Transport Minister Michael Wood reveals KiwiRail staffing, rostering issues to blame for disruptions to Wellingtonians

The Transport Minister is feeling a high level of "anger" and frustration over the disruptions caused to Wellingtonians because of broken down KiwiRail infrastructure. 

Train services in Wellington were drastically cut back on Monday after the breakdown of a specialist rail track evaluation car.

It prompted speed restrictions of 70km/h, with just half as many services as usual during peak times.

Transport Minister Michael Wood called KiwiRail bosses to the Beehive on Monday to provide an explanation of what happened and the plan to fix it.

Wood announced a rapid review into KiwiRail after the meeting.

KiwiRail put out a press release last week saying the reason for the disruptions was because of a mechanical issue, but the Transport Minister revealed to AM co-host Ryan Bridge on Tuesday the main reason for the disruption was because of staffing and rostering issues. 

"My understanding of the advice I have is that actually what has mainly driven the fact that this job wasn't done at the right time in Wellington was a scheduling and rostering issue," he told AM. 

"So effectively there's been a dropping of the ball within the organisation around that and that's why the review is important because that speaks to the systems not working appropriately and not being sufficiently focussed."

When asked by Bridge why there needs to be a rapid review, Wood said he wants a full understanding of what has happened because someone has "dropped the ball". 

"Our immediate focus has just been on getting this fixed as soon as possible and that is happening through this week, so we are hoping to minimise the impact," he said. 

"The reason we want to do this rapid review is to get someone independent in to really clarify exactly what happened because there has been a dropping of the ball here that shouldn't have happened."

When pressed by Bridge if he doesn't believe the answers that KiwiRail bosses have provided him, Wood told AM he wants to be "very, very clear on what happened". 

"We want to be very clear that steps are being put in place, this is the most important part, so it doesn't happen again," Wood said. 

"We also want to do effectively some robust and appropriate checking that within the organisation there is the appropriate focus on customer service because ultimately that is what this is about." 

When pressed again about whether he trusted KiwiRail bosses, the Transport Minister said he wouldn't say that but is feeling a "high level of frustration" and a "degree of anger" about the situation. 

"Our Government is investing a huge amount in public transport. The public want more and better public transport, but if it's not reliable, that undermines it, so we’ve got to get this right, that is why we are taking this seriously," he said.

Transport Minister Michael Wood is angry over the disruptions to Wellingtonians caused by a breakdown of KiwiRail infrastructure.
Transport Minister Michael Wood is angry over the disruptions to Wellingtonians caused by a breakdown of KiwiRail infrastructure. Photo credit: AM

It's been reported, trains are zooming past and not stopping at stations throughout the capital because they're too full, leaving people late for work and school.

Wood told AM he felt for those people and urged Wellingtonians to come up with a plan to get through the next couple of days while there are disruptions.

"This is a very frustrating situation for those families and for those parents, it's a case of looking at the options and trying to make a plan to make sure that you can get the kids to school in a way that's safe and appropriate," Wood said. 

"I recognise that is a real burden on those families. I'm feeling hacked off on behalf of them and other commuters, that's why we're setting up this rapid review to get to the bottom of why this happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Metlink said on Monday Wellington's trains will be back to normal by Thursday. 

Watch the full interview with Michael Wood in the video above.