Cru­cial rail de­ci­sion awaited

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Cabi­net is ex­pected to know by the end of the month if pro­pos­als to re­open North­land’s partly moth­balled rail­way, and build a new rail spur to North­port, are eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.

Of­fi­cials who have been work­ing on a busi­ness case for up­grad­ing the 250km North Auck­land line, which ex­tends as far north as Otiria, are due to re­port by the end of April.

The fu­ture of North­port is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the rail­way line. With­out up­graded tracks and a new spur from Oak­leigh, a pro­posal to move Auck­land’s con­tainer port to North­land won’t pro­ceed.

Cur­rently one train runs daily from Auck­land to Kauri and back. The rest of the line was moth­balled in 2016, and even the tracks still in use are in poor con­di­tion, while the 13 tun­nels south of Whanga¯rei are too low for mod­ern con­tainer wagons.

The Min­istry of Trans­port, which com­mis­sioned the busi­ness case for the up­grade and the new spur, is say­ing lit­tle un­til the re­port is com­plete.

Rail and freight man­ager Erin Wynne said she ex­pected to pro­vide Min­is­ters with ad­vice on the busi­ness case, and a range of op­tions, by the end of the month. The busi­ness case con­cen­trated on freight, but also ex­am­ined the po­ten­tial for rail tourism. Pas­sen­ger ser­vices in North­land were not con­sid­ered.

Of­fi­cials had con­sulted a ref­er­ence group com­pris­ing lo­cal busi­nesses, po­ten­tial rail users, North­Port, lo­cal govern­ment and iwi in Whanga¯rei, Mo­erewa and Te Hana.

For­mer Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, who led a Min­istry of Trans­port-com­mis­sioned study of wider trans­port links across the up­per North Is­land, which was com­pleted some time ago, said it was “a bit early in the piece” to be talk­ing about mov­ing con­tainer freight from Auck­land to North­port, but the group had con­cluded that do­ing so would be “the best thing that could ever hap­pen to North­land,” al­beit a waste of time with­out rail.

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