Putting the 'Rail' back into the Trail

ODT graphic.
ODT graphic.
Plans are on track to put the "rail" back into the Otago Central Rail Trail.

More than two decades after the closure of the Central Otago railway line, a well-placed rail insider has revealed plans to reinstall tracks along the line.

"With oil prices the way they are, and the growth of industries along the route of the former railway line, the pressure is on for a cost-effective form of freight," the man, who spoke to the Otago Daily Times on condition of anonymity, said.

The growth of dairying in the Maniototo, gold mining in the Ida Valley, the burgeoning viticulture industry around Alexandra and Clyde, development of a diatomite deposit at Middlemarch and the possibility of lignite mining near St Bathans have all been the catalyst for plans to revive the railway line.

"We know this might be a controversial move, but we have to look at the bigger picture," the insider said.

"It makes sense, economically, to have rail transport next to where all these developments are taking place. The railway was constructed 100 years ago and its main use over the years has been for freighting goods. Cyclists and walkers have had it all to themselves for the past decade or so, but I'm afraid they'll just have to get used to sharing it."

The 150km route from Middlemarch to Clyde "reopened" as a walking and cycling trail in 2000 and has proved popular with New Zealanders and overseas visitors.

The trail is one of the district's premier tourist attractions.

Because the structures - bridges, tunnels and viaduct - are already in place, re-laying the railway tracks should be a relatively straightforward process, the man said.

"The most complicated part will be allowing for two very different uses of the track - the recreational users and the commercial side of things - but we're confident we can manage that. Regular train services are planned, up to three times a week initially."

Traffic lights will need to be installed at the tunnels, viaduct and bridges to control traffic.

Warning signals will also be placed where the railway line crosses the highway.

"Safety is of paramount importance and, of course, traffic will be one way only through the tunnels and viaduct. The times trains will be using the track will be well publicised, but we're considering a ban on iPod use by cyclists and pedestrians too, as an extra safety measure," the spokesman said.

"Thousands of people use the rail trail every year and rave about their experience. We're hoping that having trains back on the line will add another dimension and enhance that experience for them. The trail already boosts the economy of the region and now the economy will be boosted even further by giving producers the option of rail freight, right at their doorstep."

Full details of the plans are expected to be revealed at noon today.

rail feasibility

I can only submit the following articles which seem to raise a concern about road charges you have mentioned. 



but as what has been said before...a  rail and road fight is not the way to go .... both can supplement each other 


What truck subsidy?

What do you mean kenbeth? I am sure that all the truckies would like to know how to get this subsidy. Is this a real subsidy, or something invented by a greenist politician?

If you are claiming that all the Road User Charges and various other taxes are insufficient to pay for the maintenance of the roads, then I would like to see the figures.

As I said before, no public money should be used to prop-up non-viable rail routes.

Rail feasibility

I think you will find that a certain forestry company were going to rail its logs to Port Chalmers but with the road subsidy to trucking the decision went the trucking way.

Rail is feasible and is environmentaly better with less emissions per tonne of freight than trucks. Also when you take in the factor of road design for the loading of heavy trucks on the road this places an additional cost factor when building roads to this design.

Rail feasibility

The feasibility has been looked at a while ago; and that was why the tracks were ripped up. Over the years NZ has wasted a huge amount of public money propping-up rail transport. The only rail that should be encouraged are the ones that can pay their own way. Dreamers like Len Brown (AK Mayor) and Peter Chin should learn that wasting public money is bad for everyone.

Good one ODT

haha very funny odt you got me but has someone actually thought about this? It would be a really good idea to get some of the trucks off our roads and also could be a huge tourist attraction. Something worth thinking about me thinks!!!

Nice joke but........    

Nice joke but........  Has anyone ever looked into the feasibility of this before, or is it in the too hard basket? Light-rail from Dunedin through to Clyde/Alexandra/Queenstown perhaps.............

Ha Ha Ha

Ah, April 1st, you guys have outdone yourselves once again.


Railway reopening

Nice try ODT. Better luck next year. But it would be a great idea. If only the powers that be had similar vision.....