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Capital, Hutt millions go to regional trains, buses says campaigner

Dec 8th, 2014 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Lead Story, Most Popular, News

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WELLINGTONIANS are paying millions of dollars each year for Kapiti and Wairarapa residents to catch the train.

Independent research by Tony Randle states that in the 2013-14 financial year ratepayers contributed $23.9 million towards rail and bus-to-rail services.

Wellington and Lower Hutt ratepayers contributed $12.5 and $5.1 million respectively, Kapiti paid $1.2 million, and Wairarapa $400,000.

Randle said Wellington and Lower Hutt ratepayers were the victims of an inaccurate subsidy formula and were being grossly overcharged.

‘‘The formula they use is obscure, irrelevant and unfair,’’ the Johnsonville Community Association member said.

Wellington Regional Council, which manages the regional transport network, agreed there was an imbalance and said it was reviewing the way transport rates were allocated, but defended the formula.

Rail and bus-to-rail rates are apportioned using the 2006 census travel statistics and count all types of trips (cars, motorbike, cyclists and bus riders).

A different formula is used for bus and ferry rates.

Regional council public transport group general manager Wayne Hastie said the formula was adjusted for congestion relief in the cities.

‘‘A 2004 report stated that an accurate measure of congestion relief between districts would be to use total public and private transport use,’’ he said.

‘‘We changed the formula because of that. The policy is clear and has been through public consultation.’’

Randle said there was no adjustment for distance, which meant ratepayers in Lower Hutt were charged the same subsidy for each trip to Wellington as ratepayers 100 kilometres away.

This was unfair because ‘‘in addition to funding their own public transport service, Wellington and Lower Hutt ratepayers are being charged subsidies for the longer and more costly rail services to Kapiti and the Wairarapa’’.

According to his calculations, Wellington and Lower Hutt ratepayers subsidised Kapiti and Wairarapa commuters by $1.3 and $2.2 million respectively during the 2013-14 year.

The difference would triple by 2031 if the issue was not addressed, he said.

Regional council transport portfolio leader Paul Swain said there was no dispute that some people were paying more than others.

‘‘The question is: how would you do it differently?’’ he said.

The regional council said that on average, 45 per cent to 50 per cent of public transport costs were covered by fares, taxpayers contributed 25 per cent and ratepayers the remaining 25 per cent.

Swain said it was difficult to please everyone.

‘‘We have this issue that we don’t want to put fares up too much, because it has a negative impact on patronage.

‘‘You have passengers saying they don’t want to pay any increases in fares, ratepayers who say they can’t afford to pay any more and the Government saying they won’t give any more tax.

‘‘Herein lies the conundrum.’’

The regional council will seek public submissions on the issue next year and Swain said it would be reviewing the issue.

District councils would also be asked for feedback on how things were currently working, he said.

Randle said his biggest concern was that the regional council had been hiding the rail and bus-to-rail subsidy.

‘‘It’s being spread very thinly across a large population and the public can’t look at any published information and see that it is happening,’’ he said.

 

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