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What saved rail in New Zealand?

Friday 12th May 2000

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Retiring managing director Dr Francis Small said a belief among key staff that it had a contribution to make to the economy saved rail. Other reasons were:

  • Acceptance by key stakeholders - politicians, management, staff, unions, customers - that dramatic action had to be taken to fundamentally change a shambolic system if it was to survive.

  • A road to Damascus conversion for then railways minister Richard Prebble some time during his 1985-86 "Save Rail" campaign. "Somewhere along the way ... 'Prebs' [found that] delightful phrase 'I'm going to save rail - but not for all of you.'"

  • Some "pretty brave actions" by groups of senior staff and managers who took key steps, realising they meant there would be no future for them in the reshaped company.

  • Prompt actions that made fundamental changes without upsetting the customers too much - from changed timetables to reworked management information systems and even to reducing goods yards and workshops.

  • Communications programme which at each step had Little Red Books supplied to staff, detailing the change. "Those involved had a belief the business would survive and would make an important contribution to New Zealand industry."
- Ray Lilley

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