NEW ZEALAND rail operator Tranz Rail (renamed Toll NZ with effect from June 8) has agreed to buy back control of the country’s inter-city passenger business Tranz Scenic. The move follows an announcement by Toll Managing Director Paul Little that the company had ’changed its mind’ on passenger operations, and would continue to run the Tranz Metro suburban services in Wellington.

Toll is to buy back a 50% stake in Tranz Scenic, which Tranz Rail had sold in 2001 to Australia’s West Coast Railway for NZ$33m. WCR expects to wind itself up on September 1, with the expiry of its 10-year concession to operate the Melbourne - Geelong - Warrnambool service in Victoria. The Victoria state government has agreed to transfer the route to V/Line, which operates Victoria’s other intrastate passenger services.

Meanwhile, Toll NZ is negotiating the sale of the national rail infrastructure back to the New Zealand government. The deal was scheduled to be completed by June 30, with a new state-owned company, Track Co, coming into operation on July 1. However, on June 16 Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen told a parliamentary committee that the talks were ’proving quite difficult’.