Capital Connection business case put to Minister

Horizons Regional Council, in conjunction with a number of lower North Island councils, has submitted a business case to the Minister of Transport to seek support for the Capital Connection commuter train service.

The Capital Connection, which travels daily between Palmerston North and Wellington return, is seen as a vital link between the two regions.
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon says the business case was presented to Minister Simon Bridges by local government representatives of a passenger rail working group consisting of Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Kapiti Coast District Councils, Palmerston North City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons.
“This group has been working closely together for the past three years to look at options for continuing a passenger rail service between Palmerston North and Wellington beyond June 2018,” he says.
“In 2015 Horizons committed $500,000 over three years to subsidise the service that was running at a loss due to increased operating costs. This was added to by Greater Wellington Regional Council contributed a similar amount.”
Mr Gordon says with that funding period ending in June 2018, all stakeholders have been working together in a collaborative and timely fashion to get the business case to the Minister and New Zealand Transport Agency.
“The business case seeks central government funding of $6.2 million over the next three years to fund the operational shortfall of the existing Capital Connection service. This will provide for the continuation of the service for another 3 years and allow time for a further business case to be developed which looks at the longer term option of improved rail connectivity between the Greater Wellington and Horizons regions. 
“That longer term option would be integrated with Wellington’s existing metro train fleet, and would bring the opportunity of multiple daily runs between the two regions.  Ultimately we believe the business case tells a compelling story to central government and that passenger rail as a mode of travel is a viable investment option over the next 40 years. 
“However, the longer term option is still a few years away so it is vital we continue the existing service in the meantime. Especially when considering the population growth that is moving further north and the expanding communities that may rely on this service.”
Greater Wellington Regional Councillor Barbara Donaldson says “we’re pleased to see there clearly is a case for the Crown to fund this essential rail service, at least for a few years, while stakeholders work on a wider plan to retain and improve longer distance services for the long-term”.
The working group hope to hear back from Minister Bridges prior to the election. The business case was sent to all government parties.