Media Release – Saturday 29 April 2023

Rail funding announcement — a big win for community and connectivity but what about Ō2NL?

A modern new train fleet with lower emissions, station improvements and an increased frequency of services with at least two morning and two afternoon services on the Manawatū rail line. This is what we can expect after public transport initiatives got a significant funding injection.

With Horowhenua growing at more than three times the rate of the rest of New Zealand, it is a welcome announcement for our community and those that have been advocating for the investment over recent years.

Central government announced today they have committed funding towards light rail in the Greater Wellington and Manawatū Regions, meaning new trains would double the number of services to Levin, Shannon and Palmerston North to at least four times a day. This comes after Horizons and Greater Wellington Regional Councils secured $5M in funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency in May 2020 to pursue a detailed business case and commence procurement for regional passenger trains.

Horowhenua District Council Mayor Bernie Wanden says, “We are thrilled with today’s announcement. It is absolutely critical that our community is connected and has access to a modern and more frequent rail service. This coupled with the urgent investment needed in the Ōtaki to North of Levin (Ō2NL) Expressway will mean that our growing population is not only well catered for, but is able to get from A to B more safely.”

Mayor Bernie continues, “While we are feeling really positive about today’s announcement, we know that the more important investment is the still unconfirmed funding on Ō2NL. We eagerly await this critical funding announcement, so that our very patient and desperate community can move with confidence knowing that the expressway will be built. Ō2NL funding confirmation, also means that as a Council we can be more deliberate with future district plan changes, ensuring zoning for both commercial and residential growth in the district is strategically placed while ensuring we play our part to protect New Zealand’s Food Security.”

On Saturday the Government said it will spend hundreds of millions on new hybrid trains for the Wellington region. The 18 new four-car trains for the Wellington to Masterton and Wellington to Palmerston North rail lines, as well as station and line upgrades, will be a major part of Budget 2023’s infrastructure spend, and are expected to increase trips on the two lines by 1.5 million trips annually.

Will anything happen in the next 6 months? Maybe; it would depend how advanced design specifications are. Comment by Tim Costley, National Party candidate for the Otaki seat:

“Trains are great, but remember Labour said they were going to replace the Capital Connection at the last election and NOTHING has been delivered. Same story with Ō2NL. All talk, no delivery.

“It’s great that they’ve finally funded the train, but I’m very concerned that they keep refusing to fund Ō2NL. They’ve cancelled it before and I’m worried they will do it again. It should be half-built by now.

“It’s time to show our local community some actual delivery; six years of talk won’t cut it.

“National built TG, the Kapiti Expressway and all the way to Ōtaki. We will deliver the infrastructure Horowhenua needs.”