KiwiRail accepts challenge to go ‘commercial’
by Rail Express — last modified Nov 04, 2009 11:15 AM
— filed under: Weekly Top Stories, Rail
Much has been made of New Zealand transport minister Steven Joyce’s statements that had the National Party been in power, it would not have bought KiwiRail from Australian-based Toll Holdings.
By Dave MacIntyre
Similarly, Joyce’s comments that rail in New Zealand needed to aim for a more commercial approach and to balance its books eventually, without the $90 million annual subsidy it now gets, have been portrayed as a hard-line approach.
A wider perspective however shows Joyce has actually shown a commitment to rail, both in the passenger area and also the freight business.
Investment in new locomotives and wagons to come on stream next year has been approved and a study of Joyce’s comments provides a more upbeat resonance – “…we’re actually encouraging them and working them very hard to get to the point where than can survive without subsidy – and I’m pleased that they are taking a more commercial approach now…”
Added to this was the debate that ensued following the report, ‘KiwiRail: Doomed to Fail?’, published by Luke Malpass, a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies.
In order for rail to come close to commercial equilibrium (to break even), the network had to shrink from 4,000 kilometres to 2,300 kilometres, Malpass said.
“Many of the unprofitable lines must be closed while the government prepares to sell off separate parts of rail to interested parties in the private sector,” he said.
“The rail system needs to shrink substantially to become viable in the long term.
“Only then will taxpayers be insulated from further political expediency and foolishness.”
However KiwiRail has been boosted by the news that Fonterra sees rail as an integral part of its logistics strategy going forward.
Moreover, the nation’s biggest shipper has come up with a discussion paper for a future supply chain for the country, which sees major expansion for rail.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn, interviewed by Lloyd’s List DCN, also took a long-term view, both about the size of the network and NZ government support.
“If you look back 25 years there would have been a strong case then for closing the milk run [central North Island] and the coal route [South Island],” Quinn said.
“Today, those are two of our most heavily-trafficked routes. If those had been closed down then, that growth could never have occurred. Close any area of track down and you lose it for good.
“What it shows is the need for the development of an integrated supply chain so the future role of rail is known. We need to look forward and see what the country needs.”
As far as the NZ government was concerned, Quinn was adamant that Joyce was being supportive, and was fair in what he was asking of the rail operation.
“The shareholder has challenged us to come up with a business plan and that is as it should be,” Quinn said.
“It’s not unreasonable for the government to expect us to reduce costs and drive up productivity.
“At the same time the government has told us it will fund projects for which there is a sound business case.”
On that score, Quinn said management and the board were working with the government on a business plan to be presented before Christmas.
The new integrated model, bringing together the track and operating sides of the business, had been a forward move.
“I had no idea just how much caution surrounded the previous set up,” Quinn said.
“This wasn’t because it was Toll who operated the business, it was because Toll operated a freight forwarding and trucking business that was competing with other freight movers.
“Now, we can be seen as a neutral player in the market, able to partner with any and all The growth options are huge. There is no shortage of options or opportunities.
“One thing we know is that we will be a big player in the full wagon load and full container load markets but we aim to be bigger too with the aggregators of cargo – the Tolls, Mainfreights and Peter Bakers.
“We need to be open and easy to deal with for freight movers. We need to integrate into their supply chains and offer added value to their businesses.
“We must keep focused on what we can control and deliver better day by day.”
Much will hinge on the business plan being developed now.
KiwiRail believes a step up in service delivery will occur once the new locos and wagons arrive in mid 2010. Track improvements and infrastructure are already underway.
Putting rail on a “pay for yourself” basis is a longer-term plan but as Quinn argued, “with the projected freight growth in NZ, there needs to be an integrated strategy for the future”.
“Rail can be the backbone of that strategy.
“We can’t do everything but we can play a much larger role in the future.”
Source: Lloyd’s List Daily Commercial News – http://www.lloydslistdcn.com.au
5 November, 2009
For immediate release
KiwiRail postpones repairs to Stratford-Okahukura railway line
KiwiRail will move Taranaki rail freight through Marton and the North Island Main Trunk Line until it determines what to do about track damage to the alternative Stratford-Okahukura Line (SOL), Chief Executive Jim Quinn confirmed today.
Eight Kilometres of railway sleepers at the northern end of the SOL between Matiere and Okahukura were damaged on Monday night as a result of a derailment. Currently, one return train a day uses the SOL to move dairy products, empty containers and general goods between New Plymouth and the northern section of the North Island Main Trunk.
Over the past year, on the basis of traffic volumes, the SOL has been the
most derailment-prone railway line in the country.
"We've had staff working on the derailment scene," said Mr Quinn. "Their
assessment is that track and sleeper damage is considerably greater than we had originally envisaged.
"We have to make a decision on when we complete repairs and how much work we do to bring the line back into good working order. In the meantime, we have talked to customers and arranged for their freight to be moved through Marton.
"Investment in the SOL has been minimal for many years and even maintenance has been kept to a minimum. Our assessment of the derailment scene indicates we would need to spend up to $400,000 to repair the damage."
Mr Quinn said spending of $750,000 had already been allocated for this year to improve the condition of one of the 24 tunnels and significant spending has been forecast for the next 10 years to bring the line up to standard.
