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Train upgrade chugging closer

PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

BECKIE WILSON
[email protected]

Three business cases costing a total of $500 million that could solve the Wairarapa train issues, have all been confirmed as top priorities for the region.

In the hopes of boosting capacity, improving the lines and getting new diesel-electric trains, Greater Wellington Regional Council has prepared three business cases to seek government funding.

One of the cases, for a $300m fleet of 15 modern, diesel-electric trains, was voted into the top 10 priorities in the Regional Land Transport Plan when the council’s transport committee met on Tuesday.

Committee chairwoman Barbara Donaldson said all councillors, and the region’s mayors at the meeting agreed that Wairarapa’s train problems were “the weakness in our system”.

All 31 regional transport programmes were separated into three priority bands, rather than individually numbered. Diesel-electric trains had been listed at 22.

“That was part of the mid-term review of the Regional Land Transport Plan which has been approved by the committee and now has to go through the council to be approved,” she said.

“Then it gets submitted to NZTA, and they go into the process of developing their National Land Transport Programme.”

The decision now rests in the hands of NZTA which will receive government funding for transport projects, which will in turn determine what Wairarapa programmes will get the green light.

Under the new government, rail is considered part of the National Land Transport Programme.

“There’s still a few steps – we’ve made a good start and I’m pretty confident that those priorities are national priorities and the government will think they are too,” Mrs Donaldson said.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said: “It’s important to push it up to say, ‘Hey all the councils see this as a priority’,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s across the line yet.”

Mrs Patterson was “pleased” the region’s mayors had supported the Wairarapa train projects.

“We have to remember, and we said this [on Tuesday], the regional council strongly supports the priority for Wairarapa in regard to rail.”

The Regional Land Transport Plan will go through council this month, and if approved, a decision is expected from NZTA in September.

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