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A world first NZ rail tourism venture to launch in October

18 September 2012

A world first New Zealand rail tourism venture to launch in October

A beautiful and isolated corner of New Zealand will soon be open to travel from a truly unique perspective – a self-driving rail cart.

From 13 October 2012, Forgotten World Adventures will be offering the chance to travel on rail carts along the disused railway line which runs between Stratford in Taranaki and Okahukura near Taumarunui in the Ruapehu district.

This region, often referred to as the Forgotten World, is a window into New Zealand’s pioneering history with pristine native bush, rugged hills and isolated farms. With trips ranging from a half day to a two day journey covering the full 140 kilometres of this historic line, experiencing the adventure of the Forgotten World has never been easier.

Forgotten World Adventures is the brainchild of entrepreneur Ian Balme, who secured a 30-year lease to the line which was mothballed by KiwiRail in 2009.

“This truly is a journey like no other. It’s a magical part of the country and travelling by rail cart has to be the best way to see it,” Mr Balme said.

George Hickton, former Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand and now a professional company director, is a big fan of the journey. "The Forgotten World Adventures self-drive railway experience has to be the best possible way to explore this unique region,” Mr Hickton said.

“This innovative kiwi business has the potential to link visitors and locals for mutual benefit and bring to life the history and lifestyle of a region forgotten by most of us," Mr Hickton added.

After seeing the runaway success of the Otago Central Rail Trail, Mr Balme is confident Forgotten World Adventures offers a significant economic development opportunity for the region. In little more than a decade, the Otago Central Rail Trail has grown into a business attracting thousands of visitors a year and contributing millions of dollars to local businesses, testament to the strong appeal of rail-based tourism.

KiwiRail's General Manager, Passenger Services, Deborah Hume said it was enthusiastic about the opportunity for Forgotten World Adventures to raise interest in rail-based tourism. “It is great to see a line that had to be mothballed being used again to bring tourism to the region," Ms Hume said.

The Forgotten World Adventures rail carts are either two or four seater, petrol driven and have a maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour. In what is believed to be a world first, the carts are fully self-driving: the driver has complete control over acceleration and braking. The journeys are semi-guided, with the beauty of travelling by rail cart the ability to stop and admire the scenery at any time.

“This unforgettable trip will be enjoyed by everyone from young to old and in between, with its unique perspective on New Zealand’s rugged landscape and pioneering past,” Mr Balme said.


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