Frustration at lack of rail options for some New Zealanders

Source: 1News

Frustration is growing that more isn’t being done to give New Zealanders the choice of travelling by train.

But even of the few services New Zealand does have, many are ageing, infrequent or don’t stop at regional towns that have few other transport options.

Graffitied, rusted and decaying carriages in Taumarunui are a symbol of the decline of passenger rail.

It was hoped they'd be refurbished, but have sat alone for years.

Weston Kirton, Horizons Regional Councillor, wants a change.

“They don't mind dumping off their old stock in our town.. but find it difficult to stop for 90 seconds to drop off people and pick up people on a regular basis," he said.

“I think that it's only fair they stop in places like Taumarunui, the local people see it as an insult the fact that it doesn't stop it already, and I've got to say it's frustrating when they see the train go past the shops in the township and they stop there to change drivers,” he said.

Andre Brett, a rail historian who wrote a book on passenger rails' demise, says we need urgent investment.

“Regional passenger rail is incredibly important to all of our communities from the largest cities through to the smallest villages because it provides all forms of accessibility and mobility, it gives people options of where and how and when they travel, it provides means of accessing services, employment and the fullness of social life," he said.

“So it's not just a way of getting one place to another, it's a way of staying and being fully involved in your community by being able to get to the wide range of places in sustainable and efficient sorts of ways."

KiwiRail says they want to focus on boosting tourism through rail.

“We've certainly considered it and we do stop at places like National Park and we stop at Ohakune, Palmerston North and others," KiwiRail acting chief executive David Gordon said.

“The issue is if there is a good tourist opportunity for those things and there is a package to be done then yeah, we'll work with the local authorities and stop, but we are running a tourism service so we can't run it an all-stops train,” he said.

The Greens have launched a petition calling for the revitalisation of our once thriving network.

They say it would help slash transport emissions by 41% in the next 13 years as set out in the emissions reduction plan.

Transport Minister Micheal Woods's office told 1News the Government is committed to doing so.