Wairarapa rail 'riders' left behind

By Hayley Gastmeier, Andrew Bonallack -
5 comments
Colin Dowd, centre, waits at Upper Hutt Railway Station with other cyclists for a train that has space to take his bike on to Wairarapa. PHOTO/LEE CARTER
Colin Dowd, centre, waits at Upper Hutt Railway Station with other cyclists for a train that has space to take his bike on to Wairarapa. PHOTO/LEE CARTER

WAIRARAPA might be becoming more bike-friendly than ever, but it seems the trains are yet to catch up.

Featherston Community Board chairwoman Lee Carter photographed frustrated cyclists on their way home to Wairarapa having to wait at a station for a train that had room for their bikes.

Ms Carter said on Friday afternoon she saw six people with bikes at Upper Hutt train station who could not board the regular 5.05pm commuter train because the storage carriage was full.

"These people had to wait until 6pm to board a train to get home," she said.

She supplied photos of the storage carriage full of bicycles and prams.

"The pram on top [in the photo] was put on after the train manager turned away the bikers in Upper Hutt. It was one of four prams that day."

Ms Carter said the train manager told her he had 24 people with bikes wanting to board between Wellington and Upper Hutt on the 4.25pm train.

"He had to turn away 11 bikes -- that's 11 people having to wait for an hour or so for another train."

She said Wairarapa was becoming a stronger region for biking.

"The ability to store bikes on trains for commuters and visitors doing bike activities in the Wairarapa must be a viable option from Wellington to Masterton."

As a commuter between Featherston and Wellington for 18 years, Ms Carter said she remembered a time when a whole carriage was dedicated to luggage.

"This is about the regular commuters and the visiting people who come over here to use our great trails. They should be able to turn up at the station and be guaranteed a place to put their bikes."

She said Friday's incident was a clear example that more available space was needed on the Wairarapa and Wellington train service.

"If we're promoting Wairarapa and all things bikes then we need a sure way to get these people to and from Wairarapa -- with their bikes.

Colin Dowd was one of the six commuters who were turned away with their bikes at Upper Hutt station on Friday.

Mr Dowd, from Carterton, takes the train to Upper Hutt each morning and then rides his bike 20 minutes to Rimutaka Prison, where he works. He said it had been the first time he had been turned away from the train Lack of storage on trains sees bike owners waiting

for lack of storage space.

"There was the usual four of us, and then two extras, who were going riding in Wairarapa over the weekend. We went to fit our bikes on and the guard told us there was no room and apologised."

Mr Dowd said the guard had told him that commuters with bikes had also been turned away at Waterloo Station.

"They knew they weren't going to be able to fit our bikes on at least from Lower Hutt but they didn't communicate that before they arrived at the station. And that's what bothers me the most about the situation."

He said, with a simple phone call to the station, he and the other commuters "would have had the option of locking the bikes up and still getting on the train". Mr Dowd said communicating in advance when the train's storage was full would be an instant improvement with the "usually really good" train service.

David Miller, KiwiRail's senior communications adviser, said KiwiRail operates Greater Wellington Regional Council's bike policy. This states bikes can be carried on Metro services where it is practical and safe for them to do so, and this depends on how much space is available.

He said bikes could not be stored in the aisles on the trains for safety reasons, because passengers and staff needed to be able to exit the train quickly in the event of an emergency.

"There will be times when services are full and people may be asked to wait for another service but this is not a regular occurrence," Mr Miller said. "Cycling is a popular form of transport and recreation and KiwiRail does all it can to accommodate customers wishing to travel on Metro services with their bikes. However, the safety of our passengers and crew is our priority, and as people do not need reservations to bringing a bike on-board, there is a limit to how many can travel on each train."

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