Rail co-op not looking for ‘subsidies’

LETTER

Your editorial of March 2 seems to say that any central government money coming into Tairawhiti is a good thing unless it is spent on “subsidising rail”. You seem to be happy with subsidised health, subsidised education, subsidised arts and culture, even subsidised bigger trucks on the road, which is Port Eastland’s solution to the massive problems facing transport in and out of Gisborne.

The Gisborne Rail Co-operative which I am part of is not looking for “subsidies” from anyone. It does believe that government money should be used to repair the washed-out culverts on the Wairoa-Gisborne railway line because it was the failure to maintain and protect the culverts by the government’s agency KiwiRail that caused the washout five years ago.

The line is actually one of the most modern and picturesque in New Zealand and is needed now more than ever if the resources of this region — scenery, timber, horticulture and agriculture — are to be properly harnessed for the good of our people.

The 21 workers who died in 1938 while constructing the line, the landowners — most Maori — who willingly allowed the line to pass over their properties, all deserve respect and recognition.

Most importantly, rail cuts down on pollution, energy used and congestion on the road, and the highway south of Gisborne is not a good one.

Our co-operative believes it can attract the expertise, the capital and business from freight users and passengers to make the rail line viable.

It is bad enough that KiwiRail is fighting the chance for anyone else to have a go on the line while doing nothing itself, but it does not help when your editorials are so negative.

Gisborne is the most isolated city in New Zealand, restarting rail services could do so much to end that isolation. It is actually embarrassing that Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has done so much at its end to re-open the line but Gisborne does nothing.

N. Searancke

Your editorial of March 2 seems to say that any central government money coming into Tairawhiti is a good thing unless it is spent on “subsidising rail”. You seem to be happy with subsidised health, subsidised education, subsidised arts and culture, even subsidised bigger trucks on the road, which is Port Eastland’s solution to the massive problems facing transport in and out of Gisborne.

The Gisborne Rail Co-operative which I am part of is not looking for “subsidies” from anyone. It does believe that government money should be used to repair the washed-out culverts on the Wairoa-Gisborne railway line because it was the failure to maintain and protect the culverts by the government’s agency KiwiRail that caused the washout five years ago.

The line is actually one of the most modern and picturesque in New Zealand and is needed now more than ever if the resources of this region — scenery, timber, horticulture and agriculture — are to be properly harnessed for the good of our people.

The 21 workers who died in 1938 while constructing the line, the landowners — most Maori — who willingly allowed the line to pass over their properties, all deserve respect and recognition.

Most importantly, rail cuts down on pollution, energy used and congestion on the road, and the highway south of Gisborne is not a good one.

Our co-operative believes it can attract the expertise, the capital and business from freight users and passengers to make the rail line viable.

It is bad enough that KiwiRail is fighting the chance for anyone else to have a go on the line while doing nothing itself, but it does not help when your editorials are so negative.

Gisborne is the most isolated city in New Zealand, restarting rail services could do so much to end that isolation. It is actually embarrassing that Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has done so much at its end to re-open the line but Gisborne does nothing.

N. Searancke

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Richard - 2 months ago
That's it exactly.
Obdurate denial of responsibility by KiwiRail for the line's inoperability.
Lethargy by National to enforce restoration - leading ultimately to increased costs.
Dismissive dogma (and unsupportive alternative usage proposal) by the Mayor.
Rescue rail and you invigorate the region.
No other investment strategy in this locality will return the strategic gain that the railway can and will deliver: employment gains, business growth, tourism dollars, environmental improvements, safer roads, connectivity and accelerated inward entrepreneurial investment. Rail is good for growth; not just for the few but for the majority of all who live here.

Richard - 2 months ago
The Gisborne Rail Co-operative
Part 1 - You're not alone!
When the only railway through the Scottish Borders was axed more than 40 years ago, its closure provoked sabotage attacks, night-time blockades by furious locals and a police guard for the last train (a Sleeper - Edinburgh to London) to take the line. During that nearly riotous night 6 January 1969, even a local Church of Scotland minister, Rev Brydon Maben, found himself marched off by the police; an angry crowd only dispersed after the local Liberal MP David Steel (late to become leader of the Liberals) secured his release from the cells.
Those wild Scots are perhaps a little more "direct action" than Kiwis in their protest about their rail line closure, however nonetheless they are heartfelt "brothers-in-arms".
Closure left the Borders as the only region of the UK without a rail link, cutting it off from Edinburgh to the north and Carlisle in England to the south. Their line was originally opened in 1849, and was to become the longest section of railway closed by the U.K. Government's axe man Dr. Beeching - a bean counter. The new chairman of British Rail had no background in running railways but certainly knew his way around a profit and loss balance sheet. His remit was to massively cut the cost to the nation of running the railways. So line after line was closed on the here and now with no "over the horizon" business potential investigation.
The Borders railway was just one in hundreds. It cut through the Moorfoot hills in a steep climb out from Edinburgh to where the line reaches one of the highest summits on the UK's rail network at Falahill, 2,600mtrs above sea level. It climbs past medieval Scottish castles, crosses the famous river Tweed, utilises many bridges, viaducts and cuttings traversing sparsely populated desolate countryside. Constructed 168 years ago - and still standing "fit for purpose" in 1968 when it was closed.
A few decades later a new generation of supporters were convinced that reopening the railway would revitalise the area's economy, boost tourism in all of its guises, and crucially reverse a demographic trend which had left local towns with an ageing population and communities devoid of commercial investment. Communities totally reliant upon slow and difficult roads in all directions and a disagreeable, slow, relatively expensive infrequent bus service. They also spoke of the social equity argument, being now almost the only region in western Europe of this sort of size that didn't have a rail connection. After closure of the railway the main bus service to the Scottish capital took longer than a Victorian steam train, and was double the fastest journey time of the last trains on the line in 1968. All this sound familiar? So what next - read Part 2.

