New Zealand’s state rail operator KiwiRail has committed to making changes to its operations following the publication of an independent review into disruptions on the metro rail in Auckland and Wellington.

The rapid review, which was called after an equipment failure that brought Wellington passenger services to a near standstill in May of this year, was prepared for the country’s Ministers of Transport, Finance and State Owned Enterprises and has been welcomed by Greater Wellington’s regional council.

Chair of the council Daran Ponter described the report as “an eye-opening account of poor decision-making”, while Thomas Nash, chair of the region’s Transport Committee, said current funding would not be enough to address the issues found.

Nash said: “We’ve asked KiwiRail to identify all potential critical points of failure on our rail network and we believe an injection of cash will be necessary to manage these risks. This is especially important given our ambition to triple passenger rail capacity in our region over the next 30 years.”

Among the primary issues identified in the review were the insufficient integration of governance agreements across the rail management chain, a lack of up-to-date safety standards and procedures and a funding gap between KiwiRail and the local governments of the region.

The review also called for the creation of a “collaborative, aligned governance group” that could work together on improving metro rail services for passengers.

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By GlobalData

In response, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said that the organisation was committed to “providing a safe and reliable” network for commuters and has already begun work to change its systems after taking full responsibility for the May incident when KiwiRail’s only track evaluation car (TEC) broke down.

He said: “The TEC has been working for 41 years and this is the first time we have had issues like we did in Wellington. We look forward to working through the recommendations in the report released today. 

“We have already made a number of changes within our business. These directly address specific failings that led to the TEC being unable to complete its required assessments of the Kāpiti Line in time and will help ensure its reliability in the years ahead.” 

Improvements identified by KiwiRail include reviewing the maintenance programme for the TEC, developing better resilience for the car by reviewing the tasks needed to ensure its operation and developing a wider Infrastructure Integrated Plan to plan the use of the TEC at a national level.

Samantha Gain, the group manager of Greater Wellington’s public transport brand Metlink, said: “Important lessons have been learned from this episode. KiwiRail will be at pains to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again and that good communication and understanding of the impact on passengers is at the forefront of future decisions.

“We continue to work closely and collaboratively with KiwiRail on a range of upgrades to the Wellington rail network through our future rail work programme.”