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Backlogs and billions to keep Wellington’s rail network rolling

A report released today by Greater Wellington has highlighted chronic underinvestment and significant backlogs in maintenance renewal programmes across the region’s rail network which threaten to bring passenger rail services to a halt if not addressed.

Greater Wellington’s report to Council in response to the Rapid Review Report into KiwiRail’s Handling of Recent Disruptions to Passenger Services identifies insufficient funding for the Wellington Rail Network and a significant back log of maintenance renewal programmes that KiwiRail has to deliver on the Wellington Metro Rail Network.

Daran Ponter, Chair of Greater Wellington, says the Crown’s commitment in 2009, as part of the Metropolitan Rail Operating Model to lift the rail network to an agreed serviceable standard, has yet to be delivered and that’s just the start.

“I have some sympathy for KiwiRail. They are tasked with the impossible. Given lofty goals but not the Central Government funding to seriously tackle what’s on their plate.

“It is difficult not to catastrophize the consequences of chronic underinvestment and inaction on the renewals. We believe there’s an immediate shortfall of around $1bn which threatens to cut services in the next one to three years. If some of the funding can’t be found in the next few months, KiwiRail has warned of a growing risk that passenger services may be forced to operate on a reduced timetable,” says Cr Ponter.

While Greater Wellington contributes to the maintenance of the Wellington Rail Network, delivering on the extent of investment identified as being required for the Wellington rail network should not fall on the rate payers says Cr Ponter.

“I’ve updated the Minister of Transport, Simeon Brown, on the current underinvestment for the rail network. I look forward to working with him to identify a pathway for refined funding models and future investment through the National Land Transport Fund or direct Crown investment,” adds Cr Ponter.

The 30-year Wellington Strategic Rail Plan, ratified by the Waka Kotahi Board in November 2023, has shown that approximately $5.0 to $7.8 billion of investment will be required in the Wellington Rail Network to deliver desired national and regional outcomes over the next 30 years; the achievement of this plan is dependent on a reliable and serviceable network.

More debate on the report will be had at Greater Wellington’s Council meeting Thursday, 7 December 2023. The papers can be found online at: https://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Documents/2023/12/Council-7-December-2023-order-paper.pdf

 

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