"The amount of traffic using it at the moment doesn't justify continuing
with repair work without a considered look at likely future freight volumes.
"That doesn't mean we have decided to close the line. It simply means that we need to be sure that investing more than $1 million in the line within the next 12 months and more money in future years to bring it up to standard, is justified on commercial grounds."
Mr Quinn said a decision on the line is likely to be made early next year.
Network and freight staff currently working the SOL would be re-allocated to other tasks.
KiwiRail has recently carried out a review of its business and is due to
deliver a strategic plan for the future of the business to the Government
later this month.
Issued by KiwiRail
Media contact: Kevin Ramshaw
Public Affairs Manager
Rail and Maritime Transport Union
Media Statement For Immediate Release
Thursday 5 November 2009
Rail Union Concerned About Mothballing Of Central North Island Rail Line
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) is concerned KiwiRail is mothballing a damaged North Island rail line.
A major derailment closed the Stratford-Okahukura Line in the King Country on Monday night, and KiwiRail management have told staff the line will not be repaired.
The line was not being closed, but would remain inactive, as management claimed it was not commercially viable to fix it.
RMTU General Secretary Wayne Butson says the decision was heavily influenced by Government attitudes towards publicly-owned KiwiRail.
A number of unrelated planned upgrades to the Stratford-Okahukura Line have also been put on hold.
Mr Butson says the Union is concerned it's a sign of things to come with rail under the current Government.
"The National Party said they would not sell rail in the first term of their Government, but neglecting basic repair work on our rail network is running down this valuable asset."
Mr Butson says that if New Zealand was to have a modern, world class transport infrastructure, maintaining a quality rail network was essential.
"This decision by KiwiRail is likely to have been influenced by Government pressure for rail to suddenly become a big earner, despite years of private sector mismanagement and lack of investment."
He says that under the current National Government, expenditure on transport infrastructure had been heavily weighted towards road transport, while investment in rail and coastal shipping was seriously lacking.
You know this has all the makings of a Political Football in two years time. National has always proudly announced that they will not sell off SOE's in their first term...This could come back to haunt them.
However at the moment the coalition is riding a very bumpy patch and WHEN Labour and the Greens finally get their ideas together, they may have a chance of really playing the 'privatisation' football to their advantage.
The Rail system IS rundown but utilisation is climbing. The SOL and Wairarapa Line were always the 'Trunk's insurance policy, and these two line look likley to be abandond in situ. I'm glad that one of the largest shipping companies has pointed out to the NZ Government the short commings of loosing the system that is avaliable now.
Rail & Maritime Transport Union fears mothballing of Stratford/Okahukura line influenced by Govt pressure for KiwiRail to become big earner
6 November 2009
Unions fear the mothballing of a central North Island rail line is a sign of things to come.
The Stratford to Okahukura line that links Taranaki and King Country, has been closed since Monday night after a derailment. KiwiRail has now told staff it is not worth repairing.
Taranaki freight will be moved through Marton and the North Island main trunk line until the company decides what to do about eight kilometres of damaged sleepers. KiwiRail says the closure affects one return trip a day. It says the stretch is the most derailment-prone railway line in the country. More than $1 million needs to be spent on it within the next year to bring it up to standard.
But the Rail and Maritime Transport Union says the decision is heavily influenced by the government.
National has promised not to sell the network in its first term, but the union says the neglect of basic repair work is running the asset down.
Union spokesman Wayne Butson says that if New Zealand was to have a modern, world class transport infrastructure, maintaining a quality rail network was essential.
"This decision by KiwiRail is likely to have been influenced by Government pressure for rail to suddenly become a big earner, despite years of private sector mismanagement and lack of investment."
He says that under the current National Government, expenditure on transport infrastructure had been heavily weighted towards road transport, while investment in rail and coastal shipping is seriously lacking.
KiwiRail to open up Midland Line tunnel
Friday, 6 November 2009, 3:02 pm
Press Release: KiwiRail
KiwiRail plans to remove a tunnel on the Midland Line near Stillwater next year to improve the line's reliability and capacity.
The 90 metre tunnel will be `daylighted', essentially removing the tunnel roof and hillside above.
KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn said the project will enhance the capacity and reliability of a key transport link.
"The Midland Line links the West Coast with Christchurch and the Port of Lyttelton and is used extensively by coal trains as well as the popular Tranz Alpine passenger service," Jim Quinn said.
"The Kiwi Point tunnel was built in the 1880s at a time when railways were designed to carry much lighter and smaller loads. With the tunnel gone, this will remove one of the impediments to carrying larger loads on the busy Midland Line.
"The geology of the area means the tunnel lining has deteriorated. Daylighting it will remove the need for ongoing and costly monitoring and maintenance of the tunnel."
Kiwirail Network's engineering team is currently seeking expressions of interest for the project, with the aim to start work early next year. The project is expected to take four months to complete and the total cost is estimated at more than $1million.
The work will involve the excavation of more than 50,000m3 of rock – all above an operating railway and State Highway 7. The work will be scheduled around train movements and a traffic management plan, including a temporary rock-fall fence, will minimise the disruption to road traffic.
Jim Quinn said the company successfully managed a similar situation with the 2008 project to daylight three rail tunnels in the Manawatu Gorge above State Highway 3.
