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Budget Rail Renewals Funding Welcomed By Greater Wellington, But Shortfall Lamented

A $10.2m increase in the government’s contribution to Greater Wellington’s (GW) rail renewals funding, announced in Budget 2024, has been welcomed by the regional council.

Greater Wellington chair Daran Ponter says he is grateful the government has recognised investment is required in the Wellington Metropolitan Rail Network, to bring this critical Crown-owned asset up to standard following years of under-investment.

“The increase is good news for rail users, but we know the Crown’s network still needs considerable, sustained investment in renewals to make it a modern and dependable transport asset,” Cr Ponter says.

A budget bid, through Greater Wellington’s Long Term Plan, asked for $51m, a 20% increase in Crown funding for the council’s share of rail asset renewals and maintenance on the Wellington Metropolitan Rail Network.

The share of these upkeep costs, of which GW covers 75-80%, is outlined in the Wellington Network Agreement, a contract between GW, KiwiRail and Transdev.

Budget 2024 also allocated $107.7m to KiwiRail in FY 2024/25 to cover a backlog of network renewals in Wellington and Auckland.

Greater Wellington Transport chair Thomas Nash says while this is positive news, there is still a significant funding gap, which if left unaddressed could lead to service disruptions.

“We’re delighted KiwiRail has received additional funding for renewals, but we fear it won’t be enough to prevent critical Crown rail assets from failing in the next few years – given the degraded state of the network,” Cr Nash says.

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In December 2023, Greater Wellington briefed the Minister of Transport on the state of their network and highlighted work needed to halt its degradation and support the introduction of new hybrid trains by 2028/29.

“We’re pleased to see the region’s new trains mentioned, and we are eagerly awaiting confirmation of the central government contribution to our public transport operating costs, which are growing as patronage on our network grows. “Getting the transport funding mix right to maximise benefits for the greatest numbers of people should be the guiding principle,” Cr Nash says.

“In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with the government to find additional funding pathways to support the necessary renewals on the government’s rail network.

“Given the scale of investment required, and the importance of rail infrastructure to the wider Wellington Region, it makes sense for the cost of renewing this national asset to be borne by the government.”

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