|Locale||Wellington Region, New Zealand|
|Transit type||Suburban rail|
|Number of lines||5|
|Number of stations||49|
|Annual ridership||11.6 million (2013-14)|
|Headquarters||Wellington Railway Station, Wellington|
|Began operation||July 1938 (electric trains introduced in Wellington)|
|Number of vehicles||166|
|System length||154 km (96 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
|Electrification||1,600V DC overhead catenary (95 km or 59 mi)|
Tranz Metro operates the five-line 154-kilometre (96 mi) Metlink network, fanning north out of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, as far as Waikanae in the north and Masterton in the east. On average, 930,000 trips are made on Metlink trains each month. In 2013-14, Tranz Metro claimed 94.3% punctuality, being the proportion of trains arriving within five minutes of schedule (94.7% punctuality if normalised for the effects of the 2013 Seddon earthquake and 2013 Lake Grassmere earthquake).
Electric suburban services began in July 1938, following the opening of the Tawa flat deviation of the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). The Johnsonville Line, the former route of the NIMT out of the capital, was the first line to be electrified. By 1940 the NIMT (the present Kapiti Line) had been electrified as far north as Paekākāriki.
The Hutt Valley Line was electrified to Taita in 1953 to coincide with major state housing developments in the area. In 1954, the Wairarapa railway line was diverted between Petone and Haywards via Waterloo and Taita, with the old line truncated to Melling to form the Melling Line. Electrification was extended to Upper Hutt in 1955.
Also in 1955, the 9 km Rimutaka Tunnel between Upper Hutt and Featherston opened, bypassing the laborious Rimutaka Incline and reducing the travel time from Wellington to Featherston to just over one hour, and from Wellington to Masterton to one-and-three-quarter hours. The Wairarapa Connection service started nine years later, after morning and afternoon peak services started to exceed the 176-seat capacity of the diesel railcars then used.
The NIMT electrification was extended to Paraparaumu in the early 1980s.
Suburban passenger rail services in Auckland and Wellington were a part of the New Zealand Railways Department, while bus services were owned either by city corporations or the Railways. With the restructuring of the department into the New Zealand Railways Corporation in the early 1980s, suburban bus and rail services came under the Cityline brand as part of the Corporation's Rail Passenger Group. Further restructuring of the rail network came in the 1990s, and the suburban rail operations were renamed CityRail after they were transferred to New Zealand Rail Limited in 1991. That year the Auckland Regional Council bought the Auckland CityRail fleet and contracted New Zealand Rail to run it, extending the contract until 1993 and again for 10 years until 2003.
In 1993 New Zealand Rail Limited was privatised, renamed Tranz Rail in 1995, with CityRail rebranded Tranz Metro. On 15 December 2000, as part of management changes at Tranz Rail, the company split Tranz Metro into wholly owned subsidiaries Tranz Metro Auckland Ltd and Tranz Metro Wellington Ltd, with the intention of selling them. Stagecoach New Zealand and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) announced their intention to bid for the Wellington company, but both were barred by the Commerce Commission from doing so. Tranz Rail did not bid for the Auckland contract when it expired in 2003. Australian-based Connex (later Veolia and now Transdev) won the contract, and took over from 23 August 2004. Tranz Metro Wellington reverted to a business unit of Tranz Rail, with new contracts being signed with GWRC in 2006 for network access, rolling stock maintenance and service delivery. The contracts expire in 2016.
In 2004 Toll Holdings of Australia bought a majority shareholding in Tranz Rail and renamed the company Toll NZ, and on 1 July 2008 it was bought (less the Tranz Link trucking and distribution arm) by the government and renamed KiwiRail. In October 2009 Cabinet agreed on a Metropolitan Rail Operating Model, which requires the operating contracts for metropolitan rail operations to be "contestable". This is in line with Auckland's rail contract.