He said the decision to daylight the tunnel supports other recent investment in the line.
"The Midland Line is important, both for the movement of coal between the West Coast and Port of Lyttelton, but also as a popular attraction for international tourists. The investments made are designed to improve the reliability and capacity of the line including extended passing loops, replacement of timber bridges, and a planned signalling upgrade.
"In addition, new locomotives ordered to arrive in the second half of 2010 will release more powerful locomotives for use on the coal route. New passenger carriages being built at KiwiRail's Hillside workshop in Dunedin will be introduced into Tranz Alpine services in 2011."
KiwiRail replacing time capture system
Company tracking IT workers
By Reseller News Staff, Auckland
Friday, November 06 2009
In order to track IT staff working hours, KiwiRail is looking for a new time capture and recording system. The system will record project time and application support across its IT departments for 200 staff.
The components of the system should include codes, time entry, finance interfaces, IT cost allocation and reporting.
All users will enter full hours worked against codes on a weekly basis. Staff will also be able to enter time adjustments for worksheets. A weekly interface to the company's SAP finance system will be scheduled to run every Tuesday.
The deadline for replies is Friday, November 13. More details are available on the Government Electronic Tenders website under ICCNZ reference 27839.
Subject: HOKITIKA AND WESTPORT BACK ON EXCURSIONS AGENDA
SOME GOOD NEWS FROM KIWIRAIL
Following closely on the heels of Thursday's announcement about the
decision to close the SOL to all trains, there is today better news about
two other lines which have been closed to passenger traffic for many years.
In a letter from Peter Steel, GM Engineering & Standards, OnTrack, to FRONZ On Friday, he announced that as from 1st December both the Hokitika & Stillwater - Westport lines would be available for excursion trains.
FRONZ has been pursuing the reopening of these lines for some time and were kept informed of progress with engineering and refurbishment upgrades that eventually led to this decision. It appears as if the excursion planned by WAB 794 next April will be the first to use both lines in some decades.
KIWIRAIL have told us that there will be some operating restrictions
(similar to remote territory precautions which apply to the Napier-Gisborne
line) and we await details of those.
I think it is fair to say that there have been some unwarranted and
irrational remarks following the SOL closure made on a number of rail
"social-networking" sites since the SOL decision was announced. I urge
those opposed to the closure to consider what choice the KiwiRail Board &
Management had, given the limitations on funding applied by Government.
FRONZ has been assured for some time that they were working to re-open the SOL to passenger traffic (it was once on target to happen in March 2010) and I am personally aware that the commitment to that was more than idle words.Ultimately, however, the damage wrought by lack of investment over many years, especially during the period of private ownership, left a legacy that it is currently impossible to address within current budgetary constraints. Reopening of the SOL (just like the Wairoa - Gisborne line) will not happen overnight - but given Government support, it will happen.
Paul J Dillicar
President & Executive Officer
FRONZ ( Federation of Rail Organisations NZ Inc)
End of line for Midland Line tunnel
It is the end of the line for Tunnel 19 on the Midland
Line with KiwiRail planning to 'day light' the tunnel
near Stillwater next year.
Kiwirail Network's engineering team is currently
seeking expressions of interest for the project, with
the aim of starting work by the end of January.
The 90 metre tunnel runs alongside State Highway
7 on the Midland Line at Kiwi Point near Stillwater.
Senior Engineering Geologist Richard Justice
explains that the work is expected to take three to
four months to complete.
"It will involve the excavation of more than 50,000m3
of rock - all above an operating railway and state
highway, which is same situation we faced with the
Manawatu Tunnel project last year," Richard says.
"The tunnel was built in the 1880s at a time when
railways were designed to carry much lighter and
smaller loads. With the tunnel gone, this will remove
one of the impediments to carrying larger loads on
the Midland Line.
"The geology of the area around the tunnel means
the tunnel lining has deteriorated creating safety
concerns. Daylighting the tunnel will remove
the need for ongoing and costly monitoring and
maintenance of the tunnel structure."
Stolen cheese thought to have come from a train
11 November, 2009 - 12:52
Police believe that large blocks of cheese recovered after reports of people acting suspiciously near Halcombe have been stolen from a container on a train en route to Auckland.
The incident began when a rail worker on his way to work shortly after 7am this morning spotted people running back and forth across the rail line and loading boxes into a vehicle in an area known as Kakariki.
When he approached them they made off in their vehicle and the rail worker contacted police and continued to follow the vehicle and its four occupants. Boxes were thrown from the suspect vehicle as it was driving along then the rail worker lost sight of the car.
About 10 minutes later a car fitting the description was spotted by police
and stopped in Sanson. At this point there were only two people in the
Police have so far recovered 8 boxes containing 20 kilo blocks of vacuum
packed cheddar cheese. The information on the boxes suggests it is exported cheese that should have been on a container on a train heading north. That train has now arrived in Auckland and the relevant container is being isolated for police to carry out further investigation.
No train was seen by the rail worker and the train would have gone through the Halcombe, Kakariki and Marton areas around 1am.
A train would need to be stationary to off-load such a large number of boxes and bolt cutters would be needed to gain entry to the container. Trains will stop for anything up to 20 minutes in the event it has to manoeuvre round a second train on the same line.
