Trains back on Waitomo schedule
Tourists will again be abe to let the train take the strain from Auckland to the iconic Waitomo Caves after KiwiRail decided to reintstate the Otorohanga Station stop.
But the new schedule, which starts on Monday, means tourists will have to stay overnight if they want to return to Auckland when the train returns from Wellington.
KiwiRail axed the King Country station from its route when it downgraded it Overlander service in June and replaced it with the Northern Explorer train which would only stop at Otorohanga if there were 10 or more passengers pre-booked.
The cut in the service outraged Waitomo Shuttle operator Bill Millar, and other tourist operators in the town, and led to a petition to Parliament.
KiwiRail said it would reinstate the stop on a "booked stop" basis for one or more passengers from Monday (December 10) after working with tourist operators on package deals.
"Oh, my God, thank you," said Mr Millar when he heard the news from the Waikato Times.
"You made my Christmas. It can only be a benefit to the region."
KiwiRail general manager of passenger services Deborah Hume said the company was working closely with Destination Waitomo and Hamilton and Waikato Tourism to develop tourism packages in the region.
"Waitomo alone has in excess of 350,000 annual visitors, with around 5000 a day in peak season and the region also supports a number of high end tourist activities. The stop will be made to pick up and drop off booked passengers. If there are no bookings, the train won't stop," Ms Hume said.
"We certainly see Waitomo and the Waikato region as a great tourist destination and we are keen to work with Hamilton and Waikato Tourism, as well as other tourist organisations in the North Island, to help grow tourist numbers in the smaller regions.
"We are looking forward to launching our Scenic Escapes packages for the Otorohanga (Waitomo) stop and tapping into the potential for increasing tourism."