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Toll New Zealand is putting its TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal South Island railway services up for sale.
Yesterday, Toll NZ announced it was seeking expressions of interest in its two long-distance South Island tourist trains – the TranzCoastal between Picton and Christchurch and the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth.
Toll NZ would not comment on why it was considering selling the services, but chief executive David Jackson said it had received calls from various tourism rail operators from around the world interested in the two South Island trains.
Jackson said the services would only be sold if the right buyer could be found, otherwise Toll NZ would continue to operate and enhance its South Island services.
Tourism operators and industry representatives are positive about the move and hope new owners will upgrade the trains and services.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson said industry workers saw the sale as potentially positive and he hoped Toll would sell the trains to someone with the financial capital to do the job properly.
"It's all old. It's all outdated. It needs someone who's prepared to invest," Butson said.
"It's not a great surprise because both these trains – the TranzCoastal and the TranzAlpine – have both got considerable upkeep expenditure and the union has been concerned for some time about what Toll was doing."
New Zealand Scenic Tours owner Russell Jardine said the services and trains were run down. He hoped a new owner would invest in upgrading them.
He said the TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal services were important to South Island tourism and improvements to the service would benefit the industry.
It is the second time Toll NZ has put its South Island services on sale.
In 2001 it sold half of the services to Australian-based rail operator West Coast Railway for $33 million but bought it back in 2004.
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