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It’s a rebuild, not repairs


Re: Rail about opportunities, March 24 letter.

Meredith, you say you are aware of the damage to the Gisborne to Wairoa rail link. Does this mean you and the Rail Action Group have physically surveyed the damage from Gizzy to Nuhaka? I have my doubts.

Please answer this question; don’t drift off to Motu, or the port. The subject is the dead rail link that I am saying will never be rebuilt.

It is not about the cost of the line repairs, it is about the cost of the rebuild. It has been nine years, so to get your dreams going you need structural engineering plans drawn up, and probably overseas engineers brought in. Then you can get a fairly true estimated cost to rebuild the rail link. I would hate to think what that exercise would cost — way more than the $600,000 that it cost for the Berl report. Time frame to get this going? At least one year.

My opinion is you cannot spend $200 million on an uneconomic rail link for it to continually slip into the river or the ocean. When you have 500 trucks a week going past Nuhaka climbing to 700 in three years time, the only way out is to pour money into the Gizzy to Napier road structure. Heaps more passing lanes etc. To get more trucks off the road you may have to slip in coastal freighters.

Before the rail link died a huge expense went into lowering the rail lines through the tunnels. After that my observation was quite often 12 to 16 containers passing through Kopuawhara each day, some of them empty.

I suggest Meredith, instead of wasting time sitting in an office discussing the rail link, book the rail bikes and ride the Opoutama to Nuhaka line, then the Muriwai to Beach loop run. Shout May Ruby and I will come as well. Then you will have grounds for organising a public meeting then the big march.

If your dream is to have the link open, my guess is you would be lucky to take 100 trucks off the road per week.

Merv Goodley

  1. Bob Hughes says:

    Hi Merv,
    I repeat some of my online comment to Ruby’s letter that sparked this conversation.
    From the 2019 Berl report: “Consequently, our recommended option is for the community and associated stakeholders to pursue the reinstatement of the Tūranga ki Wairoa rail line; to a resilient standard; to deliver regular containerized and log freight services . . . utilising the rail corridor”.
    It is not a dream to say: “bringing in the rail link will get rid of logging trucks”.

    1. Ken Ovenden says:

      Thank you Merv, the facts are that the Gisborne to Wairoa line has been disused, left to rot and slide downhill caused by erosion, sleepers left rotting and misaligned, huge drop-outs which would cost $millions to repair, bridges to be replaced to come up to 2021 standards, no loading yard except for Wairoa? And Gisborne, economic? Trucks still have to bring logs out of the forests, as there are no rail branch lines to Gizzy. Why then double handle, when you have the logs on-site ready to load. More important, do not take the trade from your own wharf and give it to another. If Bob and Ruby want to see a choo choo train, drive to Auckland and get on the Auckland-Wellington train – have a real holiday because your dream of Gizzy to Wairoa is, sorry, not a reality.

  2. Richard says:

    It’s been 9 years of political procrastination and anti-rail doom sayers lead by MG, and not forgetting the negativity of KiwiRail whose lack of an entrepreneurial marketing boardroom blinds them to identifying and harnessing the commercial viability of the line. That’s the nine year root cause of the escalating costs of reinstating the rail line to Gisborne and not the damage caused by the original wash-outs.

    In May 2015 I wrote an “Opinion” piece in the Herald that any “feasibility” study undertaken by a domestic consultancy will naturally be subject to bias and ridicule – as have all previous studies. Historically both the KiwiRail and Berl studies were highly partisan in their corresponding inputs and conclusions based on historical data.

    Therefore, if there is an insistence that yet more time and money be unnecessarily consumed on this principle of feasibility then it must be done by an neutral internationally recognised experienced body. Advising that, in 2015 I put forward either the internationally recognised transport engineering bodies “Steer Davies Gleave” or “Arup” consultancies. MG you are nine years too late to pick up that mantle. And the fundamental question to answer is not only identifying the cost of rebuilding the rail line, but, will reinstatement be a pragmatic decision for the region.

    Any new research needs to examine the market potential(s) of both freight and passenger of the here and now, and look over the horizon on a 10yr forecast. It must disregard historical data because the NZ rail business was deliberately run to ruin by both government policies and management teams that lacked vision. Together those two parties were totally incompetent and some may argue that they still are.

