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Time To Recognise Rail’s Strategic Value


18th August, 2006

Time To Recognise Rail’s Strategic Value

Auckland lobby group The Campaign for Better Transport is backing the Ruapehu District Council’s bid to keep the Overlander Auckland-Wellington rail service alive.

"Dunedin City Council’s involvement with the Taieri Gorge Railway sets a successful example of what can be achieved. ", says Cameron Pitches, Convenor of the Campaign for Better Transport.

Mr Pitches is also hopeful that the Government will see the strategic value of maintaining a passenger rail network in the North Island, especially given escalating fuel prices and the demise of regional airline Origin Pacific.

"The main trunk railway line is already electrified between Hamilton and Palmerston North, reducing our dependency on the ever increasing price of imported fossil fuels" says Mr Pitches.

"In the same way that the Government saw the need to invest in Air New Zealand for strategic reasons, let’s hope that similar reasoning prevails here."

Mr Pitches also believes a different operator stepping in for regional passenger rail services will realise the potential of rail to the regions. "Judging by the near total lack of marketing and poor investment record in rolling stock, it is clear that Toll want to stick to their core business of freight. But I think the potential for passenger rail services to Rotorua, Waitomo and all points down to Wellington is huge."

According to the Ports of Auckland, Auckland can expect over 100,000 people arriving in the next year on cruise ships alone.

"In February 2007 the largest ocean liner in the world, the Queen Mary 2, will arrive with 2,800 passengers. I imagine a large number of these passengers would jump at the chance to catch a train for a scenic day trip to Rotorua or the Waitomo Caves, directly from Britomart.", says Mr Pitches.

Ticketing could also be greatly improved. Developing multi-stop tickets would allow passengers flexibility in travel arrangements, claimed Mr Pitches. That way people can stop at towns, then resume journeys the next day.

"Councils need to lobby for better types of tickets that let people stop in their towns and continue travel without penalty," emphasized Mr Pitches.

"Low cost measures like this, and improved food and service, can be the basis for a sustainable rail service in the future to our regions."


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