Estimated $500k impact on trucking business

A truck using the Remutaka Hill section of State Highway 2. Haulage companies may face loss of earnings after announcements of further closures on the road. PHOTO/LOGAN BARHAM

MARCUS ANSELM

marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

A Wairarapa business may lose up to $500,000 in potential earnings due to upcoming planned closures of the Remutaka Hill.

The 14km stretch between Featherston and Kaitoke would be closed for essential maintenance including three five-night stretches in November, January, and May.

There are also single night closures over the next year, beginning next month and for one-off nights in April, July, and September 2020.

Spokespeople from impacted industries said they would have to take the hit that comes with closed roads, despite a consultation process between the New Zealand Transport Agency [NZTA], contractors and industry representatives.

McCarthy Transport is one of the region’s biggest haulage firms and deals with forestry, moving logs to Wellington’s port from Wairarapa.

They may face a loss of revenue and potential earnings of up to $500,000 based on the previous road closures, the company’s chief operating officer Darren Lightburn said.

The road was closed overnight for several nights earlier this year.

The closures would have “a significant impact on the business and the wider industry by closing a week at a time,” he said.

“We’re the larger carrier, so some of the other businesses would have not have that much of a financial impact, but as a percentage of your workload, it will probably be the same for the others.”

He said the impacts for industry were costly and the closures came at times that could have been avoided.

“One of the flow-on effects of us not being able to run trucks at night time is that wood then starts to build up in the bush, and that becomes a health and safety issue in the bush.

“We’ve also got drivers employed just for the night shift.

“The trucks are used during the day and the same trucks are used for the night shift.

“For those weeks, for those night shift drivers, we don’t have work for them to keep them employed.

“We need to pay them to keep them employed and on it goes again.”

Lightburn said NZTA and others had “engaged with business but I question how much of it they’ve listened”.

“Because of the financial impact it’s going to have on us as a business is significant. Not just us as a business, but the industry. There’s that much wood that needs to be carted, it can’t all be carted during the day, it needs to be carted at night.”

He said the company had “invested significantly” in a new yard in Masterton and additional staff for night work.”

Lightburn also said early morning traffic would increase after the road reopened at 4am.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said the health and safety of road workers and cutting down on “stop-go operations”, such as temporary traffic lights and single lane closures, was a priority.

Pauling said motorists needed to “do a lot of forward planning and that’s going to stop people racing over.

“That’s exactly what they don’t want, increased speeds.

“It’s a matter of planning and adjusting your timetable and your plans accordingly.”

He said that he appreciated and “felt for” heavy transport services, but said they needed to put things in place to mitigate the road closures at night.

“I know there’s about 30 or 40 trucks that go over there at night and there’s really no answer I can see if they want the work to be done quicker.”

Graham Farr is campaigning for a tunnel through the Remutaka Range.

He said the tunnel would ease pressure on the hill road.

“One of the things people have asked is “would the hill stay open if a tunnel was put through?”, and the answer to that is yes, because there’s a worldwide rule about dangerous goods which NZTA has to comply to,” he said.

“And this is why the Lyttleton Tunnel was allowed dangerous goods through it until the Sumner road reopened this year.”

A limited shuttle service would be available to night shift workers and other commitments.

  • Email remutaka@nzta.govt.nz for further information.
  • NZTA recommend using their online Journey planner: journeys.nzta.govt.nz/wellington or following their social media sites for up to date information — facebook.com/nztawgtn or twitter.com/nztawgtn.
  • Phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) for help.

 

SH2 closures

Sunday, November 10

Sunday, November 24, finishing 4am Friday, 29

Sunday, January 12, finishing 4am Friday, 17

Sunday, April 5

Sunday, May 3, finishing 4am, Friday 8

Sunday, July 12

Sunday, September 13