KiwiRail celebrates re-opening of Napier to Wairoa line

Original Article by Andre Chumko and Bethany Reitsma for on the 14th June 2019

Mervyn Smiley, an Eskdale resident of 25 years, has longed for the day when trains returned to the mothballed Napier to Wairoa line.

On Friday, that dream became reality as a brass band and haka welcomed Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones to KiwiRail’s depot in Ahuriri, near Napier Port.

After a short series of speeches, the minister and various other politicians including Napier MP Stuart Nash, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri and National’s Lawrence Yule, joined the region’s mayors in boarding the carriages of the first train to make the first full trip between Napier and Wairoa since 2012.

Mervyn Smiley has lived in Eskdale for 25 years and has been waiting for this day for years.

Mervyn Smiley has lived in Eskdale for 25 years and has been waiting for this day for years.

There was plenty of fanfare, with locals waving up to passengers from their properties bordering the train line, excited to see the rail’s return.

The line was mothballed in 2012 following serious storm damage. Work to restore it to transport logs between Wairoa, where forestry is a major industry, and Napier Port was funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.

Among the politicians present were Napier MP Stuart Nash and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.

Among the politicians present were Napier MP Stuart Nash and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.

On the train, Jones held a press conference, where he described the day as a great one for Hawke’s Bay.

Jones said KiwiRail had had “so little for so long”, and the $6.2 million investment so far was a big deal, especially in relation to moving trucks off the roads.

It would also allow businesses to grow their logistics capacity, and boost exports.

The train stationed at Ahuriri before departing for Wairoa.

The train stationed at Ahuriri before departing for Wairoa.

“If we’re in for the KiwiRail journey, it’s a long-term journey. It’s about a nation building infrastructure at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty about weather.”

And the “fiscal love” would continue to flow post 2020’s election, he said, forecasting “substantial amounts” being injected into KiwiRail.

On whether there was a possibility of extending the line to Gisborne, Jones said any business case would be pushing on an open door.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said it was a significant day.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said it was a significant day.

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said with work on the line finished, its next focus was on establishing a log-hub in Wairoa so it could begin running trains as soon as August.

“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.”

He forecast up to six trains travelling the line per week, meaning about 5000 fewer truck journeys initially, and more than 15,000 as services increased.

The Deco Bay Brass group performed for Shane Jones upon his arrival.

The Deco Bay Brass group performed for Shane Jones upon his arrival.

Jones said local civic leaders – mayors, council chairs and MPs – who had lobbied him were to credit for the re-opening.

“This will substantially reduce their roading bill if they can move more heavy freight onto rail.”

Transport advocacy groups NZ Transport 2050 and the Public Transport Users Association said in a statement the previous Government underfunded the line.

Locals were waving at the train the whole trip, happy to see the line back in action.

Locals were waving at the train the whole trip, happy to see the line back in action.

“The loss of 20 fulltime jobs in Wairoa was a big hit for a small community. With the railway re-opening today it opens up opportunities for wood processors to again re-establish in the town,” Paul Miller, chair of NZ Transport 2050 said.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes said regional rail should be the backbone of the transport system for people and freight, and his party would like to see the line extended from Wairoa to Gisborne.

Hukarere Girls' College students performed a waiata for ministers and MPs upon their arrival to Eskdale, north of Napier. The train then departed for Wairoa.

Hukarere Girls’ College students performed a waiata for ministers and MPs upon their arrival to Eskdale, north of Napier. The train then departed for Wairoa.

This time . . . factoring in wellbeing

Original article by Andrew Ashton published in the Gisborne Herald 16 june 2019.

Dr Ganesh Nana leads feasibility study into reopening Gisborne’s railway.

Earlier this week the first ‘very preliminary’ work started to assess the viability of fixing and reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line. Andrew Ashton speaks to main man heading up the feasibility study into reopening Gisborne’s railway . . .

Just a day after the first train from Napier stopped in Wairoa, it has been revealed work also started on a feasibility study to reopen the Napier line all the way to Gisborne.

