Taieri Gorge proposal: Tour group prepared to run trains

A Dunedin Railways train crosses the Taieri River at Hindon. Photo: Gerard O'Brien.
A Dunedin Railways train crosses the Taieri River at Hindon. Photo: Gerard O'Brien.
The future of the Taieri Gorge railway line may be as a part of the new Great Southern Train Tour which now also features a trip aboard the Kingston Flyer.

The owner of Pounamu Tourism Group, which operates the rail trip across the South Island that started this month, revealed it was the private company willing to negotiate a sale or lease of Dunedin Railways Ltd (DRL) assets.

That was one of the four short-listed options for the future of the mothballed railway presented to Dunedin city councillors earlier this month.

The other options are to wind up the council-owned company, have the city maintain ownership of the trains but run them on KiwiRail’s national network only, or to retain city ownership of DRL and run a service that also includes using the Taieri Gorge line.

Pounamu Tourism Group managing director Paul Jackson said yesterday it was the unnamed private company in the option to lease or purchase the assets.

"I can reveal that to you because it wasn't revealed in the council files."

The Great Southern Train Tour includes a trip today on the Kingston Flyer, which will carry its first passengers in eight years.

Mr Jackson said Taieri Gorge line was the "fifth piece of the rail puzzle" and would have been included in its new service if it had been available at the time, he said.

" ... For sure we will include it. We would've included it this time had it been available, but it wasn't.

"We see great potential with our friends down there in Dunedin."

Pounamu Tourism Group was looking forward to working closely with Dunedin City Council who Mr Jackson said "by the sounds of it, are no longer going to close the train".

DRL was put into hibernation in April last year.

The company had run tourist and charter train services but the operation’s viability eroded and fallout from Covid-19 led to it being mothballed.

However, a summer trial was run this year to gauge domestic market possibilities and Sunday trips from Dunedin to Hindon and Waitati during the three months sold out.

Councillors deferred making a decision on the future of Dunedin’s railway during a meeting two weeks ago, and instead a paper will come back to the council in May, before deliberations on the council's 10-year plan.

molly.houseman@odt.co.nz

Comments

The rail network to Middlemarch must be held onto for our local heritage and tourism industry.
Kiwis will explore now and it can be linked to the railtrail..
Whats the point us having a fabulous railway station and no trains!

Middlemarch was dropped to make the Taieri Gorge trips fit the length of time available for cruise ship passengers. If fossil fuel sincerity breaks out among Dunedin's green leadership faction, cruise ships being banned from our harbour and working to band them from NZ's waters, the rail tour can resume its full length for NZers and other tourists. Middlemarch people had put a lot of work into enhancing their town as a destination only to be kneecapped by DCC concentration on high-fossil fuel, low value tourists.
Rail nuts - oops, passionate fans - are worldwide. The Taieri Gorge delivers for the family, train/rail plus extraordinary scenery varying along the way. It's a big reason for choosing NZ as a holiday destination. Add local products. Rail then cycle, stay in real home-style accommodation complete with home-made date scones.........
Increase liveliness and opportunities throughout the region. Queenstown illustrates the "all eggs in one basket" folly.

 

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