Constable John Green said: "The fact that the boxes were seen being loaded some six hours after the train would have passed through the area suggests that the cheese may have been moved or stashed for later collection. Staff at Kiwi Rail are being of great help to us in establishing the exact movements of the train and where it might have stopped long enough for the theft to occur.
"This offence is further reaching that just those boxes that have been
recovered. If the container has been tampered there will be MAF issues to
consider that will affect the onward travel of the container and have
significant implications for the exporter."
A 21-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman are currently helping police with their enquiries.
Yes the great Cheese Train Robbery!!!
Broken into at Halcombe but monitored by the robbers further south.
Considering the retail price for a 1kg block of cheese (nz$10.00), you can see why people get desperate.
New Maintenance Fleet To Improve NZ Rail Network
Voxy News Engine Thursday, 12 November, 2009 -
KiwiRail's new track maintenance fleet was commissioned today, part of a $25 million project to improve the efficiency and quality of New Zealand's rail track maintenance.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce 'turned the key' on the ballast cleaner
machine at a ceremony in KiwiRail's freight depot in Te Rapa this afternoon, officially marking the fleet's commissioning for operation on the network.
Speaking at the event, KiwiRail Chairman Jim Bolger said the fleet will
maintain and renew the track to a higher standard than previously possible in New Zealand.
"If rail is to meet the demands of a modern freight network, then it needs
the right tools of the trade to do so," Mr Bolger said.
"When people think about rail, they think about trains but often forget that
trains need a network to run on. When track condition is poor this impacts
on KiwiRail's ability to offer reliable, efficient and competitive services
to its customers.
"As well as improving the condition of the track, the new fleet will improve
the efficiency of track maintenance work, reducing the impact on freight
The Ballast Cleaner Group fleet includes a ballast cleaner machine which
screens ballast, recycling what can be re-used and disposing of waste.
Material handling wagons allow the cleaner to operate efficiently by
ensuring a continuous flow of new ballast in and reject material out. The
other equipment helps restore the track to operational line speed following
Mr Bolger said that with freight volumes forecast to increase by 75 per cent over the next twenty years, KiwiRail was targeting investment to those lines which carry the heaviest freight volumes.
"Our aim is build capacity and reliability to meet customer demand. The
busiest rail freight route is the 'golden triangle' between Auckland and
Tauranga so the Ballast Cleaner Group will spend its first year of operation
in that area."
Mainfreight disappointed by Govt attitude
NZPA Last updated 13:24 19/11/2009
Mainfreight continues to be disappointed at the Government's attitude and commitment to rail freight services in this country.
The logistics company believes it is among Kiwirail's top five customers and would double its spend if it got the right rate and services.
"We don't seem to have a lot of dialogue with (Transport Minister Steven) Mr Joyce on what our thoughts are on rail and would like to have more," Mainfreight managing director Don Braid said.
Mainfreight and other logistics companies have always suspected that Toll NZ, which is the rebuilt former land transport business of Tranz Rail, gets a better deal on rail even after rail was sold back to the Government.
Mr Braid said some ground had been made on the issue but the truth would probably never be known.
Mainfreight today reported a 36.5 percent fall in half year profit to $10.9 million, even as conditions in all markets where the company operates were "much improved" in the second quarter.
For the six months to the end of September, Mainfreight's trading revenue fell 14.3 percent from a year earlier to $535.8m, while net profit before abnormals dropped 29.3 percent to $12.2m.
"Importantly, second quarter performance saw revenues and profitability improve markedly from our first quarter's results," Mainfreight said.
Direct comparisons showed revenues up 4.8 percent and ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) up 50.5 percent.
While seasonality of freight volumes was a contributor, trading during the second quarter had seen a general improvement which continued into the third quarter, the company said.
"We welcome the upturn but remain cautious about overall economic conditions in each country where we are located."
Trading during October and November indicated further improvements likely for the third quarter, Mainfreight said.
"We believe that the market will be fragile for the first quarter of calendar 2010, therefore we remain focused on improving margins and sales growth with strong sales campaigns."
An interim dividend of 8.5c per share is to be paid.
In the New Zealand domestic division, ebitda declined 14.5 percent to $14.5m compared with the same period last year, but September 2009 month ebitda exceeded that of September 2008 by 9.8 percent. Sales revenues fell 16.4 percent to $128.4m, down $25.2m from a year earlier.
Domestic freight volumes were rising with increased market share assisting revenues.
In the Australian domestic division ebitda was up 41.5 percent to $6m, while sales revenues fell 4.7 percent to $90.6m.
Warehousing volumes had been strong through September and October as suppliers to retail built stock volumes for Christmas, Mainfreight said.
In the United States , trading continued to be difficult in both the domestic and export sectors. Even with a weak US dollar, export volumes had declined from their peaks at this time last year.
Total revenues fell 24.7 percent to $164.7m, while ebitda for the region was $3m down from $8.4m in the year prior.
Port close to home
By ROMY UDANGA - Manukau Courier
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2009
Manukau exporters and importers will be able to have their containers processed closer to home from early next year.
Ports of Auckland's Wiri Inland Port will start operating in January.
