6 Oct 2016

Trains to return to part of Napier-Gisborne line

6:04 am on 6 October 2016

Trains are set to return to part of the Napier-Gisborne line the end of next year, carrying logs from Wairoa southwards to the port of Napier for export.

This will end years of inactivity after part of the line near Gisborne was washed out by storms in 2012.

At the time, there was just one train journey a week from Gisborne to Napier, which rail managers said was not enough to justify expensive repairs.

The Wairoa-Napier route will be on a part of the line south of the washout

KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy said he was pleased to see the return of commercial rail services in the region.

"This is a real boost to business growth and KiwiRail is delighted to be able to support that," he said.

"We had always signaled that the line could reopen in the future, as long as there was sufficient freight volume to support rail operations and the necessary investment in infrastructure was made."

Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie said he was pleased to see the line return to operation.

He said log exports across his wharves were expected to expand from 1.2 million tonnes annually now to 2.4 million tonnes in four years time.

"It's vital that we have the capability to transport these in a reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly manner," Mr Cowie said.

The Wairoa log service will initially run over the weekend, with two services each Saturday and Sunday.

This would complement rail services which already run from Whanganui, Palmerston North and Woodville into Napier during the week.

The weekend trips to Wairoa would use that rolling stock more efficiently, Mr Cowie said.

The locomotives and wagons would be owned by KiwiRail but be leased by Napier Port which would run the service as a commercial venture selling wagon space to forestry companies wanting to market their logs.

Mr Reidy said the line north of Wairoa was in bad shape but the line between Wairoa and Napier had been kept in maintenance ready for use.

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