Although previous desktop studies failed to put forward a case for reopening the Gisborne end of the line BERL chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana, who is leading the new feasibility study, said this time wellbeing factors would be included in the assessment, rather than just a cold cost-benefit monetary analysis.

“We had our first steering group meeting on Wednesday, so we are in our very preliminary stages of seeing what we have to do. It’s a Provincial Development Unit (PDU)-funded project, and BERL are the lead contractor and responsible for this work.

“A big component undoubtedly is the engineering element, in terms of the costings of various options to reinstate the line to a resilient standard. That engineering element is going ahead and what BERL is also focussed on is the economic and financial and social scenarios of the reinstatement.

“So very much looking at the community outcomes and looking at it from a wellbeing perspective, rather than a benefit-cost rationale. So we are not just looking at the core financials, it’s very much from that wellbeing perspective. We will be looking in terms of how the community might develop and the impacts on the social side. We are looking very much at the next generation, rather than immediate impacts, and does it open up opportunities for the development of the economy and the community and beyond, for the next generation.

“It’s much broader than previous studies which have been narrowly focussed on the transport costs and benefits.
“Wellbeing is very much part of the central government view of the world and that of local government, with the return of the ‘four wellbeings’ in the legislation of local government.

Building a vibrant community

“I would claim we have been doing wellbeing for a long time but it is now very much in the vocabulary and we very much have the mandate from our funders to go down that route as well.

“If we are talking about wellbeing, we are talking about years — the next generation if not more. That’s the different mindset, we should always have been looking at that but now we have been given the mandate. We have to be serious about how we define economic development and wellbeing, the way we are looking at it, is in opportunities for the next generation and contributing to communities.”

That could include direct opportunities for new jobs and indirect social benefits, he said.

It was about building a “vibrant community” that had both economic and social outcomes.
“Some of these things we can’t measure but we have to go there if we are serious about building the future, rather than continuing to put a sticking plaster over the issues of the past — which is where many of those previous reports come from.”

The Gisborne to Napier line closed in 2012, after the line was mothballed after a section of track at the Beach Loop area was badly damaged in a storm earlier that year.

In September the government’s Provincial Growth Fund committed to $600,000 for a two-pronged rail feasibility study to assess the viability of a rail tourism venture, including an extended Gisborne-Napier rail cycleway, and use of the Wairoa to Gisborne line for freight purposes.

Dr Nana said the study would assess all aspects of rail use.
“How we are interpreting a feasibility study and the PDU have signed off on this, is we are looking at the range of options that are available.

“We are not so much focussed on a yes-no decision. We are looking at the options ranging from the ‘do nothing’ to the various spectrums to reinstate the line and what those uses will be — freight only, tourism, a combination of the two — and we will come out with the ‘likely outcomes’ for the Tairawhiti community, broadly speaking.”
That will include social, economic outcomes for each scenario.

“The next step would be to suggest the scenarios that are worth delving into, in terms of developing a full business case.
“We will come at it from an economic development perspective which is broadly defined. We’ve been doing this sort of work over the last two decades for quite a while.”

The study would also focus on Maori development at the same time.
“The two go together in my mind, especially in this part of Aotearoa.”

Dr Nana said the BERL team was also keen to talk to as many elements of the community as it could about their perspectives of where rail and or road fit in that future scenario for Tairawhiti and Wairoa.

“The opening of Napier to Wairoa does change that equation a bit. The appetite from Kiwirail and its owners, central Government, changes that a little bit. There’s also a young population here, and primary sector economic base — and throw in there climate change. With all those things we have to look to the future and build them into the jigsaw puzzle.”

The feasibility study should be completed by September or October.

To get involved email

‘Strong case’ for reopening Gisborne to Napier line

Source: Gisborne Herald 15 May 2018.

New not-for-profit organisation Tairawhiti Rail will try to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line, which it sees as financially viable.

The existence of Tairawhiti Rail (TRL), — formed by a group of local directors — was revealed yesterday by Rick Thorpe in a submission to Gisborne District Council’s 2018/28 long-term plan.