Work on the port's new rail exchange is progressing with two of the three rail siding tracks that will connect the inland port to the Waitemata seaport in place. Construction is now well under way on the concrete hardstand.
Ports of Auckland managing director Jens Madsen says the first train is expected to arrive early in the New Year.
"This is about bringing the seaport right to the doorstep of businesses in south Auckland.
"Exporters and importers will be able to drop off and pick up containers without having to negotiate the Auckland motorways."
Once fully operational, the inland port will save as many as 100,000 central city truck trips each year.
"By using the Wiri Inland Port as a storage centre and staging post we'll also free up room and create efficiencies at the Waitemata seaport.
"This is good news for the whole supply chain," Mr Madsen says.
Carbon emission modelling by Ports of Auckland shows potential savings for businesses.
Those within eight kilometres of the inland port will be able to reduce their container transport carbon emissions by up to 25 percent, Mr Madsen says.
The inland port is strategically located off Wiri Station Rd, close to Auckland International Airport and next to SH1 and SH20.
Brian Perry Civil and KiwiRail are undertaking the works, including the construction of the three rail sidings, involving about 2000 metres of additional rail track, and the hardstand.
Each of the three sidings is capable of taking 22 wagons. Together they will allow two trains to be worked simultaneously with the third track available for repositioning locomotives.
The hardstand from which the containers will be loaded and unloaded is 50 percent complete. Once finished it will be 450 metres long and cover nearly 11,000 square metres, just a bit smaller than the Britomart Transport Centre station platform.
New names for old lines
Earlier this month five railway lines around New Zealand took on a new
identity when the New Zealand Geographic Board officially changed their
names. The New Zealand Geographic Board considers official place names on the grounds that correct use of place names ensures that people can effectively communicate information about locations, and preserves New Zealand's heritage and culture. Anyone may submit a proposal to the Board to either assign or alter an official geographic name so earlier this year, KiwiRail suggested some name changes:
. Stillwater - Westport Line to Stillwater - Ngakawau Line (SNL)
. Dargaville Industrial Siding to Dargaville Branch (DARG)
. Napier Freight Branch to Napier Port Branch (NPRPT)
. Onehunga Industrial Line to Onehunga Branch (ONEH)
. Auckland Freight Branch to Southdown Branch (STHDN)
Ian Cotton, Rail Operating Standards Manager, said that the new names
reflected changes in the use of lines. For example, the Onehunga line which is currently being rebuilt is due to reopen next year as a mixed passenger and freight line, while the "coal route" has bypassed Westport since the opening of the triangle at Westport in the late 1990s.
The KiwiRail Data Governance Working Group (DGWG), which provides data definitions and data management standards, is working towards developing a consistent standard around naming conventions, including line and location names. Some months ago the group identified some railway line names that should be changed to correspond with line use and reference data management and made a proposal to the Board.
If the Board accepts a proposal, then it is publicly notified and objections
are sought over a three-month period. If no objections are received, the
name is usually confirmed as final. However, if an objection is received,
the Board must consider the objection, make a decision and then report to
the Minister for Land Information. The Minister's decision if final and all
final names are published in the NZ Gazette.
At the close of the consultation period on the railway line name changes, no submissions were received so the Board officially gazetted the new names, effective from 5 November.
KiwiRail Network is supporting a project to develop the Pekapeka wetlands in the Hawkes Bay.
Views on fixing rail link sought
By JARED SMITH - Taranaki Last updated 05:00 27/11/2009
Kiwi Rail remains in no hurry to spend the "millions" it will cost to
repair and upgrade the Stratford-Okahukura railway line.
The track owner has called for public submissions before making a decision in the New Year on upgrading the line.
A Taranaki SOL (Stratford-Okahukura line) working group will convene in the coming weeks to put forward a strong submission for restoration of the
track, while also considering whether the region could front the funding.
Kiwi Rail central regional manager John Sargent faced the regional land
transport committee meeting at the Taranaki Regional Council yesterday to update progress since the SOL was closed following damage by a November 2 derailment.
Eight kilometres of track and 10,000 sleepers were damaged at the northern end near Tunnel 24, all needing replacement at $400,000 cost.
Mr Sargent said there has been no significant upgrades since the track
opened in 1932.
There have been seven derailments in the last 12 months, poor formations in 15 of the 24 tunnels, and currently 34 separate speeding restrictions on the line. Fixing Tunnel 24 alone would cost $750,000.
"The line runs through country best described as geographically
challenging," Mr Sargent said. He said the only regular use of the track is
by Fonterra product on an 8pm-5am run, and the company was comfortable being diverted via the Marton and North Island Main Trunk Line.
Kiwi Rail had lost only a "small proportion" of New Plymouth clients where
companies who received late deliveries could not load the Marton-bound train by 5.30pm departure time.
"Would spending millions of dollars upgrading the line be justified on the
basis of current and projected traffic?" But committee members argued the SOL remains crucial as an east-west corridor and permanent part of
An SOL working group will convene in the next three weeks to formulate a
strong submission to the Kiwi Rail board.
Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke said he spoke with Ruapehu District
mayor Sue Morris, who is also very concerned about the closure at the that end of the line, and fully supported a submission.
Committee deputy chairman Brian Jeffares was adamant the SOL needed saving, pointing to its "orchestrated unfunded" nature over the years by each new owner who always said they did not currently have the money to fix it up.
