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Tranz Alpine journey up for grabs

Published: 8:07PM Monday May 22, 2006 Source: One News

One of the country's most scenic train trips could soon be foreign-owned.

Toll New Zealand is looking for a buyer for the Tranz Alpine service and the tourism industry says a sale could make a great rail journey even better.

It's one of New Zealand's iconic train rides, Christchurch to Greymouth and back again.

"It just never seems to seems to lose popularity," says train manager Charlie Ogston.                                            

But the Tranz Alpine is up for sale again and while the scenery is world class, even those passionate about the trip say the train itself isn't. 

"It rattles, it jerks,  its bounces along...there is nothing fast about trains in New Zealand," Ogston says.
The tourism industry agrees.

"Without a doubt investment in the infrastructure has fallen behind and that investment is needed," says Ian Bougen from Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing.

Toll will only sell to someone already operating scenic train journeys. That means the Tranz Alpine will probably end up in  foreign hands.    

Toll New Zealand say it's far too soon to comment on whether any overseas companies are interested in buying the Tranz Alpine.

But there are two possibilities - the Canadians who run the Rocky Mountaineer and the company running the Orient Express in Asia.

It's a train journey that wins over 200,000 tourists a year.

Toll New Zealand doesn't know what's round the corner. It doesn't even know there'll definitely be a sale.    

"At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter who owns it...the Tranz Alpine will always be here and it's always going to be a great train ride," says Tony McManis from Toll NZ. 

But if a change of ownership means more money, it'll be welcomed.