TRL planned to bring together the contractors necessary to initiate a regional short-line railway service, if KiwiRail was not prepared to manage the line, he said.

TRL believed there was a strong commercial case for restoring the rail link, based primarily on shipping containers and supported by the recent growth in horticulture and timber processing.

With restoration of the line from Napier to Wairoa under way, possibly all the way to Mahia, it was logical to complete restoration of the whole line.

They would lodge a proposal with the Govt’s Provincial Growth Fund

They would lodge a proposal with the Provincial Growth Fund, asking the Government to restore the line. They were not asking the council for any funding, just their support to add rail to the regional land transport plan as a competitive transport option for local industry.

The commercial case was simple. There were approximately 5000 containers a year to be trucked to Napier in the next two to three years. This could grow to 10,000 over the next 10 years.

It cost $1600 to $1700 to bring in a container by road. Rail could do it for $1000 to $1100, a saving of $600 to $700 a container.

If they achieved 10,000 containers, the saving for local industries would be $6 million to $7 million a year. Produce shipped to Tauranga, kiwifruit, persimmons and wine, could also be diverted to Napier.

A 10,000-container programme would generate an additional $10 million of revenue for the line, ensuring its viability. That was without other freight products like fertiliser, grain, gravel, city waste and some logs.

Plan would take 20,000 truck movement off the road

It would take 20,000 truck movements off the road, which would reduce road maintenance and improve road safety. The maintenance per kilometre for rail was approximately half that for road.

Mr Thorpe said the Government was supporting rail.

If the council’s Provincial Growth Fund application for road funding was not successful, the Tairawhiti Rail proposal provided an opportunity to benefit the region.

“We understand that rail has divided support within the community but believe that by taking a commercial, entrepreneurial approach, support for rail can be restored,” said Mr Thorpe.

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade but they did question the value of further mortgaging community assets to significantly expand the port, when there was this opportunity to have the rail link restored and paid for by the Government.

Tairawhiti Rail believed the proposal ticked all the boxes for the new Government policy statement on transport and asked the council to reconsider its neutral position on rail.

Later in the meeting, the Regional Land Transport Committee agreed to amend its regional land transport plan after several speakers said the council should respond to submissions calling for rail to be restored as part of the plan.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the council could investigate the feasibility of rail along with other subjects looked at in the plan.

There could not be a quick fix — it would give staff 12 months to come to the council with the information it needed.

Huge 75 percent in favour of rail study funding

Source: Gisborne herald May 26 2018.

Belief in rail was so adamant for 21 percent, they did not believe a feasibility study was required.

AN overwhelming majority of Herald webpoll respondents — 75 percent of them — believe the district should apply to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to financially support a feasibility study for reinstatement of the rail line to Gisborne.

Most of the 310 respondents in favour expressed their support because of a strong belief in rail.

But of the 82 respondents, or 21 percent, who said no to the PGF, many said “no” because their belief in rail was so adamant that they did not believe a feasibility study was required.

Pro-feasibility study comments included:

• “Not just needed for transport, particularly of logs, but for tourism. The rail line needs to go further than Muriwai for the scenic route so we can keep attracting cruise ships to Gisborne.”

• “We need the rail. It is only common sense.”

• “The rail option is a no- brainer. The road is getting ruined by trucks and rail is a more environmentally-friendly transport mode. Let’s make our roads safer and reduce truck journeys and carbon emissions.”

• “It is about time for Gisborne to re-join the New Zealand rail network, with the benefits of exporting the horticulture produce as well as the benefit of having tourist trains once again visit the area.”

• “The Napier to Gisborne line has absolute untapped tourist potential. Look what happened in Dunedin.”

• “Perhaps Gisborne District Council could shock the voter majority by listening to it on this issue. This asset must be saved before ‘‘mothballing’’ leaves our rail link a decaying ruin. For a fraction of the cost of highway maintenance, the government can fix what it broke and give this province another artery.”

Other comments in favour were brief and to the point:

• “Nothing to lose.”

• “No brainer.”

• “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

There were 82 respondents who said “no”, some for economic sustainability reasons.

