Ruahine Run­ner still on the rails

The Hastings Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

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.

WAR­WICK SMITH/STUFF

‘‘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.

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