16 December 2019
The BERL Tūranga ki Wairoa Rail Feasibility Study Final Report that has just been released to the public recommends the best option is for the community and associated stakeholders to pursue the reinstatement of the Tūranga ki Wairoa rail line; to a resilient standard; to deliver regular containerised and log freight services; and to support tourism opportunities to be delivered utilising the rail corridor.”
In the summary the Feasibility Study has concluded that there are numerous environmental, social, and cultural wellbeing advantages in favour of the reinstatement option, over either the closure or the status quo options.
The Feasibility Study has included extensive consultation with the wider business and local community, including iwi and local government. This consultation has shown significant business and community support for the reopening of the railway as part of providing improved transport services, particularly for containerised freight, for the Gisborne region.
The Report states that the current available transport options constrains the ability of the economy to develop and increase prosperity. There is significant growth underway with containerised export market products from horticulture and wood processing in particular. There is increasing concern about compliance with the increasing biosecurity requirements of export markets and the need to control container security by packing and sealing containers on site rather than in intermediary warehouses and similar facilities, often located in the Hawkes Bay.
The wider community is very concerned about the safety of road users and the higher level of road maintenance due to the increasing number of trucks on Gisborne roads, particular south to Napier.
It is feasible from an engineering perspective to reinstate the rail line.
There is sufficient demand for rail freight services to support a daily service of a 24 wagon train carrying containerised freight, supplemented by logs, 5 days a week. With rail related tourism as an ancillary activity.
The Feasibility Study Report proposes an opening for the 2021/22 summer peak horticultural and log harvest peak season subject to work needing to begin by April 2020.
The cost of reinstatement is estimated at $20 to $27 million (one-off expenditure of $19.9 million to $23.3 million to reinstate to an operational level, plus additional works to improve resilience estimated at $4.9 million to $5.8 million).
With a further $5 to 7 million (range of $5.1 million to $7.2 million) to be spent over the following 10 years to ensure resilience of both the track and the track corridor so as to provide a higher level of resilience and longevity to the rail line.
This is very much a regional work project with the local employment and other benefits that flow to the local regional community from a project of this nature. With the work being able to be largely undertaken by local and regional contractors. The report states that these parties are capable of undertaking the reinstatement. There is no need for international consultants or contractors.
Reinstatement of a rail freight service is expected to reduce the number of truck movements between Gisborne and Napier by 48 per day or 12,480 per annum with further reductions as freight increases over time.
The study demonstrates that the savings that accrue from the reduced number of truck movements (reduced road maintenance, vehicle accidents, CO2 emissions and lower freight charges for business) will offset the investment required within seven to eight years.
Tairawhiti Rail Limited, a Gisborne based non profit organisation entity, and Activate Tairawhiti, received funding from the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) to undertake a Feasibility Study concerning the possible reinstatement of the rail line between Gisborne and Wairoa. The line from Wairoa to Napier was officially opened by Hon Shane Jones in June 2019.
The Wairoa – Gisborne Rail Feasibility Study was undertaken by Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL) and a number of specialist subcontractors. The completed Feasibility Study was delivered to the PDU on Friday, 29 November 2019.
This PGF BERL Feasibility Study Project was overseen by a Steering Group with representatives from regional business and tourism economic development organisations, local and regional government, and central government (PDU, MoT, KiwiRail and NZTA).
The Feasibility Study has focused on container based freight currently leaving Gisborne by road where either the freight generator (producer) or the freight forwarder has expressed a willingness to use a rail service. There is sufficient containerised freight from these parties, supplemented with log wagons as required, to provide a sound basis to start with a 5 day a week train service.
Over the next five years significant projected growth in freight, particularly processed wood products and apples, is expected and may support a 7 day a week rail service.
Other producers of containerised freight wish to see a reliable and cost effective service in operation before providing freight for a reinstated rail service.
Inbound freight will be mainly empty containers but there is potential for other inbound rail freight such as roading material, fertiliser, and logs from Wairoa for processing in Gisborne.
There are also opportunities for Gisborne sourced freight to be transported across the rail network to other parts of New Zealand. We understand from trucking freight companies that there are shortages in both trucks and drivers to shift the freight by road.
KiwiRail has confirmed to the Study Team that this level of freight is able to be transported by rail at a competitive rate compared with current freight rates charged by local freight businesses, including the costs of road transport between the site of production and the rail yard.
The full Report is to be made available on the BERL website: www.berl.co.nz