• “This is patently obviously a dead duck and not viable when all the pro-rail arguments involve “manufacturing’’ the economics.

• “The rail line will never make any money, in fact it will lose a huge amount of money. Use rail from Dunstan Road to the port for logs. Use the track out to Whareratas for tourists on the steam train. Turn the old railway into a world-class cycle trail and bring in more tourists.”

• “Fix the roads first please.”

• “Please do not waste ratepayers’ money, we have been down this road before.”

But many, “no” respondents still strongly believe in the rail line.

• “Do not need a study. It is already in place, albeit needing minor bridge work.”

• “Just get on with it. Repair the line.”

• “It is good investment for Gisborne city.”

There were 16 other respondents, or 4 percent, who said they did not know.


Real ambition for Wairoa rail line

(“Wairoa Star” – Tues 30th January 2018)

Enthusiastic Napier Wairoa rail comments made by forestry minister Shane Jones last month were welcomed by local government.

Hawke’s Bay Wairoa regional councillor Fenton Wilson said there was real ambition for this government to reopen the Napier-Wairoa line and provide funding to keep it open.

“However, until ministers Jones and Stuart Nash can get it in front of cabinet to approve intention (and funding), we are all left waiting.“ I would expect announcement soon.

“It is the most positive feedback on the line in my time with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and I wish them well.”

Mr Wilson sits on the regional council’s land transport committee and is also interested in the work being done on the Opotiki-Napier road corridor.

 “Wairoa is in a positive space regarding transport and connectivity at the moment and I look forward to recommendations and action later this year.”

As far as repairing the damaged rail sections in the Beach Loop area north of Mahia which were damaged in 2012, Mr Wilson said nothing was definite other than it would fit with rail growing rural communities as per election promises. “It is one step at a time I suspect – get Wairoa going first.”

Gisborne Rail Co-op flies flag for Gisborne-Napier line

by Wynsley Wrigley

Published: Gisborne  Herald April 7, 2017 11:09AM

THE Gisborne Rail Co-op (GRC) has not given up the fight to retain the Gisborne-Napier line.

Interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke told yesterday’s Gisborne District Council meeting that KiwiRail’s selection of adventure-tourism operator Gisborne Railbike Adventures to use the Gisborne-Wairoa rail line “runs counter to long-standing council policy to support train operations”.

She described rail as a major commercial transport artery for the region.

“If we do not take leadership and change the course of this KiwiRail decision, the donors — hapu and iwi of Tairawhiti and Ngati Kahungunu — will take back their land and the railway will be lost permanently.”

GRC was confident of presenting a proposal to KiwiRail’s successful bidder and Gisborne City Vintage Rail (the operator of steam locomotive Wa165) for a commercial rail freight business with passengers and tourists “on the railway as it was intended”.

GRC was seeking further information from KiwiRail.

Local men had built the rail line, and 21 were killed during its construction, she said.

Gillian Ward, also of GRC, said KiwiRail’s decision was disappointing.

Because of the cost of maintenance, Gisborne Railbike Adventures and Gisborne City Vintage Rail could only operate a sustainable business with a rail freight operator.

‘Rail champion’

Mayor Meng Foon had been “Gisborne’s rail champion’’ and in 2012 delivered a petition to Parliament with 10,000 signatures calling to keep the line.

Mrs Ward said at a meeting held in 2013 attended by KiwiRail, Mr Foon, Gisborne district councillors and businesses including LeaderBrand and Weatherell Transport showed huge support for the rail line and the resumption of freight and tourism.

“These business leaders are not pro-rail, they support rail because they want good infrastructure.”

Mr Foon had summed up the meeting by saying, “our region deserves good infrastructure, good hospitals, schools, roads, rail”.

“I ask you now, why should we not expect these things for Gisborne?” Mrs Ward said.

Greater need now

She said the need for rail was greater now than in 2012.

The “big packhouses” struggled to find enough trucks and drivers to get their produce to Napier at a time of drought.
Frozen produce, fertiliser, landfill, road metal and, in particular, processed timber would provide all-year freight.

