Plans to get logging trains moving between Wairoa and Napier by the end of the year could have been derailed by a washout during the storm in northern Hawke's Bay.

A fortnight after the washout, ruining 45 metres of the track just north of Raupunga, KiwiRail is non-committal to a date for the reopening of the line, and is still assessing the problem.

"Our teams are continuing to assess the damage and any impact it may have on the planned reopening date for the line," KiwiRail said in a short statement today.

The line has been closed for more than six years since KiwiRail decided it was uneconomical after a major washout which left about 100 metres of track suspended in the air near Mahia on the Wairoa-Gisborne sector in March 2012.

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KiwiRail had put the cost of repairing that sector at over $3.5 million, and mothballed the line, which had been used only for freight trains since Cyclone Bola put an end to regular passenger services in 1988.

Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister.
Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister.

Help was rejected by the government of National Party leaders John Key and Bill English, but the new Labour coalition in February announced a $5 million contribution from the Provincial Growth Fund to reopen the line for logging trains to relieve pressure on the highways amid the growth of the Wall of Timber from forestry harvesting in Northern Hawke's Bay and Gisborne-East Coast.

The washout is north of Raupunga, on the way north towards Wairoa. Photo / Duncan Brown
The washout is north of Raupunga, on the way north towards Wairoa. Photo / Duncan Brown

During a ceremonial launch of the project in June, including the dispatch of a train from Napier with track ballast as part of the railway restoration, regional economic development minister Shane Jones sand KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy weren't putting a precise date on the reopening, but Mr Jones said it was hoped there'd be 2-3 trains from Wairoa to the Napier Port each week within 12 months.

It's estimated there will be close to 6000 less logging-truck trips on the 116km stretch of State Highway 2, which has had several passing bays installed and the major work of the Mata horua Gorge realignment and bridge, but still includes winding stretches, and the notorious bend of the Devil's Elbow between Napier and Tutira.