause of the derailment and how to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into the incident owing to concerns about safety.

KiwiRail crews repaired the tracks in time for the 3.40pm Masterton to Wellington service to go ahead as planned on Wednesday afternoon.

However, the 4.25pm and 5.30pm Wellington to Masterton services were both replaced by bus services, departing at 5pm.

The 6.18pm service from Wellington to Masterton was a train service.

Further disruptions and delays were expected yesterday and later in the week, as speed restrictions are likely to be placed on the damaged section of track. – with NZME

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