She said claims that Eastland Port would be disadvantaged by rail could not be substantiated.

Council support for rail freight would ensure rail was included in an integrated transport priority plan and encourage central government investment.

The council also considered a recommendation from Mr Foon, who was absent, to support completion of a feasibility study on an extended Gisborne to Napier cycle and rail trail.

Mr Foon’s paper said the Government had promoted the rail trail as an action in the Tairawhiti Action Plan.

It was also included in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan.

Councillors decided to let the matter lie on the table until Mr Foon could speak on the matter at the next meeting.

Brian Wilson said there was insufficient information for councillors to make a decision.

Rail potential part of NZTA research

Source : Gisborne Herald March 11, 2017 10:50AM

Rail transport will be ‘looked at’.

AN NZTA bureaucrat has told the regional transport committee that rail transport will be looked at in actions the NZ Transport Agency is taking in support of the regional economic plan launched in Gisborne last week.

NZTA acting director for regional relationships for the lower North Island, Lisa Rossiter, was reporting to the committee on actions the agency would be taking to support the economic plan, including leading the development of an integrated transport priority plan for the Gisborne region.

Asked by Meredith-Akuhata Brown whether the integrated plan would involve talking with residents including those supporting a rail link, she replied “most definitely.”

The agency would also lead the investigation into upgrading inter-regional highway connections from the Bay of Plenty through to Hawke’s Bay for horticulture and tourism.

It would also lead the investigation into upgrading State Highway 35 and its connecting routes for forestry, tourism, and economically under-used land within the region.

It would contribute to delivery of training in lifelong employability skills, including driver licence mentor training. It would keep a watching brief on work to design and upgrade the Cook landing site and contribute to work to expand mobile phone coverage, she said.

The transport committee agreed to add three items worth $1.5 million included in the package announced by the Cabinet ministers to the regional land transport plan.


These were the upgrading of rest area facilities on State Highway 35 and the creation of five new ones, replacement of the Horoera Bridge on East Cape Road, and improving the connections between the Rere Falls Heartland Ride and the Motu Great Ride.

Graeme Thomson said meat processing should be added to the investigation into upgrading the State Highway 2 link from the Bay of Plenty for horticulture and tourism.

The district did not have a meat processing plant and that would be a bigger transport need than tourism or horticulture. Why would that not be included?

Committee chairman Bill Burdett said quite a lot of sectors that should have been interviewed in the preparation of the economic plan were not and that was probably why meat processing was not included.

The council’s new chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the regional economic plan was a living document and this was something that could be added into it. There were a number of other transport options that had the potential to unlock more funding through the plan.

Mr Thomson said this was one of the first things that should be added to the plan — “Let’s do something about it.”

Sam Aberahama asked why the transport committee had not been involved in preparation of the regional economic plan.

Ms Thatcher Swann said the process was that this was a business-led plan. A lot of it was embargoed until the release. Even the councillors had not seen the plan until probably a week before its release.

The committee eventually agreed to add the words livestock and other economic initiatives to horticulture and tourism in the development of a business case for the upgrading of State Highway 2.

KiwiRail expected to decide on rail next year …

(“Gisborne Herald” – Fri 23rd Dec 2016)

 A decision on what is next for the Wairoa-Gisborne section of railway line is expected to be formalised in the first three months of the new year.

KiwiRail last month announced it was looking for “innovative tourism ventures” that would make use of the mothballed line and a KiwiRail spokesperson has confirmed that the deadline for expressions of interest in the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne line closed at 2pm on Wednesday.

“KiwiRail are in the processes of reviewing the submissions and will announce the outcome of the tender in the first quarter of 2017.”

The company had previously stated it was looking for ventures that would help grow the region and retain critical track infrastructure without requiring any capital expenditure or maintenance.

In 2012, the Napier to Gisborne line sustained severe storm damage and the line was mothballed for safety reasons.

An earlier request for EOI’s for the full line from Gisborne to Napier 18 months ago attracted considerable interest.