"What we've got to do is maintain what we've had for a long time. This is
important to Stratford, important to New Plymouth, and important to
Taranaki. We should pull out the stops to fund as much as they can."
Passenger numbers on the Overlander, which was threatened with closure three years ago, have increased 47% to date this year, compared to last year.
KiwiRail says that amounts to 10,000 more people taking the service, which means more than 67,000 are now using it annually.
Passenger numbers have grown on all three KiwiRail long-distance journeys, which spokesperson Nigel Parry says is due in part to increased domestic tourism and competitive fares.
The TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal routes in the South Island have recorded passenger gains of 8% and 23% respectively
Lyttelton Port to increase size of rail siding
Thursday December 3 2009 - 07:28am
Lyttelton Port of Christchurch is spending $5.7 million to build a rail siding capable of handling 24 wagons as more containers arrive at the port via rail.
The port's two existing sidings hold eight wagons each. The new siding will extend into the existing Cashin Quay back road.
The port handles coal trains from the West Coast and is handling more freight from Fonterra.
Chief executive Peter Davie said the siding development was a response to increased demand.
"Increased business from Fonterra, with whom we recently signed a significant contract, and our recently completed short-haul container rail shuttle between CityDepot and the port, has contributed to the increase," he said.
The rail expansion plan is part of a three-stage process.The first stage, which is almost complete, involves the removal of a large storage shed to free up 1.62ha for container storage, increasing the port's capacity by 40,000 TEU, or standard-sized containers, to 300,000 TEUs.
The rail siding expansion is the second stage and should be completed in 12 months.
Stage three is still under investigation and involves relocating a workshop to free up operating land and increasing the number of straddle machines. This could increase container throughput capacity to 450,000 TEUs per annum.
New interest in mothballed Castlecliff line
9th December 2009
Freight traffic could be returning to the disused Castlecliff rail line in
the new year with a number of industries in the area interested in using the link.
The section of line, running from Taupo Quay to the port, was mothballed
three years ago but now some business in the city's industrial belt have
asked KiwiRail to look at reinstating the line.
And yesterday KiwiRail confirmed it had been approached although it would not reveal which industries had made contact.
Kevin Ramshaw, KiwiRail public affairs manager, told the Chronicle that his company had been looking at re-opening the 6km of track for the past few months "as a result of interest from customers".
Mr Ramshaw said no firm decision had yet been made because a number of key areas would have to be looked at closely before a final decision was made.
These included how the reinstatement would be funded, how best to service the line, and what level of resource would be required.
He said that would include reactivating level crossing warning signals,
replacing or repairing some sections of the track and providing the rolling
stock to handle the freight.
"We would hope to have these finalised early in the new year," Mr Ramshaw said.
One of the industries looking at the prospect of rail freight moving on the
branch line is Open Country, which has recently opened its milk powder plant on Heads Rd.
Currently bagged powder is being stored in a warehouse further along Heads Rd then trucked out of the city from there.
Steven Koekemoer, national operations manager for the dairy company, said reinstating the line - officially know as the Castlecliff industrial line -
"certainly will be of interest" to his company.
"We're just starting to look at the options or rail versus road. We're
analysing that now so it's probably a bit early to tell at this stage," Mr
Colin Fergus, manager of MARS Petcare in Castlecliff, said he was aware
KiwiRail was looking at reinstating the line.
Mr Fergus said while opening of the line would not benefit for his plant he
could see it being beneficial to other businesses on the suburb's industrial
"For Wanganui it would be great, no doubt about it, but for us as a business the line doesn't come out as far as our plant," Mr Fergus said.
"We still have to truck our containers down to the Taupo Quay yard and load them onto the rail wagons there and I'd expect that to continue."
He said having the line re-opened would not be a "huge advantage" for his
company "but for other businesses down the road it would be fantastic," Mr Fergus said.
Affco New Zealand, which operates the Imlay meat works on Heads Rd, is a potential rail user but a spokesperson at the company's head office said
they had no comment to make and referred inquiries to KiwiRail.
There has been a rail link from the central city to Castlecliff since 1885.
A private company built and operated the line until the Wanganui Harbour
Board convinced NZ Rail to take control of it in 1956.
The line has been mothballed since 2006.
Castlecliff Railway has one of the most delightful and intruiging histories of all private railways in NZ.
As can be read, this line was mainly a private affair as NZR really didn't want to have anything to do with servicing the port area of Wanganui.
This branch could easly become an 'offical' short line PPP company with the clients along it being held responsible for it's upkeep to a point where Kiwirail would absorb it.
I last saw this line in April, it's a little tatty as to be expected but no as run down as the Rotorua branch and a good going over by a weed train and some remedial work wouldn't be too expensive. Level crossings would have to be fully controlled though, as it is now the law, which would be the most expensive outlay.
West Coast Road-rail Bridge Opens Early
Friday, 11 December, 2009 - 07:44 The new $25 million Arahura road-rail Bridge on the West Coast officially opens this Friday 11 December 2009 - several months earlier than planned.
One of the largest bridge projects on the New Zealand rail network in recent times, the new structure replaces a wooden, single-lane road-rail bridge which for more than 120 years provided a crucial link over the Arahura River for both State Highway 6 and the Hokitika Branch Railway line.
KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn said the early completion was a testament to those involved as replacing the historic bridge had been complex.
"This hasn't been a typical rail bridge project - instead we've created a single-track railway, a two-lane road and a pedestrian / cycle way all on the same foundations," Jim Quinn said.
"The old bridge was nearing the end of its life so securing this vital transport link for the future was important for the West Coast. This supports KiwiRail's ongoing programme to remove timber from its rail bridges. It is all about improving the reliability and efficiency of the network to meet the demands of rail's customers."
NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Mark Yaxley said around 3,500 vehicles use the bridge each day which meant one of the main requirements of this project was to keep State Highway 6 operational while the new bridge was built.
"As well as keeping the road open while the bridge was built around it, construction was also staged to manage both the whitebait and dairy dry seasons," Mark Yaxley said.
Mr Yaxley added that having the bridge open ahead of plan is a sign of how successfully the different demands have been managed.
"Both NZTA and KiwiRail feel that the help and co-operation of the local community, including owners of the riverbed, Mawhera Incorporation has been central to the success of this project."
Physical work on the new bridge began in mid 2008 with the installation of foundations on either side of the original structure. Traffic was diverted onto one road lane of the new bridge early in 2009 before work began during the dairy dry season when trains do not use the line, to decommission the old bridge and replace the rail line.
New guide banks were formed as part of the bridge project to reduce flood risks. Further safety improvements were achieved by raising the bridge to allow bigger floods underneath.
A single span from the original bridge has been retained to be used in a small heritage park nearby, which will be completed and opened early in 2010.
Shunting causes long delays
By Sue Newman January 16 2010
Shunting trains have created havoc in central Ashburton this week with
blocked rail crossings causing lengthy traffic delays.
On more than one occasion in recent weeks, several crossings have been
blocked for up to 20 minutes while slow trains shunted back and forth
through the Ashburton rail yard.
Vehicles were backed up for several blocks and pedestrians, fed up with
waiting, were seen to climb between wagons.
Both the Ashburton Guardian and Ashburton District Council fielded a number of calls from irate locals and travellers who were affected by the delays.
The central Ashburton shunting yard has created on-going problems for
motorists for many years with long trains and shunting trains holding up
And for years solutions, such as moving the rail yard out of town have been discussed.
A new shunting yard is planned for the Ashburton business park currently
under development north of Ashburton.
This siding would see the central town yard moved and with it the problems of traffic snarl-ups due to blocked rail crossings.
However a change in Central Government funding policies for transport has put this move in jeopardy.
Ashburton District Council chief executive Brian Lester said the move was
included in the regional transport plan as an approved project, but the
policy change meant the government would not fund non-roading work included in the plan.
"While this hasn't stopped the project, it certainly means from the point
of view of council the funding barrier has suddenly become a lot higher," he said.
The policy change however, did not change the council's commitment to move the rail yard.
"We are still determined to make this happen, we are still in discussions
with KiwiRail and I don't believe they have a problem with the principle of
the idea. It's certainly a priority for us to have this happen."
Mr Lester said he had experience first-hand of this week's congestion and
of watching two children clambering over the carriages of the stationary
train because they were fed up waiting for it to move.
"This really highlighted the danger. It's not just about traffic
When the rail yard moves, all shunting activity will then take place on a
siding developed as part of the business park.
Thursday's extended shunting was out side normal operation procedure
KiwiRail spokesperson Ruth Larsen said. "We are acutely aware of the need to keep traffic disruption to a minimum in Ashburton."
This was a one-off event, she said.
Battling to convince companies to move freight on the little-used Gisborne-Napier railway line to save its life is a waste of time, Gisborne's Chamber of Commerce president says.
But Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon and Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said it was imperative the rail line be kept open. The Hikurangi Forest Farms wood-processing plant was due to be completed by next year and would need to shift its product by rail, Mr Foon said.
"Otherwise our roads will become incredibly congested," he said.
Mrs Arnott said the Port of Napier needed the "wall of wood" expected in the next few decades as Gisborne's forests matured, and the rail line was the most efficient way of getting it there. "It's incredibly important to Hawke's Bay. [The line] needs to be kept open as long as absolutely possible."
KiwiRail signalled this week that under-used lines including the Gisborne-Napier, Northern Wairarapa, Taranaki and Northland lines could be closed.
KiwiRail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw said it was in discussions with companies that could put more freight on the lines.
The Gisborne-to-Napier line cost $2 million a year to run, with just one freight train a week, occasionally two, using it.
Mr Ramshaw would not provide details of potential customers in Gisborne, but confirmed that there had been discussions with Hikurangi Forest Farms.
Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Fraser Brown labelled New Zealanders' desire to keep small uneconomic lines in service as nostalgic. He said the Gisborne-to- Napier line was not "economically viable" and he would be happy to see it closed.
"Money should be spent extending services at [Gisborne] port. Keep the lines from the port to the mills, and use them to get logs to our port."
Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce wanted the line kept in service, with chief executive Murray Douglas saying it would be needed as "timber processing ramps up over time".
He believed maintaining the Gisborne-to-Napier road under the weight of ever-increasing trucking would be more expensive than keeping the rail.
