The organisers of "The Future is Rail : Reconnecting Aotearoa 2030" Conference are extending an invitation to chairs, mayors, councillors, chief executives, senior managers and anyone interested in supporting better rail services to communities across the country. The conference takes place on 28 June 2023 in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.
This is set to be a very exciting conference on a highly topical theme that will help shape future strategy for Inter-Regional Passenger Rail in New Zealand in order to achieve outcomes for regional and national economic, environmental and social benefits, while meeting community and climate aspirations.
Aim of the conference
This is a one-day conference bringing together transport political decision makers from central and local government, top policy advisers, rail operators, business/industry leaders, and climate, community, enhanced mobility and rail advocates to develop a shared vision of the contribution that a rebuilding of inter-regional and long-distance passenger rail services can make to New Zealand.
Actions already supported
This conference is a follow up to actions over the last three years supported by the 18 mayors and chairs of councils on the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT), which have included:
- A submission to Parliament's Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee on 30 July 2020, which called on KiwiRail to reopen the Northern Explorer tourism rail service which had been halted during COVID-19, and refocus the service on connecting regions as well as tourism. This submission was in support of the petition led by Horizons Regional Councillor Weston Kirton to reinstate stops at Taumaranui and other places on the NIMT. KiwiRail announced the same day that it would reopen the Norther Explorer service prior to the coming summer season.
- The opening in March 2021 of the Te Huia passenger train service in March 2021, with two return trips each day between Hamilton and Auckland, with strong support from Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, and Waka Kotahi.
- The launch in November 2021 of a High Level Feasibility Study on a North Island Regional Passenger Rail 'Connector' between Palmerston North and Hamilton, to connect the Capital Connection and Te Huia passenger rail services, leading to a minimum of three daily Auckland – Wellington return services.
- Budget on 18 May 2023 provision that Government will fund rolling stock and upgrade rail tracks for 18 new hybrid trains to replace the current aged fleet on the Capital Connection, and provide more frequent and reliable services between Wellington and Palmerston North and between Wellington and Masterton - in response to a submission by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Manawatū.
This Conference will build on these exciting developments by drawing together the proposals for Auckland to Wellington passenger rail including a 'Night Train'; proposals for 'Golden Triangle' passenger rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga; proposals for extension of passenger rail to Whanganui and New Plymouth; and potential South Island opportunities.
The organisers see this as an opportunity to build on the momentum created by the Parliamentary Inquiry by the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee into the "Future of Inter-Regional Passenger Rail in New Zealand". This conference is timed to be held before the Parliamentary election campaign period starts.
The hosts of the conference are Patrick Rooney and Paul Callister of 'Save Our Trains', with support from 'Making Rail Work' and Michael van Drogenbroek. The conference will be chaired by Dr Roger Blakeley. Keynote speakers and panellists have been invited from:
- Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee members
- Representatives of Parliamentary political parties
- Heads or deputies of the Ministry of Transport, Waka Kotahi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
- Chairs and mayors of regional and city councils
- Rail operator chief executives or deputies: KiwiRail, Transdev, and Auckland One Rail
- Industry experts
- Community, climate, enhanced mobility and rail advocates.