Six log wagons per day are be added to KiwiRail's freight service between Whanganui to New Plymouth.

From Monday the log wagons will be loaded daily at Whanganui's Eastown rail yard in a move which KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said would allow up to 45,000 tonnes of logs a year to be transported for storage and export.

Both KiwiRail and Port Taranaki have hailed the move as a way to diversify the forestry supply chain and reduce the congestion and heavy toll forestry trucks have on the region's roads.

"Six wagon loads a day will avoid the need for about 2700 truck trips each year," Miller said.

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"This not only helps reduce congestion on Whanganui's regional roads and highways, it also reduces road maintenance costs and transport emissions – given rail has 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried than trucks.

"The addition of these log wagons highlights the real benefits rail can have for New Zealand's regions."

Once established and based on forecast demand, the service may be extended to a dedicated once-a-day delivery from Whanganui to Port Taranaki, which would include up to 18 wagons of logs.

Port Taranaki head of commercial, Ross Dingle, said it was exciting to have the
service operating after 18 months of work.

"We're very pleased to be able to have this service up and running and we thank KiwiRail for their assistance in helping make this happen," he said.

"With logs no longer exclusively on trucks, it will have a positive impact on congestion and the amount of road maintenance and upgrades required, as well as helping reduce carbon emissions."

Logs loaded onto wagons at Eastown. Photo / Bevan Conley
Logs loaded onto wagons at Eastown. Photo / Bevan Conley

"Rail improves the resilience of the forestry supply chain – giving more options for logging companies to get their harvests to port. The additional wagons to Port Taranaki are a solid start and, if there is demand, KiwiRail could run a dedicated log train to the port in the future."

According to statistics published by the Ministry for Primary Industries, forestry harvests across New Zealand have been growing dramatically since 2008.

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They are currently at around 36 million tonnes per year, and are forecast to remain at high levels for the next decade.

In the western part of the southern North Island, which includes Whanganui, harvests are forecast to increase from 1.5 million tonnes in 2019 to 2.3 million tonnes by 2024 and remain at that level until the mid-2030s.

Miller said this meant rail was a "must-have".

"The trucking sector alone cannot cope with the volumes of logs, so road and rail have to work together.

"Delivering logs by truck from the forests to Whanganui, to be railed to Port Taranaki, and then be shipped overseas shows how the different transport modes can work together to support regional growth."