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Published: 2001-08-24 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is looking to the Government to help extend the operation of the Waikato Region’s rail service to give it time to work through the issues.

The Council is seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Minister Mark Gosche and Finance Minister Michael Cullen after learning that the Southerner rail service is to be maintained until December.

Passenger services in a number of areas are under threat after Tranzrail announced its intention to sell them off to West Coast Rail. Included in the list of services to end was the Waikato Connection commuter service, which has run between the cities since June last year, the Geyserland and the Kaimai Express.

Environment Waikato said earlier this month that the cost was likely to be too daunting to allow it to finance the retention of the service to Auckland. Its Corporate Services Committee recommended not proceeding with more information gathering to retain the service, after learning the gap in funding was about $400,000.

The Council had received very limited information from Tranzrail and West Coast Rail about the service and had to make a lot of assumptions about its future.

But Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said today that when the Council heard the Government had offered an extension to the Southerner service, it decided to see if it could also be included in the discussions.

“The prospect is still daunting and the funding gap is enormous, but we have decided to meet with all the Region’s mayors next week to work through the issues and have a meaningful discussion about what can be done.”

The Mayors will meet at Environment Waikato next Tuesday to discuss the issues.

“We want the Government to give the same consideration to our services. We need to have more time to look at all the options.”