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Campaign to get southland train running

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A campaign to bring back the Southerner train is underway. The Southerner is a train that runs from Christchurch through to Invercargill.

A group of enthusiasts are pushing for a study to look into the train service, which was discontinued in 2002 due to low usage.

The Southerner train was a popular service owned by Tranzrail from the 1970s. Despite efforts by locals to save it, the service was deemed commercially unviable and was stopped.

Dave Macpherson, a spokesperson for the group, highlighted the benefits of modern hybrid diesel-electric trains, which are more efficient and cost-effective. He argued that the train service could be more affordable than air travel and driving.

The group has presented its proposal to South Island regional councils, including Environment Southland and the Otago Regional Council, as part of their long-term planning processes. They have also approached Environment Canterbury and suggested splitting the cost of a $172,000 business case among Otago, Southland, and Canterbury ratepayers. Macpherson mentioned that the cost would be minimal for residents, averaging around $1 per household for one financial year.

The proposed study aims to provide an independent, professional assessment of the project, including potential stops, timetables, and passenger interest. Dunedin locals, who have fond memories of the blue carriage train, have shown support for the initiative.

Advocates are confident that with the right government support, the Southerner train service could be revived successfully. Macpherson emphasized the need for thorough research and believes the service would be beneficial and affordable.

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