KiwiRail battles to clear Kaikoura slips
KiwiRail said work teams were trying to clear the Kaikoura main north line as quickly as possible after huge slips closed the highway and railway between Picton and Christchurch.
But it was unlikely trains would be running next week, and meantime, operating hours at the Blenheim freight hub would be extended to support transport of freight by trucks through the cen- tral South Island, main north line project director Walter Rushbrook said.
Road Transport Association chief executive Dennis Robertson said trucks were again restricted to using the central South Island Lewis Pass route, and encountering delays due to road repairs there too.
Robertson said the Kaikoura rail line had only been operating since last October so there had not been much of a switch of freight from trucks to rail, which was more suited to containers and bulk freight.
Most trucking firms had continued to use the Lewis Pass route because of contracts with customers and delays and unreliability of the Kaikoura route.
Robertson acknowledged the enormous efforts by NZTA contractors and KiwiRail to reopen the Kaikoura link late last year, and again this week
About 300,000 cubic metres of material was spread across 60 sites from Parnassus to Clarence during Cyclone Gita.
KiwiRail remains under financial pressure. Its half-year loss of $193m reported this week included an impairment of $190m relating to its rail assets. The rail network does not generate sufficient cashflows to cover the level of required investment and a large proportion of their value must be written off each reporting period.
KiwiRail transports about 25 per cent of the country’s exports and supports tourism.