KiwiRail wants quake-resilient facilities for ferries

12:56 pm on 14 May 2017

KiwiRail wants new, earthquake-resilient facilities for the Cook Strait ferries, even if it has to share them with its rival, Bluebridge.


Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

That comes as the state-owned company admits how close Wellington's port came to being unusable after November's Kaikōura earthquake six months ago today.

Its chief executive Peter Reidy said thousands of trucks, railcars and passengers used the ferries each week, but the surrounding infrastructure was not up to scratch.

"It was very very close [in November], in fact we were very lucky," he said.

The quake showed how badly damaged critical infrastructure could be in a natural disaster, he said.

Catastrophic failure of the ferry terminals would have a massive economic impact, and the potential for that was already being seen in the increased cost of coastal shipping while the rail line from Christchurch to Picton was out, he said.

"The Cook Strait [ferries] is State Highway 1 over the water, really, so it needs to have a resilience plan," he said.

"We need to have a complete plan with all parties involved," he said.

That would include the roads in and out, loading ships, how passengers accessed ships, he said.

"One option might be a modern, multi-use terminal with floating link-spans."


Earthquake damage to CentrePort in Wellington. CentrePort would play a key role in the event of a major earthquake, handling thousands of tonnes of fuel and food, as well as vital infrastructure. Photo: Supplied / CentrePort

Peter Reidy said that the new terminal, which would add crucial resilience, could be shared with Bluebridge.

"It's not just Bluebridge and KiwiRail, it's a discussion with CentrePort, it's definitely a discussion with Port Marlborough," he said.

One option in Wellington was to have a single-use terminal that both companies could use.

"We haven't had any discussions, if that option passed, who the owner would be or how the infrastructure would work, but it's one potential solution to optimise the land footprint... and see if we can get more resilience into that infrastructure," he said.

When asked whether KiwiRail was angling for money in the upcoming government Budget, he said it was not about KiwiRail funding it.

Instead, it was about the sort of investment Lifeline utilities, those which are needed in emergency situations, in Wellington needed to be more resilient, he said.

He said the ferry services were too important to lose in an earthquake.

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