Forestry and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones visited the Waingawa Rail Hub on Tuesday as the first 45-wagon log train headed to Wellington. PHOTOS/ELI HILL
KiwiRail says rail and road work together
Longer log trains travelling from Wairarapa to Wellington made their debut on Tuesday under the gaze of Forestry and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones.
Jones, along with representatives from KiwiRail, CentrePort, the forestry sector, and district councils went to the Waingawa Rail Hub to watch the 800m train set off for Wellington.
The number of wagons moved by the link’s two log trains each day have increased from 30 to 45, growing the trains’ capacity by around 40 per cent, according to KiwiRail.
Moving another 100,000 tonnes of logs by rail from Wairarapa to CentrePort benefits the region and means 6000 fewer truck trips annually, Jones said.
“The industry has been clear there is a lot of potential to grow harvest export volumes from Wairarapa, but not without beefing up the supply chain.
“Not only are these log trains supporting the forestry industry to get its goods to market, the increased rail capacity reduces carbon emissions.”
Jones said he had been “personally lobbied” to move more logs off trucks.
“That’s not a declaration of war, not animus towards truck drivers – we can’t even find enough Kiwi truck drivers to drive the trucks we’ve got.
“I think commuters will be happy to see fewer trucks struggling over the Remutaka Hill.”
Jones said he suspected that more forest owners would harvest once the infrastructure has improved.
“Log harvests in the southeastern section of the North Island are predicted to increase to 1.65 million tonnes [a year] in the next five years and stay that way into the 2030s. Trucks alone won’t be able to manage the future harvest volumes,” he said.
“I see a real opportunity to get even more export logs on to rail. We need to take a more inter-modal approach to transport and make greater use of rail and hubs like Waingawa.
“This mode-neutral approach helps realise the government’s ambitions to grow our forestry sector, reduce emissions, and get rail back on track.”
KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller also attended the launch.
“Last year KiwiRail moved 267,000 tonnes of export logs from Wairarapa to CentrePort,” Miller said.
“Our log trains already avoid about 16,000 log truck journeys into Wellington each year.
“Not only does this help reduce congestion on the highways, it also reduces road maintenance costs, and transport emissions – given rail has 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried than trucks.”
KiwiRail is working with CentrePort and the forestry industry on the potential of further capacity increases from the Waingawa hub.
The Government has also announced potential funding for another log hub in Dannevirke.
“This is a great example of taking a multi-modal approach to transport. Trucks transport logs from the forest to the Waingawa hub but rail covers the distance to CentrePort,” Miller said.
“It shows how rail and road can work effectively together to create economic and social benefits for the people of the wider Wellington region.”