Feasibility study pitched for daily passenger train

A daily passenger train linking Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch would also reconnect smaller urban centres to the cities in their region, a rail advocate says.

Save Our Trains Otepoti-Dunedin organiser Dave Macpherson has pitched a jointly funded feasibility study to regional councils in Southland, Canterbury and now Otago.

He outlined the group’s vision for a renewed passenger service to councillors at this week’s Otago Regional Council long-term plan hearings.

A feasibility study should cost about $170,000 and could be split between the three regional councils.

Save Our Trains Otepoti-Dunedin had launched its campaign to bring back a version of The Southerner in August.

Beyond linking the three cities on the the Main South Line by passenger rail, with stops in places such as Gore, Balclutha, Oamaru, Timaru and Ashburton along the way, there could also be scope for a Mosgiel to Dunedin and Port Chalmers commuter service, Mr Macpherson said.

Save Our Trains Ōtepoti-Dunedin organisers Dave Macpherson and Alenna McLean are calling on the...
Save Our Trains Ōtepoti-Dunedin organisers Dave Macpherson and Alenna McLean are calling on the Otago Regional Council, and its Southland and Canterbury counterparts, to fund a feasibility study for the return of passenger rail from Christchurch to Invercargill. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
There had also been the suggestion of linking Dunedin to the airport.

"One of the big things we’re saying is this doesn’t need new big infrastructure.

"Because the track’s already in place."

There would need to be refurbished locomotives and carriages and work on stations along the way.

A feasibility study would allow people to see what was possible, he said.

It could help to determine where the rolling stock would come from, what the fares would need to be, and the support, including from the government, the service would require.

The group had received a lot of positive feedback from the public.

However, Mr Macpherson believed it was going to be "a tough ask" getting councils to agree immediately.

"But we’re not going to go away either."

If the submission was not acted upon this year there would be "even bigger submissions next year", he said.

And now was a good time to get the project rolling after recent government backing of North Island passenger rail projects.

"This isn’t just pie in the sky — this is happening in the North Island.

"It’s about time the South Island got a share of this resource."