The reopening of the Napier-Wairoa railway line could be delayed until April next year as a result of a washout just north of Raupunga.

The line had been scheduled for reopening by the end of this year to start dealing with the wall of timber from forestry in Northern Hawke's Bay, but the delay was confirmed by KiwiRail acting chief operations officer Henare Clarke yesterday, five weeks after the heavy rain that caused a washout which left 45 metres of track and sleepers suspended in the air approaching a bridge.

Clarke said a detailed assessment had shown it to be "a more complex situation than our initial assessments indicated.

"KiwiRail's preferred option is to rebuild the embankment, which will involve removing a significant volume of slip material and backfilling on the site," he said.

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KiwiRail is still working through specifics such as consents, community and iwi liaison, design and associated construction programmes, and now expects the extra work to be completed by April. It is also still assessing the extra cost.

"While this setback is unfortunate we remain committed to reopening the rail line for forestry and are working closely with the other stakeholders and forestry owners to see if there are other options for rail freight while this section is repaired.

Work on reinstatement of the line which had been mothballed more than five years began immediately after KiwiRail was allocated $5 million in line reinstatement funding from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund in February.