GUEST BLOG: Patrick Rooney – Trains connect our communities and are part of climate action. So why are we runnning them down?


All around the world, a revival in passenger rail is providing people with convenient, affordable and low-carbon ways of connecting. 

In New Zealand, however, our rail operator KiwiRail has abandoned long-distance passenger rail, announcing the permanent end of same-day intercity services between Auckland/Wellington and Picton/Christchurch. 

These services will be replaced by a luxury multi-day ‘rail cruise’ option aimed entirely at the tourist demographic. 

This effectively means the end of most of Aotearoa New Zealand’s national passenger rail network after more than 100 years of service.  

The Save Our Trains campaign has formed to call on the Government and KiwiRail to commit to maintaining existing intercity passenger rail services. 

We want a comprehensive national strategy for future passenger rail services built around concerns for climate action, accessibility, and economic development.

Our petition has received over 6500 signatures.

Trains connect communities and are an important part of climate change action. They connect friends and families for graduations, weddings, holidays, and business. Trains connect towns with cities and bring our diverse country together. 

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Our rail network was built up by the state over more than a hundred years, but a period of privatisation and decades of underfunding has limited the development and use of our national rail network. It has also changed the nature of dialogue around public transport. While it’s demanded that long-distance passenger trains make a profit, no such demands are made of roads. 

Trains have an important place in our future but require investment and planning from this Government. 

At a time when the Government has acknowledged a climate emergency, and the need to rapidly transition to low emissions, KiwiRail is in reverse gear. KiwiRail is a state-owned enterprise, and it must be operated in a strategic way to fulfil our shared transport goals.

Rail provides a more sustainable and climate friendly method of transport across the country. If we are going to achieve our emissions targets and have a future for the next generation, we need more than clean green branding. We need real action. We need Government and business to start connecting the dots and getting our transport system working towards those goals.

There are numerous social and economic benefits from passenger rail. Rail can invigorate the social and economic life of small communities by making them accessible to remote workers and tourists.

Trains provide an accessible method of point-to-point transport for the elderly, disabled people, and people without cars. With the right Government support, trains can provide affordable transport for people on low and fixed incomes.

Less cars on the roads can help to make our roads safer and less congested.   

We are not opposed to rail tours. They are far better for the economy and environment than flying to Hawai’i, however, they are not an appropriate replacement for a national passenger rail network. It should not be one or the other. 

Our campaign is starting to have an impact. We are picking up strong support in regional communities who know how valuable rail links are for them. KiwiRail says it is listening – but we are going to get louder, until they start acting. We won’t accept a deliberate rundown of passenger services.

The rail network was built and maintained by generations of New Zealanders for all of our benefit. Now it’s time to move things forward with a world class rail system that offers affordable and accessible passenger services between New Zealand cities. The first step is to save what we have. 

The petition can be found here: 

Patrick Rooney 


  1. Re-nationalize the railways.

    The “mountainous terrain” argument against rail in NZ looks a bit sick when you realize that countries like Spain or Switzerland have excellent rail networks.

    • indeed pope spot on….
      in the past NZ achieved some pretty impressive railway engineering, world standard in fact, with less tech than todays engineers can employ.

    • Switzerland GDP, 748 billion USD (2020).
      Spain GDP, 1.281 trillion USD (2020).
      New Zealand DGP, 212.5 billion USD (2020).
      We don’t have the money. But hey, don’t let that stop you. Roberston will just print some.

      • well we could tell business and particularly the banks to JUST PAY YER FUCKIN TAXES and stop robbing kiwis, every tax dollar ‘avoided’ has to be made up BY YOU or cut from spending…it’s that simple

        and when NZ was building railways it wasn’t a major economy but (and this is gonna hurt) a colonial backwater…but NZ had the will to do it.

      • I agree with you, that’s unusual. I would have added population numbers as well though. I like (used to) staying in overseas cities with good rail but NZ needs a far more concentrated population for rail to ever be sustainable.

  2. Thank you. I have signed, commented, and shared on Facebook – something I rarely do. Pope P 11’s comment re continental railways is very pertinent, and any suggestions that our mountains have suddenly become obstacles is complete and utter bollocks, if not downright lying. Good luck.

