Freight Rail

Freight routes key to Northland Rail expansion

A business case for the Northland Rail project in New Zealand has stated that it will provide value if freight links are built between Auckland and Marsden Point at Northport.

The report said that without “increased and ongoing investment” rail services on the North Auckland Rail line could cease within the next five years.

The current plans for the 40-year, $1.3 billion North Island project include upgrading the main line from Auckland to Whangarei; reopening lines from Whangarei to Moerewa in the north and Whangarei to Dargaville in the west; and constructing an easterly spur to the deep-water port of Northport.

The report also said there was a “strong strategic case” for renewal and upgrade of the North Auckland Rail line, including the construction of a spur link to Marsden Point based on potential changes to freight flow within the upper North Island.

Over 55 per cent of New Zealand’s freight moves through the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, and the business case estimated that freight demand in the North Island will grow significantly over the next 30 years. As such, the creation of a high-quality rail connection to Northport would be “a critical pre-condition” to facilitate the increased movement of containers in future.

“The development of a rail connection to Northport, and the potential development of substantial container handling capability at the port will also provide significant resilience value for this important trade,” the report said.

The business case also showed that investment would return $1.19 for every dollar spent, with over half of the benefits related to the ensuing decongestion of Auckland’s road freight.

Only 1.4 per cent of Northland freight is delivered by rail, compared with 7 per cent nationally.

NZ Associate Minister for Transport Shane Jones welcomed the findings of the report, stating that it helped present “a bold vision for investment in how freight moves around the upper North Island”.

“This business case will play a major role in government decision-making about major investments in Northland rail after the final report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study is completed in September,” Jones added.

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