17 Feb 2010

Future of back country rail line in doubt

10:33 pm on 17 February 2010

KiwiRail is considering closing an 80-year-old rail link through the heart of the North Island.

The company says the Stratford to Okahukura line must pay its way, but supporters want it retained for future development.

In November last year, a derailment closed the poorly-maintained line between Taranaki and the Main Trunk Line north of Taumarunui, which carried just one daily return freight journey.

KiwiRail says it would take $500,000 to fix the derailment damage and another $40 million to restore it properly.

Taranaki's Regional Land Transport Committee says multiple links are vital to overcome isolation and the line is an alternative north-south route when the main trunk line is out of action.

Port Taranaki wants the corridor to remain publicly owned, but the Rail Maritime Transport Union warns reinstating a mothballed line in future would be costly.