The first log train to run between Wairoa and Napier in nearly eight years is set to chug into Napier Port on Sunday evening.
The completion of a new log yard in Wairoa means Shane Jones' dream to reinvigorate the mothballed line can now become a reality, with regular trains now to run on weekends.
KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the plan was to run two trains a week, one on Saturday and Sunday.
"With the track back in regular use, people travelling in the area will need to take special care around level crossings.
"Those crossing the tracks should expect trains at any time and from either direction."
Each train could take up to 50 long distance truck hauls off the road between Napier and Wairoa, with 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried by rail compared with trucks, Moyle said.
"A wall of wood will be ready for export within 18 months, and the volume of logs harvested will continue to grow over the coming years, so there is plenty of room for the services to grow.
"Growing this business will assist local businesses to harvest and transport large volumes of logs, help bring profitability to KiwiRail, benefit the East Cape region with less congestion and road wear and tear, and bring added benefits from lower emissions."
Jones, the Regional Economic Development Minister, said the Government had invested $6.2 million to reopen the mothballed line because rail was a necessity.
"Export log volumes in the Hawke's Bay region are predicted to reach 3.3 million tonnes per annum in the next few years and remain at high levels until the mid-2030s. The harvest growth around Wairoa is part of that picture."
Jones said having options for transporting logs to port ensured a strong supply chain and gave confidence to the forestry industry.
KiwiRail has employed two additional train staff and three track staff to support the new log trains and maintain the line.
It expects to employ more people as services increase. Local companies were used to develop the Wairoa log yard, which will be run by ISO Ltd.
Napier Port's general manager commercial, David Kriel, said KiwiRail had put in "a lot of work" behind the scenes to get the line running commercially, and it was fantastic to see it come to fruition.
"It will really help to unlock the economic potential of the Wairoa region."
Forest Management (NZ) Joint chief executive Steve Bell said using rail to shift logs to Napier Port built resilience and gave more options.
"That is vital as the harvest increases and more logs are harvested.
"Using the hub at Wairoa means we can turn our trucks round in less than half the time, and that means we can shift more logs quickly and efficiently."
Log trains are about to start running between Wairoa and Napier following Provincial Growth Fund investment to reopen the rail line.
"Trains will begin running from Wairoa on Saturdays and Sundays, carrying 1400 tonnes of logs each weekend, with more train services expected as harvests increase. That means 5000 fewer truck journeys between Wairoa and Napier a year, as a start.
"If we are to avoid more logging trucks on the region's roads, keep congestion under control and lower our transport emissions, rail is a necessity," Shane Jones said.