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Revamped Kaimai Express Could Be Viable

ACT deputy leader Ken Shirley says he enjoyed a return trip from Tauranga to Auckland on the Kaimai Express this week and believes the threatened rail service could be viable if revamped and properly marketed.

"It's a splendid and most enjoyable way to travel," Mr Shirley said.

"To my surprise the train was more than three-quarters full in both directions, possibly due to school holidays but also others like myself wanting to experience the trip before the service is discontinued.

"The railway staff were pleasant and efficient, and the service adequate. The cost of the journey, at $25 each way, is reasonable and the service has the added advantage of going from city centre to city centre.

"My greatest complaint is the filthy windows, covered in several months of exterior grime. Two young Irish tourists looking forward to the scenery were annoyed by this. Hardly a good look for a TranzScenic service.

"The other complaint is the lateness in departure (both ways) and the four-hour duration when road travel takes only two and a half hours. However, the length of the trip is offset by the ability to do paperwork and reading en route in a comfortable environment.

"The poor state of the track between Morrinsville and Hamilton forces the train to travel slowly and we had an unexplained half-hour stop near Ngaruawahia which was frustrating. Going via Hamilton is not the most direct route but this is largely offset by the Kaimai rail tunnel - the longest in the country at 8.9 kilometres.

"TranzRail is focusing on freight and is obviously not interested in passenger services. However, if a buyer could be found for the Kaimai Express, I believe it has the potential to make money if properly marketed and sped up," Mr Shirley said.."

"There's no case for a taxpayer subsidy, though, and the last thing we want is for the government to try to run the business."


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