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Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones gives the thumbs-up to the reopening of the Wairoa–Napier railway line – Photos courtesy of KiwiRail

Trains return to Wairoa–
Napier line

Trains are moving again on the Napier to Wairoa line for the first time in six years following the reopening of the railway line in early June.

WEB EXCLUSIVE

The first train travelled along the Napier to Wairoa railway line between Napier and Eskdale to deliver ballast as part of the project to reopen the line. Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, KiwiRail and Napier Port have been discussing the reinstatement of the mothballed line for several years.

Repairs to the line to enable it to be reopened were made possible through the provision of $5 million from the NZ government’s Provincial Growth Fund, which will eventually allow a low-speed forestry service to operate between Wairoa and Napier, delivering logs from forestry blocks to the port.

At the official reopening event, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said, “Today sees a work train travelling up to Eskdale from Napier, the first time there has been a train on the line since 2012. The reopening of the Wairoa–Napier line is one of the first to be funded from the Provincial Growth Fund, and would not have happened without it. It is a significant event for KiwiRail on a number of levels, and recognition of the tremendous value that rail delivers to New Zealand.”

Regional benefits

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council group manager strategic development Tom Skerman says that while credit should go to KiwiRail for achieving this important milestone, he wants to acknowledge Councillor Alan Dick, chairman of the council’s regional transport committee, for his vision, perseverance and advocacy for the reinstatement of the service. 

“With central government behind the project, our focus now is to support the establishment of a commercial operation on the line. We expect this to deliver many regional benefits, such as resilience of the transport network, effective management of the anticipated growth in demand for log transport, and reducing the carbon footprint associated with the logistics of harvest,” says Mr Skerman.

Mr Reidy says KiwiRail has given the government a list of ‘shovel ready projects’ that will enhance the company’s role, particularly in the regions, of which the Wairoa–Napier line is the first to get underway. “Having work trains running is an important part of getting the line open to shift logs by rail and take trucks off the road,” he notes.
 

Cutting carbon emissions

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who attended the official event, says the government is making safety a higher priority when it invests in transport, and taking logging trucks off challenging roads contributes to that. 

“We’re strongly committed to making significant investment in regional rail and I look forward to being able to make more announcements with KiwiRail in the coming months,” he says. “KiwiRail is experiencing growth in its overall forestry business – a result being driven by an increase in the volume of logs – and the government sees substantial benefits in using rail to decrease the number of logging trucks on our roads.”

Mr Reidy says the reopening of the Wairoa–Napier line is an important project for the region, for New Zealand and for KiwiRail. “It lifts the regional economy, makes the roads safer, and helps the environment by cutting carbon emissions – every tonne of freight carried by rail is a 66% emissions saving over heavy road freight.” 

KiwiRail estimates that using the Wairoa–Napier line to move the logs could take more than 5500 trucks a year off the road, and cut carbon emissions by 1292 tonnes. The line is expected to be ready for logging trains by the end of the year.


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