Push to revive Palmerston North railway station

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 31/01/2013

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Fresh paint, planters of marigolds and rooms full of people are having a positive impact on Palmerston North's once-forlorn railway station.

But a couple of Palmerston North women, Margaret McKenzie and Lila Matheson, want to see it revitalised and bustling again, in time for its 50th anniversary in October.

Mrs McKenzie said she was shocked to see how rusted and boarded-up the building looked when she took a train trip early last year.

She contacted owner KiwiRail's property office, and was pleased with the response.

The pillars, seats and walls along the platform have been painted, planter boxes overflow with marigolds, and the courtyard is mostly free from litter or graffiti.

And at the western end of the platform, a large area has been leased to the Palmerston North Cadet Unit, which fills the rooms with up to 32 trainees once a week and most weekends, and to After School Adventures, which uses it every weekday afternoon.

Unit commander Captain Bonnie Hudson said there had been no problems with safety or security since the cadets moved in two years ago and spruced up the interior.

A wholesale blinds business is tucked away in another section, and upstairs areas have been refurbished as KiwiRail's training rooms.

But still, Mrs McKenzie sees rusty and boarded-up doorways and untidy stacks of gear inside windows, and wants citizens, city and regional councils, and bus operators, to take another look at breathing new life into the building.

Her hope is that regional coaches can be lured to the railway station, supported by a regular shuttle service to the central city and the airport, with other facilities for the travelling public put in place.

Operations such as a cafe, an art gallery, and a railway museum would be ideal tenants, she said.

Tranzit, operator of InterCity buses, is looking for an alternative to its Pitt St terminal, but has rejected the railway station because it is too far from the city centre.

"I don't accept that," Mrs McKenzie said.

The city council and Horizons should put pressure on the bus operators to reconsider, she said.

Mayor Jono Naylor said there had been many attempts over the years to tidy up the railway station, but the achievements of a working bee he led six years ago had soon been undone.

The station had been a "tacky" introduction to Palmerston North, but far more visitors arrived by air or by road and those were the city entrances that had to be the priorities.

"There are no easy answers, and ultimately it's up to KiwiRail as owners. There's not enough people to justify the council spending money on someone else's building.

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"But that's not to say we would not support someone else doing something."

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said as well as the painting and interior refurbishment, money had been spent on extra lighting and CCTV surveillance and on locking the car park out of hours to reduce vandalism.

KiwiRail was keen to find more tenants to fill the building, she said.

HAVE YOUR SAY

What do you think about the Palmerston North railway station?

Write to the editor at P O Box 3, Palmerston North, or email editor@msl.co.nz (include names and addresses), or send a text message to 027 498 1242.

- Manawatu Standard

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