A lack of rolling stock looks likely to scuttle plans to keep rail passenger services running in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty while local councils explore options.
While Transport Minister Mark Gosche was “encouraging” to local government representatives who met with him last night wanting Government intervention to keep the rail services running, new owners West Coast Rail said today there is no rolling stock available in the short term.
The local rail services are due to cease at the end of September after Tranzrail announced its intention to sell them off to West Coast Rail.
Environment Waikato chairman Neil Clarke and Policy Group Manager Jeanette Black met with the Minister and a representative of Finance Minister Michael Cullen, late last night in Wellington. They brought a request from seven Waikato and Bay of Plenty mayors and chairs for the Government to provide help to continue the Waikato Connection, Geyserland and Kaimai Express until the new year while all options are looked at.
The mayors and chairs, including Mayors of Hamilton City Council, Tauranga, Franklin, Rotorua and South Waikato District Councils, and the chairmen of Environment Waikato, Auckland Regional Council and Environment Bay Of Plenty, wanted time to research an effective combined rail system for their communities.
Neil Clarke said the Minister was encouraging and very supportive, but there were many more issues to be examined. One of the difficulties was West Coast Rail’s concern about having enough rolling stock to run the services.
West Coast Rail today indicated the rolling stock was committed to other profitable services. If the rolling stock is unavailable, the services cannot continue.
West Coast Rail has invited Environment Waikato and councils from the regions to have discussions about what services may be viable sometime in the future.