Council to spend $250k on Napier-Gisborne rail

Source: Hawke’s Bay Today – Tuesday 25th November 2014

by Simon Hendery

New life has been breathed into the campaign to reopen the Napier-Gisborne rail link with KiwiRail offering to lease the damaged line to Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

The council is tomorrow expected to approve spending $250,000 to develop a business case to re-establish a freight service on the line.

A private sector investment of about $10 million to $12 million would then need to be found on top of a $5.46 million provision the council has earmarked for the project in order for it to get off the ground.

Earlier this year, the council asked the Government to repair the damaged line – at an estimated cost of between $3.7 million and $4.5 million.

The council was approached by the Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group (NGR) who wanted it to become a shareholder in a rail freight operating business using the line.

But the Transport Minister at the time, Gerry Brownlee, refused the request for funding, saying the council’s plans to see the line put back into service did not make economic sense.

However, in a letter to the council last week, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the company was willing to lease the line to the council, but would not commit any funding to the work required to reopen it, or for ongoing maintenance.

KiwiRail has given the council until March 1, to finalise its business case for the line, after which, Mr Reidy said in his letter, the company “will need to resume its process to lease the line for alternative uses, or fully close (it)”. The line has been mothballed since late 2012.

Under a “revised proposal” from NGR, to be considered at tomorrow’s council meeting, the rail group suggests paying the council up to $300,000 a year to sub-lease the line, depending on the cost of repairs.

Councillor Alan Dick, chair of the regional transport committee and an advocate for the re-opening of the rail line, said the revised NGR proposal reduced the risk for the council taking a stake in the freight business.

The group was confident it could raise the capital required to acquire locomotives, rolling stock and other assets to get the business up and running, but was looking to the council to be an “infrastructure provider” through the KiwiRail leae, Mr Dick said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and there are some challenges but we’re confident that we can get there.

Napier Labour MP Stuart Nash, an advocate for re-opening the line, welcomed KiwiRail’s move to offer to lease it to the council. He said the company’s decision “recognises the tenacity and persistence” shown by Mr Dick, NGR and other rail supporters.

“I’m delighted by this decision and I am confident the HBRC will end up being the saviour of this important piece of regional infrastructure,” Mr Nash said.

Earlier this month the mayors of Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and Gisborne agreed to fully support the regional council’s efforts to secure a lease of the rail corridor.

At the same time, Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee is considering a request to fund a feasibility study into the possibility of converting the rail corridor into a tourist cycling trail.

The history and costings

Source: Wairoa Star Thursday 20th November 2014

The mothballed Napier-Gisborne rail line is the northern section of the Palmerston North/Gisborne line. It was built in the

period from the 1920’s to 1940’s and opened in 1943. It was one of the last main line rail constructions in New Zealand and built

to high engineering standards.

In March 2012 the line was damaged in the Beach Loop area with four washouts over a 4.7km section.

Repairing the culverts would cost $3.30m to $4.29 million with the Big Hut slip the most expensive at $750,000-$950,000

and expected to take six to nine weeks to complete. Repairing the south end tunnel was estimated at between $670,000-$870,000

and could take up to 10 weeks.

The May 18, 2012 KiwiRail Napier-Gisborne Line report said all four washouts occurred because culverts were inundated with flood


At the time of the weather event in March 2012, the culverts in this section of track were code-compliant and were last maintained

in May 2011, according to the report.

Detailed culvert inspections were performed once every six years and focused on the structural integrity of the culvert, inlet and

outlet. The detailed inspection also looks at the stream condition as well as blockages and debris build-up. The detailed inspection

was supported by a weekly track inspection.

After a severe weather event a special inspection was carried out in the affected area. The report concluded that because of the

susceptibility and climate inspections could be annual rather than six-yearly.

This would add a further $6000 to the inspection cost per year. The maintenance work found from the extra inspections was

estimated to cost between $40,000 and $70,000 per year.

The KiwiRail report recommended reducing line washouts due to slips and dropouts by undertaking prudent engineering works.

