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Concern Over Taranaki Rail Link Closure

Press Release from the Campaign For Better Transport

Saturday 7th November

Concern Over Taranaki Rail Link Closure

Transport lobby group the Campaign for Better Transport today announced concern over KiwiRail’s decision last week to mothball the rail line between Taranaki and the Waikato.

"We fear that this could be the thin edge of the wedge, with more line closures to come," said Jon Reeves, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport.

As a consequence of the closure, milk product sourced from Fonterra farms in Taranaki and bound for Tauranga will now travel hundreds of kilometres further, via Marton rather than directly from Stratford.

"As a country we are supposed to be focussed on improving the efficiency of freight and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.  It doesn’t make sense to delay the decision on reopening the line until next year."

KiwiRail CEO Jim Quinn announced last week that repairing the line in the wake of a recent derailment, at a cost of $400,000 cannot be immediately justified, "given that only one return train uses the line a day at present."

But Mr Reeves points out that the reason the line has little use at present is that the track is in such poor condition.  "It has been so run down over the last decade that trains are barely capable of using it. If the line was fixed to a suitable standard then freight and passengers could take advantage a direct link between Taranaki and the Waikato.”

There have been at least seven reported derailments in the last year on the rail link, which runs from Stratford to Okahukura, just north of Taumaranui.

"We agree with the need to close the line temporarily so that the necessary repairs can be carried out safely," said Mr. Reeves, "but we would like to see a commitment from KiwiRail and the Government to reopening the line as soon as  possible."

Mr. Reeves acknowledged that the final bill for bringing the line up to standard could well be over a million dollars, but said that this amount was "peanuts in comparison to the billions being spent on roading infrastructure in this year alone."


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