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King: North Island Main Trunk centenary

North Island Main Trunk centenary

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All aboard the Centenary Express

Annette King

6 August, 2008
North Island Main Trunk centenary

This has certainly been a busy week for me in the transport portfolio --launching a new transport agency, a New Zealand Transport Strategy update, the first Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding, and opening the national walking conference as well.

But one event I have been looking forward to all week is this very special train ride.
All aboard the Centenary Express
All aboard the Centenary Express

I want to acknowledge ONTRACK Chairman Cam Moore, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, my parliamentary colleagues, and fellow passengers on the 2008 Parliamentary Special – welcome.

As Transport Minister I often have the pleasure of turning sods and opening bridges, bypasses and other transport projects, but it’s a first for me to be celebrating 100 of transport infrastructure --- the centenary of the North Island Main Trunk line.

The North Island Main Trunk is an infrastructure icon. It is recognised internationally as a feat of engineering. The expertise developed during the design and building of the line was used elsewhere and in other industries to create transport links around the country.

The central section of the line in particular presented a number of challenges. The engineering skill, the physical labour and the sheer hard work and determination needed to complete the line was --- and remains --- an impressive achievement.

I would like to acknowledge ONTRACK for recognising the importance of this achievement and for celebrating it.

Our predecessors had a vision for what the North Island Main Trunk could do for their small and growing country.

They wanted to develop industry, expand the economy, to encourage farming and settlement. They wanted a modern transport link that would allow the efficient movement of people and goods up and down the North Island and that would connect with the South Island.

Since it has been completed the Main Trunk has had a profound effect on the speed and ease with which people, goods and mail could travel around the country.

That vision and the perseverance to make it happen is what we are celebrating today.

One hundred years on and we continue to look to the future with a vision for what a sustainable, integrated transport network can do for New Zealand.

A little over a month ago there was another large crowd gathered here on this same platform to mark the transfer into public ownership of the rail operational business.

The purchase of KiwiRail was a strategic decision. Public ownership allows the government to invest in rail to help develop a modern, sustainable transport system for the future.

My colleague and Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen has already announced an $80 million investment to upgrade rolling stock, and in the coming month the Cabinet will be considering a significant programme of further investment in rolling stock and infrastructure upgrades.

Already there is a major project to upgrade Auckland’s suburban rail network, including electrification. Here in Wellington, the planning is well underway for improvements to the urban network to accommodate a new fleet of electric trains from 2010.

This work includes lowering the floors of the tunnels on the Johnsonville line – the line that in 1908 was the route of the North Island Main Trunk out of Wellington.

That changed in the 1930s with electrification of the network, the opening of the grand Wellington Railway Station and the construction of the Tawa Flat deviation.

Improvements, adjustments and upgrades have ensured that the North Island Main Trunk, this transport infrastructure icon, is still going strong one hundred years on.

To the passengers on this centenary train, to ONTRACK, the heritage rail operators and other organisations who have supported this venture, thank you for what you are doing to preserve and treasure our railway history.

It is important, in a world in which fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and carbon footprints increasingly critical, that as we celebrate rail’s past, we also have a vision for what it might be able to deliver in future.

I am proud and excited to be part of today’s celebration. Thank you very much for inviting me to join you.


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