Council to ponder railway’s future

Dunedin Railways will be running at least two chartered journeys per week for cruise ship...
The future of Dunedin Railways is to be discussed behind closed doors at the city council next week amid calls for structural change.

Maintenance of the Taieri Gorge line has been one financial challenge for the council-owned company.

The Covid pandemic has been another, but tourism is rebounding, providing an opportune time to reassess how Dunedin rail might best function, if the service is to be retained.

Otago Excursion Train Trust chairman Murray Schofield said he hoped the Dunedin City Council recognised the value of the Taieri Gorge as a tourist attraction.

He suggested the council should pick up the cost of maintaining the railway track.

A train operator might then be in a better position to realistically provide a valuable, viable service, Mr Schofield said.

He would like to see trains travel the full distance from Dunedin to Middlemarch.

Hindon to Pukerangi was the most spectacular part of the journey, he said.

Former Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd chairman John Farry, who was prominent in a fundraising campaign in 1990 to save the tourist train when its future was uncertain, said a subsidy might be needed.

The region’s interests would best be served by retaining a Dunedin rail service, he said.

"I think we simply must keep the train," Mr Farry said.

"The people of Dunedin do not want to see it disappear."

Material about future options for the Dunedin rail service will be discussed in the public-excluded part of a council meeting next week, because of commercial sensitivity.

Dunedin Railways has lately been run in limited fashion.

Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams said he wanted the train to run to Middlemarch.

Money would need to be spent to allow it to happen.