  3. Patrick
    We are running them down because we are not like Europe, or HongKong or the USA…with cities and inner CBDs the size and population of our entire country. And we will never have them, unless they get socially engineered. I know Labour is trying very hard to turn us into a country of a few big inner city slums, but it won’t work. Besides that, with our population and tax base, we don’t have the money for all these train pipe dreams. We’d be better off building a decent Autobahn from top to bottom to accommodate the onslaught of electric cars, and the need for us to get from AKL to WEL in 4 hours…not 8 fucking hours. Yes we need more cars, electric cars that can and are allowed to go fast on motorways!!! I know the Labour ministers don’t know how to drive, but everyone else does. And now Labour is about to make it even slower to get around – pathetic. Give it up, this stupid obsession with expensive trains…unless you show me an economic model that make it worthwhile and profitable. The 15 billion already outdated idiocy about to happen in AKL ,for the slowest airport train in the world, is not that economic model. The Te Huia distaster running from AKL to HAM at the moment is also not that economic model. It’s just another ill-conceived concept where a cool slogan prompted the decision. We are not a train country. We don’t have the people to make it worthwhile.

  4. Re-nationalize? It was re-nationalized 13 years ago. 18 years ago for the network.

    It’s under government ownership that the run down is happening.

    The problem isn’t public or private ownership. The problem is that it is a monopoly with no incentive to innovate, grow or compete.

    Open up the tracks to private companies and you’ll see real change for the better.

    • You don’t even have to open it up to private companies although there’s no reason for not sharing tracks. The problem is we keep appointing Master of the Universe CEOs that’ve had imagination bypass surgery.
      That Mainfreight fella has probably got one or two ideas to rub together, but even so, we keep trying to do stuff on the cheap and with a short term view.
      I’ve commented a few times that there are viable passenger commuter routes on the existing network – let alone those that have been mothballed or closed down. A lot of it is to do with the passenger rolling stock we resurrect from other country’s cast-offs.
      Modular lightish rail (as in bus type cabins), or even tram-trains (somewhat lighter than the old Fiat railcars, but even a smallish modular Fiat type railcar :
      – North of Tauranga to Papamoa/TePuke – Pangaroa even taking in Tauranga airport at times
      – Stratford to New Plymouth
      – Hamilton Auckland
      – Points North of Christchurch to Lyttleton and to Rolleston
      – Points North of Dunedin via Dunedin to Mosgiel (the airport)
      – Masterton to Wellington
      One of the problems of course is we’ve damn near lost the expertise.

      We’ve probably got we deserve. Hunker down with the knuckle heads people and watch while we continue to get shafted.

      By the way @ Saur Kraut – how’s all that Transmission Gully crap coming along – do you know?

      • The problem for those North of Christchurch is that the train has to go into central Christchurch before it can travel to Rolleston. The old NZ Rail used to have land along Styx Mill rd for a planned bypass South via the airport (from the 1960’s) however it appears that our corruption-free system thought it was better to put houses on the land than develop a sensible rail network. I have no knowledge of whatever decisions were made although it would not surprise me if someone could follow the money trail that there was a number of favorable coincidences.

    • It was re-nationalized, was it Geoff?

      Take a look here:

      and there you’ll read “KiwiRail Holdings Limited (KiwiRail) is a limited liability company incorporated under the Companies Act 1993 and a state owned enterprise (SOE) under the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 … The principal objective of every SOE is to operate as a successful business and to be as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses that are not owned by the Crown. ”

      That’s a travesty of nationalization – it’s being run as a business, not a public service.

  5. Re-nationalize? It was re-nationalized 13 years ago. 18 years ago for the network.

    It’s under government ownership that the run down is happening.

    The problem isn’t public or private ownership. The problem is that it is a monopoly with no incentive to innovate, grow or compete.

    Open up the tracks to private companies and you’ll see real change for the better.

  6. Unfortunately car users are subsidising trucks for use of the roads. The road formation cost at least twenty times as much to construct to enable heavy axel trucks to use them. It also only takes one overweight/loaded axel to damage a section of road. Cars do no damage to roads. Cars pay for access of roadways.

    • Spot on. And when one particular party is massively funded by big trucking companies, it’s hardly surprising, rail networks are not a priority.


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