Plan to revive passenger rail between Chch and Dunedin may be back on track

A plan to revive a passenger rail service between Christchurch and Dunedin could be back on track.

Save Our Trains Otepoti-Dunedin met with the Otago Regional Council on Thursday asking for a feasibility study on the service between the two cities along with a local commuter service on the Mosgiel/Dunedin/Port Chalmers line.

Spokesman Dave Macpherson from Save our Trains said the services would ideally be funded through the public transport system.

He said there were several "imponderables" to consider before getting any service off the ground.

"You would have to consider the frequency of the service, how it would be funded, and the cost of the preparation and feasibility work ... it’s not something we want or expect to start straight away."

Consider the case for passenger rail in Dunedin. PHOTO: PETER McINTOSH
He said feasibility studies for the expansion of successful Te Huia service between Hamilton and Auckland cost about $100,000, which was funded by a mix of central and local government assistance.

"The study cost less than $1 per ratepayer ... and they didn’t have nearly as much inbuilt infrastructure as Dunedin has," Macpherson said.

With the right government support, trains could provide affordable transport for people on low-incomes or otherwise unable to use cars, Macpherson said.

"Inter-regional trains can provide easy domestic vacation options, lessening the need for air travel overseas or domestically for holidays."

Macpherson said although the previous government invested $105 million into Hillside workshops, it did not promote passenger rail.

Dr Duncan Connors of Otago University’s Business School said the train service would make "a lot of sense".

"At the start of each semester, you have about 2000 students coming from Christchurch to Dunedin, and most of them would be transported down in gas-guzzling vehicles."

-With RNZ and ODT's Matthew Littlewood