KiwiRail completes restoration of freight line from Napier to Wairoa

KiwiRail has announced that the Napier-Wairoa line has been reinstated following several years of disuse.

The 115-kilometre, North Island line fell into disuse in December 2012 after being damaged by a storm and was not repaired. It has been restored with the allocation of NZ$6.2 million in funds through the New Zealand Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

The line’s primary purpose is to run freight logs for the local timber industry. Reopening the line is set to ease congestion on the roads and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of log deliveries by road. In all, KiwiRail anticipates an initial reduction of more than 5,000 ruck journey per year on the road from Wairoa to Napier, to increase to 15,000 as services increase.

‘The Wairoa-Napier road was never intended to cope with the volume of logs that is coming on stream, and rail is the ideal way to get that timber to overseas customers,” said KiwiRail Group chief executive officer Greg Miller.

“The overall funding KiwiRail received has meant we are able to get ahead of the curve and grow our business for the benefit of this region.”

Miller said that now that work on the line had been completed, KiwiRail would work to establish a log hub in Wairoa so that trains could begin to run in time for harvesting at the end of winter.

“We know from our discussions with the forestry industry there is a need for our services,” he said.

“The amount of timber flowing from forests in the region is expected to quadruple in the next four years, and to get all those logs to market will require all transport networks working efficiently together.”

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.