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Full service, or end KiwiRail monopoly

Opinion Piece

Re: Signs study will favour rail line link, October 4 story.

Anne Tolley raises a valid question when she asks, can we trust KiwiRail to provide the necessary service?

If the Government is to continue to deny other railway companies the right to run freight trains in New Zealand (which goes against the spirit of every trade agreement we have) then they must be prepared to guarantee that KiwiRail will do it, and at a price competitive with trucking. If they cannot do that, then reopening the line should coincide with removal of KiwiRail’s monopoly right on freight.

For reopening to succeed, KiwiRail must provide an overnight service between Gisborne and Wellington, every weekday night, connecting Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North along the way, with 24-36 hour delivery to Christchurch, Taranaki and Auckland. They must guarantee that locomotives, rolling stock and crews will be made available for this Monday to Friday overnight service, and they must actively market it to any business willing to fill one or more wagons.

During the final few years that KiwiRail operated the Gisborne line, they did not provide a freight service for customers to use. They only allowed Ravensdown and one or two other bulk customers to use their twice-a-week train, and it did not connect with trains south of Napier. For all other customers, KiwiRail loaded their freight into trucks and drove it south to Napier and beyond on State Highway 2, whilst simultaneously telling the public that they were doing everything they could to increase use of the line. That must never be allowed to happen again.

Geoff Blackmore