CONCERNS OVER NORTHERN EXPLORER RELOCATION
Ruapehu District Council (RDC) is concerned that the relocation of the Northern Explorer tourism train from the Britomart transport hub in downtown Auckland may adversely affect regional tourism development.
From 21 December KiwiRail will operate the Northern Explorer from the largely disused Strand railway station over a kilometer away from Britomart between downtown and Parnell.
Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron said that RDC was worried that moving the Northern Explorer to the less convenient, older Strand railway station could adversely affect the visitor experience and therefore passenger numbers.
“Long distance passenger rail plays a strategic role in our regional tourism development plans as it provides connectivity to the main tourism gateways of Auckland and Wellington,” he said.
“RDC is taking a leading role in developing regional tourism as part of a Regional Action Plan programme called Accelerate25 which is working to put the findings of the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Growth Study into action.”
“The Regional Growth Study that was released in August identified tourism as one of the big economic opportunities, particularly in Ruapehu and surrounding areas, with distribution and transport as a key enabler to allowing the opportunities to be realized.”
“The Northern Explorer service has been identified as a vital part of our strategic long term planning for the transport and distribution of international and domestic visitors into Ruapehu and our neighbouring regions.”
“We are naturally concerned about any changes that may affect this growth and the service’s long term viability.”
Mayor Cameron added that RDC’s concerns were shared by the Public Transport Users Association who had also publicly voiced concerns over the relocation of the Northern Explorer and its potential impact on demand for the service.
“The service has been experiencing healthy growth recently with KiwiRail figures showing the Northern Explorer carried over 40,000 passengers last year a 20% increase in volumes on the year previous.”
“Rail tourism is already making a difference to our regional economy and the potential is there for continuing growth,” he said.
“We would urge KiwiRail to recognise the strategic role of the Northern Explorer and rail tourism in context of the government’s growth agenda for NZ and the Tourism 2025 objectives which aims to increase total tourism revenue to $41 billion by 2025.”
“Ruapehu and our regional tourism partners are working hard to ensure these aspirational growth targets are met.”
“The Northern Explorer and the rail corridor is one of the advantages Ruapehu and the Manawatu-Whanganui Region can build on however we need KiwiRail to do all it can to make its product offering as enticing as possible.”
“We look forward to discussing with KiwiRail how we can jointly achieve this to maximise its contribution to regional tourism development.”