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Time for country to rally to save rail

25 June 2001
Time for country to rally to save rail

Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald today called for all New Zealanders to get behind a campaign to save rail in New Zealand as freight lines and passenger services now hang in the balance.

News that four TranzScenic passenger services - the Southerner, which runs between Christchurch and Invercargill, the Wellington-Napier Bay Express, the Auckland-Tauranga Kaimai Express, and the Geyserland between Auckland and Rotorua - could be closed when the new owner takes over comes at a time when a number of freight rail lines are also threatened with closure.

"It is vital that we face this crisis head on because rail is a crucial component of our transport and tourism infrastructure," said Mr Donald.

"The reported loss of four key passenger services as a result of the impending sale of TranzRail's passenger services to an Australian / French group would be a huge blow to tourism and regional development in New Zealand."

Mr Donald said passenger rail services had been poorly promoted by TranzRail and, with some decent marketing, could easily become highly successful tourist ventures.

"With threats of line closures and service cuts, rail in New Zealand is facing serious fragmentation. This makes the Greens' call for the Government to take back ownership of the national track both timely and important." Mr Donald today called on the New Zealand public, tourism operators and local bodies to put pressure on the Government to save the future of rail in New Zealand by taking back control of the track.

Green MPs have also written to local body leaders, local MPs, regional tourism organisations and businesses effected by the the four passenger services under threat urging them to work together with the new owners to ensure they not only survive but thrive.

Mr Donald said rail should play a significant role in helping New Zealand meet its Kyoto obligations to reduce CO2 emissions as rail was five times more energy efficient, and infinitely safer, than road freight.

"The Greens believe our rail should never have been sold and now we are paying the real price for losing control of a crucial component of our transport infrastructure at the same time as provincial air services are in the balance and coastal shipping is under increasing threat.

"We urge the public of this country to get behind a strong push to make this Government see common sense and take back the track," said Mr Donald.


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