Richard - 2 months ago
Part 2 - Reopened and Delivering the promise.
A campaigner for the Borders railway once remarked getting part of the line operational would be tremendous: "half a loaf to a hungry man is better than no loaf at all." But, they were up against a powerful negative establishment, as are the GRC crusaders: British Rail vis KiwiRail - A Tory UK Government vis National NZGov., - Noncommittal Local Politicians elected Mayor.
What happened next?
2015 - After an absence of 47 years the Borders Railway reopened in September - Edinburgh to Tweedbank. Refurbished single track and signalling. New stations, new train sets.
2016 - the Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) statistics compared the first half of 2016 to the same period in 2015 before the railway was reopened. Data showed "significant improvements" in tourism activity. The first time in 10 years that every STEAM category saw improvement.

Richard - 2 months ago
Part 3 - Official Endorsement - STEAM findings after Border Railway reopened:
Visitors to The Borders:
Days in Hotels

Richard - 2 months ago
Part 4 - And finally reaction from the National and Regional agencies that supported the reopening:
Scottish Borders' Council's Stuart Bell:
"Tourism is absolutely vital to Scottish Borders' economy - this substantial rise in tourism activity is so important. For the first time in a decade the region has shown improved results in every STEAM category - the only area of mainland Scotland to do so.
Midlothian Council's Jim Bryant:
"We were confident the railway would bring new jobs, more tourists and significant economic opportunities to the area. These figures testify that those benefits are already under way."
Scotland's Transport Minister Humza Yousaf:
"We were absolutely confident that, in time, it would deliver major economic opportunities and attract new investment. It is pleasing to see strong the evidence so swiftly as a direct result of the railway reopening."
VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead:
"The figures are evidence that the investment in reopening of the railway was having a real impact on the local economy."
Validated proof that regenerating regional rail does deliver rich rewards for all the communities it serves given wholesome political, financial and marketing support such projects deserve. As you said Gisborne Rail Co-operative - it is not about subsidies; it is to acknowledge that rail deserves the same degree of support that road receives from central government and regional agencies. Those commentators that say scenic tourism on the Gisborne line "would only ever be a sideline business" lack entrepreneurial vision. They dwell in the past and present and fail to look over the horizon; to identify and research in- depth the market niches.

Richard - 2 months ago
Revision/Update to Part 3 of the Border Railway Report.
This final late revision is due to experiencing volume and technical IT handshaking posting incompatibilities. Sorry for the inconvenience readers. Here is the missing rail line reopening STEAM performance data obtained after only the first 6 months of operation.

Visitors to The Borders:
Days in Hotels and B and Bs up 27 percent
Spend increased 20 percent on food and drink
Spend on all accommodation up 17 percent
Overall spending up 16 percent
Number of days stayed up 11 percent
And an 8 percent increase in employment directly related to tourism.

Visitors to Midlothian:
Days in Hotels and B and Bs up 12 percent
Spend on food and drink up 7 percent
Overall spending up 7 percent
Number of days stayed up 7 percent
And a 4 percent improvement in employment directly related to tourism.
(Note: all percentages are "rounded" values)

Validated proof Gisborne Rail Cooperative that regenerating regional rail can deliver rich rewards for all the communities it serves given wholesome political, financial and marketing support such projects deserve. As you remarked GRC - it is not about subsidies, it is to acknowledge that rail deserves the same degree of support that road receives from central government and regional agencies. Those commentators that say scenic tourism on the Gisborne line "would only ever be a sideline business" lack entrepreneurial vision. They dwell in the past and present and fail to look over the horizon; to identify and research in-depth the market niches (passenger and freight) that the Gisborne line could handsomely optimise. So soldier on GRC - your cause is sound and sustainable.
(end of Border Rail case study)

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    How do you rate National’s election-year Budget?