Passenger service on track

04:09, Oct 31 2012

Timaru is hoping to get in on the act with the proposed passenger train service mooted for Dunedin to Oamaru.

Stretching the rail passenger service from Dunedin to Timaru could be on the cards after news of a trial service to Oamaru.

The Taieri Gorge train will make a trial run between Dunedin and Oamaru next month after meetings between Tourism Waitaki and the Taieri Gorge Railway.

Tourism Waitaki chairperson Annabel Berry said the trial run would be a good starting point to explore the potential of more frequent services.

"What we are looking at is a Dunedin to Oamaru service. It's a trial run to see if Dunedin residents would look at using that service."

Ms Berry said a number of options are being looked at, including the potential for overnight services.

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"In terms of Oamaru, we are providing the opportunity for Oamaru residents to go on a trip to Palmerston and have the ultimate train experience really."

There could also be economic benefits for Waitaki, Ms Berry said.

"I think it opens up another tourism link, providing the opportunity to experience something different.

"If the train was becoming a regular service, we could see that being really important for tourism in the district."

She said Oamaru's hospitality industry had plenty to gain if regular services began.

"There is great potential there."

Louise Burnside, of Taieri Gorge Railway, said she was approached by Tourism Waitaki about the venture.

"Oamaru has been really proactive; as soon as they saw it was available they came to us.

"Initially we would hope it would be a once-a-month excursion; we're just taking things quietly to see how they go."

Ms Burnside said the passenger service would also go to Timaru if there is demand. The train seats about 90 people.

"If we were sure we could sell the tickets then yes we would . . . we see the need to get people into Timaru.

Aoraki Development tourism manager Katerina Tiscenko was not aware of the service until The Timaru Herald approached her for comment.

She says she will watch the trial run with interest.

"We would look at any proposal that might bring visitors to the district; it's certainly worth having a look at.

"Anything that adds another visitor activity is worth a look.

"We will be in touch with them to see how well it is supported during the trial."

The train is scheduled to leave Dunedin at 8am on Sunday, November 25 and arrive in Oamaru at 10.15am. It departs Oamaru at 11.15am and arrives in Palmerston at 12.15pm before returning to Oamaru at 1.15pm. It leaves Oamaru at 3.15pm.