Ruahine Runner still on the rails
The new Government is still considering the Green Party’s idea of introducing a passenger train service through the Manawatu¯ Gorge.
The ‘‘Ruahine Runner’’, between Palmerston North and Napier, is the Green Party’s shortterm solution to getting people between Manawatu¯ and Hawke’s Bay, after the gorge road was closed indefinitely in July.
The twice-daily passengertrain policy was announced during the election campaign.
‘‘[The passenger train service] is going to provide a fast, stressfree way for people to travel,’’ the now-Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said in July.
But the policy hasn’t been put in motion yet as the new transport minister, Phil Twyford, hasn’t researched it and Genter said it was for Twyford to decide.
‘‘Ultimately, a decision about what new passenger rail services go ahead will be for the transport minister to make, and subject to a business case.’’
If the passenger train went ahead, it could help ease traffic on the Saddle Rd and Pahiatua Track, which have been inundated with vehicles in the past six months and have needed ongoing repairs.
If it goes ahead, the Ruahine Runner would start in Palmerston North and stop in Woodville, Dannevirke, Waipukurau, Hastings and Napier.
Genter said she would push Twyford to consider the Ruahine Runner or a similar service.
Part of the Green Party’s support agreement with Labour was a commitment to increased investment in rail in New Zealand cities and regions, she said.
A spokesperson for Twyford, Clint Smith, said the minister hadn’t ruled out the Ruahine Runner.
‘‘It’s something that we are still going to have to get advice on. It’s something in due course that we are going to get to.
‘‘The minister knows how important the Manawatu¯ Gorge is and getting a solution to it.’’
Tararua district mayor Tracey Collis said the Ruahine Runner would only work if there were public transport options for commuters at each train stop.
If people rode from Southern Hawke’s Bay to Palmerston North’s train station near Tremain Avenue, they needed to be able to get into the city centre, Collis said.
She is pushing for a bus service between Manawatu¯ and the Tararua District instead.
Only Rose Coachlines runs a bus service between the regions, but the privately-run service did not receive a subsidy from Horizons Regional Council, Collis said.
About 140 people travelled from Woodville to Palmerston North each day, showing there was demand for such a service, she said.
‘‘The Ruahine Runner would start in Palmerston North and stop in Woodville, Dannevirke, Waipukurau, Hastings and Napier.’’ Julie Anne Genter, left, with Greens’ leader James Shaw at the Ruahine Runner announcement earlier this year.