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Train travel back on track

Robert Scott from Metlink removes the stickers from the train’s seats in anticipation of unrestricted travel. PHOTO/MARK BEATTY

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One of the nicer “new normals” for Wairarapa travellers, especially younger folk, has been free trains, but Metlink announced on Tuesday that this would come to an end on July 1.

“Reintroducing fares in July makes sense following New Zealand’s excellent response to covid-19 and the recent removal of physical distancing measures under Alert Level 1,” said Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.

“Our passengers, drivers, staff on trains and at station kiosks can now safely and confidently interact again.”

The rail service provider was asking customers to use eftpos or Snapper where possible, which followed the Ministry of Health’s announcement that it was now safe to handle cash across the board.

Robert Scott of Metlink was also photographed removing the stickers on the Wairarapa Line’s seats, which notified passengers where they were able to sit during Alert Level 2 travel.

For Wairarapa train users, the decision not to charge has meant less reservations about travelling to and from the capital, and between Wairarapa towns.

The Green Party is one entity that has consistently called for free travel for certain groups in New Zealand, so as to reduce carbon emissions, and provide more travel options to groups often excluded from travel by age, economic status, or mobility.

Their mission statement said that “children, students, beneficiaries, and superannuitants should travel free or at discounted prices on buses and trains”.

Green Party candidate for Wairarapa Celia Wade-Brown said that the free rail travel had given younger people a greater degree of autonomy and mobility over the past few weeks, especially for those that had not learned to drive.

“I hope people will continue to take advantage of the free fares to persuade regional council and central government that lower fares will mean less emissions, and will make places more accessible to a wide range of people, including those under the age of 17.

“If we want more people to choose to go by train rather than by car, then the fares have to be more attractive.”

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