Greater Wellington endorses bold investment vision for regional rail services
Greater Wellington Regional Council endorsed a bold and visionary plan for regional rail services this week.
The Wellington Rail Programme Business Case, a 30-year customer-driven strategic investment plan, outlines what is required beyond current investment to help drive the region’s economic development and social wellbeing in an environmentally and socially sustainable and resilient manner. It covers the passenger services and infrastructure needed to deliver a modern transit system, and the network infrastructure required to support this system while also enabling a growing freight operation.
Councillor Daran Ponter, Chair of Greater Wellington says the plan is integral to the development of the Wellington Region’s rail service and linking into the neighbouring Horizons region.
“The region’s rail system will need to respond to significant population growth over the coming decades. The 2021 Wellington Regional Growth Framework (RGF), a spatial plan developed by central government, local government, and iwi stakeholders, anticipates that the Wellington-Horowhenua region will need to accommodate an additional 200,000 people, a 35 per cent increase, and 100,000 jobs in the next 30 years,” says Cr Ponter.
“This business case provides a clear investment pathway for the region’s rail system over the next 30 years. We hope the Government will come to the party and see significant value in this investment and how it will enable important regional and national growth and environmental policy objectives,” says Cr Ponter.
The plan outlines how the region’s rail system will need to respond to significant mode shift requirements over the coming decades, reflecting regional and national mode shift and carbon reduction targets. At the regional level, the 2021 Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) seeks to increase active and public transport mode share by 40 per cent and reduce carbon emissions by 35 per cent by 2030.
The scope of the Wellington Rail Programme Business Case complements the Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) programme. LGWM will provide mass transit to the south and east of Wellington City, which will complement the rail system that makes up the rapid transit system to the north, and interface with it at Wellington Station to enhance cross-region travel options and support mode shift. The success of two programmes is consequently interlinked.
Samantha Gain, General Manager for Metlink says the plan addresses and aims to overcome the three fundamental problems at the heart of the region’s rail system currently.
“The first is inconsistent customer journey experiences and the current limited rail system capacity which result in the network being unable to meet mode share targets, and prevent growth and environmental obligations. The second is recognising the current infrastructure is not capable of safely accommodating additional trains, restricting the options available to accommodate future demand. The final challenge is the condition and configuration of the rail network which makes it vulnerable to service disruptions, which has a flow on impact onto the wider transport system,” says Samantha Gain.
The plan, which drives mode shift over a 30-year programme, provides: highly connected stations in communities where people work, live, play and learn; accommodating stations that make any wait both pleasant and productive; frequent services that are faster and more convenient than by car; reliable services that recover quickly from disruption; links that facilitate convenient connections for national freight customers; and infrastructure and safety systems that enable transport without undue conflict.
Train frequency will be able to progressively improve as infrastructure is improved. Peak train services on the Hutt and Kāpiti lines would be increased in 2025 to four trains per hour, along with improved longer distance services to Masterton and Palmerton North by 2028. The peak service frequency is proposed to step up to six trains per hour (every 10 minutes) on the Hutt and Kāpiti lines by 2032, along with inter-peak services increasing to four trains per hour. The Kāpiti line is expected to further improve to 10 trains per hour during the peak by the mid 2030’s, and the Hutt Line by early 2040’s.
The preferred programme has a BCR range of 1.1 to 1.5 (with a sensitivity range of 0.9 to 1.8), based on discounted economic benefits of between $4,430m (lower patronage) and $5,760m (higher patronage), and discounted economic costs of $3,880m, over the 60-year evaluation period. Benefits are split across wider economic (24 per cent), road user (20 per cent), public transport user (19 per cent), land use (18 per cent), rail freight (14 per cent), and other benefits (6 per cent). The programme has a recommended National Land Transport Programme priority order rating of 2, based on the BCR range, a very high Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Alignment rating, and a high Scheduling rating.
With the business case and plan endorsed by Greater Wellington it will now go to Waka Kotahi for its review and endorsement of the vision. Funding decisions will follow further detailed work on specific work packages.