Bid for train service hangs on Budget

2022-05-11T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-05-11T07:00:00.0000000Z

NZME

https://communitynews.co.nz/article/282162179804417

OPINION

The countdown has begun — eight sleeps to go. Though for myself and many others, the countdown began more than 8 years ago. My countdown is to the Government Budget 2022. After many years of campaigning for a replacement train for the Capital Connection, next week’s Budget is the closest we have come, and our greatest hope yet, to the news that the campaigning has succeeded. If Greater Wellington Council’s Budget bid is successful, it will be the biggest public transport win in well over a decade for the Ka¯ piti Coast — since the rail extension went through to Waikanae from Paraparaumu in fact. With the support of Horizons Council, our GWRC Budget 2022 bid, (pitched in a large and detailed business case) asks that the Capital Connection service be replaced by three morning and evening services from Palmerston North to Wellington, securing essential public transport connection for O¯ taki and north. Along with these three new train units, GWRC has also bid for new trains for the Wairarapa network. Looking to the future growth for environmentally sustainable public transport, the pitch is for the trains to be used throughout the day to support the wider Wellington passenger rail network. Even prior to my two terms as the Ka¯ piti Coast councillor on GWRC, when I was the O¯ taki Ward councillor on KCDC, I campaigned alongside the train passengers to save the Capital Connection. In the face of constantly being pushed back by KiwiRail, it has been a lesson of perseverance. Pursuing this issue for the Ka¯ piti Coast community, along with better environmental investment by GWRC, were the main reasons I swapped from KCDC to GWRC. When I got on to GWRC it was a significant win to get support around the council table to secure GWRC support and a share of funding for these trains in the Long Term Plan in my first term. I’m grateful to colleagues and officers who support this enormous investment in public transport. And this term we’ve produced a compelling business case that has been pitched to Treasury, and to the Ministers of Finance and Transport and Cabinet for this coming Budget. Never before have we got this far. I hope next Thursday, May 19, we will know if we have won the day and succeeded in securing the Government’s funding. I’m heartened that last year NZTA gave their support to our pitch with $5 million to prepare the Budget bid and fund the international tendering process for the trains. These trains will be a game changer for public transport for O¯ taki and further north. The much improved service for O¯ taki will be a game changer for the community providing greater opportunity for transport to employment, education and recreation to Wellington, and for people in to O¯ taki.

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