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Railway offers self-drive world first

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Rail Riders Ltd today announced that New Zealand is now home to the world's first RailCruising operation on the newly reinstated Rotorua Railway.

The world's first commercial RailCruising excursion is called the Mamaku Express, a 20km RailCruising Excursion from Mamaku Railway Station to Tarukenga on the Rotorua Railway, a 48km railway operated by Neil and Jane Oppatt of Rail Riders Ltd.

For the first time in rail history, tourists can have a totally exclusive and entirely independent self-drive rail experience.

Two years of research and development has produced the RailCruiser V3000 Hybrid, the world's first fully automated, state of the art petrol-electric hybrid RailCruiser completely manufactured in New Zealand by five individual companies.

Brainchild of Neil Oppatt, the RailCruiser allows customers to experience rail like never before.

Neil Oppatt asks you, 'to imagine sitting in the RailCruiser with nothing ahead of you but the unobstructed curve of the rail stretching out into the distance, the countryside drifting by and the clickety clack sound of the rail beneath you'.

'To date the only way to come close to such an experience is to ride in the cab of a train locomotive, however not many people have been lucky enough to. It is this kind of unique experience that inspired RailCruising. It's the freedom of being on the rail and going somewhere but not caring, just enjoying the ride' said Neil.

Rail Riders have taken it one step further by providing totally independent, fully automated 4-seat RailCruisers in which you can now travel in comfort and style while taking in the amazing beauty of the ever changing NZ landscape as you travel leisurely through countryside only accessible by rail.

The concept is simple: groups of RailCruisers spaced about 250 metres apart travel together like a virtual train in one direction to the destination Railway Station, they are then turned to head back to where they started.

Neil said, 'RailCruising has made it possible to put to good use an unused deteriorating railway line which now adds value to the Rotorua tourism destination. RailCruising opens the way to save other abandoned lines which remain a valuable part of our railway heritage. The world is full of abandoned railway lines which together with a huge world wide tourist interest in railway journeys, makes RailCrusing the ultimate rail experience'.

The introduction of the Mamaku Express RailCruising excursion marks the start of the establishment of a range of different types of railway tourism experiences unseen before in New Zealand. The longest RailCruising Excursion will be the Mamaku Outback, an 86 km return excursion from the Rotorua Railway Station to Bart's Crossing, Ngatira near Putaruru.

To be introduced in 2012 will be RailBiking on the Rotorua to Ngongotaha section of the track. RailBikes are four-seater pedal powered rail vehicles, targeted to more energetic customers.

With work now taking place to four-lane Lake Road

, Rail Riders is planning the development of a new Rotorua Railway Station which will be positioned beside the railway line at the junction of Lake and Railway Roads. This will be the headquarters and main booking office for RailCrusing and RailBiking operations on the Rotorua Railway.

Already other railway owners in both New Zealand and Australia have approached Rail Riders with a view to establish RailCruising on their lines either as the sole operation or in conjunction with full sized steam and diesel trains.

Neil has recently returned from Australia, invited to visit railway owners there to look at potential lines for RailCruising. As a result discussions are now taking place with a view to establish RailCruising on four different Australian railways.

Neil said that at one meeting during his last Australian visit, his host made the comment 'why is it that Kiwi's invent all the cool toys?' - a reference to the Tauranga designed Blokart and the Zorb '.

Work has started with Australian Railway Regulators to obtain Australian Type Approval for the RailCruiser and to gain Rolling Stock Railway Manager Accreditation, both requirements to operate on Australian railways.

A once abandoned railway line now has a bright future as a star Rotorua tourist attraction.

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