I was asked to speak at the Future is Rail Conference towards the end of last year. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally confident about the direction Making Rail Work was taking and if we were ready to set our stall out at such a high-level event.
Elements of our relationships with independent consultants, and details of the stages we anticipated in the creation of New Zealand’s first Rail Co-operative had been discussed but they hadn’t been tested with a wide enough range of stakeholders and community members.
From a governance perspective, I was also concerned that speaking at a conference of this calibre would upset the relationships we were beginning to establish with local and regional council. The last thing I wanted to do was suggest we were going over the heads of local decision-makers.
Anyway, I agreed to be part of a panel, which in turn put pressure on the whole team to step up, make decisions, and forge relationships to counter the challenges we could see ahead of us.
I’m so proud of where we are today. I no longer lead a team of volunteers, I am led by a team of experts-in-field who keep me on the right track.
The ambitions I will be presenting at the conference tomorrow are brave and bold, for me, for the team, and for Aotearoa New Zealand. Yet I find myself in a place of certainty now. Not only do I think the Making Rail Work team is ready, I think we are all ready and that the time to be brave and bold has arrived… on Platform1!
For those who are interested, here are my speech notes for tomorrow:
“Kia ora tātou,
“I’m Katrina from Making Rail Work. As you’ll see from the slide behind me, we have worked under a few names over the years but we’ve always had one ambition:
“To build a community-led passenger rail line in the Golden Triangle that makes economic sense.
“Now, the question I get asked most about our economic proposals is:
“How can we bring private and foreign money in to help deliver rail, without losing control of the line itself.
“So, forget trains for just now. Let’s talk about supermarkets…
“Introducing a third player into the New Zealand supermarket sector is proving to be challenging, nigh-on impossible because it’s considered too high a risk for the incoming supermarket provider.
“But it does become feasible if you structure the investment proposition around inter-regional passenger rail.
“By putting a supermarket express or metro outlet at each station, and bundling them together as part of an exclusive inward investment package, we begin to mitigate the risk to the new entrant to market.
“Not only does the rail line bring customers to its doors, it also allows staff in different locations to support each other.
“Using this bundle as a foundation, we can then add other opportunities to enhance the proposition. This could include support with securing an optimal site for warehousing at Ruakura, and help with identifying sites for C-suite accommodation. Luxury coastal living in Ōmokoroa, for example.
“On top of that we could expand the package to include things like exclusive in-carriage advertising and discounted staff season tickets.
“Given the supermarket chain would be part of the rail cooperative, we could also support marketing to members, and help them connect with local schools and retirement villages.
“The point is, we would be using passenger rail to enable this entrance to the market. And by doing so, the line will be critical to the success of the new supermarket entrant, which in turn justifies a request for investment in the capital costs for the delivery of the line… WITHOUT undermining the ownership or the management of the line itself.
“This and a number of other propositions will be detailed in Beyond The Tracks, which we will be publishing later this year.
“And just to close, here’s a summary of the next steps we need to take if we want to create New Zealand’s first sustainable rail cooperative.
“If you can’t wait for the report, you can find these slides, and a lot more information about our work, on our website. Or email me, or one of the team to set up a briefing.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa”