Work to reinstate the rail line from Napier to Wairoa has started, days after the New Zealand government announced $5 million in funding for the project through the Provincial Growth Fund.
Last week it was announced that the Fund, designed to boost economic development in regional areas, would provide for the re-opening of the line, along with upgrades to the Whanganui Line.
KiwiRail’s chief executive Peter Reidy welcomed the announcement as a sign of government confidence in rail as a driver of economic growth.
“We welcome this recognition of the contribution rail is making in adding value to New Zealand, not only through the efficient movement of freight and people, but in all of the areas highlighted in the recent Value of Rail report prepared by professional services firm EY,” Reidy said.
“The benefits rail delivers include reducing congestion on roads, cutting carbon emissions, making our roads safer and lowering spending on road maintenance and upgrades.
“Together they add up to more than $1.5 billion per year, and they are a key reason for the Government’s financial investments.”
The Wairoa-Napier road is coming under increasing strain from the growing volume of logs requiring freighting – rail, according to Reidy, is the ideal solution.
“We have estimated that using the Wairoa-Napier line to move the logs could take up to 5,714 trucks a year off the road, and reduce carbon emissions by 1292 tonnes,” he said.
Contractors have started clearing vegetation at Eskdale and will move north over the coming weeks, to be followed by work on the line’s drains and culverts.
The first log trains are expected to be able to use the track by the end of the year; however, the project will take two years to be fully completed.
Henare Clarke, KiwiRail’s acting group general manager of network services, said that the start of works meant that people had to take extra care around the rail corridor.
“The work will see an increase in movements along that track,” Clarke said. “Everyone needs to expect trains and other rail vehicles using the line at any time from either direction.
“They should only cross the line at level crossings – to cross the line anywhere else is both dangerous and illegal.”