Original article : Gisborne Herald – Wed 3rd June 2015 by Debbie Gregory
Great news for Gisborne this morning – KiwiRail has agreed to give the city’s steam train Wa165 a right of access to the track from the Grey Street station to Muriwai. This is a real boost for tourism here as the district heads into summer expecting 12 visits from four cruise ships between November and March.
Last month Cruise New Zealand said if the historic steam train was not running to take people on tour, it saw no reason to stop in Gisborne. The cruise season’s economic benefit weights in at $2 million here, with a forecast for 2015-16 season of $5 million.
Another big role ahead for the steam train is the coming Te Ha celebrations in 2019 to celebrate 250 years since the first meeting of Maori and European.
Gisborne City Vintage Rail president Geoff Joyce is rapt with the news.
“We have not signed anything yet but it does mean potential funders can start processing our request and hopefully release money.”
The society has applied for funding to get the track up to standard, which includes replacing a number of bridge sleepers, structural maintenance on one or two of the bridges, particularly the wooden ones, and other general work on the track.
“We have had contractors scoping the work and providing quotes but until funding is definitely released, we can’t programme the work.” However, they are aiming to have Wa165 back up and running in time for Labour Weekend.
“We would like to have a public run before the cruise ships start coming. We need to get back into operational mode and retrain and refresh. The last time we ran the train was March last year.”
Mr Joyce said the funding they had applied for was only to get the track up to standard.
“We will fund the maintenance from operations,” Mr Joyce said. Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said it was great to know this part of the line was in its final stages of contract with Gisborne City Vintage Rail.
“GDC has agreed to support the steam train with $50,000 (in the long-term plan), as this is a key economic benefit to our CBD and tourist operations,” said Mr Foon.
“The train is important to the cruise ship business and the committee of Wa165 has worked very hard on a voluntary basis to get to this point. I have been in close contact with the team and they are delighted with this positive decision from KiwiRail,” Mr Foon said.
The Mayor has written to Minister of Transport Simon Bridges to ask him to fund the required repairs.
“He is yet to reply. But let’s hope all is operating by the cruise ship season,” said Mr Foon.
East Coast MP Anne Tolley is delighted with the news. This is fantastic for our community’s tourism and business sectors.
“The Wa165 steam locomotive sets us apart as a cruise and tourist destination,” Mrs Tolley says.
She has written to KiwiRail and talked with State Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay and Transport Minister Simon Bridges to ensure this work goes ahead.
“Funders have been ready and waiting to start maintenance work on the line and I’m pleased this can begin. The benefits for the Gisborne community are significant, with tourist spending crucial to our economy.”