The mothballed Stratford to Ōkahukura rail line could be re-opened, according to KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller.
The 144km long line has been closed since 2009, following a serious derailment on the track.
In May, Miller was named CEO of KiwiRail, having previously been chairperson of the state-owned rail operator. He had been on the board since November last year, previously managing director of logistics operator Toll New Zealand.
Miller says KiwiRail is currently assessing a range of projects as the Government invests in rail, and re-opening the Stratford to Ōkahukura line is one of those projects.
"It's very early days and there are no timeframes for a decision at this stage. I believe this project is worthwhile, and my task now is to convince my board and our shareholders – the Government – of that."
The line is the only alternative north-south rail link to the main trunk line through National Park, MIller says, and re-opening the line would add resilience to the transport infrastructure.
"It would provide an alternative north-south link if the North Island Main Trunk through the central North Island be closed due to an event such as a flood, slip or earthquake."
Re-opening the line would also provide opportunities for commercial dairy, forestry and other companies shifting exports from Taranaki north, he says.
The cost of re-opening the line has been estimated at $40 million at this point, says Miller.
"A very preliminary estimate of the cost of re-opening the line is $40 million, but this could change when a detailed proposal is put together."
Stratford mayor Neil Volzke says he is treating the possibility of the line re-opening with "cautious optimism".
"It's certainly something I would like to see happen, and the reasons given for it being considered now are the same reasons Stratford District Council gave as an argument against the line closing back in 2009."
Neil says he is pleased to hear the project is being put forward for consideration, and would urge the KiwiRail board to look favourably on the idea.
"Obviously it would bring some economic benefit for our region, and it would also help reduce the load on our roads from heavy freight vehicles if they were to move to rail."