A new not-for-profit organisation Tairawhiti Rail will try to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line, which it sees as financially viable.

The existence of Tairawhiti Rail (TRL), — formed by a group of Gisborne directors — was revealed this week by Rick Thorpe in a submission to Gisborne District Council's 2018/28 long-term plan.

TRL planned to bring together the contractors necessary to initiate a regional short-line railway service, if KiwiRail was not prepared to manage the line, he said.

The organisation believed there was a strong commercial case for restoring the link, based primarily on shipping containers and supported by the recent growth in horticulture and timber processing.

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With restoration of the line from Napier to Wairoa under way, possibly all the way to Mahia, the group believed it was logical to complete restoration of the whole line.

It would lodge a proposal with the Provincial Growth Fund, asking the Government to restore the line. They were not asking the council for any funding, just their support to add rail to the regional land transport plan as a competitive transport option for local industry.

The commercial case was "simple". There were approximately 5000 containers a year to be trucked to Napier in the next two to three years. This could grow to 10,000 over the next 10 years.

It cost $1600 to $1700 to bring in a container by road. Rail could do it for $1000 to $1100, a saving of $600 to $700 a container.

If they achieved 10,000 containers, the saving for local industries would be $6 million to $7 million a year. Produce shipped to Tauranga, kiwifruit, persimmons and wine, could also be diverted to Napier.

A 10,000-container programme would generate an additional $10 million of revenue for the line, ensuring its viability. That was without other freight products like fertiliser, grain, gravel, city waste and some logs.

The move could take 20,000 truck movements off the road, which would reduce road maintenance and improve road safety. The maintenance per kilometre for rail was approximately half that for road.

Thorpe said the Government was supporting rail.

"We understand that rail has divided support within the community but believe that by taking a commercial, entrepreneurial approach, support for rail can be restored," Thorpe said.

Tairawhiti Rail believed the proposal ticked all the boxes for the new Government policy statement on transport and asked the council to reconsider its neutral position on rail.

- Gisborne Herald