It said the Wairoa to Gisborne section was more vulnerable than the Napier to Wairoa section and this was reflected in the repair

estimates. In this section alone there were at least 13 embankments of similar height to those that failed and might pose a similar

risk of embankment collapse due to upstream ponding.

It noted another high-risk area needing significant work was the section of the line alongside the Kopuawhara River. A combination

of river protection, slope stability and drainage work was required along this stretch of the corridor. Removing these risks was costed

at between $0.8m to $1.5m.

The KiwiRail repair bill included a nominal amount for the Napier to Wairoa section to acknowledge there were many rivers that the

railway ran close to.

Taking into account past history, the report said major infrastructure outage due to weather every two to four years could be

expected on this line. The geography of the line made it difficult to eliminate damage against such events.

But the report stated improvements at risk areas and maintaining drains, culverts and slopes after severe weather events would limit


Getting back on the rails

Source: Wairoa Star Thursday 20th November 2014

The future use of the mothballed Napier-Gisborne rail line has inspired a road deviation proposal, a private rail shortline consortium and rail bike proposals.

Now another player in the transport world has suggested utilising part of the line could be more productive than reinstating the whole line.

In a discussion document submitted to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council on its ‘Big Six’ strategic priorities, Napier Port chief operating officer Chris Bain said any rail infrastructural improvements should be demand-tested with a strong emphasis on Napier-Wairoa.

“If there is any case for sustainable rail capacity investment Napier-Wairoa cargo opportunities are likely to comprise proportionately more of the cargo than those of Gisborne origin.”

“In other words, Napier-Wairoa cargo opportunities may more readily meet return-on-investment criteria where the addition of Wairoa-Gisborne coverage may not,” he said.

He saw forestry product as the prime opportunity saying whoever operated the rail needed to make a compelling case to log exporters to have the freight moved by rail instead of only by road.

“The case for change means moving from 100 percent road use to a mix of road and rail. Additional handling costs transferring product to rail will need to be overcome.”

He said the journey between Wairoa and Napier was apparently hard on trucking gear and there may be economic sense to using rail from Wairoa to the Napier Port.

“The key issue is whether there’s sufficient committed cargo for the sustained use of rail. If there is, a Wairoa hub may be possible.”

“It could mimic similar rail-based operations which serve ports, such as in Wanganui,” Mr Bain said.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson said the Wairoa-Napier link was the easy step, but in reality long-term success of the service depended on the Gisborne link.

“This enables the resumption of containers and other bulk products, not just logs, which is the main Wairoa opportunity.”

“The unanimous support from the mayors supporting the regional council in its ambition to lease the line is encouraging.”

Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Transport Committee Alan Dick said there was evidence the line was viable in the long-term, if it operated between Napier and Gisborne because the Gisborne containerised produce and other trades were growing substantially.

“This will supplement the log harvest, which will be intense for the next 10-12 years, but is expected to decline to lower levels after that until the next harvest cycle.”

“This ensures we don’t put all our eggs in one basket and means the line is more sustainable,” Mr Dick said.

Another proposal to create a deviation for State Highway 2 along part of the mothballed rail corridor was also discussed at the regional leaders’ meeting in Wairoa earlier this month.

Spokesman for the group, local farmer Rex McIntyre said they had received a positive response in Wairoa and from most Gisborne transport operators since they floated their proposal at the leader’s meeting.

The former Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and transport committee chairman said people were keen to find out more details and how it could work.

The new route from Sandy Creek to Eskdale would open up two tunnels and include a new viaduct near the existing   Waikoau rail viaduct as well as another new viaduct at Waikare and a bridge over the Esk River.

Mr McIntyre said trucks made “just-in-time” economics possible for East Coast businesses and delivered everything from big warehouses to local businesses in a tight timeframe. The gains made in fuel and time savings from the alternative route were greater than the cost of the $12.50 levy, he said.

Other improvements on State Highway 2 could include a Waihua Bridge upgrade so it could take the heavier class of transport; and an elimination of Ohinepaka overbridge and upgrades for two to three bridges north of Wairoa to take a full 62-tonne container straight to the Port of Napier.

