End of the line
The fundraising light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.
Last week, KiwiRail left the Woodville Lions Club’s iconic Track & Tunnel fundraising walk in the dark when it refused permission for the annual gorge trek. Set down for April 10, the leisure walk celebrated its 21st birthday last year having raised over $300,000 for local charities, with sizeable donations to Arohanui Hospice and Ronald McDonald House.
The announcement that KiwiRail would no longer allow the event to take place has stunned the club. President Peter Bonser says that preparations were well underway for the annual undertaking, and the volunteer organisers were ‘‘not very impressed’’ with its abrupt and unexpected cancellation.
Woodville Lions hope to continue dialogue, however the signals from KiwiRail are all red.
KiwiRail says allowing the walk to continue would contradict its campaign to discourage people from walking or posing on railway lines.
A spokesperson says after a review of legal obligations, there was an increased focus on the safety of staff and the public on tracks, particularly in tunnels and on bridges, a stand backed by a KiwiRail and TrackSAFE campaign.
The track had not been designed as a walkway and posed significant safety risks.
Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway is urging KiwiRail to reconsider.
‘‘KiwiRail are trying to do the right thing, in that they want people to be safe around railway tracks, but this really is an over reaction.
‘‘I will do everything I can to get them to realise this is a safe event that has been running for two decades with no incident, and it would be an enormous loss to our community if it was to be cancelled forever.’’
More than 20,000 people have paid to walk from the lime quarry at the Ballance end of the gorge to Ashhurst Domain.
Numbers were capped at 1500 for the nine kilometre walk across 15 bridges and through two long tunnels, while offering spectacular views of the gorge.
The only live line walk like it in New Zealand, Track & Tunnel drew participants from as far away as Auckland, from neighbouring Hawke’s Bay and Wellington, and each year usually sold out.
‘‘KiwiRail are trying to do the right thing, in that they want people to be safe around railway tracks, but this really is an over reaction. ’’
Iain Lees-Galloway Palmerston North MP
Access denied. Thousands of walkers have enjoyed the Track and Tunnel experience. Those who have it on their list of things to do are out of luck as KiwiRail puts the line off limits.