Petition launched to retain train stops

By Anne-Marie Emerson

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A group of Rangitikei residents is starting a petition calling for KiwiRail to stop its planned changes to the Overlander rail service.

From June 25 this year, KiwiRail will reduce the number of weekly services between Auckland and Wellington from 14 to six, and make fewer stops, including only Hamilton, National Park, Ohakune and Palmerston North.

It is the second of those changes that has got up the nose of people like Rangitikei District councillor Richard Aslett and Eliz Mortland of the Taihape Community Development Trust. The pair have started a petition which they intend to present to Parliament, asking that the Overlander retain all its current stops.

Mr Aslett told the Wanganui Chronicle that KiwiRail had "no idea" how important the Overlander was to places like Taihape, Marton and Feilding - just three of 12 towns the train will no longer stop at.

Mr Aslett said Rangitikei Tourism was just finalising a cycle trail, called Gorges To Sea, that would specifically target train travellers visiting the Rangitikei.

"The idea was that people could hop off the train with their bike and cycle the trail, then hop back on the train," he said.

"Now we hear that the train won't stop anymore, and the timing couldn't be worse."

Mr Aslett said he was frustrated because he had written to KiwiRail about their planned changes, but had heard nothing back from them.

"I decided I couldn't sit around and wait - I had to get off my butt and do something."

Mr Aslett said anyone is welcome to sign the petition online at www.taihape.co.nz or at the following locations: Wanganui i-Site, Ohakune Station Cafe and Gallery, Taihape information centre, Project Marton, Marton Library, the Feilding Information Centre, Feilding Arts Centre, Ohingaiti Hotel, Mangaweka Pub, DC3 Cafe at Mangaweka, Green Plum Cafe at Hunterville, Sugar Plum Cafe on SH1, and the Bulls information centre.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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