The lines biggest user, fertiliser manufacturer Ravensdown, had shipped 200,000 tonnes of product along the line in the past 10 years, manufacturing general manager Shane Harold said.
"Ravensdown is very supportive of the rail route. [It] is an easy-to-use transport option ... and reduces the number of trucks on the very busy Napier to Gisborne road."
Pahiatua Railcar Society president Don Selby said Northern Wairarapa would be isolated from the rail network if that line was closed and it would also kill plans to run restored vintage railcars as a tourist venture.
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke said KiwiRail's announcement that the four lines had to be self-sufficient was ominous.
The Taranaki line between Stratford and Ohahukara in the King Country had been closed since November.
"I think we have to admit that the odds are stacked against it ever being used again.
"The trouble is that KiwiRail are not going to reopen the line unless there is a customer."
Strategic Napier to Gisborne rail line at risk of closure
Posted by Max Patmoy
Saturday, 22 May 2010
Closing the Gisborne - Napier rail line is another example of the Budget's
deficit of vision, said the Green Party today.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced the KiwiRail "Turn-around Plan" Tuesday before the Budget, which identified the line as one of four that could be closed or mothballed by 2012.
"It's great that the Government is committed to investing some money in the future of rail freight," said Green Party Transport spokesperson Gareth
Hughes, "but the overall approach to transport spending is very short-sighted and will ultimately make New Zealand even more dependent on costly road transport."
The Ministry of Transport states that rail is 6 times more fuel efficient
than trucks for moving bulk freight.
"The additional safety, congestion and environmental benefits are
substantial.Unfortunately, John Key's Government doesn't seem interested in analysing the costs and benefits of the transport system as a whole," said Mr Hughes.
"The narrow focus on rail lines that already achieve high revenues means
that some strategically important lines, like the North Wairarapa, may be
"Oil prices are rising. We need to invest in rail so that it is a viable
transportation for moving passengers and freight in the future."
Mr Hughes said that closing lines or mothballing lines now, instead of
investing in maintenance, could lead to higher costs in the future.
The Rotorua to Waikato line was mothballed in 2001 because it needed less than $2 million in repairs. In 2008 when a tourism operator investigated reopening the line they found so many sleepers and tracks had been stolen it would cost about $10million to repair and reopen the line.
"The Napier - Gisborne line is of strategic importance because of the future of forestry in the Gisborne region, which needs cost effective access to the Napier port. We want to support a growing industry without forcing heaps of heavy logging trucks onto already unsafe roads," said Mr Hughes.
"We should be investing in rail because it is a more efficient, effective
and cheaper way to move people and goods than costly motorways.
"If John Key's Government wasn't prioritising the Puhoi to Wellsford holiday highway, which currently carries less traffic a day than an arterial road carries in one hour in Auckland and Wellington, we would have plenty of money to bring the rail network up to speed.
"We need to invest more in rail to future-proof our economy and quality of
written by seerob, May 22, 2010
What with Napier's President of Chamber of commerce making the absurd and disgraceful comments of closing the Napier to Gisborne rail link because it is worthless and Minister Steven joyce hell bent on providing a smooth cruise for Aucklanders to drive up to Wellsford for the day, the line is indeed under severe criticism. What is it about New Zealander's in position of importance that they cannot understand the fundamental transport system in any developed country (including motorised USA)is rail and will continue to be rail. It consistently proves to be the most effective means of mass transport for both freight and passengers.
'Don't throw away our rail'
Retaining the Napier to Gisborne railway line is a long-term and sustainable transport solution of economic significance to the East Coast, say some politicians and Gisborne's steam train operators.
KiwiRail announced last week the line would be closed or mothballed if it could not attract substantial customers by 2012, despite a $750 million Government cash injection into the state-owned rail service.
Labour list MP Moana Mackey, from Gisborne, said she was "disappointed" that Gisborne Chamber of Commerce was against the line's retention.
"No one denies that the line will require significant investment to remain viable, especially after so many years of neglect under private foreign ownership.
"But it is not in our region's long-term interest to throw away our rail line.
"This much-lauded funding announcement for KiwiRail of $750 million should be seen in the context of the $11 billion this Government has committed to their so-called 'roads of national significance' - none of which are in our region.
"Imagine what that kind of money could do for our rail network."
The 2008 National Freight Demands Study predicts 75 percent growth in total freight movement by 2031.
Green Party transport spokesman Gareth Hughes said closing the Napier-Gisborne line showed the Government Budget's "deficit of vision".
"The overall approach to transport spending is very short-sighted and will ultimately make New Zealand even more dependent on costly road transport.
"The Napier-Gisborne line is of strategic importance because of the future of forestry in the Gisborne region," Mr Hughes said.
"We should be investing in rail because it is a more efficient, effective and cheaper way to move people and goods than costly motorways."
Gisborne City Vintage Rail Society treasurer Dale Smith said she was appalled at Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Fraser Brown's comments that vintage rail was of little economic benefit.
"What planet was he coming from?
"What's the economic benefit of vintage rail? We have done 27 trips over a quite a short period - 16 up to Beach Loop.
"The tourists all eat, sleep and drink in Gisborne. Without them, cafes and bars would suffer.
"I think Mr Brown should come and have a ride and see what we have got instead of making these comments."
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