Big Changes To Wellington Rail


The Government, the Greater Wellington Regional Council and NZTA have agreed in principle a package deal that will complete the rebuild of Wellington commuter rail services. But it will trigger a rate increase. And it could eventually see another train company taking over the running of the service unlder contract, like Veoila does in Auckland.

The package includes a commitment by the government to fund an $88 million renewal of the rest of the signalling and traction assets on the networ.

For its part, the Greater Wellington Regional Council will takeover and refurbish the 30 year old Ganz Mavag units at a cost of $80 million, which will be supported with an operating subsidy from NZTA.

Key features of the proposed package are:

  • Greater Wellington Council would own all metro rail rolling stock. It already owns the new Matangi trains and would take over ownership of the Ganz Mavag units
  • Greater Wellington would borrow to fund the refurbishment of the Ganz Mavag units
  • Greater Wellington would own and be responsible for maintaining stations (other than Wellington Station), station car parks, stabling and the electric train depot
  • The Government would support the new arrangements financially through the NZTA
  • The Government would continue to own the Wellington metro rail network (rails, signals and power supply) and fund capital upgrades
  • Greater Wellington would in the future have the right to test the market for an alternative operator and maintainer of metro rail trains.
  • The Matangi and Ganz Mavag trains operating on the network will be held in a Rolling Stock Owning Company majority owned by GWRC
  • GWRC to take over ownership and responsibility for stations (other than Wellington Station), car parks, train stabling and the electric train depot
  • The Crown (through KiwiRail) to retain ownership of the metro rail track network, the traction and signalling assets, and responsibility for ongoing investment in the upgrade of these assets.
  • GWRC to pay a track access charge to KiwiRail (with subsidy from the NZ Transport Agency) that reflects the fair cost of maintaining the tracks and other assets.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says one of the significant shifts in the package is that GWRC will become the owner of much of the above-track infrastructure, including the rolling stock and most of the stations.

“This change will give GWRC more independence and flexibility into how they configure their services, alongside the NZTA as co-funder. NZTA will also be adjusting its funding rates as part of this package to be consistent with their support for other passenger transport services. For the first time they will extend the operational subsidy to include asset depreciation and replacement, with the quid pro quo being a move to a 50% funding rate over ten years starting in 2012 (the rate is currently 60%).

The Minister said that both the government and GWRC are determined to bring Wellington’s metro rail back up to a high and reliable standard.

“The Wellington rail network has been a considerable and ongoing source of frustration for many commuters. This package, coupled with the previous investments from Government and the Council, including the new Matangi units, will transform the service into a modern reliable public transport option.

“The government and the GWRC have been working together for some time on a rail funding and ownership package that fairly shares the costs and responsibilities for delivering these and any future improvements to Wellington’s rail system.

The regional council has already indicated a proposed rate increase to help cover the cost of its commitment.

The council will consider a proposed annual plan next week and will make a final decision in June, following public consultation.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde. says the proposed rate increase comprises a 1.98% increase for Greater Wellington’s general activities and a 2.60% increase for a proposed regional rail package being negotiated with the Government. This proposed package would be paid for over several years and would give ratepayers full ownership of all the region’s metro trains and all the stations apart from Wellington Station.

Ohariu MP and United Future leader Peter Dunne said the funding implications for taxpayers and ratepayers were unavoidable, but needed to be kept to a minimum.

“In the end, this is simply a vital infrastructure service for our region and needs to be in place.

“Commuters are living day in, day out with a third rate, inefficient service of constant delays and that cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.

Greater Wellington and KiwiRail plan to sign new performance-based maintenance, operating and track access contracts this year.

“In the past, Greater Wellington has funded much of the work undertaken on the rail system but has had minimal control over the assets,” Fran Wilde said.

“Local permanent and public ownership of the trains and most of the stations gives the people of Wellington region, through Greater Wellington, control over the long-term future of these assets, regardless of who may ultimately be the operator. It means that assets won’t be neglected and allowed to run down as happened previously.

“Even when all of the Matangi units are in use there won’t be enough of them for peak hour services. The rail package would enable the 30-year-old Ganz Mavag fleet to be refurbished. We have only had enough funding for the prototype refurbishment of one of the 43-unit fleet.

“Although $550 million has already been spent on rail improvements, significantly more work is still needed. This work will now be able to be planned with secured funding,” Fran Wilde said.

“The new package would also give us an opportunity to increase services on the Wairarapa line.

“The package also enables us in the future to consider introducing contestability into the provision of rail services in Wellington, providing greater incentive to perform and better value for money for rate payers, tax payers and, more importantly, rail passengers.

“This proposed rail package provides a rare opportunity to secure the future of our metropolitan network which is a key enabler of economic activity in the region,” Fran Wilde said.

Mr Joyce says this proposal will complete a substantial upgrade which will improve the efficiency and quality of Wellington’s commuter rail services.

“New trains, double tracking to Waikanae and a third track into the Wellington terminus have been a great start, but there is more that needs to be done to provide a modern network and better services to commuters.

“I am pleased to see KiwiRail Group and the NZ Transport Agency also working together on this proposal and thank them for their ongoing support. This is a very positive step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of Wellington metro rail.”

Final details of the agreement and the exact level and timing of Crown funding will be confirmed as part of the Budget on May 20.







  1. mickeymouse says:

    OH No here we go the thin edge of a mighty big wedge. Its the end of wellington metro as we know it.

  2. Luke says:

    this is great news. However the Minister has done a total backflip regarding ownership of stations and rolling stock.
    Remember he kept pushing that Kiwirail should be the owner of everything, just as they are going to own Auckland EMU’s?

  3. Rageaholic says:

    But I thought the government wasn’t looking at any new urban infrastructure projects until Christchurch has been sorted out - or is that just for Auckland?

  4. Celia WB says:

    And now people need to keep pushing for a high quality PT extension south of the station. The feasibility study is ready to go!

  5. Brent C says:

    “The new package would also give us an opportunity to increase services on the Wairarapa line.”

    Pity the same thing can’t happen between Palmerston North and Wellington

  6. AKT says:

    @Celia Well done Mayor. Keep up your great work.

  7. Patrick R says:

    Surely this is a model for how AK could be structured too? AK Transport, funded in part by NZTA, could own the new rolling stock and other ‘above track’ assets?

    Views on this anyone? Jon?

  8. tim says:

    Doesn’t make sense in my view - particularly since Greater Wellington lack experience and are responsible for the current mess. It would be better for the Ministry of Transport or NZTA to own these public assets.

    The lack of vision and even basic strategic planning shown thus far by GW does not bode well for the future. I see a whole lot of money being poorly spent - more good money thrown after a lot of bad as it were.

  9. Patrick R says:

    You don’t want MoT or NZTA in charge though, they’re likely to rip up the tracks for more highways….

  10. tim says:

    I think a small regional transport authority is needed for the Wellington-Manuwatu region - a focussed and disciplined organisation without all the regional council overhead, personalities and other baggage.

    Let’s face it guys, the Wellington Metro stuff ups are because of poor planning and funding choices in the past caused by the regional council as the primary funder and “customer” of these services. The private sector has been a convenient scapegoat in the past, but it’s just a myth, the public sector funders are the problem. No wonder we passengers are marginalised, we’re just self loading, Regional Council freight!


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