Battle lost: Bay Express to go
The fight to save Hawke’s Bay’s Bay Express rail passenger service is over and the train will make its last trip between Napier and Wellington on October 7.
The Bay Express was one of five services that Tranz Rail’s preferred bidder for its long-distance passenger services, Victorian-based West Coast Railway, did not wish to buy.
The Kaimai Express, Geyserland Express and Waikato Connection will cease running with the Bay Express on October 7, though the lines will still be used for freight services.
Discussions are continuing between the Government and Tranz Rail over an extension to the deadline for the Southerner, which runs between Christchurch and Invercargill, to give local authorities more time to consider a rescue package.
Originally, Tranz Rail proposed ending the Bay, Kaimai and Geyserland expresses on September 30. But that date was in the middle of the school holidays and, to assist families with their travel plans, the date has been extended by a week.
While the Bay Express will stop running early next month, West Coast Railway may run a bus service between Napier and Palmerston North to connect with the Wellington-Auckland Overlander service.
The company, which is keen to retain the business, is expected to make a decision on the bus service in about 10 days.
The service might one day lead to the reinstatement of the Napier-Wellington train service.
Decisions last month by three regional councils – Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and Wellington – not to provide financial support, spelled the end of the Bay Express.
Initially, West Cost Railway indicated it would buy the express if it could get local-body and government subsidies totalling almost $1 million.
Though West Coast Railway reduced the amount sought to about $500,000 for a seven-days-a-week train service and almost $400,000 for a five-days-a-week link between Napier and Wellington, it was still too costly for local bodies to support.
A last-ditch effort by Napier Mayor Alan Dick this week, to get Government support for a reprieve for the Bay Express until Christmas, also failed.