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Wellington's track network needs upgrading

Wellington's track network needs upgrading says Greater Wellington

"The Government's new track management company, TrackCo, must remember the needs of Wellington's urban passenger rail network when it decides what track to upgrade", said the Chairperson of the Greater Wellington Regional Council Margaret Shields.

"It's only 18 months since heat-buckling on Wellington tracks caused chaos for tens of thousands of commuters. Now big businesses such as Solid Energy are working hard to grab the lion's share of money for upgrading the nation's tracks on routes like the South Island Midland Line. While the needs of big business are important, the needs of Wellington commuters are urgent and critical."

Ms Shields said that upgrading the track was essential to improve passenger services to areas such as the Kapiti Coast.

"Passenger rail can help reduce congestion on the coastal route, and give us breathing space while we improve the overall transport network. But we can only run more trains if the track network is improved."

"The Wellington passenger rail system is the largest in New Zealand, and a vital part of the region's economic infrastructure. Because of under-investment the local track network has deteriorated, like it has in the rest of New Zealand, and it now needs fixing. Congested rail lines, hundred year-old tunnels and choke-points in the rail yards are just some of the track issues that need work in the Wellington region." Ms Shields said upgrading the Wellington track network is equally essential for passenger traffic and rail freight.

"Passenger trains and rail freight don't work well together. Until there is more track capacity it is difficult to run more trains, including freight, on the same lines. Other problems include hundred year-old tunnels that are too small for modern passenger trains, the single track on important sections of the line to the Kapiti Coast, and choke-points in the rail yards. For example, there are nine platforms at Wellington railway station, but only three lines in and out."

"The government is already investing heavily in the Auckland passenger rail system - which carries only a fraction of the passengers that the Wellington system does. The Government and TrackCo must remember that investing in the Wellington track network is just as much a national priority as upgrading

Auckland, or the freight network," said Ms Shields. Priority areas for track upgrades in Wellington's passenger rail network

* Electrification of the main-trunk from Paraparaumu to Waikanae. Allows increased number of passenger services to Waikanae in order to reduce congestion on the coastal highway. Estimated cost, $14 Million.

* Track realignment and double-tracking in the Pukerua Bay area. Enables increased frequency of services to Waikanae and the Kapiti Coast. Estimated cost, $20 Million.

* Tunnel lowering and passing loops on the Johnsonville line to allow passenger trains to operate across the whole network increasing the frequency of services. Estimated cost $10 Million.

* Fixing capacity constraints in railyards to reduce delays to passenger trains. Needed if passenger services are increased. Estimated cost, $40 Million.

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