‘Strong case’ for reopening Gisborne to Napier line

The existence of Tairawhiti Rail (TRL) — formed by a group of local directors — was revealed yesterday by Rick Thorpe in a submission to Gisborne District Council’s 2018/28 long-term plan. TRL planned to bring together the contractors necessary to initiate a regional short-line railway service, if KiwiRail was not prepared to manage the line, he said. File picture

New not-for-profit organisation Tairawhiti Rail will try to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line, which it sees as financially viable.

The existence of Tairawhiti Rail (TRL), — formed by a group of local directors — was revealed yesterday by Rick Thorpe in a submission to Gisborne District Council’s 2018/28 long-term plan.

TRL planned to bring together the contractors necessary to initiate a regional short-line railway service, if KiwiRail was not prepared to manage the line, he said.

TRL believed there was a strong commercial case for restoring the rail link, based primarily on shipping containers and supported by the recent growth in horticulture and timber processing.

With restoration of the line from Napier to Wairoa under way, possibly all the way to Mahia, it was logical to complete restoration of the whole line.

They would lodge a proposal with the Govt's Provincial Growth Fund

They would lodge a proposal with the Provincial Growth Fund, asking the Government to restore the line. They were not asking the council for any funding, just their support to add rail to the regional land transport plan as a competitive transport option for local industry.

The commercial case was simple. There were approximately 5000 containers a year to be trucked to Napier in the next two to three years. This could grow to 10,000 over the next 10 years.

It cost $1600 to $1700 to bring in a container by road. Rail could do it for $1000 to $1100, a saving of $600 to $700 a container.

If they achieved 10,000 containers, the saving for local industries would be $6 million to $7 million a year. Produce shipped to Tauranga, kiwifruit, persimmons and wine, could also be diverted to Napier.

A 10,000-container programme would generate an additional $10 million of revenue for the line, ensuring its viability. That was without other freight products like fertiliser, grain, gravel, city waste and some logs.

Plan would take 20,000 truck movement off the road

It would take 20,000 truck movements off the road, which would reduce road maintenance and improve road safety. The maintenance per kilometre for rail was approximately half that for road.

Mr Thorpe said the Government was supporting rail.

If the council’s Provincial Growth Fund application for road funding was not successful, the Tairawhiti Rail proposal provided an opportunity to benefit the region.

“We understand that rail has divided support within the community but believe that by taking a commercial, entrepreneurial approach, support for rail can be restored,” said Mr Thorpe.

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade but they did question the value of further mortgaging community assets to significantly expand the port, when there was this opportunity to have the rail link restored and paid for by the Government.

Tairawhiti Rail believed the proposal ticked all the boxes for the new Government policy statement on transport and asked the council to reconsider its neutral position on rail.

Later in the meeting, the Regional Land Transport Committee agreed to amend its regional land transport plan after several speakers said the council should respond to submissions calling for rail to be restored as part of the plan.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the council could investigate the feasibility of rail along with other subjects looked at in the plan.

There could not be a quick fix — it would give staff 12 months to come to the council with the information it needed.

New not-for-profit organisation Tairawhiti Rail will try to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line, which it sees as financially viable.

The existence of Tairawhiti Rail (TRL), — formed by a group of local directors — was revealed yesterday by Rick Thorpe in a submission to Gisborne District Council’s 2018/28 long-term plan.

TRL planned to bring together the contractors necessary to initiate a regional short-line railway service, if KiwiRail was not prepared to manage the line, he said.

TRL believed there was a strong commercial case for restoring the rail link, based primarily on shipping containers and supported by the recent growth in horticulture and timber processing.

With restoration of the line from Napier to Wairoa under way, possibly all the way to Mahia, it was logical to complete restoration of the whole line.

They would lodge a proposal with the Govt's Provincial Growth Fund

They would lodge a proposal with the Provincial Growth Fund, asking the Government to restore the line. They were not asking the council for any funding, just their support to add rail to the regional land transport plan as a competitive transport option for local industry.

The commercial case was simple. There were approximately 5000 containers a year to be trucked to Napier in the next two to three years. This could grow to 10,000 over the next 10 years.

It cost $1600 to $1700 to bring in a container by road. Rail could do it for $1000 to $1100, a saving of $600 to $700 a container.

If they achieved 10,000 containers, the saving for local industries would be $6 million to $7 million a year. Produce shipped to Tauranga, kiwifruit, persimmons and wine, could also be diverted to Napier.

A 10,000-container programme would generate an additional $10 million of revenue for the line, ensuring its viability. That was without other freight products like fertiliser, grain, gravel, city waste and some logs.

Plan would take 20,000 truck movement off the road

It would take 20,000 truck movements off the road, which would reduce road maintenance and improve road safety. The maintenance per kilometre for rail was approximately half that for road.

Mr Thorpe said the Government was supporting rail.

If the council’s Provincial Growth Fund application for road funding was not successful, the Tairawhiti Rail proposal provided an opportunity to benefit the region.

“We understand that rail has divided support within the community but believe that by taking a commercial, entrepreneurial approach, support for rail can be restored,” said Mr Thorpe.

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade

The proposal in no way threatened Eastland Port’s log trade but they did question the value of further mortgaging community assets to significantly expand the port, when there was this opportunity to have the rail link restored and paid for by the Government.

Tairawhiti Rail believed the proposal ticked all the boxes for the new Government policy statement on transport and asked the council to reconsider its neutral position on rail.

Later in the meeting, the Regional Land Transport Committee agreed to amend its regional land transport plan after several speakers said the council should respond to submissions calling for rail to be restored as part of the plan.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the council could investigate the feasibility of rail along with other subjects looked at in the plan.