Mr McIntyre said feedback was that people saw the alternative route as an opportunity to open up Wairoa. “If there is enough support we will hold a meeting in Wairoa and make a full presentation of the proposal,” Mr McIntyre said.

They hope to arrange a meeting with the Transport Minister Simon Bridges to discuss their proposal.

Wairoa rail-hub a key benefit

Source: Wairoa Star – Thurs 6th November 2014

A Wairoa-based inland hub would bring significant benefits to the district, Napier-Gisborne Railway Short-line

Establishment Group chairman Don Selby told the region’s leaders at Tuesday’s rail corridor meeting in Wairoa.

He confirmed three private forestry companies want their logs weighed, scaled, and measured in Wairoa and

transport by rail to port. Mr Selby proposed the main traffic from Wairoa would be logs from private logging

companies to the port of Napier in the short-term, and Gisborne in the medium-term.

“Scaling and measuring the logs in Wairoa gives the private forestry companies an advantage as graded logs

could go straight to the port,” Mr Selby said.

Resurrecting the rail line also favoured future tourism ventures from both the Gisborne and Napier steam train

operators and cruise ship market. Mr Selby said there was great tourism potential with passenger services alongside

the freight and links to boutique accommodation in the region, mountain biking in the Wharerata hills, hiking in the

Mahia Peninsula, fishing and historic and cultural trails and a rail cart tourism operator who was also interested in using

the line.

The company was organising private investment funding to complement the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment.

The designate chief executive was Neil Buchanan, a civil/mechanical engineer who was employed by KiwiRail for 40

years at senior levels.

Mr Selby said the line was an asset to the region and once pulled up it would never be replaced.

He speculated the railway would quickly become profitable with freight volumes quickly rising from 250,000 tonnes

to over 400,000 tonnes per annum within six years.

If the cost of repairing the washouts was excluded, it would break even in four to five years.

The consortium had gained independent specialist advice on the condition and estimated costs of work needed for

the track, bridges and other infrastructure. Once repaired the line would need catch-up work in culvert and drain clearing,

spot sleeper replacement and forward planning for risk resilience, but was otherwise in sound condition for the next 10

years. There would be a gradual increase in maintenance needs over the following 10 years to address aging infrastructure.

The group sees the Napier Gisborne Railway as a regional venture providing improved transport infrastructure for forestry

and primary produce and was part of a growing worldwide trend of regional short lines serving businesses in their local


Long standing rail supporter Steve Weatherell of Weatherell Transport, Gisborne, said when the line was damaged it was

running at half its potential and could have been running six trains a week with the coming squash season.


Bid to build support for rail venture

TRYING TO GET trains on the rail: Working hard to reopen the Gisborne to Napier rail line are, from left, Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group chairman Don Selby, Gisborne City Vintage Rail chairman Geoff Joyce and other shortline group members Graeme Carroll, Steve Weatherell, Dean McQuoid and Neil Buchanan. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

The following Article appeared in the Gisborne Herald Thursday, October 23, 2014 by Debbie Gregory.

Original Article Here

Bid to build support for rail venture
Thursday, October 23, 2014
by Debbie Gregory

BACKERS of a shortline rail company are looking for support from Gisborne people as they continue to battle to get KiwiRail to allow them to use the mothballed line between Gisborne and Napier.

Last week four of the six directors and the chief executive of the Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group spent a few days here talking to business leaders and Mayor Meng Foon to get more support from this end.

All directors, except for Gisborne’s Steve Weatherell, are from other parts of the country and came to Gisborne to “connect” with people here.

They are all rail enthusiasts with backgrounds in rail and business.

The Gisborne to Napier line was mothballed after storm damage two-and-a-half years ago. Since then at least three interested parties have approached KiwiRail to lease and operate the line for freight and tourism ventures.

But KiwiRail still will not commit to when a decision will be made about who, if anyone, will be granted the lease to resurrect the line.

