Council negotiating to set up rail link

By jonathan dine

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There is still life left in the Napier-Wairoa rail line discussion.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council is entering into contractual negotiations with KiwiRail to re-establish a rail link.

The regional council has completed a feasibility study on a proposed log freight rail service.

A statement released yesterday said following a public-excluded meeting on April 20, the regional council decided to enter negotiations with KiwiRail for the rail company to operate a log freight service between Wairoa and Napier on behalf of the regional council.

Napier councillor and chairman of regional transport committee Alan Dick said that after years of constant lobbying it was "marvellous" to see it come to fruition.

"There is still some fine-tuning to do so it's not an absolute but I expect it will happen."

The rail connection was mothballed in December 2012 following major washouts on the line and the subsequent cost of repairs.

Mr Dick said the rail line could be hauling logs as early as next year.

"The harvests are sustainable at a high level for at least 20-30 years, so it's a long-term project with major long-term implications."

Mr Dick said that taking trucks off the "difficult" State Highway 2 would save lives and reduce injuries. "Not to say this will put truckies out of business, in fact quite the contrary."

He said the rail was expected to carry half the export log harvest, the rest by road.

The number of round trips they could make would also increase from one to about four.

"There is also a big job for truckies to transport logs from the harvest site into the log hub in Wairoa."

Mr Dick said the track to Wairoa was in pretty good condition and council would foot the bill for yearly maintenance, expected to be in the vicinity of $400,000 to $500,000 a year.

"Revenue will cover all costs in the initial years and looking forward it should generate pretty good profits," he said.

"With the rocket lab venture in Mahia there is considerable potential for tourist excursions, and these done by rail make that an even more attractive proposition."

In 2014, the council allocated $5.46 million to potentially underwrite a freight service.

The council will also be negotiating with customers who could benefit from a rail service through to Napier and the port.

"The council has taken into consideration the large quantities of timber coming from forest-harvesting in the Wairoa District over the next two decades," council chairman Fenton Wilson said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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