Passengers forced to walk the track

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Wairarapa commuters had to walk the tracks yesterday after the morning train broke down south of Carterton. PHOTO/JOHN MCMULLAN
Wairarapa commuters had to walk the tracks yesterday after the morning train broke down south of Carterton. PHOTO/JOHN MCMULLAN

If there was ever a day to wear practical shoes to Wellington, it was definitely yesterday as Wairarapa commuters were forced to walk the tracks when their morning train broke down south of Carterton.

Masterton man John McMullan and his wife Catherine were among many passengers on the 6.48am southbound train from Masterton -- a trip that started out as "normal" as any other day, leaving Masterton "pretty much on time", stopping off at Renall St and Solway, before arriving in Carterton.

"It was a bit slow pulling out of Carterton, but it has been slow recently because they've been doing track works, so it's not unusual for it to not tear off at a huge speed," Mr McMullan said.

"But then it just sort of slowed down and came to a stop near Dalefield Rd -- we hadn't even made it to Matarawa.

"Then the guards were coming up and down the train, telling us there was a problem and that they were going to try to fix it.

Obviously whatever they tried didn't work, so then they said we would have to basically get off the train and walk."

Mr McMullan said the "100m or so" walk down the Wairarapa Line track to Dalefield Rd would have been "interesting for the ladies that had high heels".

His wife, he said, luckily had brought flat shoes with her.

He said the train staff were "very good" at keeping passengers updated on the breakdown and making sure that everyone in need of assistance in walking the track were helped.

"Crossing that little wee bridge at that time of the morning was interesting for some people," he said.

"It wasn't frosty but it was damp obviously and that particular bridge didn't have side-railings on it so it was a case of just carefully walking up the middle, but the staff were very good, making sure everyone that needed assistance had assistance and the buses showed up quite quickly to be honest."

He said it was the first time since moving from Wellington to Masterton last year that he and his wife had encountered a major train problem that required buses to be called in -- "so it's the first time we've had to walk the tracks for sure".

Members of the Wairarapa Commuters Facebook page poked fun at the service which has a reputation of sometimes being unreliable.

"Its a trend, the first train was slow, the second train is even slower, so logically the third train will not even make it," wrote Iain Murray Hill.

"Now I need to pack trainers as part of my 'just in case on the train' bag'," wrote passenger Kate Blackley.

Commuter Tina Nixon, who was to take the train from Wellington back to Masterton in the afternoon said the communication between the operator and commuters was "appalling".

"We all know things break down but there is no excuse for today's appalling communications. Text failed. Website wasn't updated nor Facebook. Twitter provided the first good info on what was happening," she said.

A spokesman for KiwiRail said the cause of the breakdown was a mechanical fault.

"Passengers were disembarked and usual procedures were followed to safely move them to an area where they could be transferred to buses," the spokesman said.

Less than 2 per cent of passenger services -- or five out of 3120 -- on the Wairarapa line have been cancelled since June last year.

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