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A proposal to end trips to the Strath-Taieri town caught the community off guard earlier this month, but Mr Winders framed the Dunedin City Holdings company proposal at the Strath-Taieri Community Centre as short-term.
"We’re not looking to pull the track out," Mr Winders said.
"The natural human behaviour is to keep it open. But we are running a commercial organisation.
"Railways are a hard business. We run trains every day, all year round."
But this year, of Dunedin Railways’ 500 trips, 19 made it to Middlemarch.
The 18km from Pukerangi to Middlemarch added two hours to the otherwise 4.5-hour journey and it would cost up to $2million to "clean up" that section of track and then another $200,000 a year to maintain it.
He likened Dunedin Railways to a "mini KiwiRail" that operated on 60km of bridges, tunnels and tracks with a staff of 75 full-time equivalents.
Otago Excursion Train Trust founding member Clark Simmonds said the trust (still a 28% shareholder of Dunedin Railways) was started in 1978 in part to keep that section of line in use; he urged the company to "persist".
Rail and Maritime Transport Union Otago Rail Branch branch secretary Dave Kearns said he and the dozen union members present last night viewed the proposal as the "thin end of the wedge".
Jacquie Lucas presented on behalf of an "informal group" to test the community interest in a Strath-Taieri heritage park that featured the area’s railway, farming, ecology, and heritage buildings.
The survey distributed by Dunedin Railways last night was open until March 31. The company would present to the Dunedin City Council in April or May.