By Hamish McNeilly
Dunedin is pushing for a suburban rail service and an inland port as part of a Government review of rail for the next decade.
The proposal has been detailed in a report set to be discussed by the Dunedin City Council infrastructure services committee on Tuesday.
The report is expected to include options for using mothballed infrastructure after it was announced operation of the Taieri Gorge Railway, a popular tourist venture, would be suspended.
The draft New Zealand Rail Plan largely overlooked New Zealand’s southern region, despite 14.5 per cent of all exports going through Dunedin’s Port Otago.
Some 30 per cent of the port’s freight volume is still transported by road, which creates problems for Dunedin’s roading network, the report says.
Port Otago is the one of two deep water ports in the country, and is well positioned to cater for the expected increase in freight volumes and larger vessels, the report notes.
The preferred site for an inland port is at Milburn, in South Otago, which could be used to freight more export-ready items via rail.
The Dunedin City Council is also supportive of launching commuter rail between Mosgiel and the Dunedin Railway Station, which is owned by the council.
The report cites the compact nature of the city’s CBD and increased investment in the area — including the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital — as another reason for a ”step change” to public transport.
It was estimated about 35,000 people commuted into Dunedin’s CBD from south of the city each day prior to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The report also notes a recent surge in population growth has led to increased congestion across the city, which is expected to increase over the next decade with several large scale projects under way.
The Ministry of Transport has sought feedback on the draft Rail Plan, which outlines the Government’s long-term vision and priorities for New Zealand’s national rail network.
Agencies involved include the Ministry of Transport, KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and the Treasury.