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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trams to get back on track

Trams to get back on track

Last updated 05:00 25/04/2011
The Christchurch Tramway will be repaired and a planned extension finished when the city centre reopens, its owner says.

Mike Esposito, managing director of The Wood Scenic Line, which owns Punting on the Avon, the Christchurch Tramway and the Christchurch Gondola, said the tram would not be operational for about a year.

The damaged tracks were within the city's red zone. Once the cordon was lifted, workers would concentrate on getting the original tram loop running before completing the extension, which was almost complete.

"There's only another 20 metres to go, so I can see no reason to not finish that."

Meanwhile, Punting on the Avon was operating again, with Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and his wife, Jo Nicholls-Parker, enjoying the first punt ride.

"It's a great step forward to see part of the river available for use and for a local tourism business to reopen," Parker said. "These businesses are literally struggling to stay afloat."

Parker said he was "very worried" for the South Island's tourism industry. "Tourists are staying away ... but 99.9 per cent of the island is as magnificent and friendly and beautiful as it's ever been."

Esposito said most of the punting operation's customers were from overseas and it would be five years before visitor numbers returned to normal.

The company normally had 12 punts on the river daily, but was running only two at present.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said he was satisfied with measures taken to protect staff and customers regarding water quality.

Raw sewage being pumped into the Avon River was a concern, but there were no discharges upstream from the Antigua Boat Sheds. The fact the company had resumed punting did not mean recreational water users could return to Christchurch rivers, which were "still highly contaminated". Rockfall risk and work to repair water damage at Christchurch Gondola's top station meant the attraction would be closed for another three to six months.

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