24 Nov 2009

KiwiRail pleased with progress of network upgrade

8:55 pm on 24 November 2009

KiwiRail says work on the Wellington rail network is going well despite a huge fall-off in passenger numbers.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council says passengers have deserted the trains, as a major network upgrade causes cancellations and delays. It says the number of passengers fell by 8.5% in September, compared with the same month last year.

KiwiRail's project director responsible for the work, David Gordon, says that the size of the project always made disruption likely, and that aside from two incidents in July when contractors damaged the network, the project has so far run smoothly.

The council's transport and access committee chairperson, Peter Glensor, says however that KiwiRail needs to communicate better with passengers.

"They need to sharpen their act in terms of communication in particular - both warning passengers of disruption and then dealing with better communication at the time of the disruption."

Confident that passengers will return

The rail network has come under fire this year for delays, cancelled services, overcrowding and even draughty carriages.

Because of the reduced patronage, the council's budget for rail operations looks set to blow out by $2.5 million.

With the upgrade due for completion by the middle of 2010, Mr Glensor says he's confident that passengers will return once refurbished platforms and new trains are in place.