PHOTO/FILE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

A potential rail hub near Dannevirke could strengthen the case for upgrading the rail track between Masterton and Woodville.

Plans to evaluate the possibility of a new rail hub were announced by parliamentary under-secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau on Monday as part of a $68 million investment package from the Provincial Growth Fund for Hawke’s Bay.

Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty was delighted by the announcement.

He said the rail hub would help centres like Woodville and Dannevirke, which had been badly affected by the closure of the Manawatu Gorge but could also benefit Wairarapa.

“It’s something the Tararua District Council and wider community have been pushing for some time – not only to service the forestry industry … but also as part of a broader push to connect the regions to the ports.”

It would be good news for the wider region too, as the hub could service parts of northern Wairarapa, southern Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu, he said.

If the track was upgraded, it could potentially enable logs to be transported from northern Wairarapa to Napier’s port.

“We’ve got a hub in Masterton to an extent and that’s going really well. We’ve been trying to get extra carriages on the train to get to Wellington port.”

He said $400,000 had been set aside from the Provincial Growth Fund for government officials to evaluate a hub’s potential, with a further $4m up for grabs for KiwiRail to build the hub at Tapuata, Dannevirke, if deemed viable.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis was equally pleased by the announcement.

“It’s great news. This is a big announcement with a lot of potential.”

It was the start of a conversation about what else could be transported by rail, she said.

Collis said the rail hub could offer new job opportunities as well as reduce logging truck movements on the road, relieving infrastructure.

KiwiRail Deputy Chief Executive Toddy Moyle said they had been considering a hub near Dannevirke for some time and it would help take pressure off the regions’ roads as forestry harvests increased.

This would help improve road safety and save in road maintenance costs, which burden local councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency, said Moyle.

“Not only does rail have 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne than road transport, it would also reduce the number of logging trucks on the roads.”

Collis was also excited by the announcement of $20m worth of funding for the Hawke’s Bay section of road along Route 52 from Waipukurau to Porangahau, after the council missed out on funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency.