With international tourism at a standstill, Horizons Ruapehu councillor Weston Kirton hoped his pleas for improved domestic rail service might get some traction.

"Instead KiwiRail has mothballed the Northern Explorer while the ski season is in full swing," Kirton said.

"KiwiRail has started passenger services in other regions so why not the route between Auckland and Wellington?"

Kirton has been lobbying to have the Taumarunui stop reinstated, along with others on the main trunk line restored, and presented a petition to Parliament in February.


He said KiwiRail's insistence that the Northern Explorer would not be financially viable as a domestic passenger service is extremely frustrating.

"International tourism has dried up so we are reliant on the domestic visitor and many may choose to travel by rail.

"It is short-sighted by KiwiRail to suggest it is uneconomic to resume the daily Northern Explorer, as there are good indications people are moving around and in many cases using public transport."

A recent announcement by Kiwi Rail welcomed the Government support package, including $80 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, stating it would benefit the regions.

"What do we get instead of visitors from other parts of New Zealand coming to our region? A mothballed passenger train not going anywhere," Kirton said.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said the $80m from the Provincial Growth Fund was allocated by the Government to specific projects for the TranzAlpine and the Coastal Pacific and has to be used for those purposes.

"We're continuing to evaluate the viability of our tourism services and no decision has been made about the return of the Northern Explorer," she said.

"KiwiRail acknowledges the importance of our passenger trains to the communities we serve and we regard them as an important part of our overall operation."


KiwiRail did not respond to a question about whether there is evidence to support its claim that a domestic passenger service would not be profitable.

Kirton said the view is short-sighted and profit should not be the sole reason for the service.

"The Government is encouraging the use of public transport and if there was a regional focus on train services the country would be a lot better off in reaching carbon emissions targets," he said.

The KiwiRail spokeswoman said further decisions about the Northern Explorer would be announced in due course.

"We are closely monitoring conditions which would impact decisions about the Northern Explorer, and the Coastal Pacific [Picton to Christchurch].

"However, we do not currently consider that the Northern Explorer would be financially viable."


Taumarunui, along with Marton and 10 other stops on the main trunk line, was dropped from the schedule in 2012.

Meanwhile, Kirton's petition with more than 3000 signatures is before the Government's Transport and Infrastructure Committee and he hopes it will be considered soon.