Going backwards off the rails

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DFT KiwiRail.

Report by NewsroomPlus.com

Plans to purchase new diesel train units and to de-electrify the rail line from Palmerston North to Hamilton seem about as sensible as walking backwards down a train line.

Contributed by: Olexander Barnes

In front of the cenotaph next to Parliament today a group of unionists, politicians including Green Party MPs Gareth Hughes and Jan Logie, NZ First MP Denis O’Rourke, Greater Wellington Regional Council member Paul Bruce and members of Generation Zero gathered to voice their protest against the government and Kiwirail’s plans.

Around 50-70 people gathered at the start of the protest, they brought 5 empty oil barrels symbolizing the diesel.

The protest started with speeches from members of RMTU (xx and Generation Zero on the steps leading up to Parliament grounds who said that this was a step backwards, as well as saying that there is still a large amount of potential to boost the amount of freight being transported by rail, which would take trucks off the roads. This would have the double effect of reducing emissions and freeing up the roads.

Paul Young from Generation Zero speaking at the protest © Olexander Barnes

Then the protest began to march towards Kiwirail’s offices in the Wellington railway station. Unlike standard marches, this one was done with a twist, protesters marched backwards, symbolizing Nationals backwards approach to rail.

This proved to be quite a feat, with wardens directing people so they did not walk into obstacles or get hit by cars.

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The protesters assembled at the front of the Wellington Station © Olexander Barnes

Upon arrival at the railway station, protesters formed up in front of the station and were joined by Green MPs, Russel Norman and Catherine Delahunty. A giant luggage label was handed over to a representative of Kiwirail, and it was acknowledged that this was not entirely Kiwirail’s fault. This marked the end of the protest.

Several groups issued press releases in support of the protest and voicing their own concerns over the plans.

RMTU issued a press release in support of the protest. In it they called for the government to reinvest in the electric fleet and RMTU organizer xxxx said, “While the rest of the world is transitioning to clean energy, KiwiRail is considering a downgrade. This isn’t the future, diesel-powered locomotives are the past. Over 4000 people have emailed KiwiRail asking for CEO Peter Reidy to invest in an electric fleet. The public is behind clean energy, even if KiwiRail and the government aren’t. We need clean energy and clean jobs.”

The Green Party also issued a press release that echoed the concerns of RMTU, adding that it would be an embarrassment if New Zealand was to show up at the Climate change conference to be held in Paris in December having ditched our electric trains with ones that ran on fossil fuels.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues.
Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia’s FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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