Dargaville Branch Line tourism venture on track

13 May 2015 2:02PM

Preparations are underway at Dargaville rail yard as a local tourism operator Port Dargaville Cruises Director John Hansen prepares to expand his activities later this year to run rail carts along the Dargaville branch line. 

 

Mr Hansen has been working closely with KiwiRail since their only customer on the branch line made the decision to no longer use rail services late last year.  

“The idea to run rail carts along the Branch Line came to us a few years ago after our customers said it was something they’d like to do,” Mr Hansen says. “KiwiRail has been very supportive about the whole project and has helped us throughout the process.”

“We hope to be able to take tourists up the river on our boat ‘Daisy’ one way to Tangowahine, from there they then can drive rail carts back along the branch line by the Northern Wairoa river and enjoy the views and nature close up.

KiwiRail National Manager – Property Investment and Revenue Andrew Robinson, says KiwiRail had been in discussions with Mr Hansen on and off for a few years and an agreement had now been reached that Mr Hanson could operate on the line providing he was able to meet the necessary safety requirements. “We’re excited about the possibility of rail enabled tourism venture along the line. Following the decision by our only customer to no longer use our services here, we worked with  Mr Hansen so he could trial his venture. We’re pleased the line will put to use for something that will undoubtedly benefit the local community, and should an opportunity arise in the future for a viable rail freight service we have the option to re-establish it.

Mr Hansen is planning to start the service later this year and expects to employ 2-3 people, “We have been working closely with another similar set up - the Rotorua based Rail Cruising & Rail Biking Trips who have been really supportive as have the Council Commissioners, and the Northland Regional Council. “While it’s exciting times for us we’ve still got a bit of work ahead of us to get up and running. “Residents will see a lot of activity around the station area as we need to repair the facilities and establish a passenger area. Then we’ve also got to work on the track, put up safety signage and establish a rail operating license with NZ Transport Agency.” Another successful tourism operator is based in Taumarunui, where Forgotten World Adventures hires out rail carts to tourists wanting to explore the area on the local line which the company leases from KiwiRail.

Ends

Contacts:

Tammy Dickinson, KiwiRail Senior Communications Advisor Ph: +64 9 363 7302

John Hansen, Port Dargaville Cruises Director 021 055 3098 http://www.portdargavillecruises.co.nz/#!

About the Dargaville Branch Line

Since a derailment in July 2014, which caused significant track damage, no commercial services have operated on the Dargaville branch line. Prior to this rail traffic on the line fluctuated between one and three return trips a week and volumes have since been typically 30-40,000 tonnes a year. This tonnage equates to about four trucks a day. Over the last ten years only one customer used the Dargaville line – others were lost when Whangarei’s port moved out to Marsden Point in 2002 when export logs had to go by road with no rail link to the new port. The line is in very poor condition, and considerable investment in the track and structures would be needed to keep it operable. Any investment would need to be reflected in our customers’ rates. This was made known to our only customer last year and following discussions they indicated late in 2014 they would not continue to use rail.  The Dargaville branch line is 49 km and was completed in 1943, some of it built using second hand rail dating back to 1924.