Wairarapa rail wont go electric

By Don Farmer

ELECTRIFICATION of the Upper Hutt to Masterton rail link is a pipedream, and one that will not be achieved within the lifetime of the present generation, according to Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Ian Buchanan.
He was responding yesterday to a call by the deputy leader of NZ First, Peter Brown, who said part of $500 million earmarked to be pumped into the Wellington region's rail network should be spent electrifying that section of line.
Mr Brown said the electrification from Upper Hutt to Masterton was one of the most pressing projects, offering several benefits.
There would be faster and more frequent services and the creation of more public transport would expand the commuter potential of Wairarapa.
He called for OnTrack to do a detailed financial and engineering feasibility study so electrification could be brought to Wairarapa as quickly as possible.
Mr Buchanan said electrification of the Wairarapa line was "not going to happen, not in our lifetime".
"It has been looked over several times over the years and the economic answer has always been that the capital cost of doing it, in relation to the potential number of users shows it is not on."
He said Featherston would need to grow to a city of 30,000 to 40,000 people with a huge increase in commuters to give it any chance of working.
Besides the financial viability there were also logistical problems.
Mr Buchanan said the real headache was the Rimutaka tunnel. "It would have to be made bigger.
"It would not be a simple matter of stringing a few lines over the top."
In reality, Wairarapa had received its slice of the newly announced spoils, being a fleet of new carriages and stabling for them in Masterton, and station makeovers.
Mr Buchanan said when those improvements have all been signed off, in particular the delivery of the remaining new cars for the Wairarapa line, the district will have a " fairly comfortable service" using diesel locomotives.
"Wairarapa will be right up to the standard required."
He said ongoing maintenance would be the only expenditure then needed.


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