Urged to support train trip trials this summer

Dunedin Venues 
Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Terry Davies is encouraging people to try Dunedin train trips. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A summer trial of train trips from Dunedin will be a chance for the rail operator to test the waters and, if it goes well, themed rides could be a feature of the city’s future.

A ride connected to Valentine’s Day — expected to feature Champagne and chocolates — is one themed trip that will be tried by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd this summer.

But if New Zealanders want to make sure Dunedin train trips carry on after March, they will need to support a series of Sunday trips that start on December 20.

The trial is being run to test the appetite of Otago residents and domestic tourists for train trips after the international market was severely affected by fallout from Covid-19

DVML chief executive Terry Davies said the Santa Express would run on December 20.

Other future themed rides could be connected to office Christmas parties next year or the Guns N’ Roses concert planned for next November, but support for the rail service would need to be established first.

"I’m confident we’ll get good support," Mr Davies said.

The assets of Dunedin Railways Ltd have been in hibernation since July and the trial will restore them to use.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins announced last week the Dunedin City Council had agreed to underwrite a limited season of rail services that would allow the Seasider (Dunedin to Waitati and back, adult price $38) and the Inlander (Dunedin to Hindon and back, adult price $55) to run on Sundays.

The Seasider will offer views along the Pacific coast, including Otago Peninsula and Otago Harbour.

The Inlander trip would feature gorges, bridges and tunnels, and follow part of the route constructed during Otago’s gold rush.

The trial will cost the council up to $65,000 a month, offset by revenue.

Mr Davies said the aim was to see if a product could be developed that would suit the domestic market.

"We’re feeling our way on this," he said.

The product is expected to appeal to families and train enthusiasts.

Dunedin Railways is owned by the Dunedin City Council.

The council is awaiting a report setting out options for the longer-term future of the company. Results of the trial are expected to be used in that.


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