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Railway line viability report set for release

By Lawrence Gullery -
Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

An independent report aimed at proving the economic viability of the Gisborne to Napier railway line is expected to be released to the public this week.

The report was produced by Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) and was paid for by a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Gisborne District councillor Manu Caddie.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council also contributed towards the cost of the report. Its regional transport committee chairman, Alan Dick, said he would be surprised if it was not available to the public over the next couple of days.

KiwiRail and the Government received the report before Christmas. Those who have read it say it highlights inconsistencies in the KiwiRail report which justified mothballing the Gisborne to Napier railway.

Mr Dick said: "We didn't want it to get lost during a time when people are focusing on their families over Christmas. But it is still a hot topic and releasing it to the public now will hopefully generate some reaction from KiwiRail and the Government.

"All of the mayors and chairs of Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, as well as myself, are looking to meet with the Minister of Transport (Gerry Brownlee) and other key ministers as soon as possible this month."

Mr Dick said the campaign to reopen the line was now being headed by Manu Caddie from the Gisborne council.

It has been reported that a decision on whether to mothball the railway line has now been deferred by KiwiRail to allow time for the independent report to be made public.

Mr Caddie said the largest transport company, horticulturist and forestry managers in the region believed they needed the rail to remain competitive.

Their argument added weight to the business case for retaining the line.

When road maintenance costs, safety issues and environmental benefits were added to improved productivity and local employment, the case seemed overwhelming, he said.

"The Gisborne situation is emblematic of the way transport funding has been organised for some time - shaft the regions and pump billions into new motorways in the big centres.

"All this does is encourage more uneconomic road use, more congestion and more challenges for provincial transport, especially in isolated places like the East Coast. It perpetuates a sense of the regions being abandoned by successive governments."

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