KiwiRail denies that mothballing the Napier-Gisborne line means permanently closing it.
The northern section of the freight rail route has been closed for nearly six months since being badly damaged in a storm.
In a business case published on its website, the company says neither the full line nor the southern section from Napier to Wairoa will be commercially viable for the foreseeable future.
It says reinstating the track would cost about $4 million and even if demand for freight services was to be generated locally, the cost of maintaining it would far exceed any potential revenue.
KiwiRail says mothballing does not mean closure because it retains ownership and can carry out minimal maintenance.
However, Gisborne MP Moana Mackey (Labour) says mothballing is just a softer way of saying closure.