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A commuter rail trial in Dunedin has come to a halt, after Dunedin city councillors yesterday voted against funding a feasibility study this year.
At the council’s annual plan deliberations, councillors agreed the timeframe to complete a feasibility study and trial for rail between Mosgiel and Dunedin would not be completed before freight trains began their peak season and required the line come September.
The study, costing $75,000 and using Dunedin Railways assets, was estimated to take six to eight weeks.
The council’s transport general manager Jeanine Benson said it would be ‘‘extremely complicated’’ to fit a report and potential trial in before September.
The peak season for freight movements was from September to June.
Cr Jim O’Malley asked whether the council would be able to complete a report and a six-week trial within June, July and August, to which Ms Benson replied ‘‘no’’.
Cr O’Malley, who last year ran for mayor, citing a commuter train service between Mosgiel and central Dunedin as one of his priorities, said he did not want to vote for halting the study, but said the council had ‘‘run out of time’’.
‘‘I would have liked to have tried this.
‘‘If we started a month ago we might have been able to fit it in but it’s just too tight now.’’
Ms Benson said the Rail and Maritime Transport Union’s proposal for a $250,000 trial was ‘‘robust’’ and most councillors echoed a better-funded trial in future would be more feasible.
Cr Lee Vandervis said the concept of commuter rail was not feasible in a city the size of Dunedin.
‘‘People would not park in Mosgiel and wait 30 minutes for a train when they could zoom over.
‘‘Why would they wait for the convenience of a train to take them to one destination only and not have the convenience of a car there?’’
Cr Carmen Houlahan said commuter rail was ‘‘something worth fighting for’’.
Cr O’Malley said he did not want to see the end of the concept of commuter rail, but a trial was now 12 to 18 months away.
The Otago Regional Council needed to have a role in future plans for commuter rail, he said.
Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said Connecting Dunedin — a partnership between the NZ Transport Agency, Dunedin City Council and Otago Regional Council — would be utilised if it were to go ahead.
All councillors voted against funding the feasibility study.
This article first appeared on www.odt.co.nz
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