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By David Hill

A commuter train from Rangiora to Christchurch could be closer to becoming a reality.

Christchurch light rail advocate Tane Apanui has launched a community initiative under the brand name “Dash – Canterbury Commuter Trains” to offer commuter rail services to link North Canterbury and the Selwyn district with Christchurch.

A “pledgeme” internet fundraising page has been created to raise $1.8 million by April 23, with $4000 raised to date to buy four train sets, each with a capacity of 560 passengers plus bicycles, from Auckland Transport.

Mr Apanui says the urgency is because “we are in a race against a foreign buyer for Auckland’s rolling stock that we intend to use”. The diesel-powered trains are being sold as Auckland Transport has electrified its rail network.

He says Dash intends to use the existing rail network, running trains daily from Waipara to Rolleston and a second train from Rangiora to Rolleston in the mornings, and return in the evening. Other services are proposed from the Selwyn district into Christchurch.

“Dash aims to be the first community owned commuter rail operation in the country. We have high goals because they’re the ones worth aiming for.

“Once established, the community will own the service and it will not be sold to foreign entities. Canterbury will run it and build the next generation fleet using New Zealand education and New Zealand manufacturing.”

Mr Apanui says Dash plans to work with local schools, businesses and councils to “make this a benchmark service”.

Any profits will be used to provide scholarships and funding for biofuel research, “the next generation carriages” and community projects for homeless and at risk youth.