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Upgrading rail on the Western Corridor

21 February 2004

Upgrading rail on the Western Corridor "already a priority"

"Improving public transport services, in particular passenger rail, on Wellington's Western Corridor is already a priority for Greater Wellington Regional Council," said Councillor Glen Evans, Chair of the Regional Passenger Transport Committee.

Councillor Evans was commenting on the launch of a campaign called 'Option Three' promoting public transport as the alternative to roading options on the western corridor.

"Last week I presented to the Western Corridor Hearings Subcommittee a specific timetable of enhancements to passenger rail over the next ten years to achieve a reliable15 minute service at peak times. This involves step-by-step improvements including:

* better bus connections * improved rolling stock * additional carriages * new and improved stations * integrated ticketing covering all passenger transport, and * vital improvements to the railway line itself.

"The important thing is that Greater Wellington can only carry out this programme of steady improvements if funding is available," said Councillor Evans. "If funding is made available through the Western Corridor process these improvements can be achieved progressively over ten years and will deliver a really significant improvement for commuters. I believe that the roading options are much less certain of achievement within that period. This is not a case of road versus rail, but rather of providing a much improved 'business as usual' for rail and a quiet revolution in passenger transport overall."

Greater Wellington is already spending $95 million on new carriages and rail infrastructure as the local contribution to the overall rail programme, along with considerable assistance from the Government. However, the operational costs of the improvements alone will be a hurdle for ratepayers and passengers and Greater Wellington cannot fund the additional capital improvements listed on its own.

"Option Three join a considerable number of people who made submissions to Greater Wellington Regional Council last year on this issue. These people favoured enhanced spending on passenger transport rather than roads, as the preferred option for the western corridor. This view appeared to come from a good cross-section of the public."

"The Passenger Transport Plan that resulted from these submissions contains detailed proposals for enhancing passenger transport, including the western corridor, over the next ten years. That plan was also presented to the Western Corridor Hearings subcommittee, chaired by Cr McDavitt, last week."

"Where the financial crunch comes is with the cost of upgrading the line between Raumati and Lindale to an electrified double track and doing the same to the vulnerable stretch of single line known as the north-south junction, between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. These projects will involve considerable capital, and cooperation by the Government in funding, particularly the double tracking of the lines. This is necessary, however, to provide acceptable reliability for a more frequent peak service."

ENDS


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