6.00pm, Tuesday 5 August 2008
Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, Transport Minister Annette King, Ministerial colleagues, Members of Parliament, Cam Moore from OnTrack, Don Elder from Solid Energy, distinguished guests and train enthusiasts.
It gives me enormous pleasure to host this event tonight, marking the centenary of the completion of the North Island Main Trunk.
This was a major milestone in our history, It opened the way for the development and settlement of the central North Island and revolutionised the flow of freight and passengers.
It also put New Zealand firmly in the sights of the international rail community, who today still look at some features like the Raurimu Spiral with admiration. The Raurimu Spiral is impressive in anyone’s book. It is not for the faint-hearted, using two tunnels, three horseshoe curves and a complete circle to navigate the steep descent from National Park to Raurimu.
The main trunk has connections with Parliament, which explains why we are all here tonight. No, I’m not referring to tunnels, horseshoe curves and complete circles …. although after a week in the House like the last.
The Parliament Special was the first passenger train to travel from Wellington to Auckland. It left Wellington at 10pm on 7 August 1908, carrying 200 passengers including 44 Parliamentarians. More than 20 hours later – 6.30pm on 8 August - it arrived in Auckland.
It pre-dated the completion of the North Island Main Trunk by three months. Typical Kiwi ingenuity led to temporary tracks being laid, so the train could take the MPs to Auckland to welcome the US Navy’s ‘Great White Fleet’.
The 1908 Parliament Special was made up of 11 carriages, there were no sleeping compartments and just one dining car. It was cold.
Those of you travelling to Auckland will re-enact the journey using locomotives and carriages that will come as close as possible to the original 1908 train. I’m looking forward to joining the trip in Hamilton. I’ll be well-wrapped up in warm clothes and I advise fellow travellers to take similar precautions.
The trip for me is something I’ve always longed to do, in memory of my Great-Grandfather.
Thank you all for coming tonight. Thank you OnTrack for having the foresight to appreciate that it is events such as this which play a seminal part in the development of New Zealand.
We appreciate the effort which has gone into this re-enactment. It is fitting that we should take the time to pay tribute and remember those who had the foresight to plan for the future development of New Zealand.
I now call on Don Elder, Solid Energy Chief Executive.