West Coast feasibility study highlights potential of rail

A feasibility study for a new West Coast tourism service highlights rail’s ability to drive economic growth in the regions, KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says.

“The Government’s announcement today of $250,000 through the Provincial Growth Fund to investigate the viability of a daily, two-way scenic train service between Westport and Hokitika, is great news,” Mr Reidy says.

“Rail plays a significant role in delivering economic growth to regional New Zealand. KiwiRail is already one of New Zealand’s biggest tourism operators, playing a critical role in regional tourism and delivering a million tourists around New Zealand each year.

“Our award-winning TranzAlpine service between Christchurch and Greymouth is often oversubscribed so the time is right to investigate the possibility of a regular scenic service that can take visitors further afield on the West Coast.

“Our ambition is to champion tourism growth in the South Island and work with partners, like the Department of Conservation, Air New Zealand and Christchurch Airport, to deliver connected journeys and quality tourism experiences,” Mr Reidy says.

“It’s about exploring the potential of a rail service to build on existing tourism offerings and create opportunities for new businesses and jobs for locals. We will also explore opportunities to partner with local iwi.

“The feasibility study will include working with local tourism operators and transport providers to develop and test potential packages and itineraries for passengers.

“The West Coast rail line is a freight line at present carrying coal and dairy products. The study will investigate the track upgrades required to make it suitable for passenger trains, plus the cost of locomotives, carriages and maintenance facilities needed to run a daily service between Westport and Hokitika.”