When I was just two years old, I took my first ever train from Heriot to Edievale, New Zealand, at the back of a freight train in a guards van. The memory and sheer joy of this trip cemented a life-long love affair with railways, such that I spent my working life in the industry and named my Transport consultancy after that journey. In the years since there have been many highs and lows as Rail modernised, retrenched, had several near-death experiences and apparent renaissance revivals.
Fast Forward to the 2020’s. In coming back to New Zealand after many years working on rail overseas I was dismayed to see the near demise of our remaining long distance passenger rail services. Something had to be done and I felt a calling to play my part. Starting with a few articles on LinkedIn, early in 2022 I wrote an article on the future of passenger rail in New Zealand. Katrina from Making Rail Work (MRW) read it and reached out and invited me to contribute to that journey.
In August 2022 the MRW team met with the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee and a inquiry into the Future of Inter-regional passenger rail was announced inviting submissions. MRW were key in that.
I made a wide-ranging submission about redeveloping passenger rail across the Motu. Key to this was a staged development plan for the delivery of inter-regional passenger rail with emphasis to begin with on two key corridors – the Lower North Island and Upper North Island (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga) Golden Triangle thus building on the recently launched Te Huia service.
Building towards sustainable passenger rail in New Zealand requires a focus on where passenger rail has the greatest likelihood of success enabling a case for further development down the track. Economics, growth and key areas of human activity make this the logical approach. So I had instant alignment with the MRW vision and approach for the Golden Triangle. It was credible, fresh and an innovative approach on how to Make Rail Work.
So, when I presented my submission next to that of Katrina, Susan and Mary at our hearing on 24 November I felt invigorated and charged with energy. The submission was well received with even an ask for a follow up on how we could align development of rail with regional and town development along the corridor. And so the journey continues.