An agreement signed in July 2011 transferred ownership of KiwiRail's station buildings, excluding Wellington Railway Station, to the GWRC, along with the D/DM class and EM/ET units (the FP/FT units were already owned by GWRC). KiwiRail retains ownership of the tracks, platforms, electric traction and signalling systems. The assets were valued at $107.5 million. Ownership of the fleet transferred on 1 July 2011 to Greater Wellington Rail Ltd, formed by Greater Wellington Regional Council in 2006.
Metlink trains are operated under contract from GWRC, which subsidises the operation and owns station buildings and rolling stock. Typically 60% of that subsidy comes from central government through the NZ Transport Agency (formerly Land Transport New Zealand), which approves such funding after analysis of the economics and net benefits, the remainder coming from the GWRC. Public consultation in 2005-2006 resulted in some changes of emphasis in the new contract, which runs for ten years from June 2006. The September 2006 fare rises and section changes were stated to part-pay for a major upgrade of trains and facilities over the next few years in conjunction with regional bus service improvements.
In 2008-2011 KiwiRail and GWRC undertook a major upgrade of the Metlink network, dubbed the Wellington Regional Rail Programme (WRPP). The $390 million program included:
- The purchase of 48 two-car electric multiple units, the "Matangi" FP/FT class, to replace the aging DM/D class units and to increase capacity.
- Upgrading the electrification system, including refurbishing the overhead lines and masts and 12 new substations to increase electrical supply for the Matangi units.
- Upgrading the signalling system, including replacing control systems and signal wiring and hardening the track circuits from interference with the electrification.
- Upgrading platforms at several stations to accommodate Matangi units and longer train lengths.
- Upgrading the Johnsonville Line to accommodate both Ganz Mavag and Matangi units, by improving the loading gauge in the tunnels and under some bridges.
- Lengthening the three crossing loops on the Johnsonville Line to take longer trains.
- Double-tracking the Kapiti Line from Mackays Crossing through Paraparaumu to just south of Waikanae, to increase capacity. (The double track stops short of Waikanae Station to avoid the cost of building second bridges over State Highway 1 and the Waikanae River.)
- Electrifying the Kapiti Line from Paraparaumu to Waikanae.
- Adding additional stabling storage at Paekakariki and Waikanae for the Matangi and Ganz Mavag units.
- Installing a third, bi-directional, line into between Wellington Station and the Kapiti/Hutt Valley line junction to ease congestion at peak times.
Work started on the programme in 2008, and was largely completed in February 2011.
In 2011/2012, Tranz Metro had annual operational expenses of $80.437m, and revenues of $80.442m. Most revenue (47% or $37.8m) comes from fares, 22% or $17.69m comes from Wellington Regional Council rates, and 30% or $24.13m from New Zealand Transport Agency public transport funding.
The Metlink network consists of five lines totalling 160 kilometres (99 mi). All lines originate from Wellington Railway Station, at the northern end of the Wellington central business district.
Around 101 kilometres (63 mi) of the network is electrified at 1500 V direct current with overhead lines. The only part not electrified is the Wairarapa Line beyond Upper Hutt; as a result Wairarapa Connection trains are diesel-hauled.
Until 2001, Tranz Metro also operated the Capital Connection service between Palmerston North and Wellington. On the sale of 50% of Tranz Scenic to directors of the West Coast Railway (subsequently repurchased by Toll) it was transferred to Tranz Scenic (now KiwiRail Scenic), where it remains.
