An open letter to the Chair of Dunedin Railways Limited

Keep Dunedin Rail Rolling spokesperson Dave Kearns says the open letter asks serious questions about DRL that have been largely unanswered or ignored up to now.

Kevin Winders
Chair of the Board
Dunedin Railways Ltd
PO Box 140

Dear Mr Winders,

We are very concerned for the future of our members at Dunedin Railways Ltd (‘DRL’), and at the statement by yourself, reported in the Otago Daily Times on 20th June, that mothballing the operation of the railway for 18 months is “as good an answer as the company could provide”.

Given the support offered by central government for the tourist industry in general and the support in principle from DRL’s owners the Dunedin City Council for the ‘Keep Dunedin Rail Rolling’ campaign we find this to be both misleading and indicative of a lack of vision and leadership.

This view is compounded by your claim that you have not been contacted by the RMTU, despite the fact there has been a great deal of correspondence between the RMTU and DRL since the so-called mothballing decision was announced as well widely publicised campaign that has garnered much public support.

The RMTU is gravely concerned about your ability to oversee DRL. It certainly appears there is a real lack of ability to communicate with stakeholders who have the best interests of the railway and its contribution to the wider community at heart. 
For the avoidance of doubt, and to ensure you are clear that our members and supporters require answers please respond to the following questions:

1. why trains are not running in Taieri Gorge now, as under the current level 1 lockdown regime this could have begun on 9th June?

2. Has any research been done regarding the viability of running trains now in any capacity, including but not limited to, the potential domestic market, and/or the likely Trans-Tasman/Pacific market that would open as a result of an opening of bubbles in those regions?

3. How has consultation/communication gone with the Middlemarch community, another stakeholder that has ideas and plans for their area and the operation of the railway?

4. Did Dunedin Railways meet the criteria for 8 week government wage subsidy extension? If so, why was it not applied for?

5. What date would the 8 week wage subsidy extension, if successfully applied for, have ended?

6. Do you see it as the role of DRL to investigate the above under its published Statement of Intent?

7. What are your plans for maintenance of the Taieri Branch line and associated infrastructure to ensure it is fit for purpose if and when there is a return to service?

8. Should a return to service occur what are the contingency plans to ensure qualified and trained staff are in place?

9. On what grounds did you reject a submission from a DRL staff member which would have met the financial criteria, retained about 12 staff and kept trains running up the Taieri Gorge on a limited timetable, when this would have helped immensely with track and asset conditions pending resumption of a full timetable?

10. Does DRL meet the criteria for access funds under the Government’s $400m tourism recovery package announced in May, if so, has this been applied for and to what purpose?

Our final question concerns your appointment post 30 June. Are you intending to remain as Board Chair and if so, would you give consideration to stepping aside to allow someone take up the role that has the vision, commitment and energy to oversee the reconfiguration of the business?

Yours sincerely,
Dave Kearns
Branch Secretary
RMTU Otago Rail Branch

5 replies on “An open letter to the Chair of Dunedin Railways Limited”

I wholeheartedly support all these questions and comments. What can I do to physically support this whole mess.? I am a volunteer hostess on the train.


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