Dunedin Railways mothballing trains and Taieri Gorge track

Dunedin Railways Limited had become mostly reliant on the tourist market, especially cruise ships, and with those stopping suddenly last month and probably for a year or more the DCC owned operatin has decided to probably sack 51 staff and put it’s trains and iconic Taieri Gorge track into mothballs.

ODT:  Taieri Gorge track to be mothballed, 51 jobs likely to go

In a statement this morning, chairman Kevin Winders said mothballing was a way of preserving DRL’s assets ”with a view to exploring future options for the company in what will undoubtedly be a very different tourism environment”.

The Dunedin City Council has agreed to meet the ongoing costs of mothballing the operation.

DCHL had advised the council that continuing to run Dunedin Railways would cost about $750,000 per quarter ongoing through winter, with little hope of any significant revenue for at least another 18 months.

More costs for ratepayers.  Just a week ago the council were looking like continuing with their annual plan despite a drastic change to the economic situation.

Mr Winders said DRL’s existing business challenges, even when operating in a buoyant tourism market, were well known.

“The impacts of Covid-19 exacerbate these challenges severely because the company is largely reliant on international tourism which makes up 80% of DRL’s total passenger numbers.

“We are unlikely to see international visitors return in the 2020/21 summer and the outlook beyond that is uncertain at this time. With this outlook, it is simply not possible to keep the business operating as normal.” DRL’s main shareholder is Dunedin City Holdings Limited (DCHL).

Chairman Keith Cooper said they were supportive of the decision to mothball the operation.

“This option provides flexibility to explore new and sustainable tourism offerings based on DRL’s assets as the economy and tourism recover post Covid-19.”

Get the Greens to get funds to electrify the Taieri Gorge track? No chance of that for a tourism operation.

With the sudden halt to cruise ships in the middle of March, which was happening regardless of lockdown levels as cruise ships were banned from coming here, as well as air travel being largely stopped, putting the operation on hold was inevitable.

The future for the Taieri Gorge and the other operations of Dunedin Railways – they ran trips on the main line as well – looks grim.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th April 2020

    Sad to see but necessity may be the mother of invention. They have an asset but need to find another way to make use of it. I hope they do.

    • The may end up pulling up the Taieri Gorge track and extending the Central Otago Rail Trail from Middlemarch through to Dunedin. The Rail Trail is much more economic to run, and benefits many small towns along it’s route from Clyde, soon to be extended through the gorge to Cromwell with ambitions to go through the Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. That would be an epic trip.

  2. Duker

     /  20th April 2020

    51 staff ?
    As for extending a rail trail through to Dunedin, my map shows it mets the existing Main trunk at Wingatui just out of Mosgiel.
    Wouldnt a better idea be use the existing track for some of those sort of electric golf buggies on rail wheels that are used over the Mamakus out of Rotorua and around Dargaville on those lines. Passengers stay with their bubble on each buggy/rail cruiser

  3. most countries who have widespread Train use, do not reply on private operators, to exist.. usually partial or total public/Govt. funding; ‘Mind the Gap !’

    I think they should also look at light-rail alongside main roads
    eg Gardens to Octagon & down to Sth D/St Clair sounds like a plan ?

    • Duker

       /  20th April 2020

      Yes . Switzerland is 8.5 mill people , its largest city is around the size of Auckland.

      Oh one other thing its the size of Canterbury region…dont you think that makes a big distance. Canterbury has 650,000 people not 8.5 mill and Ashburton aint no Geneva

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th April 2020

        Switzerland sits at the intersection of Germany, France and Italy. It has enormous through traffic from those countries as well.

        • Duker

           /  20th April 2020

          I’m a fan of trains ..but some people just like the pictures and the thought of them being there if they ever got round to using them.
          We know the people’s concerns over Covid are receding when more trains are the answer


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: