Wednesday, 23 August 2006

The under-endowed Overlander

Years ago I remember Bob Jones praising the Auckland-Wellington overnight train (now called The Overlander) as the very best way to travel intercity. Jump aboard in one city, he said, enjoy an early evening drink, head for your bed and arrive downtown in good time in your city of business, fighting fit and fresh as a daisy and already in the heart of the city and ready to go.

It must also be remembered that this was in the years when Bob had a thing about the 'ugly fat woman policy' that the local government airline monopoly NAC seemed to pursue in hiring hostesses -- apparently hair-lips and big arses abounded -- so bear in mind that competition with the airlines was not exactly hot stuff.

My point, if I have one, is that times have changed. Intercity airline travel is better than it's ever been. Meanwhile, the standard of intercity rail travel is perhaps worse than it ever was -- sleeping cars for instance joined the Dodo some years ago. Now, speaking personally I think that's a shame, but my thoughts and feelings on the matter really butter no parsnips, and neither should the thoughts or feelings of others. Cash might help, but pleasant thoughts on their own pay no bills, do they.

Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons's meditations certainly pay no bills. Clutching a petition to her chest and an exhortationary crease across her brow, The Simplesimons opines: “It is easy to forget how essential the Overlander is to the communities along the route.” Great. If it's "essential" to them then presumably they'll be happy to stump up some dosh to help keep the service running then? No? Ah, apparently that's not what Fitzsimplesimons was meaning.

How about The Kedgley? "New Zealanders from every walk of life obviously feel very attached to this train service," she says, petition in hand. "They don't want to see it scrapped. Travelling by train up and down the island is an experience they value, and they want their children to enjoy it in future." So how are they expressing their attachment? Perhaps by delving into their piggy banks, or their spare venture-capital funds?

Apparently not.

Apparently the "value" that people place on The Overlander is not one you can measure, and certainly not the same value they place on not wasting their own money. After all, if people truly saw a value in The Overlander then nothing stops them clubbing together with their own money and putting together a proposal to Toll to help keep the service running. If all they say is true about the number of people to whom this service is essential, then the number of people willing to club together should be enormous, shouldn't it?

But it's not true, is it. It's just hyperbole isn't it. No one does value it as much as Jeanette and Sue say they do. In fact, to pinch a line from Penn & Teller, what they're saying is plain and simple, straight up and down, nothing more than hot air and Bullshit!

It gets them some good headlines though, doesn't it.

* Liberty Scott has a similar though much more politely expressed position, and with all the details you've come to expect from Scott. Check it out here.

LINKS: Greens's answer to Overlander - petition and subsidy - Liberty Scott
Greens campaign unlikely to save Overlander - NZ Herald

RELATED: Politics-Greens, New Zealand


  1. PC, I thought exactly the same thing last night while watching the news where the NZ version of the Greenham Common women were ensconced at Wgtn station getting signatures to 'save the train'.

    If, as Jeanette earnestly said, the train is 'essential', (Greenie-Reds love that word, eh), there should be no shortage of investors willing to put up their money to save it.

    I reiterate: *their* money; not mine.

  2. I wonder if anyone will notice that "Myra Mains" signs a lot of Green Party petitions?

  3. I've been on the train when it took 10 hours to make the trip both during the day and at nighttime.

    The trip took too long, the seats were uncomfortable, and the food was bad.

    This is why no one including Jeanette and Sue use the Overlander.

  4. "This is why no one including Jeanette and Sue use the Overlander."

    I don't think either Sue or Jeanette use The Overlander. They just think other people should.

    "I've been on the train when it took 10 hours to make the trip both during the day and at nighttime. The trip took too long, the seats were uncomfortable, and the food was bad."

    To be fair, I think the service is a lot better than it was back when Richard Prebble was saving rail. Back then there were no sleeping cars, no food or heating to speak of, few other choices for long-distance travel, and they used to regularly shake you awake in the middle of the night to check your tickets.

    Those weren't the days.


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