We live in new times. We ask where rail travel sits within the post COVID world.
When we founded LOCO Journeys, no one could have imagined the challenges the world faces today, and yet we’re certain there is hope for the future, particularly when travelling by train.
Our first office was no more than a cupboard under the stairs. Among the coats and gloves, a piece of hardboard was fashioned as a place to position a laptop and a printer. It couldn’t be called a desk, it simply wasn’t big enough.
It was a small office in reality a tiny cloak room, but it was a space, a private, warm and quiet space in which to dream. And dream we did, conjuring ideas that had the potential to satisfy multiple and some rather complex goals.
A treasured notebook tells the story of ideas cast aside, and then a combination of intrepid inspiration and ideological vision fused into a proposition that ticked all the boxes. The underpinning keystone of the project was passion, and the chance to share that passion, creating moments and memories for everyone that touches our business.
LOCO Journeys was born and steadily grew, emerged from under the stairs blinking into the light of commercial reality, striding confidently into a tourism boom that was enveloping the world. We grew to become experts in our field selling rail travel and train tours to destinations around the globe. Australian rail travel became a specialty with particular favourites, The Ghan and the Indian Pacific catching the eye.
The signal gantry displayed a distant bank of multiple red lights. It’s been a shuddering halt for all humanity.
As our tourism recovery in New Zealand now proceeds under the caution of an amber signal, the team here at LOCO Journeys has reaffirmed our belief that travelling by train and rail travel are a critically important part of a future focused on sustainable travel and tourism.
Travelling by train and rail holidays are a critically important part of a future focused on sustainable travel and tourism.
Railway travel feeds and sustains multiple small communities including those towns where roads reach. Even one train a day can stimulate a local economy and enable the whole community to experience the positive effects of visitors.
Not only does a train bring life and vibrancy to its destination more importantly, it brings people with money to spend. They will shop for gifts, souvenirs, have a coffee, buy lunch, do a local sightseeing tour and book accommodation.
Each of the popular stops on the TranzAlpine railway for instance such as Arthur’s Pass, Moana and Lake Brunner and the terminus at Christchurch railway station and Greymouth railway station will all receive the positive trickle down benefits of visitors. And so too will those destinations a little further from the railway such as Punakaiki and Hokitika.
We find ourselves living in stressful times. Fatigue is setting in and we need ways to release those burdens. LOCO Journeys has no doubt that a trip on a New Zealand train will ease the pressure. Slow travel at its best.
A change of scenery is as good a therapy as anything and holidays through the ages have provided a wonderful break from the day to day grind. By what other means of travel can you just be? How else can you completely relax in a safe, warm environment, leave your cares and worries behind and simply enjoy the moment as you let the countryside roll by.
This often forgotten benefit of travelling by rail for health and well-being should not be overlooked. Rail tourism should be celebrated and enjoyed.
The Covid pandemic has rather overtaken the environmental imperative which faces us all. Consideration for a sustainable tourism future must be given and a shift toward activities and transport with sustainable carbon emissions is needed. Sure, you can’t travel everywhere by train, but when you have breathtaking scenery as New Zealand does, taking a journey by train should become a must-do.
Passengers on trains can potentially remove hundreds of cars, coaches and trucks from the roads and this has to be a good thing.
Running a railway is a big business, costing millions of dollars every year. Thousands of kilometres of track need constant maintenance. Tunnels, bridges, stations, fencing, road-crossings all need tending to ensure they are fit for purpose and safe.
Very rarely do railways actually make any significant money and often financial support from government becomes integral to keeping them open and as financially viable as possible. Rail freight carries the bulk of the cost burden, but any additional passenger services that can be added also help generate precious funds.
With environmental benefits in mind such as hauling freight by train rather than by multiple trucks on the road, keeping railways open is essential for a positive future that includes the opportunity of scenic rail services.
When railways close, they generally close for good and the infrastructure is sadly lost for ever.
If you are considering taking a holiday or tour in New Zealand and you want to do something a little ‘different’, think about going by train. Rail travel needs you. LOCO Journeys would love to hear from you!