KiwiRail hopes to know whether it can ferry people and freight from Wellington to Lyttelton by the end of the week.

The ferry and rail operator said yesterday it was exploring options for moving people and freight around the South Island after Monday's devastating earthquakes and aftershocks.

A spokesman said this afternoon that one of these options was using Lyttelton as a ferry destination.

"KiwiRail is working with the Port of Lyttelton to assess the viability of this option, including the capacity of the port, the length of the journey, freight capacity and the benefits to New Zealand...KiwiRail hopes to be in a position by the end of the week to fully assess the feasibility of all options available.," the spokesman said.

Lyttelton Port Company chief executive Peter Davie said in a statement that the firm was "working with a number of operators to see if we can move goods directly to Christchurch".


"We have the capacity and we would like to help wherever we can but the decision is up to the transport operators."

A petiton for the service to be launched has so far only attracted 18 signatures.

KiwiRail said this morning that its ferries are now back at 75 per cent capacity on sailings over the Cook Strait and the company hopes to be running at full steam by the end of the week.

The Kaitaki and Kaiarahi ferries are now carrying passengers out of Wellington to Picton but people on foot are still unable to be checked in and carried between Picton and Wellington.

KiwiRail said this morning that it was working with Port of Marlborough, which owns the Picton terminal, and has identified an area that is suitable for foot passengers and the parties were investigating how quickly the site could be up and running.

Port of Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb said he expects the issue to be sorted in a matter of days.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said this morning that "real progress has been made over the past 48 hours with getting rail and ferry operations back to full speed and supporting customers in challenging times".

"While there is still work to be done, we have made some significant strides in a short amount of time. All freight lines in the North Island and south of Christchurch are open and operating and rail alternatives have been arranged for CentrePort customers to other North Island ports, meaning there is no disruption for New Zealand's exports," he said.


"With the ferry operations up and running to Picton, KiwiRail has been able to work with freight customers on delivering goods by rail to the container transfer site at Blenheim. From there, freight can be delivered by truck to Christchurch either via the West Coast or State Highway 7," Reidy said.

"The damage on the Main North Line between Christchurch and Picton is significant, however KiwiRail have been working hard around the clock to ensure we have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of the damage and what needs to be done.

"KiwiRail has set up coordination centres in Christchurch and Wellington to work with the New Zealand Transport Agency and ensure alignment on damage assessment and subsequent repairs."