Railcar demand too small

Despite conducting two successful trials of passenger train services between Dunedin and Oamaru, the Taieri Gorge Railway is not ready to reintroduce regular daily services.

A regular Dunedin-Oamaru passenger service has not run since 2002. Despite the Taieri Gorge Railway's 94-seat Silver Fern railcar being fully booked last Sunday for a second trial run, a regular service will not be introduced. A test in November attracted 79 commuters.

Railway operations manager Grant Craig said last Sunday's test was ''very successful'', but the economic climate did not warrant daily passenger trips.

''At this stage we are looking at monthly trips, in conjunction with Tourism Waitaki, to run to Oamaru. It takes us a big leap of faith to run it every day and I think the financial situation at the moment is not justifiable to take that risk, because you have good days and you also have really bad days running it every day.''

Mr Craig said the railcar would make monthly trips to Oamaru until the end of April.

''The March one will be an interesting one, because children are back at school and parents are back doing whatever they are doing, so it will be interesting to see if we get the same kind of numbers.''

However, he added that extra trips would be put on to coincide with any events that took place in Oamaru.

The situation would be reviewed again next year, he said.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Joel Coatsworth said the rail connection not only provided a boost to the local economy, but also encouraged people to stay locally during holidays and painted a ''really positive picture'' of regional tourism.

''Obviously, there is a direct tourism boost to numbers, but the other benefit is that it encourages local businesses to open up and provide products.''

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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