Collaboration is key to the successful development a new Regional Freight Hub near Palmerston North, KiwiRail deputy chief executive Todd Moyle says.
In November 2018, KiwiRail was awarded $40 million through the Government's Provincial Growth Fund to design, designate and purchase land for the hub.
That was brought a step closer with KiwiRail, NZTA and the Palmerston North City Council signing a Memorandum of Understanding outlining how the three organisations will share information and work together as the freight hub project progresses.
Moyle says developing a modern, road-rail hub near Palmerston North is crucial for managing the growing freight volumes through the Manawatu.
"Palmerston North is already a critical freight distribution point for the lower North Island, with goods coming through from the upper North Island, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Wellington, and freight volumes are expected to increase significantly in the coming decades.
"There is a real opportunity here for regional development, but to make the most of those benefits it's crucial that the hub development is aligned with the NZTA's roading plans in the region, and the council's economic development plans.
"The MoU is part of a strategic approach to ensure all of the interested parties work together to deliver a final result that achieves the range of outcomes we want."
NZTA director of regional relationships Emma Speight says the agreement bodes well for future transport initiatives in the region.
"We are looking forward to deepening our working relationship with KiwiRail and PNCC to ensure we maximise these exciting new opportunities.
"NZTA is leading investigations into transport improvements around Palmerston North, and the new freight hub will complement this future transport planning.
PNCC chief executive Heather Shotter says the MoU signing signals a significant commitment among the three parties.
"Our regional economy is set for unprecedented growth with more than $3 billion of public and private sector investment planned for this region over the next 10 years.
"The council has already established a new industrial zone on the outskirts of the city to encourage growth of our logistics industry.
"The creation of this regional multi-modal hub will be a major draw card for attracting more logistic firms into the region."
KiwiRail is currently working on the design of the Regional Freight Hub and will be undertaking a multi-criteria analysis to identify potential sites and a preferred site, as part of having the land designated for rail use.
The $40m PGF funding covers the cost of design, designation and land acquisition.
The construction phase of the hub project is expected to be three to five years away.
The hub will have a range of benefits, including:
• Reducing transport emissions and roading costs — every tonne of freight carried by rail has 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight. Getting more freight on rail also reduces road maintenance costs and improves road safety.
• Taking pressure off city roads — situating the hub outside Palmerston North and integrating it with the Transport Agency's planned Integrated Transport Improvements will help take freight traffic out of central Palmerston North and reduce congestion. The hub will also link to Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatu Tararua Highway project (the new State Highway 3 route across the Ruahine Ranges).
• Growing the logistics industry — KiwiRail will also work with key customers on major infrastructure requirements to encourage logistics and distribution businesses into the area, to help grow the sector and create more local jobs.
More information about the Regional Freight Hub is at www.kiwirail.co.nz/projects/major-projects/palmerston-north-regional-freight-hub.html