There could not be a quick fix — it would give staff 12 months to come to the council with the information it needed.

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w gerrard - 4 months ago
I am definitely in support of rail returning to Gisborne. Council, why do you need another 12 months to investigate the feasibility of rail, this should have been done years ago. But no, you sat on your hands along with the Mayor and MP Tolley. Just get with the programme and support rail like you do the roads!!

Jenny Barns-Graham - 4 months ago
I was worried and surprised by the apparent lack of support for the Gisborne-Napier rail link, especially in the light of the drum beat from self-interested parties who I believe are not serving the district well. Great news! The figures support the obvious.

Rachel Cook - 4 months ago
100% support for this rail plan. Road maintenance is a huge expenditure and the work to minimise vibrations on Awapuni Road only lasted six weeks before the vibrations were back to its terrible norm. I think everyone on Awapuni and Ormond Rd would support reopening the rail line.

Hine, Porirua - 4 months ago
Maranga mai Turanga! You hold the power of voting for your council and your mayor.
Just saying . . .

Ben - 4 months ago
Thank you Rick!! Finally someone stepping up - the majority of the residents want this crucial link to the export Napier Port reopened. Plus the potential torisum opportunities. Got to think long-term in planning (eg 50 years).

David Hemsley, Katikati - 4 months ago
It's a no-brainer - trucks off roads, and a lot safer for other road users. I would love to travel to Napier by rail again - the views are beautiful. Go TRL!

Gillian Creach - 4 months ago
We'll done. A local solution to a local issue. This will take pressure off our roads and make them safer for everyone to travel on. There is also the added benefit economically by saving costs to our local community. It is a win-win situation in my opinion.

Nigel Lloyd Taiapa Tansey - 4 months ago
I agree - lessen the big trucks on the road. It's bad enough with logging trucks up and down the Coast. Plus it's a lovely coastal trek if humans were to travel by rail again - I have in the past.

Richard - 4 months ago
Tairawhiti Rail are to be congratulated on their container freight proposal and for their entrepreneurial vision and the courage to invest in their endeavour.

The GDC should immediately stop procrastinating on the subject of rail. TR state quite clearly that they are not asking the GDC for any funding; why then does the council's chief executive equivocate? The GDC should have immediately offered their public wholehearted support for TR and not dither with phrases of "could investigate" or indeed promote delay with "give staff 12 months to come to council." Come to council - with what!

Tairawhiti Rail have done their research and laid it bare for all to pass judgement upon. Do the GDC, led by an ineradicable anti-rail Mayor, really have the in-house neutrality and wherewithal for the market dynamics of rail operations and economics to do due diligence on TR's proposal? My answer is an emphatic no they don't. It's time for the GDC to stop being an obstacle in the path of the rail line's reinstatement and to become a catalyst for multimodal regional transport.

Sarah, Napier - 4 months ago
Could the front carriage also have passenger capacity, like the old days? That would be a great tourism feature.

Anna Maclaurin - 4 months ago
I definitely support this proposal, as it seems a silly notion not to continue the reinstatement from Wairoa north to Gisborne. Get the trucks off the road - too many and too dangerous.

Phil - 4 months ago
Lucky we now have TRL!! Come on GDC. This is a no-brainer decision. Funding is there.

Rob Martin, Wellington - 4 months ago
There is no need for further procrastination. The direction is already there with the study done by Gisborne District Council in May 2012 - "Socio-economic and environmental impacts of loss of rail for the Gisborne district". The case could be not any clearer - Carpe Diem!!

Niall Robertson, Auckland - 4 months ago
This is an exciting prospect for the producers of the region. As Hikurangi Forest Farms have repeatedly refused to build a processing plant in Gisborne, which was part of their agreement for cutting rights, the Government could help them do so by having them process timber at Matawhero for the KiwiBuild project. Currently, rail would be cheaper than all other modes for products out of the region. What is needed is for the rail to be separated into an above-rail business and a below-wheel infrastructure, funded by the government in the exact way roads are funded. Further more, as road transport is subsidised by motorists, part of that subsidy could go to rail, as motorists will benefit from less truck congestion, cheaper roading costs, safer roads and less emissions all round. This would necessarily open all routes to all operators and Gisborne - Napier is ideal for a short line operator. I am currently trying to promote a New Zealand tour by rail using heritage operators, by using the regional routes as an alternative for foreign tourists. This has great potential for the "Great Eastern Railway", which would bring large numbers of foreign tourists this way. With funding at a similar level with road transport, rail would become a lot more profitable and regional railways could blossom with short line operators with their local regions need at heart. I wish the proposed short line group all the best for the future.

Patrick Dunford, Christchurch - 4 months ago
Niall Robertson with comments about road transport being subsidised by motorists fails to understand the way roads are funded. Car users pay a greater share of roading costs because car use is the primary cause of congestion on highways. Road freight haulage does not require four-lane highways, the extra lanes are needed to carry the huge volume of cars. This means there is no subsidy available to be diverted to rail as claimed. That so-called subsidy is what actually pays to have highways increased in capacity to carry car traffic and diverting it to rail transport would serve no useful ends.

Richard - 4 months ago
The subsidy debate is complete nonsense and irrelevant. Each mode of transportation must stand on its own abilities and benefits re any given task to perform.

Patricia Wright, Christchurch - 11 days ago
I spent the first four years of my life living in Waikoura, commonly called Torries Camp, where the first rail tunnel out of Gisborne was being built and I have a passion to see this line re-established. I have a strong belief in the power of rail, properly managed, and believe along with the promotion of tourism, it would have a great future, nation wide.

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