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Greens plead with Government to save Overlander

25 September 2006

Green Party pleads with Government to save Overlander

As the last scheduled week of the Overlander rail service begins, and as Cabinet today reportedly considers rescue options, the Green Party is appealing to the Government to step in and ensure the service can continue to operate while viable alternatives are explored.

"It would be disastrous if the service was allowed to end this Saturday. The Government must listen to the groundswell of public opinion demanding the service be retained," Green Party MP Sue Kedgley says.

Ms Kdgley said one of the options that needed to be explored was for the present operator, Toll, to stand aside, if it is not seriously interested in running a long distance passenger service in the North Island, and allow the Government to call national and international tenders to run the service.

"One of the main barriers to the Overlander's survival is that Toll holds exclusive rights to run the passenger rail service, and these rights amount to a virtual restraint of trade even after the service is expected to finish on September 30. In the public interest, perhaps it is time that Toll now considered stepping aside.

"In understand that a paper outlining rescue options for the Overlander is going to Cabinet today.

"We can't afford to sit on our hands any longer, and allow an unwilling operator and a mulish Government to blight the chances of anyone else running the service profitably," Ms Kedgley says.

"The public have already shown what they think. So far, more than 23,000 New Zealanders have signed the Green Party petition calling on the Government to ensure the service is not axed..

"These signatures continue to pour in, and are testament to the huge support the Overlander has in heartland New Zealand. For that reason, I remain optimistic that the Government will finally listen to ordinary New Zealanders, and step in to save the Overlander

"We have never asked Michael Cullen to sign a blank cheque. All we are asking from Government is a guarantee that it will support the service for six months to two years, while other ways of running a properly marketed, viable service are explored," Ms Kedgley says.

"I am confident that if the Overlander service was upgraded and well marketed, it would be profitable.

"Surely the Government should be pulling out all the stops to try and keep a passenger rail service on the North Island main trunk line, and not just sit by and allow the service to fall over."


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