Source: Gisborne Herald – Friday 28th November 2014
News this week that KiwiRail has conditionally agreed to lease the Napier to Gisborne rail line to the Hawke’s Bay
Regional Council, and that HBRC will now commission a business case analysis for a proposed short-haul rail operation,
is exciting for all those who want the line reopened.
The developments are testament to the efforts and passion of the six men behind the Napier-Gisborne Shortline Rail
Group, including Gisborne transport operator Steve Weatherell – who was instrumental in getting loads of squash railed
south before the washouts that led to the line being mothballed two years ago.
Their confidence in the future prospects of rail for our two regions will now be tested over the next three motnhs. HBRC
and other potential investors, as well as KiwiRail, will want to see significant freight commitments for the line – not just
hopes and sincere intentions.
It is a reasonably tight timeline and it needs to be as the rail corridor is a significant asset that has lain idle for too long.
HBRC has already shown its support for reopening the rail line by setting aside $5.5 million to invest in this venture – which
its proponents say will need another $10-12m of private funding – in its draft long-term plan. Public consultation on that
decision is yet to take place and will need to follow the due diligence process, which HBRC wants completed by end of
KiwiRail has given HBRC until March 1, 2015 to respond to the lease offer. That appears to be a deadline for completion
of the business case, and the council indicating its position, rather than an actual agreement. A deadline of June 30, 2015
has been set for the project by the regions’ mayors, which ties in with the completion of council long-term plan processes.
Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne businesses with potential freight transport needs will be visited once again and, if they want
to see the rail line reopened, they should sign on the dotted line. It will take lots of freight to make this venture work, and
if that is not forthcoming this proposal won’t get off the ground.