Bid to build support for rail venture

TRYING TO GET trains on the rail: Working hard to reopen the Gisborne to Napier rail line are, from left, Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group chairman Don Selby, Gisborne City Vintage Rail chairman Geoff Joyce and other shortline group members Graeme Carroll, Steve Weatherell, Dean McQuoid and Neil Buchanan. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

The following Article appeared in the Gisborne Herald Thursday, October 23, 2014 by Debbie Gregory.

Original Article Here

Bid to build support for rail venture
Thursday, October 23, 2014
by Debbie Gregory

BACKERS of a shortline rail company are looking for support from Gisborne people as they continue to battle to get KiwiRail to allow them to use the mothballed line between Gisborne and Napier.

Last week four of the six directors and the chief executive of the Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group spent a few days here talking to business leaders and Mayor Meng Foon to get more support from this end.

All directors, except for Gisborne’s Steve Weatherell, are from other parts of the country and came to Gisborne to “connect” with people here.

They are all rail enthusiasts with backgrounds in rail and business.

The Gisborne to Napier line was mothballed after storm damage two-and-a-half years ago. Since then at least three interested parties have approached KiwiRail to lease and operate the line for freight and tourism ventures.

But KiwiRail still will not commit to when a decision will be made about who, if anyone, will be granted the lease to resurrect the line.

Shortline rail group chairman Don Selby said they had been working on the concept for the past 20 months.

“It has been a long process with a lot of difficulties,” said Mr Selby.

The shortline rail company is backed by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, which has allocated establishment funding towards the railway reinstatement.

Mr Selby said he was still confident the required $10 million to $13 million to become fully operational could easily be raised from private investors.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) has earmarked $5.4m for the project in its annual plan. It would lease the line from KiwiRail, then lease it to the shortline company.

The shortline rail company plans to cart logs from Wairoa and any other freight in and out of Gisborne and Napier.

They are also considering tourism services including adding a passenger carriage to freight trains.

Initially they would get a train up and running between Wairoa and Napier and hope to have that in place by the middle of next year. Gisborne would be added to the mix before next Christmas.

The group wants to work with the Gisborne City Vintage Railway, which is staying positive that Wa165 will run excursions again.

They are waiting for bridge repairs and a decision by KiwiRail on who will be granted the lease.

Another rail user the shortline group wants to work with as complementary is an alternative form of rail cruiser tourism business, which offers motorised karts that travel on the lines.

“There are many potential users of the track and we want to dispell the impression that other options are out the window. Some are not OK because we can’t have people randomly walking on the track,” said Mr Selby.

The NZTA is supportive of the group because there would be fewer big trucks on the struggling state highway.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said he met with the directors of the company seeking the District Council’s support.

“They told me that HBRC is keen to see the dropouts fixed and no funding from the Government is needed. We talked about other opportunities of the rail corridor.”

Mr Foon said from his seat as Mayor, he could not commit any ratepayer money to the railway line.“I do support their enthusiasm and wish them luck though.”

The group will write to ask for support in principle from the council.

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