Southland needs the Southerner back on the rails

Bring back the railway

By Tim Hanna

In July 2017 the Government announced it was spending $50,000 to determine if resuming the rail passenger service between Invercargill and Christchurch, terminated in 2002, was economically viable. 

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said bringing it back could provide a “fantastic boost” to tourism in the south, a sentiment repeated by the mayors of Dunedin and Timaru. Shadbolt also pointed out that reestablishing the service would reduce the number of tourists driving on the roads and that this could reduce traffic accidents. Dunedin’s mayor David Cull said that a resumption of the service would also open up options for commuters to further ease road congestion.

Since that hopeful announcement the idea seems to have gone quiet and we have heard nothing about it that I am aware of from our current mayor. However, if I become mayor I’ll start making a whole lot of noise about it. The case for the service just gets stronger and stronger as we get more tourists in the region and we face the fact that regional jetliners are, like their bigger brethren, serious polluters. Best of all having this missing link reinstated would complete a national passenger rail network by allowing travelers to hook up with services to the West Coast and also via Picton to the rest of the country.

Apparently the now privately owned Invercargill Railway Station is up for sale and it would be fantastic if it could become functional once more. The idea, apparently floated in some quarters, that it could also be a railway museum and the departure point for an historic steam train ride to Bluff is an obvious winner. Or so it seems to me.

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