This is a guest post from reader Louis Mayo.
Although this is the Auckland Transport Blog, it is good to give some attention to transport issues in other parts of the country. You may or may not be aware that the “Capital Connection” is under threat of cancellation. The Capital Connection is a train from Palmerston North to Wellington calling at Shannon, Levin, Otaki, Waikanae, Paraparaumu & Porirua. It operates a single return train every weekday. It has been operating for over 20 years. From the KiwiRail brochure:
Start your day in style
The Capital Connection is a popular commuter train that runs between Palmerston North and Wellington from Monday to Friday excluding public holidays.
With comfortable, spacious seating you can spread out and work or simply relax. Plug in your laptop, read the paper or even have a bite to eat from our licensed café. With onboard toilets and super friendly staff nothing beats the Capital Connection.
People get a great deal of benefit out of the service. Transporting commuters to the capital in a way that avoids the stress of driving long distances. It take cars off the road. This will improve road safety. It is also reducing congestion on the roads and reducing carbon emissions. It is a great convenience for commuters to be able to eat, chat, walk around, do some work, make a phone call or have a nap on the way to and from work each day. Things that you cannot do whilst driving without it being illegal and dangerous.This is a great use of time for commuters as rather than wasting at least two hours each day driving , they can be doing something more productive.
I am not quite sure why Kiwirail have made an about-face and decided that they will cancel the service without a subsidy. One of the possible reasons is due to the extension of electric suburban trains on the Kapati Line from its traditional terminus of Paraparaumu to Waikanae. This has been a major success but not so great for the Capital Connection, with people moving to the more regular Tranz Metro services.
There has been some suggestions that there may have been some dodgy accounting going on, with this strange revision in the financial figures. If nothing else it seems disturbing that KiwiRail can make such errors in their accounting systems.
It seems that KiwiRail has lost interest in passenger services. While I understand the main money is to be made in long distance rail is in freight, passenger services should not be ignored. But given they are under the directions of a very roads and motorway focused government it is hardly surprising.
The bad news is that NZTA, with its usual roads, roads, roads focus have effectively said that they won’t be providing a subsidy. This is very poor form from NZTA and is only a fraction of the cost of the ludicrous Transmission Gully Road of National Significance. Hope still remains that Horowhenua and Greater Wellington Regional Councils will reach an agreement and offer a subsidy or that KiwiRail will reconsider and back down. I think a subsidy is quite reasonable really, as the Wairarapa Connection service (that runs between Masterton and Wellington) gets a subsidy and there are many trains of this type around the world (serving bigger populations) that get a subsidy and are not expected to return a profit. Lets hope that the councils make the right decision.
It would be a major shame and a major blow to the region and to passenger rail in New Zealand if we were to lose yet another service. We can make this service thrive again. With some of the money from the turnaround plan, KiwiRail could upgrade the line to enable higher speeds and faster travel times. Another option could be splitting the 8 car train into two 4 car trains so that would mean two return services could be provided, giving travelers a bit more choice. Adding a few more services during the day time and possibly a late evening and a couple of runs in the weekends would be fantastic. I would point out again that the Wairarapa Connection has five return weekday trips and two in the weekend.
Save the Capital Connection!