Mothballing Napier to Wairoa rail line the beginning of the demise of rail in New Zealand?

Published on 11/12/2023 at 6:25 pm.

Opinion - If you are at all interested in New Zealand’s future direction, Railways, civil engineering, infrastructure, bridges, transport and also like a bit of Dire Straits music (Telegraph Road) thrown in while you reflect on the direction our great nation is heading in, then I implore you to have a look at this video shot in early December 2023 by Geoff Mackley.

This is the Napier to Wairoa railway on New Zealand’s North Island that has been closed since February 2023 due to cyclone damage from Cyclone Gabrielle that hit New Zealand. Modest I say as most of the line is fine. There are some fairly big heavy works further down the line in the Esk Valley area to repair but most of it, according to KiwiRail, is eminately repairable at reasonable cost.

The line was partially rebuilt and reopened in 2019 after being disused since 2012 when the railway to Gisborne was closed due storm damage north of Wairoa. It had been used since that reopening for transporting forestry logs to the Port of Napier. Its use was growing prior to Cyclone Gabrielle. Most of the original line was built in the 1920 - 1930’s period. It is a vastly superior alignment to the parallel road, even more damaged than the railway line in the cyclone, and has significant potential. Most of the alignment, bridges or viaducts would never be suitable for road traffic - it is fairly obvious when you look at it. It has some of New Zealand’s most awesome civil engineering that we are known around the World for and is very scenic with much tourism potential.

Now some want to destroy this railway completely, including some of our new prominent central and local Government politicians who are encouraging its ripping up, destroying it effectively for future generations and using small parts of the alignment for roading improvements.

I say enough - we can not let a short term view with acknowledged vested interests by the same leaders in alternative road transport in the region, destroy this marvel of engineering in New Zealand for the sake of a few Million dollars and destroy transport options for the nation that are safer, sustainable and more environmentally friendly than just the alternative roading network.

I will have more to say on the future existential threats that face much of the railways of New Zealand soon, outside the metropolitan areas, as we speak - but that is for another day.

If we let this go for good then goodness knows what else will be gone. It is a thin edge of a very big wedge for the future of much of New Zealand’s Railways. Again I say enough!

In the meantime please have a look, listen, enjoy the reflective music and think about what this nation of New Zealand is about to do to itself, some of its core Infrastructure about to be destroyed, due to lack of vision or insight that it seems a number of our current leaders have! The World is watching!

An opinion by Michael van Drogenbroek a Transport Consultant/Advisor at Heriot-Edievale Ltd with 30 plus years’ experience. Currently, he is working with various clients on rail, public transport, and freight development projects both in New Zealand and overseas jurisdictions including the Middle East.

For further information concerning the points raised in this opinion -

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