Trains to be used again during cruise ship season

Port Otago sustainability and cruise manager Carolyn Bennett gives an update on the upcoming...
Port Otago sustainability and cruise manager Carolyn Bennett gives an update on the upcoming cruise season, at the Edgar Centre yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dunedin is gearing up for a busy cruise ship season where trains will once again transport many cruise visitors.

Port Otago sustainability and cruise manager Carolyn Bennett said 129 ships were booked for the season, up at least 20 ships on last season.

"We’re not starting our season until November.

"That’s made our season a lot busier," Ms Bennett said.

There was also an increase in expedition ships venturing to the subantarctic from Dunedin, from 14 to 20, while there would be 28 "double days" at Port Chalmers during the season.

The season begins on November 6 with the arrival of Royal Princess, and finishes on April 7 next year when Ovation of the Seas leaves port.

Ms Bennett said there was now an arrangement between Dunedin Railways and KiwiRail to bring a train service back to Port Chalmers to collect passengers.

"We’ve got a window where the train can come alongside.

"It is a very small window, which is giving us the opportunity to pick up passengers if the ship arrives at 0700 hours.

"We won’t be able to have trains for every ship, but it’s a great improvement, and we’re working to get back to where we were pre-Covid 19 when it comes to trains."

Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders said the return of trains for the first time since Covid-19 was a "huge step up".

Ms Bennett said there would also be discussions with Otago Regional Council about public buses to accommodate locals and cruise ship passengers on cruise days.

Ms Bennett said more than 70% of the cruise ships would arrive between December and February.

"We’re getting Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency involved to explain about passenger licences and compliance measures to tour providers before the season starts," Ms Bennett said.

Enterprise Dunedin i-Site manager Louise van de Vlierd said it was an "exciting" season ahead.

"The weather could play a part, but the industry as a whole is better prepared for cruise ships than they were last year, and it’s getting back to pre-Covid 19 numbers," she said.

"It provides vibrancy to Dunedin."

A transport agency spokesman said

the only potentially disruptive work on State Highway88, the Dunedin-Port Chalmers road, would be completed this week when

the last of the safety barriers were being installed.

"There will be other occasional minor pieces of work on SH88, such as line marking and chip seal."

The spokesman said this work was low impact and would be scheduled to avoid delays.