ECT grant saves Wa165 for tourist season

READY TO GO: Gisborne City Vintage Rail volunteers Alvin Hall, Graeme Atkinson, Joe Campbell, Peter Fraser, Peter Brough, Lionel Glenn, Bob Abel, Mike Scandlyn, Geoff Joyce, Lionel Robinson and Glen McCullough preparing to go to work putting new sleepers down on a stretch of track across the Waipaoa River. Picture by STRIKE

A GRANT of $200,000 from Eastland Community Trust has helped the operators of Gisborne’s historic Wa165 steam train dodge a potentially devastating blow to its summer plans.

As part of its operating agreement with KiwiRail, Gisborne City Vintage Rail needs to replace 280 sleepers over nine spans of the rail bridge across the Waipaoa River.

The $200,000 grant will now guarantee Gisborne City Vintage Rail’s ability to operate this summer tourism season.

“There were major concerns that the Waipaoa River rail bridge might not pass its next inspection, which would mean we would not be able to get the train as far as Muriwai,” said vintage rail president Geoff Joyce.

“This would have been devastating and put at risk the tourism products we have made a commitment to this season.”

Those products include the Chardonnay Express event on Labour Day. Some tickets for this have already been made available through an Air New Zealand Grab a Seat promotion.

The Chardonnay Express will include an excursion on Wa165 and allow passengers to sample the region’s chardonnays and fresh, locally-sourced food.

Complex job ahead

Mr Joyce said replacing the sleepers was a complex job that involved lifting the rail with the use of specialised machinery and replacing each sleeper.

“We have the repair team on standby and, with ECT’s funding confirmed, are now able to swing into action to have repairs complete by Labour Weekend.

“We also have excursions planned for the six confirmed cruise ships, the first of which (the Golden Princess) is
due in port on December 27.”

ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said the steam train had established itself as a critical component of the region’s tourism offering.

“This time last year, Cruise New Zealand sent Gisborne District Council a clear message that cruise ships might not stop in our city if the train does not operate.

"The early success of the Chardonnay Express further underpins our visitors’ appetite for this kind of experience.

“While it is disappointing that KiwiRail and the Government have left the line to get into this state and passed on the issues to the region in the operating licence, the Gisborne region will miss out on business and tourism opportunities if the venture is not sufficiently supported.

“For that reason, we are very pleased to support this project and look forward to working with the team further down the track.”

Experience Gisborne, event managers of the Gisborne Classic Chardonnay Express, said they were very grateful for the community’s response to the issues regarding the rail line.

“We have been aware of the risks for some time and buying as much time as we could before releasing tickets to the public," a spokesperson said.

“The Air NZ promo package was sensationally priced and all 92 of those seats flew out the door. It’s pretty exciting that our big city friends are excited by our unique experience.”

A small local offering of tickets would be available soon.

“The Experience Gisborne team are looking forward to hosting the maiden voyage this coming Labour Weekend.”

A GRANT of $200,000 from Eastland Community Trust has helped the operators of Gisborne’s historic Wa165 steam train dodge a potentially devastating blow to its summer plans.

As part of its operating agreement with KiwiRail, Gisborne City Vintage Rail needs to replace 280 sleepers over nine spans of the rail bridge across the Waipaoa River.

The $200,000 grant will now guarantee Gisborne City Vintage Rail’s ability to operate this summer tourism season.

“There were major concerns that the Waipaoa River rail bridge might not pass its next inspection, which would mean we would not be able to get the train as far as Muriwai,” said vintage rail president Geoff Joyce.

“This would have been devastating and put at risk the tourism products we have made a commitment to this season.”

Those products include the Chardonnay Express event on Labour Day. Some tickets for this have already been made available through an Air New Zealand Grab a Seat promotion.

The Chardonnay Express will include an excursion on Wa165 and allow passengers to sample the region’s chardonnays and fresh, locally-sourced food.

Complex job ahead

Mr Joyce said replacing the sleepers was a complex job that involved lifting the rail with the use of specialised machinery and replacing each sleeper.

“We have the repair team on standby and, with ECT’s funding confirmed, are now able to swing into action to have repairs complete by Labour Weekend.

“We also have excursions planned for the six confirmed cruise ships, the first of which (the Golden Princess) is
due in port on December 27.”

ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said the steam train had established itself as a critical component of the region’s tourism offering.

“This time last year, Cruise New Zealand sent Gisborne District Council a clear message that cruise ships might not stop in our city if the train does not operate.

"The early success of the Chardonnay Express further underpins our visitors’ appetite for this kind of experience.

“While it is disappointing that KiwiRail and the Government have left the line to get into this state and passed on the issues to the region in the operating licence, the Gisborne region will miss out on business and tourism opportunities if the venture is not sufficiently supported.

“For that reason, we are very pleased to support this project and look forward to working with the team further down the track.”

Experience Gisborne, event managers of the Gisborne Classic Chardonnay Express, said they were very grateful for the community’s response to the issues regarding the rail line.

“We have been aware of the risks for some time and buying as much time as we could before releasing tickets to the public," a spokesperson said.

“The Air NZ promo package was sensationally priced and all 92 of those seats flew out the door. It’s pretty exciting that our big city friends are excited by our unique experience.”

A small local offering of tickets would be available soon.

“The Experience Gisborne team are looking forward to hosting the maiden voyage this coming Labour Weekend.”

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Doug Curtis - 11 days ago
Gisborne District Council should be giving you guys help to replace those sleepers and minting you all a medal for the hours you have put in to getting the train and carriages up to the standard required. Come on Gisborne, help these guys out . . . most are too old to be lifting rails and sleepers.

Winston Moreton - 10 days ago
While this grant is pleasing in every way, we all need to remember that ECT has not provided the money. It is sourced in part from Gisborne and Wairoa homeowners' electricity bills via Eastland Network Limited.

wiki gerrard - 10 days ago
Great they got funding and hope they get more! But ECT, be honest, where did the money really come from?? Also, GDC should have given funding to this project - but no, they would rather waste money on a new office building!

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