    The future of the Gisborne line should not be a debate indetermined by the number of coastal freighters or trucks on or off the road. Or irrationally by the number of bicycles on a rail trail. Rail must make its own viability clear. Can train operations stand on their own – competitively and sustainably. Only as I actively proposed in 2015 can that be determined by appointing an independent internationally recognised professional body.

    Rather than just MG’s continual “observations and guesses” of the damaged line what is known is that no previous study authored by KiwiRail or Berl has included both freight and passenger operations. My own conclusion is that the rail line will not be feasible if it is only rebuilt to convey freight. Freight volumes alone will not sustain the line’s annual maintenance costs.

    It is known however that there are those who are willing to risk their own capital in an entrepreneurial rail freight venture and have said so on numerous occasions within the pages of the Herald over the past nine years. Furthermore, there are other privateer parties waiting in the sidings willing to venture their capital to run daily passenger train services to/from Gisborne – Wellington once the line is reopened as a first phase to the reintroduction of rural passenger rail services across Aotearoa if the line is relaid to support the conveyance of modern passenger rolling stock.

    Combined freight and passenger traffic volumes could potentially return revenues that will justify the rebuilding of the line. It is presumptuous before any truly independent clinical engineering and commercialization examination of the line has been made to state boldly that “there are not enough customers to support the Gisborne line.”

    One should not view historic performances, both freight and passenger, by previous incompetent operators as the benchmark and guarantor of the future failure of the line.

  3. Martin Kibble says:

    Hah! On the Mike Hosking radio show today the Minister was quizzed about the ‘new passenger service’ from Hamilton to Auckland and why it takes two and a half hours. The Minister replied ‘The country needs rail’ and we need to support rail blah-blah-blah. If that were the case that ‘new passenger service’ should have been a high-speed line and the Gisborne to Wairoa line would be fixed. New Zealand looks like the third world when it comes to transport overall!

    1. Richard says:

      “New” – you mean refurbished 1980’s heavy rolling stock hauled by old technology diesel locomotive power. Nothing modern about that service including the slow slow journey time.

      Well for the antique KiwiRail board I suppose for them it is classified as new!

      1. Martin Kibble says:

        Hence the piss take “New Passenger Service” reference Richard.
        As an even better reference, The line and technology was more up to date in 1974 when as a school kid we travelled to camp at Opoutama on a freshly-painted red rail car. Perhaps the Minister and “antique KiwiRail board” should travel to Japan to reference “Modern Technology Rail” that is timed to the second-hand (on the face of a clock!)

  4. Clive E Rivers, Whanganui says:

    Here we go again, MG and all his anti-rail attitude.
    One has to remember what this all about is the future climate change.
    The Govt has stated its climate change policies, one being fossil fuel reduction.
    Countless exhaust-belching trucks leaving Gisborne for points south is a classic example of what should not be happening.
    World governments have already expressed their urgent concerns regarding fossil fuel emissions and are currently promulgating processes to further reduce those issues. Hydrogen and electric-powered vehicles are the way forward and in the case of KiwiRail it will be electrification of the rail network.
    The Govt needs to wrest back control of KiwiRail from the current (truck favouring and background) CEO and walk the talk.
    The Gisborne line lying unused is in itself a national disgrace.

    1. Richard says:

      Clive the cost of electrification is prohibitive for rural lines to be sustainable. It does need hydrogen motive power and low weight modern passenger rolling stock on the Gisborne line. This is possible and across Europe such services to regional communities are operating. There will also be a commuter HMU operating the California on new tracks starting 2024.

  5. Gillian Ward (Chair, Gisborne Rail Action Group) says:

    Merv, your offer of guiding people along the rail line is unnecessary. The line is well known and understood in detail by many people – mana whenua, freight logistics experts, rail operators, rail engineers, historians, economists, horticulturalists, etc. Your opinions regarding repair, rebuild, costs, etc, are also unnecessary.
    The 2019 BERL report “Tūranga ki Wairoa Rail – Feasibility study into reinstatement of rail line” is easily accessible to all: https://berl.co.nz/our-mahi/reconnecting-gisborne. It is easy to read, and I recommend that you do read it.
    In financing this study, the Government required the questions regarding geological/engineering repair solutions, feasibility, benefits, costs, and social and cultural wellbeing, to be answered. The answers have been provided by the most qualified and experienced people in Aotearoa. In addition, the Climate Change Commission’s draft report notes that more freight and people movements should be by rail.
    The benefits to be gained by repairing and reinstating the rail line are clear – what is needed now is a decision from the Government to invest in a resilient repair of this rail line.