Plans for train trips derailed

Dunedin Railways’ Seasider train crosses the Waitati River. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Dunedin Railways’ Seasider train crosses the Waitati River. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Poor ticket sales have led to the cancellation of 40% of Dunedin Railways’ summer excursions, as 16 trips have been axed from 40 scheduled.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive Terry Davies said that despite the cancellations, Dunedin Railways was still running more services than it did last summer.

"The challenge we’ve had this year, of course, is Auckland’s only just opened up, so up to date demand has been soft."

Ticket sales across all of DVML’s event categories had been down, and a range of factors from vaccine pass rules and the Christmas season had led to a lot of uncertainty in the market.

He said ticket sales for the remaining services were looking healthy, and he was not anticipating further cancellations.

"If anything, we might get extra demand now that we’re opening up domestically, and we’d look at those services."

Some services had seen strong demand, such as two scheduled Christmas Inlander return trips to Hindon this weekend.

After the sole service of the festive-themed train sold out last year, a second running had been added this year and both services were looking as if they would probably replicate that feat.

Late last month, the Dunedin City Council directed Dunedin City Holdings Ltd to continue to run Dunedin Railways at a loss, costs of up to $2.4million a year expected to be offset by estimated ticketing revenue of $250,000.

Documents seen by the Otago Daily Times show three of the 10 services that were scheduled to run between the start of November and today were cancelled.

A service of the Twilight Train, which runs to Seacliff and back, that was scheduled to take place tonight has also been cancelled.

Twelve of the remaining 29 services originally scheduled through until the end of January have now been cancelled.

Otago Excursion Train Trust trustee Philip Riley said it had been marketing the services itself on social media, but thought more could be done to promote the excursions.

One example was the lack of physical brochures produced to advertise the trips to go alongside online content.

"Where your soft marketing is vital for a new digital age, your hard marketing targets a demographic ... which the train appeals to."

The trust made a pitch to the council in November to take over the running of rail services in the future.

Mr Davies said there had been a "significant" marketing campaign for the services across social media and traditional press.

"We’ve just reacted to the market and we’ll review it as we move forward and if we need to put a bit of extra marketing into it we will."

andrew.marshall@odt.co.nz

Comments

Not very well publicised at all so no great surprise not many tickets sold.

Has anyone thought that maybe people do NOT find it pleasurable to get on a train and have to wear a mask the whole journey and sign in like a criminal and have to have a passport to travel a short trip in your own country?

 

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