A logging train going through the Waingawa industrial hub. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE

CHELSEA BOYLE

chelsea.boyle@age.co.nz

The activity around the Waingawa industrial hub has swelled as forestry leaders actively made efforts to transfer the brunt of Wairarapa log transports to rail.

Farman Turkington Forestry have been using the rail hub for over four years and this year will hit the milestone of having shifted over one million tonnes of logs through the rail hub.

Guy Farman said groups using the log rail service had put about 230,000 tonnes of logs down the line last year.

That was about the equivalent of 8200 truck and trailer loads which did not have to go over the Rimutaka Hill Road.

Mr Farman said they would have liked to have moved more logs by rail in 2017 but the hub was “facing some growing pains”.

They wanted to lift the rail capacity by about another 20 to 25 per cent this year, he said.

“We’re looking at adding some more weekend trains in when the passenger rail service is quiet.

“Unfortunately, the railway line requires a lot of repairs and maintenance and KiwiRail often need to plan their repairs and maintenance work during this time.”

On top of that, there was a shortage of additional rail wagons available and all the new log wagons that KiwiRail had bought had been allocated to other regions ahead of Wairarapa.

“A silver lining from the earthquake last year, which did a significant amount of damage to CentrePort, has provided an opportunity to review the port layout which will allow for more log ship berths, increase log storage and increase the length of log trains on to the port.

“Most of these developments will hopefully come into effect in 2018.”

As an industry, they were conscious of the affect logging trucks had on drivers using the Rimutakas and they were continually exploring ideas to minimise this where they could, Mr Farman said.

Truck drivers going over the Rimutakas made an effort to allow cars to pass when they could, he said.

It was always pleasing when motorists recognised this with a “couple of toots”.

McCarthy Transport Masterton hub manager Stan Sayer said they put about 1000 tonne of logs a day on the railway.

“We couldn’t truck it all over to Wellington,” he said.

“There’s not enough trucks in New Zealand to truck it all down to Wellington.”

There was still too much being trucked over the Rimutaka hill, he said.

CentrePort general manager Blair Spencer said they had been flat out taking wood in and out of the Waingawa hub.

“The volume of wood coming out of forestry is increasing year- on -year,” he said.

“Really what we are looking to do is expand the volume out of the yard, so we put on more rail services.

“There are still trucks carting wood in and out of the yard, but we have more wagons on the rail and more services on the rail to enable us to get more wood to the port.”

Positive feedback from truck drivers about using the logging hub had been received.

“They prefer that, they prefer taking it to the yard because obviously it’s a long haul over the hill and back.”