Revitalizing South Island railways

After nine years of National in office, with its huge emphasis on building highways that were not always necessarily needed or wanted, it is refreshing to see the Government taking a different tack. Railways have long been a significant part of the transport scene in New Zealand and a lack of long term planning and investment has meant that it is underfunded. There are a few railway projects that are worthy of further consideration.

  1. Reviving the Southerner passenger train
  2. Having a once daily passenger train service to Hokitika and Westport to connect with the Tranz Alpine train
  3. Should a waste to energy plant be developed on the West Coast, Christchurch could be an assembly point for waste fuel to be transported to the plant
  4. A railway link to the oil terminal at Lyttelton could provide for an alternative to having a large number of fuel tankers on the road

One such proposal was made public on Saturday in the newspaper, in an article about a new passenger train service on the West Coast of the South Island. It will connect with the existing Tranz Alpine which has been recognized in the past as one of the great train trips in the world.

A few weeks ago there was a suggestion that the Southerner train which used to run from Christchurch to Invercargill would be revived. It was stopped in the relatively early days of the Helen Clark Government due to declining numbers. Since then there has been increased concern about the large number of road users, and also that it would be a loss to the tourism industry if a revival is not attempted.

In September 2016 there was mention of a waste to energy plant being built on the West Coast. One way of paying for the Otira tunnel would be to put the waste fuel for any future plant on the train in Christchurch. An unloading yard next to the facility would remove the need for any trucks, and create a few jobs at the same time.

Lyttelton is undergoing a significant overhaul and is trying to figure out what sort of port it wants to be post-earthquake. Would it consider having a railway head in the oil terminal to service trains that then travel to where they are needed, carrying what would be the equivalent of several fuel tankers worth of product to its point of consumption?

I have previously wondered about the economics of having another branch run up to Murchison or even go to Nelson. Whilst this would be a significant undertaking, it could be partially paid for by enabling freight trains to run between Nelson and Westport. Nelson currently has no railway access. Logging of plantations is a significant business in Nelson and the northern West Coast region, and some of the roads are not really designed for logging trucks, so a railway would provide an alternative transport option.

Just a few thoughts. Let me know what you think of them.



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