Rail consortium on cards

Source : The Gisborne Herald –  November 8, 2016

Forum moots short-haul service on restored line.

MOVES are afoot to create a local consortium to run a short-haul rail line between Gisborne and Wairoa, as the future of the 90km line looks like being the main issue East Coast candidates will be fighting over in next year’s general election.

Speaking at a Tairawhiti Rail Forum yesterday, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Labour Party transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney all backed restoration of the line as being good for the economy, environment and population.

All three party speakers agreed the line should reopen as part of an integrated transport policy — a belief previously stated by the Green Party, leaving National as the only party not in favour of reopening the line.

Mr Peters said the only way to get the rail line back was to vote for it, while Ms Fox said she would be “right behind” local people demanding its return. Ms Moroney said a better Government “buy-in” for rail was needed nationally.

Shortline suggestion

Yesterday’s forum heard a restored link would help productivity from Maori land, improve road safety and reduce the financial burden on maintaining the region’s poor roads. It would also help tourism. Rail consultant Stu Dow told the forum that a US-style shortline operation was achievable financially and practically.

“I believe a shortline railway operation is the key to restoring a general rail freight service to the Napier-Gisborne line, provided the figures stack up. Personally, I believe they do. A general rail freight service is different from the proposed Napier-Wairoa log trains, as it would be aimed at containers, aggregates, wool, fertiliser and the like.

“A shortline was not a threat to Gisborne’s port and its export log traffic, and would help alleviate the truck gridlock by operating a log shuttle from Matawhero to the port. I see a log shuttle as the anchor customer for a successful shortline.”

Mr Dow said the shortline operation would also relieve KiwiRail of its mothballing costs, plus pay them a yearly lease fee.

“In addition, a track access fee would be payable to KiwiRail for accessing their network from Wairoa to Napier to drop off wagons for the port, Ravensdown at Awatoto and any other Napier/Hastings customers that are rail-connected. Hopefully, reopening of the line would also attract freight from other parts of New Zealand via the KiwiRail network for final delivery on the shortline, which would also be a win for KiwiRail — provided their rates were realistic.

“To get the ball rolling, a consortium needs to be formed of all interested local parties, be they businesses, iwi, and/or investors to open a dialogue with KiwiRail/Government with a view to obtaining a long term licence to occupy the line to the Napier Port/KiwiRail agreement boundary.”

Cost estimates

Mr Dow estimated it would cost between $75,000 and $125,000 a year for basic line maintenance and longer term, once repaired and operating, around $200,000 to $300,000 for annual maintenance of the line from Gisborne to Wairoa. The cost to repair the wash outs and clean up and repairs of culverts, drains and sleepers was estimated to be $6.5m.

Gisborne Rail Action Group chairwoman Nikki Searancke said the forum was well attended with more than 55 people registered and additional people attending in the afternoon, and ended with an agreement to form a steering group to discuss forming a consortium.

“The views of attendees was overwhelmingly open the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line. There was a very real enthusiasm and a determination to form a steering group.”

Three parties say fix rail

Source: The Gisborne Herald – November 3, 2016

NZ First, Labour, Maori Party cite growth, jobs, safer roads.

Leaders of two political parties — including the Government’s coalition partner — along with Labour’s shadow transport minister will be in Gisborne next week to speak about the benefits to East Coast Maori of reopening the Gisborne to Wairoa railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox and Labour Party transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney will address a rail forum to discuss progress towards the repair and reopening of the Gisborne-Wairoa section of the line.

The forum will be on Monday at Te Tini o Porou Conference Centre, Kaiti from 9am to 5pm.

Although the Government has said it would not be economically viable to reopen the line, Ms Fox says she believes reopening the line to Gisborne to be “crucial” for the region’s economy.

“The Maori Party is an independent voice in Parliament and we do disagree with the National Party on many things. However where we can, we work alongside the Government to make gains for whanau. I am committed to supporting a stronger and healthier road and rail network on the East Coast. Since I came into Parliament in 2014, I’ve engaged with community groups and worked with the Minister of Transport to upgrade both road and rail across the East Coast.

“It’s great to see the Napier-Wairoa line reopening and, while we’ve made gains in upgrading our roads, I want to see similar commitment to our rail line north of Wairoa. There are significant volumes of goods and materials produced on the East Coast which, in turn, provide jobs for our whanau. In order to grow the local economy for our whanau, we need a strong and diverse infrastructure to get goods to market. Investment in key rail lines such as the Napier-Gisborne line north of Wairoa is crucial to ensuring viable economic growth.”

Expected increases in truck volumes over the next decade required significant funds to maintain road quality and road safety, Ms Fox said.

“I want to see safer roads and healthy communities on the East Coast, and rail provides that alternative option. Given the state of State Highway 2 and the impact continuous heavy trucking will have on this road, I am of the view that this — combined with the potential jobs growth to come out of utilising both rail and road transport for getting logs from forest to port — is crucial for the future development on the East Coast.”

The Napier-Gisborne line was mothballed at the end of 2012 after the line was badly damaged in the Beach Loop area by a storm earlier that year. KiwiRail and Napier Port intend to reopen the line between Napier and Wairoa next year. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Peters told The Gisborne Herald that KiwiRail’s plan to re-open the Napier-Wairoa rail line showed the National Government’s desire to “run down rail” was wrong.

“KiwiRail has succumbed to pressure and with Napier Port will restore the line — but it’s a job half-done. Now KiwiRail must go to the next stage and reactivate the line between Wairoa and Eastland Port at Gisborne.”

It had been known for a long time that huge volumes of logs would have to be taken out of Wairoa and that if the rail lines were not in use, this would present major problems on East Coast roads, he said.

“Like all provincial roads, they are under strain from lack of funding. Washouts through flooding were just used as an excuse to mothball the Napier-Wairoa line and the Wairoa-Gisborne line. Work will now have to be done to upgrade the Napier-Wairoa line, which would not have been necessary had sanity prevailed and it had been kept in use.”