Dash to catch the last train

Final stop at Feilding

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:04 25/06/2012
Overlander
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

LUCKY LAST: Ian Daily ushers the final northbound passengers on to the Overlander at Feilding. Pete Russell and Mana Peita caught up with the train after missing their booked pickup in Palmerston North.

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The Overlander's final stop at Feilding was a lifesaver for northbound travellers Pete Russell and Mana Peita.

The pair were delayed in the Manawatu Gorge yesterday when car driver Ian Daily was bringing them from Dannevirke to Palmerston North to meet the train.

Realising they were not going to make it, Mr Daily diverted to Feilding.

Until they appeared on the platform moments before the Overlander came into view, it looked likely the train would not be stopping in Feilding at all on the last day of its scheduled stops in the town.

Rail enthusiast Rufus Anderson was there to capture the historic moment when Feilding and 11 other stations were axed from the timetable.

The replacement Northern Explorer schedule began today.

KiwiRail has blamed low passenger numbers for the cuts.

But Mr Anderson said it was a silly decision, and he could not believe it could not manage a "piddling subsidy" to support rural New Zealand.

One of the leaders of a campaign to keep small towns on the timetable, Rangitikei District councillor Richard Aslett, was planning one last ride yesterday on the southbound route from Taihape to Marton.

He said he liked the scenery on that section of the track and planned to spend the time taking photos.

Though disappointed by the changes, he has not given up the battle to see the stops reinstated.

In changing the Wellington to Auckland service from the Overlander to the Northern Explorer, KiwiRail dropped 12 stations from the timetable including Taihape, Feilding, Marton and Levin.

The new rail service is designed to focus more on the needs of tourists.

Mr Aslett was one of the organisers of a petition calling for the stops to remain on the timetable. A total of 8067 signatures were collected and delivered to Parliament last month.

KiwiRail has said the drop in passenger numbers made the Overlander service unsustainable, and there was little demand for the stops it dropped.

Individual stops could be reinstated if there was enough demand, and KiwiRail said trains would stop for bookings of groups of more than 10 people.

Mr Aslett said he had planned to catch the train to Wellington next month, but as he lives in Mangaweka he would have to drive to Palmerston North to catch it.

"I might as well just drive the whole way."

Mr Aslett said the situation could change.

The petition was yet to make its way to a select committee, and there was no guarantee the new service would be a success.

"As far we're concerned it's not the end of the story."

OFF THE RAILS

Stops chopped: Middlemore, Papakura, Pukekohe, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui, Taihape, Marton, Feilding, Levin, Paraparaumu and Porirua. Stops staying: Hamilton, National Park, Ohakune and Palmerston North.

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- Manawatu Standard

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