Shortline rail group chairman Don Selby said they had been working on the concept for the past 20 months.

“It has been a long process with a lot of difficulties,” said Mr Selby.

The shortline rail company is backed by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, which has allocated establishment funding towards the railway reinstatement.

Mr Selby said he was still confident the required $10 million to $13 million to become fully operational could easily be raised from private investors.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) has earmarked $5.4m for the project in its annual plan. It would lease the line from KiwiRail, then lease it to the shortline company.

The shortline rail company plans to cart logs from Wairoa and any other freight in and out of Gisborne and Napier.

They are also considering tourism services including adding a passenger carriage to freight trains.

Initially they would get a train up and running between Wairoa and Napier and hope to have that in place by the middle of next year. Gisborne would be added to the mix before next Christmas.

The group wants to work with the Gisborne City Vintage Railway, which is staying positive that Wa165 will run excursions again.

They are waiting for bridge repairs and a decision by KiwiRail on who will be granted the lease.

Another rail user the shortline group wants to work with as complementary is an alternative form of rail cruiser tourism business, which offers motorised karts that travel on the lines.

“There are many potential users of the track and we want to dispell the impression that other options are out the window. Some are not OK because we can’t have people randomly walking on the track,” said Mr Selby.

The NZTA is supportive of the group because there would be fewer big trucks on the struggling state highway.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said he met with the directors of the company seeking the District Council’s support.

“They told me that HBRC is keen to see the dropouts fixed and no funding from the Government is needed. We talked about other opportunities of the rail corridor.”

Mr Foon said from his seat as Mayor, he could not commit any ratepayer money to the railway line.“I do support their enthusiasm and wish them luck though.”

The group will write to ask for support in principle from the council.

FRONZ & Taieri Gorge Railway Endorsments

The Napier to Gisborne railway holds a special importance for many of our members as a very scenic and historic railway with potential for tourism operations. Our mainline operators have in the past, run regular and successful charters and excursions on the Napier to Gisborne railway line which has the potential to increase if the line is reopened.

The Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand (FRONZ) must stress the importance of retaining railways in the regions for tourism and regional growth and this line has vast potential for both tourism and freight.

Grant Craig
Federation of Railway Organisations of NZ



We hope for the region of Hawke’s Bay that every consideration is given to reopening and operating the railway which in the future has so much potential for growth. The railway gives the region an alternative to road, tourism opportunities and the means to transport bulk amounts of the regions resources to the port and further afield.

Taieri Gorge Railway proves that a council controlled company with good management and backing can operate a successful railway for the benefit of the region, The potential of the Napier to Gisborne Railway Line in freight and tourism cannot be overstated and can have significant flow on effects to the local port, businesses and accommodation.

Murray Bond
Chief Executive Officer
Taieri Gorge Railway

Thank you KiwiRail

The Napier-Gisborne Railway Shortline Establishment Group appreciates the regular KiwiRail checking of the line and clearing of a number of slips and drains over the last several months.

Gisborne Rail Action Group Presentation

Thank you to the Gisborne Rail Action Group for this Power Point presentation on the economic opportunities that a revived rail infrastructure might have for the region.



New Zealand First Supports The Napier Gisborne Line

New Zealand First and Winston Peters Transport Policy underlines the need for Rail.

Quotes of interest include:

  • “The Napier-Gisborne line will be back in business with New Zealand First.”
  • There Will Always Be A Place For Rail”
  • “Transport is vital as it is fundamental both for a well-functioning society and a thriving economy.”
  • “Our policy will guide transport planning and investment, with the goal of building an integrated transport system.”
  • “Our transport policy will give rail a real and valued role in the total transport mix.”
  • “Among the first projects funded under RONI will be the restoration of the Gisborne-Napier line.”

You can view NZF’s transport policy here 

Support The Line!

This line is a strategic link from Port of Napier to Wairoa and Gisborne for both timber and produce for export markets as well as general goods.

This asset should not be lost to the Hawke’s Bay region, as once pulled up, it will never be replaced.