18 Feb 2010

KiwiRail considers compensation for capital commuters

8:15 pm on 18 February 2010

KiwiRail says it is considering whether to compensate commuters left stranded by recent failures in Wellington's rail network.

Representatives from KiwiRail outlined the possibilities when they appeared before Parliament's transport and industrial relations select committee on Thursday.

The capital's rail services have been disrupted three times in two days this week, leaving many commuters calling for compensation.

Trains at Wellington Railway Station ground to a halt on Tuesday after an electrical fault in overhead wiring, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded from about 6pm.

On Monday morning, 2000 passengers had to get off their trains and switch to buses after electrical problems halted 10 trains. There were more problems for commuters that evening, with delays on the Hutt Valley and Paraparaumu lines.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn told the select committee while the company takes responsibility for the problems, the question of compensation is not an easy one.

Mr Quinn says money is one option, but distributing it fairly can be difficult. Another option is free travel days. But he says more recently, KiwiRail has preferred to invest in upgrading the network.

Meanwhile, KiwiRail says a commuter train between Auckland and Hamilton is a possibility, but not until work on the Auckland network is complete.

Mr Quinn acknowledged there was widespread public support for a commuter service but at the moment it is not viable.