PHOTO/FILE

No intention for extended shutdown

JOHN LAZO-RON
john.lazo-ron@age.co.nz

Wairarapa train commuters can breathe a sigh of relief after rumours circulating about a possible two-year bus replacement service to the capital have been shut down by KiwiRail.

For the past few weeks, rumours of buses being used to replace train services for two years due to planned upgrades to the Remutaka tunnel on the Wairarapa train line have spread thick and fast.

Many Wairarapa commuters voiced their concerns about the rumours through social media with one commuter posting that a Wellington Train Station staff worker had told them the two-year bus replacement was inevitable because of the forthcoming upgrades.

On community Facebook pages, the posts have drawn an enormous response from others who use the train service to Wellington and back each day, with many now also concerned and seeking clarity over the reports.

But KiwiRail’s capital projects and asset development chief operating officer David Gordon said the reports were false and that such an idea had never been in their plans.

“[The information circulating] is not correct,” Gordon said.

“To be absolutely clear, there is no way we would even consider a two-year shutdown of this important commuter line.”

Despite the false rumours, upgrades to the train line, which have already begun, could bring potential temporary bus replacements and train schedule changes in the future.

Although details of the possible disruptions have not been finalised, Gordon said KiwiRail, Greater Wellington Regional Council and TransDev Wellington were working together to notify the information to commuters as soon as possible.

“We intend to hold a wider community event in February for commuters on the Wairarapa Line. Details of the event will be confirmed soon, and we will share these on the KiwiRail Facebook page and Upper Hutt Community page,” Gordon said.

A community event was held in Featherston in mid-November to outline the upgrade work surrounding the area that was to begin early in the year.

Drainage and vegetation work on the north end of the Rimutaka tunnel had also started.

Gordon said sleeper replacement work inside the tunnel was scheduled to begin Christmas 2022.

How long this would take depended on how long they could keep the tunnel closed without disrupting commuters’ travel.

“There is no intention to have an extended tunnel closure during periods when commuter demand is at normal levels.

“So, the issue will be the duration of the Christmas shutdowns, and how many of those Christmas shutdowns we have.”

About 900 commuters travel out of the Wairarapa region to Wellington daily on the train, and a further 500 by car, the regional council said in its regional transport plan.

  • Details on the Wairarapa Line upgrade project can be found on the KiwiRail website.


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