Connecting Northport to rail and enabling it to service Auckland bound freight can make a major contribution to the development of the region, said Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones when releasing the business case on Northland rail today.
“The Northland Rail business case, together with the recently released interim report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, present a bold vision for investment in how freight moves around the upper North Island,” says Shane.
“The business case shows how Northland could play a role in transforming New Zealand’s golden triangle – Auckland/Hamilton/Tauranga - into a golden diamond if Northland is once again a fully functioning part of the national rail network.
“At the moment only 1.4% of Northland’s freight moves by rail compared with 7% nationally. This is the result of many years of what both the business case and the supply chain study call ‘managed decline’, including the failures to connect Northport to the main Northland rail line and upgrade tunnels to accommodate modern containers.
“Because of these failures, Northland products are often trucked to Auckland then packed into containers which then move by rail to the Port of Tauranga for export.
“The business case addresses these two problems, beginning with connecting Northport to the rail network. The business case estimates that a modern and reliable rail network in Northland has the potential to move around 2 million tonnes of freight, taking a lot of trucks off the roads and reducing congestion in Auckland.
“The business case makes a number of recommendations, including seeking more information on freight demand and further engagement with iwi. The most immediately relevant to me as a Minister are their recommendations that:
• The land acquisition for the rail corridor to Northport be completed and the design for the link to the port be developed in detail, and
• Ministers seek detailed advice from officials and Kiwirail on how investment in rail could be staged over a four to six year period to facilitate early access to services and to generate revenue from the investment as soon as possible.
MetroPort. Photo: KiwiRail
KiwiRail applauds recognition in the Northland Rail Business Case, released today, of the strategic value of a viable rail network for the region.
"We are pleased that this business case recognises rail's critical role supporting regional economic development and potential to grow Northland's export GDP," says KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller.
“You only need look to the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty where the development of key export industries in the 1950s to 70s - dairy, forestry and horticulture - were matched by Government investment in rail with the Te Rapa yard, Kinleith and Murupara branch lines and the Kaimai tunnel.
"Those projects ensured strong connections to Tauranga's port and the rest is history,” says Greg.
"With those same industries now developing in Northland, the region will need a modern rail network to make sure supply chains are in place.
"Northport is, other than Nelson, the only key port that does not have a rail connection and as a result Northland's railway lines are underused.
"The newest parts of the North Auckland rail line are almost 100 years old, and the oldest parts up to 140 years old. Without investment, the line will likely need to close within the next three to five years, because of the state of its infrastructure. That would mean even more heavy vehicles on the region's roads,” says Greg.
"Rail is a driver of economic development and jobs through our freight network, tourism services and the passenger services we enable.
"We also deliver the wider benefits rail brings to regions such as taking trucks off the road, reducing road maintenance costs, improving road safety and producing fewer carbon emissions.
"We have supported the business case with work to better understand what is needed to bring the existing lines up to a modern standard and advancing design of a rail connection to Northport,” says Greg.
“This business case will play a major role in government decision-making about major investments in Northland rail after the final report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study is completed in September,” says Shane Jones.