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A proposal to reinstate a Christchurch-Timaru-Dunedin passenger rail service is on track with a business case for funding just-presented to the government.
The pitch seeks to secure the money needed to prepare feasibility report on reinstating a service possibly similar to what was abandoned in the early 2000s.
In June, the Government committed $50,000 through the Canterbury Mayoral Forum to examine such a service's feasibility.
Timaru mayor Damon Odey, a leading advocate for the investigation, said that money came with strings attached - principally the need for a business case to submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Odey confirmed the business case was submitted to MBIE last week.
"We have to go through quite a thorough process before that money's allocated to us," Odey said.
The business case covered how the money would be distributed through the Mayoral Forum and how it would be controlled, he said.
Once MBIE had provided the funding "we'll go out, possibly through a tender process to find out the appropriate consultants to carry on with that [feasibility] report".
"I don't think there'll be any issues with it, it's just following due process, while I'd like to be cracking into it two months ago we have just got to be following those processes."
Odey said KiwiRail would be consulted throughout the feasibility process, to ensure the final report on the proposal was not one the rail operator does not see the value in.
The study would build on previous reports carried out in 2002 and 2010, one of which had been commissioned by KiwiRail, Odey said.
"The world has changed greatly since 2002 when the service got chopped ... tourism growth, heavy vehicles on our roads, and some really good economic growth in provincial New Zealand.
"There's been work done [previously], this is really just adding to that work."
Regardless of the colour of government that emerged from the upcoming general election, Odey was confident it would support the proposal.
Green Party List MP and Rangitata electorate Candidate Mojo Mathers said she and her party "strongly supported public transport choices for travel, including passenger rail between cities".
"I would love to be able use such a service myself to travel to Christchurch and Dunedin.
"The need for an efficient, modern passenger rail service ... has been clear for some time now, it would provide a much needed alternative safe transport link between the main cities."
Mathers said the rail link would reduce congestion on State Highway One, would give people the choice of travelling by rail to visit family and friends and would boost regional tourism.
"What we really need though is a Central Government funding policy change to support long distance passenger rail services.
"Currently government funding is largely tied up with building four lane motorways across the country.
"We need to government to get smarter about investing in safer, cleaner modern transport options."
The current proposal was pitched in the wake of the Kaikoura earthquake last year, when the rail link between Christchurch and Picton was severed.
The link was a well-established tourist route and its loss was touted as an opportunity to restore a passenger service through southern regions.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt was an early supporter of Odey's push to consider the merits of such a link.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has also pledged to support the reinstatement of rail to the regions.
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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