26 Feb 2018

Work begins on Napier to Wairoa rail line

4:28 pm on 26 February 2018

KiwiRail is begining work on the much-delayed Napier to Wairoa rail reinstatement today.

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File photo of a KiwiRail freight train. Photo: Wikicommons

The company got $5 million for the project in the government's regional development announcement last week.

KiwiRail said contractors will start spending that money today, cutting back overgrown vegetation and then moving on to drains and culverts.

The first log train is expected to run by the end of the year.

The line has been unused since storms washed out the section north of Wairoa in 2012, ending a Gisborne-Napier rail link that was uneconomic anyway.

A plan to revive the southern part of it to carry logs from the Wairoa region to Napier was hatched in 2016, and was supposed to be working by the end of 2017, but stalled due to financial constraints.

Last November, Hawke's Bay Regional Council expressed optimism that the scheme could still work as long as $5 million could be found, and that money has now come from the government.

This was welcomed by KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy.

"We have estimated that using the Wairoa-Napier line to move the logs could take up to 5714 trucks a year off the road, and reduce carbon emissions by 1292 tonnes," Mr Reidy said.

The aim of the project was always to get logs from burgeoning forestry around Wairoa to Napier Port without cramming SH2 with too many heavy trucks.

Forest Management New Zealand's Steve Bell said earlier it would be a valuable help for those forest owners.

"We've got about 11,000ha (of forest) in that Wairoa region," he said.

"To harvest that, that is a lot of truck movements on the road. We could rail logs in and it would allow us quicker turnaround times."

Under the scheme, when it was announced, the trains would run over the weekend with two services each Saturday and Sunday using rolling stock that goes into Napier from the South five days a week.

The idea of getting logging traffic off SH2 north of Napier is expected to please motorists.

But it had mixed feelings for Sam McClinchie of the Tutira general store.

She wanted to retain passing truck traffic as custom for her store.

But many ordinary drivers using her shop felt differently.

"Some of them have complained about logging trucks going too fast along the main road there," she said.

"It is quite scary, especially when they are driving quite fast and you are either following them or they are right behind you."

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