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