Eighteen councils have signed a joint letter calling for KiwiRail to bring back the suspended Northern Explorer train service between Auckland and Wellington.

The 680 kilometre journey along the main rail trunk of the North Island has been running since 1909, but was paused indefinitely on March 22 due to Covid-19.

Every regional, district and city council along the train’s route, including Auckland and Wellington city councils, have made a joint submission to Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee calling for the service to return.

If KiwiRail does not bring the service back, it would have “serious economic and social implications for the communities along the NIMT (North Island Main Trunk) route, and would have national implications for tourism and carbon emissions,” the letter claimed.

The Northern Explorer train is the last remaining passenger train to travel the length of the North Island's Main Trunk Line.
The Northern Explorer train is the last remaining passenger train to travel the length of the North Island’s Main Trunk Line.

Re-starting of the Northern Explorer would have on-going reduced carbon emissions of 6.6 million kg of CO2-equivalent per year compared to the alternative of car travel, and 2.8 million kg of CO2-equivalent per year compared to air travel, the councils estimated.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff is among the eighteen signatories calling for the train to return.
TODD NIALL/STUFF
Auckland mayor Phil Goff is among the eighteen signatories calling for the train to return.

In recent years the Northern Explorer has been run as a tourist train marketed primarily at international visitors, rather than a passenger train.

The eighteen councils each offered to provide technical experts to work with NZTA and Kiwirail to develop a business case for the Northern Explorer as both a tourism and passenger service, with stops added at Te Kuiti, Taumaranui, Taihape, Marton, Feilding, and Levin.

Newly elected Greater Wellington Regional Councillor Thomas Nash is keen to see the overnight sleeper Wellington to Auckland train service restored.

The proposal would see each of the councils commit to “active promotion” of the train through their tourism and events departments.

The letter is set to be submitted on Thursday, represented by Greater Wellington Regional Councillors Roger Blakeley and Thomas Nash.

When approached last week, a KiwiRail spokesperson said no decision had been made on the train’s future.

“We’re continuing to evaluate the viability of our tourism services and no decision has been made about the return of the Northern Explorer.”

“We are closely monitoring conditions and will announce further decisions in due course.”

Kiwi rail have said that they plan to have all long haul passenger rail services up and running by summer.

Sourced from Stuff.co.nz

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