The five Metlink lines, from west to east, are:-
|Line||Abbr.||Colour on map||Between Wellington and||Length (km)||Travel time (approx; min)||Description|
|Johnsonville||JVL||Blue||Johnsonville||10.5||21||A narrow and winding route through the hills of the northern suburbs of Wellington. Built by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, it was part of the North Island Main Trunk until bypassed in 1937 by the Tawa Flat deviation.|
|Kapiti||KPL||Green||Waikanae||55.4||60||Along the North Island Main Trunk through Porirua and the Kapiti Coast.|
|Hutt Valley||HVL||Red||Upper Hutt||32.4||45||Along the Wairarapa Line through Waterloo in Lower Hutt to Upper Hutt, the edge of the Wellington urban area.|
|Melling||MEL||Orange||Melling||13.5||19||Along the Wairarapa Line to Petone, then along the Hutt Valley's western edge. Part of the Wairarapa Line until that line was diverted in 1955 along the eastern side of the valley.|
|Wairarapa Connection||WRL||Yellow||Masterton||91.0||95–100||Along the Wairarapa Line to Masterton, the largest town in the Wairarapa. Limited stops between Wellington and Upper Hutt, marketed as the Wairarapa Connection.|
All operate seven days a week except the Melling Line, which does not operate on weekends or public holidays.
Electric locomotive-hauled trains were withdrawn in 1988 on the retirement of the EW class electric locomotives, displaced by the EM/ET class Ganz Mavag units introduced in 1982. DM/D class English Electric" units have been withdrawn as they became uneconomical to operate. Several DM/D units were kept for peak services and the Johnsonville Line, where the loading gauge and braking capacity prevented the EM/ET units operating.
New carriages were introduced to the Capital Connection in 1998 and the Wairarapa Connection in 2007. They are ex-British Rail Mark 2 carriages, re-gauged and refurbished. They replaced NZR 56-foot carriages built between 1937 and 1943.
In July 2007, GWRC ordered 48 FP/FT Matangi units to increase capacity and replace the remainder of the 70-year-old DM/D units. The Johnsonville Line was upgraded in 2008 and 2009 to accommodate the Matangi units.
In 2008, several DM/D units were reintroduced on peak services as an interim measure until the Matangi units arrived. Six SE BR Mark 2 carriages were partially refurbished and introduced for express peak services, top-and-tailed by two refurbished EO class electric locomotives. The locomotives, built in 1968, were used in the Otira Tunnel until its de-electrification in 1997. An additional locomotive was refurbished for backup. Due to mechanical issues and the availability of new rolling stock, the EOs were withdrawn from service in 2011. Slower-than-planned commissioning of the Matangi units and the unreliability of the EO locomotives saw Melling line services temporarily replaced by buses in April 2013 and the permanent removal of the penalty fare for Hutt Valley passengers on the Wairarapa Connection in the southbound direction. On the Johnsonville line in 2012, from 7 February until the introduction of the Matangi trains from 19 March, some peak period trains were replaced by buses because of a shortage of DM/D units.
On 25 June 2012, the last DM/D units were withdrawn from service, just one week shy of 74 years since the first members of the class entered service. The SE carriages formerly used with the EO electric locomotives were fitted with toilets and reallocated to the Wairarapa Connection in July 2013 to ease rolling stock constraints.
KiwiRail provides three diesel-electric locomotives on a "hook-and-tow" basis to operate the Wairarapa Connection trains. Since July 2015, services have been hauled by the DFT class; before then, the DC class was primarily used.
The most common livery on the EM/ET units is "Cato blue" with yellow safety ends and the Tranz Metro logo on the side. The SW carriages are in Metlink livery of navy blue with lime green highlights and the Metlink logo on the side. The Matangi units are in Metlink livery, with the majority of the unit unpainted stainless steel.
Locomotives are in KiwiRail or earlier liveries.
The DM units were finally in the "Cato blue" livery with yellow safety ends and the Tranz Metro logo on the side. The remainder of the DM units were in "carnation red", the traditional Railways livery from the 1930s.
In 2012 the Greater Wellington Regional Council decided to investigate extension of the electrification east of Upper Hutt to a new station at Timberlea and north of Waikanae to Otaki (estimated cost $30 million for the Otaki project).
- Rail transport in New Zealand
- Public transport in the Wellington Region
- List of Wellington railway stations
- List of rapid transit systems
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