Kingston Flyer set for return?

The Kingston Flyer at Fairlight Station, near Garston, in 2019.PHOTO: ODT FILES
The Kingston Flyer at Fairlight Station, near Garston, in 2019.PHOTO: ODT FILES
The owners of the Kingston Flyer have applied for resource consent to run the heritage steam train as a commercial operation, but have no timeframe for starting the venture.

Kingston Flyer Ltd applied to the Queenstown Lakes District Council last week to operate daily passenger excursions on its 14km line between Kingston and Fairlight, but expects to start with chartered trips for private events only.

Invercargill engineer Neville Simpson, who is leading the train’s restoration team for the owners, told the Otago Daily Times no timeframe had been set because much work still needed to be done.

"We want to make sure we’re in a very good position to run a successful operation," Mr Simpson said.

One of the two engines was in good operating order, while the other was awaiting restoration.

Two carriages had been restored and work was under way on a third.

However, a lot of track repairs needed to be completed.

"One of the reasons everything’s not happening very quickly is that we’re relying on volunteers, and they’ve got full-time jobs as well."

However, the Kingston Flyer would operate commercially again, he said.

"It’s been saved and kept in Kingston, and that was the main thrust of the effort from the start."

The consent application states the train would operate on a private charter basis at first "because of the restrictions on tourists entering the country due to Covid-19".

"When it is commercially feasible, the Kingston Flyer may start to operate on a timetable basis as a commercial tourist attraction."

It would then operate up to three daily trips from Kingston to Fairlight and return, all year round.

Last September, the Environment Court issued an interim decision allowing for the operation of the train for restoration and maintenance activities without the need for a resource consent.

The Kingston Flyer, named for a passenger train that ran from 1878 until 1957, operated off and on as a heritage train attraction between 2003 and 2013.

In 2011, after a three-year hiatus, it was revived by the late David Bryce, who spent $1.3million restoring the engines and carriages before relaunching the operation.

But it ran for only two summers, and was mothballed until a group of Auckland-based investors bought the train and associated land and buildings in 2017.

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