Commuters on the Wairarapa Line [WRL] faced further disruptions on Wednesday afternoon when all trains out of Wellington were suspended after the warmer temperatures wreaked havoc on overhead powerlines and caused a power outage.
The WRL was already running with partial bus replacements from Upper Hutt, where commuters would need to catch the Hutt Valley Line train before getting on a bus for the final leg of their journeys home to Wairarapa.
As a result of the power outage, three trains carrying a combined total of 139 passengers and six crew were forced to “disembark prematurely”, according to KiwiRail’s metro general manager Jon Knight.
“An issue was discovered with the overhead lines on the Johnsonville line at around 1pm, and an overhead line in Kaiwharawhara came down at around 3pm,” he said.
The overhead powerlines expanded after consecutive days of warmer weather in the Wellington region.
“The faults were related to insulator and weight tension mechanisms – the operating limits had been exceeded, which resulted in connection shorting and outages,” Knight said.
All faults were confirmed as rectified at 3pm yesterday.
“KiwiRail is conducting a full and detailed technical investigation into the case of the faults, which will take time,” Knight said.
“The network remains fully operational, and there are no safety or compliance risks.
“It is safe for trains to operate.”
KiwiRail’s maintenance crews needed to turn off the power at Wellington Station to safely complete inspections and restorative works on the fault.
Trains were able to run shuttles between Taita to Upper Hutt, Porirua to Waikanae, and Johnsonville to Ngaio while all other services were replaced by bus until the issue was resolved.
Metlink’s alerts suggested passengers sought alternative transport before updating to advise of bus replacements being made available.
The Times-Age understands that several of the bus replacements were full, leaving commuters to wait for some time, with one woman resorting to staying in paid accommodation in Wellington for the night.
Members of the Wairarapa community were quick to reach out to other commuters online and offer available space in their cars rather than waiting for buses.
Restoration of power to Wellington Station and Wellington railway lines was expected to be done before 5.30pm but didn’t come back until about 6.05pm – excluding the track between Petone and Kaiwharawhara.
Knight said on Wednesday that “KiwiRail are aware of the significant disruption this has had on our customers and are using all resources available to restore full power so services can resume as soon as possible”.