GUEST BLOG: Patrick Rooney – Trains connect our communities and are part of climate action. So why are we runnning them down?

All around the world, a revival in passenger rail is providing people with convenient, affordable and low-carbon ways of connecting. 

In New Zealand, however, our rail operator KiwiRail has abandoned long-distance passenger rail, announcing the permanent end of same-day intercity services between Auckland/Wellington and Picton/Christchurch. 

These services will be replaced by a luxury multi-day ‘rail cruise’ option aimed entirely at the tourist demographic. 

This effectively means the end of most of Aotearoa New Zealand’s national passenger rail network after more than 100 years of service.  

The Save Our Trains campaign has formed to call on the Government and KiwiRail to commit to maintaining existing intercity passenger rail services. 

We want a comprehensive national strategy for future passenger rail services built around concerns for climate action, accessibility, and economic development.

Our petition has received over 6500 signatures.

Trains connect communities and are an important part of climate change action. They connect friends and families for graduations, weddings, holidays, and business. Trains connect towns with cities and bring our diverse country together. 

Our rail network was built up by the state over more than a hundred years, but a period of privatisation and decades of underfunding has limited the development and use of our national rail network. It has also changed the nature of dialogue around public transport. While it’s demanded that long-distance passenger trains make a profit, no such demands are made of roads. 

Trains have an important place in our future but require investment and planning from this Government. 

At a time when the Government has acknowledged a climate emergency, and the need to rapidly transition to low emissions, KiwiRail is in reverse gear. KiwiRail is a state-owned enterprise, and it must be operated in a strategic way to fulfil our shared transport goals.

Rail provides a more sustainable and climate friendly method of transport across the country. If we are going to achieve our emissions targets and have a future for the next generation, we need more than clean green branding. We need real action. We need Government and business to start connecting the dots and getting our transport system working towards those goals.

There are numerous social and economic benefits from passenger rail. Rail can invigorate the social and economic life of small communities by making them accessible to remote workers and tourists.

Trains provide an accessible method of point-to-point transport for the elderly, disabled people, and people without cars. With the right Government support, trains can provide affordable transport for people on low and fixed incomes.

Less cars on the roads can help to make our roads safer and less congested.   

We are not opposed to rail tours. They are far better for the economy and environment than flying to Hawai’i, however, they are not an appropriate replacement for a national passenger rail network. It should not be one or the other. 

Our campaign is starting to have an impact. We are picking up strong support in regional communities who know how valuable rail links are for them. KiwiRail says it is listening – but we are going to get louder, until they start acting. We won’t accept a deliberate rundown of passenger services.

The rail network was built and maintained by generations of New Zealanders for all of our benefit. Now it’s time to move things forward with a world class rail system that offers affordable and accessible passenger services between New Zealand cities. The first step is to save what we have. 

The petition can be found here: 

Patrick Rooney 

Related Posts