Wairoa upset at rail news



Wairoa's mayor wants to hear KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn's explanation after the ``disappointing'' news about the Napier-Gisborne railway line.

Wairoa is the only other major centre on the line.

``We had hoped at least the Wairoa to Napier part would have remained open but they are now mothballing the whole thing,'' said mayor Les Probert.

``It is disappointing news . . . not unexpected but there were a lot of people hoping it would stay open and they will be disappointed.''

Mr Probert has invited Mr Quinn to an open meeting with Wairoa district councillors to discuss his intentions for the future, and also extended invitations to representatives from the New Zealand Transport Agency and Napier MP Chris Tremain.

Now, more than ever, it was vital the Government had a roading plan to bring State Highway 2 up to a standard to cater for the extra heavy traffic that would result from this decision.

``Even if the railway had stayed open, forecasts were for a substantial increase in heavy traffic on SH2 in the next 10 years so with the rail closing that freight will add even more heavy traffic congestion to the road,'' he said.

``It is even more important now to have that road brought up to a better standard.''

One Wairoa business directly affected by the announcement is Clyde Lumber, which sends sawn timber on the line twice a week for processing at Ohinewai, north of Huntly.

Now this freight will have to be diverted to road but director John Ebbett is worried about whether there are enough truck-and-trailer units in the district to ship his product, as well as processing capacity.

But there would not be any knee-jerk reactions from Clyde Lumber, said Mr Ebbett.

``I'm hopeful we can maintain business as is but this will marginalise the viability of the business.

``We have just got to deal with it and it means there will be another 20 or so truck-and-trailer units on the road each week - if we can get them.''

Mr Ebbett previously told The Gisborne Herald uncertainty around the line's future was harming companies reliant on it.

He was disappointed at the announcement from KiwiRail yesterday ``but what can we do? The decision has been made''.

``It is what it is and now we've got to move on.''

Mr Probert said it was his understanding there would be a much higher cost to transport freight on the road compared to the cost of sending it on a train.

``We will be asking all these questions of Mr Quinn and everyone involved to get a clear picture of the intentions for the future.''


- Hawkes Bay Today

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