Dunedin Railways backtracks on asset sale

A sell-off of Dunedin rail heritage assets has come to a screeching halt. Dunedin Railways Ltd announced today it was withdrawing its request for proposals to acquire its rolling stock after the company accepted it was possible the assets could be useful in future scenarios.

The U-turn came just a week after Dunedin Railways had proposed to sell assets such as six heritage wooden carriages and a diesel-electric locomotive.

Company chairman Keith Cooper said the board’s position about heritage rolling stock being unsuitable for Dunedin Railways journeys had not changed.

However, the company’s owner, the Dunedin City Council, had been evaluating operating models.

The company board accepted future governors or operators of Dunedin Railways could take a different view about the usefulness of the heritage rolling stock, Mr Cooper said.

The heritage carriages included in the cancelled sale proposal would not be operated under the company’s current model, because of their risk profile.

"We will work with the offers of assistance that have come forward over the last week to find a suitable storage solution for the rolling stock, pending Dunedin City Council decisions about the company’s future," Mr Cooper said.

Otago Excursion Train Trust members and trustees were ecstatic about the change of heart.

Last train as the shadows grow long, Manuherikia Valley, 29 April, 1990. PHOTO: PAUL JEFFERY
Last train as the shadows grow long, Manuherikia Valley, 29 April, 1990. PHOTO: PAUL JEFFERY

There had been a public outcry about the assets being sold off, trust chairman Murray Schofield said.

The trust, founder of the Taieri Gorge Railway, looked forward to discussions about how the assets could be best used, Mr Schofield said.

Cr Sophie Barker said she was delighted possibilities for the future had not been closed off.

The assets had been placed with the company for "safe keeping" while strategies for the longer term were taking shape, she said.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said getting a better understanding of health and safety risks would be useful.

"Given that there seems to be a number of questions about the state of the assets, and their suitability for use, it seems like a sensible decision to stop this process for the time being."

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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