KiwiRail has announced a workaround for rail lines severed by the Kaikoura earthquake - a coastal shipping service from Auckland to Christchurch.
Its NZ Connect service will ship cargo from Auckland's Wiri Inland Port and KiwiRail's Southdown Freight Hub to Lyttelton's Midland Port or KiwiRail's Christchurch terminal using shipping services supply by Australia's ANL shipping services, the state-owned railroad said in a statement.
"The disruption to New Zealand's key supply route between Auckland and Christchurch will continue for many months as the rail and road links are rebuilt," said chief executive Peter Reidy. "Coming up with an alternative way of shifting freight for our customers was important, and KiwiRail is pleased it has been able to do this so quickly."
Among supply route blockages, Wellington's Centreport is hoping to get 25-to-30 percent of its container traffic back up after both its container berths were damaged by the quake. The Wellington port is able to serve container vessels that have their own cranes this week.
A plan to extend the service to include return of freight from the South Island to the North Island is being finalised and should be announced soon, KiwiRail said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key told his weekly post-Cabinet press conference that it was the government's intention to restore the rail link between Picton and Christchurch. Although final decisions about the route of both the main trunk rail line and State Highway 1 had yet to be finalised, the government is introducing emergency legislation to Parliament this week that will, among other things, allow landslide debris to be pushed into the sea.
A decision to build parts of the replacement rail and road links would be likely to require further enabling legislation.
"The long term expectation is that they would return rail (on the quake-damaged link)," said Key.