Freight train rolls out for last time


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A dozen carriages of timber leaving Wairoa by rail yesterday may well have been the last train from bark-ville, but still some vowed it was only a matter of time before the train will be comin' back.

Among them were district councillor Dave Evans who took an early break from his lawn care job and couldn't help but think of the 1966 hit Last Train to Clarksville as people gathered to watch KiwiRail's last freight train depart.

But, apart from the words "last train" there wasn't much of a connection between the debut hit by The Monkees and the latest hit on Wairoa, if there ever was any connection at all.

"I'll go over and give it a wave-off," Mr Evans said, "but it's not the end as far as I'm concerned."

Leading calls for KiwiRail to review the processes by which it has mothballed the Napier-Gisborne line, Mr Evans believes Wairoa needs rail, and that KiwiRail and the Government have ignored the community's plight.

"They're isolating us, really," he said of decisions against multi-million dollar repairs of washouts northeast of Wairoa and to close the line in a wider review of its viability.

"I don't know what the Government is doing. It's absolutely stupid."

But he believes Wairoa has a future and a combination of freight and tourism, such as scenic steam excursions, will eventually see the train pull through.

District mayor Les Probert, who was unable to be present for the last train's trip, is working with his council and others on alternative uses for the line so it won't fall into disrepair, which would make it more difficult to recommission.

"The Government is determined to stuff things up," Mr Probert said. "If they'd keep their noses out of it we'd all be a lot better off.

"It's happening all over the world, and the New Zealand Government is trying to screw as much dollars down as they can, with not a lot of thought for the communities."

Like other smaller districts, Wairoa had its "back to the wall" and needed visitors, who would not be deterred, or detoured, because of access to the region.

Concerned about limited access to "the Ministers" with whom the council wants to discuss the issues, he said councillors would be pressing for a lot more safety work on State Highway 2 to cope with increasing heavy traffic.

The safety work was vital, Mr Evans said, with the loss of rail having added at least 100 truck movements to the highway between Napier and Wairoa daily.

"I drive this road a lot," said Mr Probert, who lives north of the Matahorua Gorge, on SH2 about 40 minutes south of his Wairoa office.

"It's a pretty hairy ride at times, if you're caught behind a couple of trucks," he said. "You're taking your life into your own hands if you want to overtake."

In town, the immediate thought was for the future of local business Clyde Lumber which relied on the trains to move its product south to Palmerston North and north to Waikato, and sent its last load on the rail yesterday.

The timber, supporting about 20 jobs, will now travel by road.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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