Carriage work for Hillside

These railway carriages will be refurbished in Dunedin for a luxury New Zealand train service. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
These railway carriages will be refurbished in Dunedin for a luxury New Zealand train service. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The company behind a planned luxury train journey through New Zealand will use Hillside Workshops in Dunedin to refurbish its carriages.

The arrival of the carriages is the first sign plans released by the company late last year for a luxury train journey through regional New Zealand are coming to fruition.

Yesterday, Antipodean Explorer confirmed it owned 16 carriages that turned up recently on a siding near Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It also confirmed they would be refurbished at the Hillside site that closed amid controversy in 2012.

While details were sparse last night, it is understood the company has leased space at Hillside to carry out the work.

In December, Antipodean Explorer NZ co-founder and general manager Amanda Johnston announced the journey, to be pitched at wealthy tourists, would run from Auckland and travel through provincial New Zealand, including Dunedin and Invercargill.

There were also plans for road excursions, with the company intending to offer trips to Queenstown.

The train would have 16 carriages, and the company had bought 31 that had been used in Auckland.

Mrs Johnston, of Auckland, said at the time she hoped the carriages, which would be kitted out as ``a moving hotel'', would be refitted at Hillside.

Dunedin had been chosen for the work as there were not many places 31 carriages could be stored and worked on at one time.

The company had financial backing from Chinese company Fu Wah.

Yesterday, Mrs Johnston told the Otago Daily Times the 16 former commuter train carriages had arrived in Dunedin from Taumaranui.

``Over the next two years, these 16 carriages will be refurbished at the Hillside engineering workshop in South Dunedin into a luxury sleeper train aimed at high-value visitors from around the world, including the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.''

Antipodean Explorer had bought 31 carriages with the long-term intention of having two trains in operation - one in the North Island and one in the South Island.

Mrs Johnston said the former Auckland suburban carriages had not been used for some years, and had been sitting on a railway siding in Taumarunui.

KiwiRail had been commissioned to haul them from Taumarunui to South Dunedin.

``This is an exciting step for the company,'' she said.

Once the work at Hillside was completed, the service was planned to begin in early 2020.

The company had an agreement with KiwiRail to access its rail network.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said it was ``very good news''.

Her understanding was the company had leased at least one building at Hillside and was ``intent on going ahead''.

There was support building to rejuvenate Hillside, she said.

Dunedin City Council economic development business relationship manager Des Adamson said he had been providing assistance to Antipodean Explorer since the initiative was announced early in December.

That had included providing information on the capacity of the city's engineering sector.

Dunedin Railways had also been involved.

Mr Adamson said if the project came to fruition it would provide benefits to Dunedin businesses.

A spokeswoman for Bradken, which works from a site at Hillside, said the company was not involved in the project.

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