Submission on Wairarapa Corridor Plan
The plan acknowledges that key transport pressures are the ageing population, growth in tourism and growth in freight. However, in spite of this, we feel that the plan largely ignores public transport, walking and cycling, and focuses on road transport.
Walking and Cycling
We support the proposal to improve the level of service for walking and cycling by providing for the needs of pedestrians in towns alongside SH2, improving cycle networks, and reviewing shoulder widths, particularly on rural roads.
The report notes that Wairarapa has the highest proportion of journey to work trips in the region after Wellington City, and that Masterton has the highest cyclist journey to work mode share in the region. The report also notes that cyclist crash rates are getting worse.
Tourism is important for the Wairarapa economy, and is increasing. Positively Wellington Tourism and others have lodged a proposal for a Central New Zealand Cycleway which includes the portion from Te Marua to Featherston and then on to Martinborough
However, we note that improved services for walkers and cyclists “largely relies on local councils developing and implementing programmes to improve their local networks and NZTA and local councils working together to ensure adequate shoulder widths for cyclists and walkers on state highways and open roads”.
Every time Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) reports on implementation of walking and cycling strategies, actions that rely on local councils are reported as not happening. The recent National Land Transport Programme has cut the amount of money available to local Councils, resulting in a cut-back in walking and cycling projects and improvements at local levels.
Taking all the above factors into account, we submit that walking and cycling improvements should be a priority, and that GWRC needs to take direct action, e.g. through RPS policies, to ensure that walking and cycling programmes and improvements are carried out at the local level. We support the completion of cycle access between Te Marua and Featherston as a safe and alternative option for walkers and cyclists.
The plan says that public transport is not a realistic choice for many trips. However, there are many trips which are realistic on public transport. Patronage on Wairarapa rail and bus services has been steadily increasing over recent years, confirming that where they are given the choice people will use public transport. There is also a trend towards people travelling to the Wairarapa for the weekends,
In spite of this, the plan proposes only to maintain the current level of services provided rather than improving public transport services. The only projects included in the first 10 years are some basic (already planned) projects to keep the current rail and bus services operating with a reasonable degree of reliability, including advocating for new locomotivess, putting on some extra carriages to deal with capacity issues and reviewing the bus services to look at effectiveness and possibly responding to increased demand. In the period beyond 10 years the plan talks about looking at shuttle services, either bus or rail, between Masterton and Upper Hutt to improve the availability of services.
The key barrier to people using public transport is the poor services. The reality is that the Wairarapa train services are not adequate to encourage people to use them for trips other than commuting at peak times, and to allow them to be car-free. GWRC needs to look at ways to improve the timetable so it is a real option for people for other journeys.
The key infrastructure impediment to providing good train services is the lack of any passing loops between Upper Hutt and Masterton, which means that trains can’t travel to Wellington and Masterton at the same time. It takes about 68 minutes for a train to do the Upper Hutt/Masterton trip, giving a maximum service frequency that is possible for trains going both ways of 2 hours, even if they terminate in Upper Hutt.
We submit that putting in at least one passing loop should be a priority project in the plan, together with improvements to train timetables and much earlier evaluation of providing more services at a similar cost using shuttles.
The plan notes that freight movements are expected to double in the Wellington region by 2031. In the Wairarapa, significant growth in forestry and timber products is expected from 2015 onwards. Currently the share for logs and wood chips is 94% road and 6% rail. Increasing rail share is essential to make better use of rail infrastructure, use a more economically efficient mode, keep trucks off roads, and reduce the impacts of freight.
The plan supports “the transfer of freight from road to rail wherever practical” but the only measure suggested is a log transfer station at Waingawa. This measure is worth supporting, but it is hardly likely to make a huge difference on its own. A huge increase in truck movements in the area will compromise the safety of other road users and have a negative impact on roads and amenities.
We support putting more effort into moving freight off the roads and onto rail and costal shipping.
Road safety trends are getting worse with “Wairarapa often over-represented in some statistics” (unspecified). The best way to reduce accidents is by having fewer vehicles on the roads (with more people using improved public transport services), reducing the number of large vehicles interacting with small cars and cyclists (by getting freight off the road), and by reducing speeds. Straightening roads only encourages people to drive faster, which makes travelling less safe for everyone.