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Southerner Extension Possible

Transport Minister Mark Gosche said today that he was hopeful that the Southerner train service would continue to run past September 30.

Officials met yesterday with Tranz Rail to explore the possibilities for an extension beyond that date to give southern regional councils more time to consider their options for continuing the service long-term.

No final decisions had been made but Mr Gosche said he hoped to announce next week what assistance, if any, government could provide to secure an extension.

Once more information was available government would meet with the regional councils to brief them.

"We know that the southern regional councils want the service to continue and we want to help find ways of making that happen. They need all the facts before they can make long-term decisions on subsidising the service. A temporary extension would buy the councils some time to do the necessary homework without the immense pressure that they have been under in recent weeks."

At the same time Tranz Rail and Transfund would exchange information on the costs associated with running the Southerner.

Mr Gosche said he could not say how long the extension might be for, but hoped it would be until Christmas.

He acknowledged that Tranz Rail had been cooperative in the discussions on extending the deadline.


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