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Council Pleads For Patience Over 'Appalling' Lack Of Punctual Train Services On Wairarapa Line

Nick James, Wellington issues reporter

New Metlink data shows Wairarapa line commuter trains are arriving at stations punctually less than a quarter of the time.

For several months commuters in the region have been dealing with speed restrictions due to newly laid tracks causing vibrations on the carriages.

Metlink measures punctuality of trains by looking at the records of how many arrive at stations within five minutes of their scheduled time.

Data for April shows that only happened 22.8 percent of the time.

The data is an improvement on the statistics from February which found Wairarapa rail punctuality was 5.8 percent.

Overall, Wairarapa line trains have not reached their goal of being punctual 95 percent of the time in the past two years.

Wairarapa-based Greater Wellington regional councillor Adrienne Staples told RNZ the council knew the punctuality on the line was "appalling" but noted there were several reasons.

One of these was work being done as part of KiwiRail's Future Rail programme which would see improved reliability on the region's tracks by 2028.

Staples said it included fixes to infrastructure, such as bridges and tracks, and these were slowing the trains down.

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"The past two years has been when all the work on the rail lines has been done, and this is major work, it's not tinkering."

One of the other problems was vibrations on the carriages, but a fix for that - which involved grinding newly laid tracks down - started on Sunday night.

Her constituents were "pretty grumpy" about the current state of the tracks, she said.

"If there was a simple fix we'd do it, but there isn't so we hear what they're saying and have complete sympathy."

Greater Wellington Regional Council transport committee chairperson Thomas Nash told RNZ it had literally been a rough ride for Wairarapa commuters in recent times.

Nash was afraid to say there was more work to do on the line in the coming years.

"All we can ask is for people to bear with us and I know that's cold comfort when you are a person who uses the Wairarapa line train, and you are almost never on time.

"I'm as disappointed as anybody else about that."

Ultimately, they needed to fix both the rail infrastructure on the line and to get new trains, he said.

Last year it was announced the government would provide funding to buy 18 hybrid trains to quadruple services between Palmerston North and Wellington and double peak services between Masterton and the capital on the Wairarapa line.

The new trains are expected to be running between 2028 and 2029.

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