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Wairarapa Line’s 100 per cent record

One hundred per cent of the Wairarapa Line [WRL] services used for over 570,000 commuter trips during 2023 were delayed, with about a third of them being replaced by buses.

Metlink group manager Samantha Gain confirmed that “all services were delayed due to speed restrictions throughout the year”.

Speed restrictions were implemented on the WRL during 2023 while KiwiRail undertook an upgrade project, rerailing and re-sleepering tracks between Masterton and Upper Hutt.

More recently, heat restrictions were temporarily put in place due to rising track temperatures that had caused the metal to expand and forced trains to travel at reduced speeds.

The heat season for rail tracks runs through to the end of March this year.

There were 55 services replaced with buses due to unplanned events, and 1090 services received bus replacements due to planned maintenance.

“2197 services were operated as a train. During this time, KiwiRail was carrying out major upgrade work which affected all services with varying levels of speed restrictions throughout the year while maintenance was taking place on the track,” Gain said.

From January to November last year, there were 570,409 commuter trips on the WRL {December data is not yet available].

Metlink’s services have come under fire in the first few weeks of the New Year after commuters were faced with lengthy delays, bus replaced services, and bus breakdowns on Remutaka Hill.

A power outage on January 10 forced all trains out of Wellington to be suspended, including the WRL, which was already running after partial bus replacement from Upper Hutt.

The outage was due to consecutive days of warmer weather causing the overhead powerlines to expand.

KiwiRail’s metro general manager, Jon Knight, said the initial issue was discovered with overhead lines on the Johnsonville line at about 1pm before an overhead line in Kaiwharawhara came down around 3pm.

“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.

Power needed to be switched off to Wellington Station, which pushed the outage to all services, in order to safely complete restorative work.

Only two days prior to the power outage, commuters travelling on a bus replacement endured a mechanical breakdown on the Upper Hutt side of Remutaka Hill.

Buses will be replacing all services from January 20 to 22 for the Wellington Anniversary weekend.

Further bus replacements for all services are scheduled for February 3, 4, and 10 – and all services on February 11 will be bus replaced until approximately 6.30pm.

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