BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz
More seats for the Wairarapa train’s peak services will be coming next year, but in the meantime commuters have been given the choice between extra seats or more tables to solve the capacity issues.
A successful nine-carriage train was trialled last month with an extra 64 seats during the two peak services each day.
Greater Wellington Regional Council acting rail operations manager Barry Fryer said the trial went well but a handful of changes needed to be made before it could be permanent.
The ninth carriage was expected to be a permanent fixture by early next year.
Fryer said he understood that was a long time to wait, so Wairarapa commuters had been given the opportunity to complete an online survey to determine an interim option.
The Wairarapa train runs three types of trains made up of the two carriage types: ‘SE’ and ‘SW’.
Until recently, the two types of carriages could not be used as one train. This has since been fixed.
The council is offering an eight-car service with six ‘SE’ and two ‘SW’ carriages. This formation will provide 30 extra seats but will have less group tables and electrical sockets.
Fryer said he was not sure what commuters would choose but added “we are hearing lots about more seats, but we could be wrong”.
The week-long nine-carriage trial was for one morning and one afternoon peak service, which were typically overcrowded.
A few issues were uncovered including the need to make changes to the layout of the Wellington station yard to accommodate the extra carriage, and door isolation processes at various stations on the route, he said.
Fryer said the yard layout was “not huge money” to fix but more time was needed.
“We could deal with that for a week but for permanent business we cannot sustainably do that,” he said.
The Wairarapa train line has regularly experienced capacity issues causing people to stand for long periods of time, and breakdowns forcing commuters to walk along the tracks to a nearby station.
During summer it also had issues with air-conditioning.
On Tuesday, a multi-million-dollar upgrade of Wairarapa’s train track was rubber-stamped with work expected to begin in April next year.
The $96 million funding includes $50m for track infrastructure in Wairarapa, and an additional $46.2m for the line south of the Remutaka Hill tunnel, including double-tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the track infrastructure upgrade would give the regional council confidence in investment in new carriages.
To complete the survey, go to: surveymonkey.com/r/WRL9carTrialReview