13 Apr 2012

KiwiRail considering future of Napier-Gisborne line

5:06 pm on 13 April 2012

KiwiRail says it will be at least two weeks before it decides whether to fix the damaged Napier to Gisborne line.

An assessment has found it would take five months and up to $4.3 million to reinstate areas washed out in a storm three weeks ago.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn says in light of the expense and time needed for repairs, more work needs to be done to determine the long-term viability of the line. No repairs will be done until this process is complete.

The route, which loses about $2.4 million a year, was already under review before the multiple washouts along a 3km stretch of line between Gisborne and Wairoa, one of which is 100 metres long.

The route is primarily used for freight, and there is an occasional charter train.

Mr Quinn says while there has been more freight on the route recently, that alone will not be enough to save it, and significant maintenance work needs to be taken into consideration.

However, he says they have had commitments from customers who plan to move more goods on the line in 2013.

KiwiRail says it will also liaise with local authorities and the Transport Agency.

East Coast MP Anne Tolley says she will continue to lobby hard for transport links in and out of Gisborne.

Ms Tolley says she has stressed to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee about the wider traffic implications for the region if more freight is to go on road.

Gisborne mayor optimistic

Gisborne mayor Meng Foon is optimistic the rail line will be fixed, as prior to the storm, businesses had increased goods they were freighting from five wagon loads a week to 60.

Mr Foon says recent improvements also make it viable for bigger containers to be freighted on the line, which will attract further business.

The mayor says a rally in support of keeping the line will take place in Gisborne on Saturday, sending a message to KiwiRail about how the city feels about the transport link.