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UPDATE: KiwiRail gets feedback at annual meeting, focuses on freight

Friday 26th October 2012

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KiwiRail faced a barrage of calls for better service at its annual meeting in Wellington on Friday, including a plea for more professional commentaries on its tourism rail services.

Labour MP Moana Mackey called from the floor for a reconsideration of the mothballing of the Gisborne line, while members of the public wanted clarity on the future of the Capital Connection service from Palmerston North to Wellington and pointed out problems with the quality of tourism passenger services.

But the meeting attended by about 100 people had lighter moments and chairman John Spencer and chief executive Jim Quinn tried to answer all questions fully.

Spencer said the future of the Capital Connection service was not KiwiRail's call. Quinn said there was no prospect of the freight volumes needed to make the Gisborne line economic.

One speaker said that as a New Zealander he was embarrassed at the standard of presentation of commentaries on the Scenic passenger service. He said one commentary had said the British cavalry invaded Waikato.

Quinn said he had had both positive and negative feedback but a project to improve them was under way.

Spencer told the meeting that "the real role of rail is bulk freight".

The freight business, which provides 64 percent of revenue, continued to be encouraging, he said.

"We have achieved 25 percent growth in freight revenue over just two years. This growth is the key to the success of our long-term plan," he said.

He said the TranzAlpine service was "lucky to wash its face" since the Christchurch earthquakes and the number of passengers travelling on it had declined 23 percent. More hotels were needed in Christchurch.

Quinn said group revenue was slightly ahead of budget in the first three months of the current financial year due to increases in forestry, import-export and domestic freight volumes.

There had also been an increase in freight on Interislander ferries.

"The passenger business is on budget and we are looking forward to seeing whether the Scenic services, and Interislander passenger traffic, get a boost from the upcoming Christmas holiday/summer season," Quinn said.

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