KiwiRail has already reached a commercial agreement with Napier Port to run a dedicated log service on the Napier-Wairoa section of the line.

It also agreed to a deal with Gisborne City Vintage Railway to operate a steam engine on the Gisborne-Muriwai section. That means the full line is no longer available.

Local consortium

At least one proposal to use a section of the mothballed Gisborne to Wairoa line was from a locally-based consortium.

Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) Steering Group interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke said the group was pleased to have submitted a proposal to KiwiRail.  The GRC proposal incorporated commercial freight and tourism.

“We support Gisborne Vintage Railway which plays a key role in taking tours to Muriwai, and we are sure that tours to Beach Loop and Beyond would be an international winner.

“On the commercial freight side of Gisborne, there are more than 20 businesses that have indicated their need for full containerisation by rail out of Gisborne.

“Further, GRC welcomes the support of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and transport committee to the GRC proposal. “We are very pleased that the submission by their committee chairman Alan Dick supports us. “They also need to carry freight from Kopuawhara to Napier.”

Qualified support for rail

source : Gisborne Herald

Published: February 18, 2017 9:58AM

Regional council says GDC needs to invest.

A Gisborne consortium working to reopen the mothballed Gisborne to Wairoa railway line would be likely to receive backing from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council — but HBRC says Gisborne District Council also needs to stump up with investment first. That is something Mayor Meng Foon says he does not favour.

In December, KiwiRail accepted three expressions of interest to operate the line, including one from the Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) that would combine short-haul freight and tourism uses.

Following a presentation from the group this week, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Corporate and Strategic Committee recommended that the regional council should send a clear message that it continues to support efforts to get the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne line reopened.

GRC interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke said a joint approach between the regional council and Gisborne District Council was vital.

“That’s really what we went down to Hawke’s Bay for. We went to seek their co-operation to do this next stage. We recognise that HBRC have been very successful in working with KiwiRail, so we’re keen to work with Hawke’s Bay.”

Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) made a presentation to the Corporate and Strategic Committee meeting asking the council to make a joint approach to KiwiRail for consideration of GRC’s proposal to reopen the Gisborne end of the Napier-Gisborne line for freight, as well as for tourism services.

HBRC contribution contingent on GDC money

The committee recommended that HBRC continue to offer its support for the preservation and preferably the restoration of rail freight options for the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne rail line. Committee chairman Neil Kirton told GRC members that a business case was urgently needed for reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line and it was essential that Gisborne District Council show its support for the proposal.

If GRC could get a commitment from the District Council to put some money towards developing a business case, then HBRC would also consider contributing some money.

Councillor Alan Dick told the meeting that HBRC’s Regional Transport Committee would hold its regular meeting in Wairoa on March 10. The visit was part of a commitment through ‘Matariki – the Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy’ to improve road transport options north, and rail would certainly be on the agenda.

The Napier to Gisborne line has not been used since it was damaged in 2012. Last year KiwiRail reached a commercial agreement with Napier Port to repair the Napier to Wairoa section to run a dedicated log service. It had earlier agreed to a deal with Gisborne City Vintage Railway to operate a steam engine on the Gisborne-Muriwai section, ending at Beach Loop.

Ms Searancke said she was encouraged that GDC councillors had attended a rail forum last year.

“So I’m extremely pleased that they did go to the forum and I think they will support us when we go to GDC and put our presentation to them.”

A decision on the future of the line is expected by the end of March.

Government should pay: Foon

However, Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said while the topic could be discussed again at council meetings, it had been the council’s view that the Government should be the one to pay to fix the line, since the Government owned the line.

“We have enough projects to pay for in our own district, such as roads, stormwater, Waipaoa flood control and much more. I won’t support ratepayer money for the railway line. My personal view and my lobby to the Government and KiwiRail is to fix the line — if not, then make a rail trail.”

Mr Foon said it was “frustrating” that the region had lost out on “four years of employment and investment” due to the delay in restoring the line.

Using the rail corridor to establish a rail trail between Gisborne and Napier airports could provide a project that could transform the region, he said.

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.”