How Many More Regional Rail Lines Will Close?(Updated)


The government has confirmed that May’s budget will contain a package of measures to improve KiwiRail’s position, after its latest half-yearly accounts, revealed this week, showed it had fallen short of its target by two-thirds.

The budget measures are expected to involve capital investment and mothballing some regional lines.
Already, consideration is being given to mothballing northern Wairarapa and Napier to Gisborne rail lines.

Long-term, the government is contemplating what business future it wants for KiwiRail, the buy back of which National has always opposed.

Today, Labour’s Darren Hughes said closing regional lines is what the previous owners, Toll, had planned to do and it is one of the reasons Labour bought KiwiRail.

“We didn’t want to see future options for New Zealand’s growth being choked off through a lack of foresight. A modern rail system is vital for New Zealand’s economic future.
“With the rising cost of petrol and the threat of global climate change, New Zealanders know we have to use more efficient transport methods. “This is especially true for regional economies. The communities who have already lost their rail services know the pain that closures can cause.”

He said that apart from wanting to close regional rail lines, National had not come up with “a single new idea” to support rail since coming into office and that this must be “the only country in the world that had an economic stimulus package that deliberately excluded rail.”

The Labour MP said that once these lines are gone, it’s very difficult to bring them back. “The early rail builders in NZ had vision, something this National Government seems proud of not having.”

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has been quoted this week as saying that lines, which had little or no traffic, could be ‘suspended’ until there was enough demand to reopen them.

Back in November, KiwiRail’s decision to mothball the rail line between Taranaki and the Waikato led Campaign for Better Transport”s Jon Reeves to predict that “ths could be the thin edge of the wedge, with more line closures to come.”
At the time, KiwiRail’s CEO Jim Quinn said that repairing the line in the wake of a recent derailment, at a cost of $400,000 couldn’t be immediately justified, “given that only one return train uses the line a day at present.”

The Rail and Maritime Transport union says mothballing lines puts emergency routes at risk and opens the door to a further loss of skilled workers.

Wayne Butson, RMTU General Secretary said the minister  should focus on working with KiwiRail on an economic development plan for the rail network, that looks to the long-term, rather than a process of ‘managing’ it into extinction by systematic mothballing it disappearing.”

He said that many railway lines are needed as backup alternative routes in emergencies, such as the North Wairarapa line in respect of the Manawatu gorge.

“Rail’s strength is its national network, and just like humans amputation of its limbs will end its mobility and flexibility to meet demand in the future.”


KiwiRail falls 66% short of target

D-Day for Stratford line

More closures ahead?




  1. ingolfson says:

    “to improve KiwiRail’s position”

    Don’t you just love the Orwellian doublespeak? Love is hate.

    I’m interested what capital investments they are proposing in rail. Interested as in “cynical”.

  2. Jon C says:

    @ingolfson To be fair, “improve KiwiRail’s position” was my polite expression for the situation!

  3. Damo says:

    Any more rail closures would be very sad for NZ in general. While most countries’ rail networks thrive, ours has become rundown thanks to decades of neglect and mismanagement. Small wonder people are leaving this country in droves - we lack the courage to do it right.

  4. Ian says:

    It is sobering to think that many of the lines under threat don’t have a single station on them other than their terminus station. I was in North Auckland recently and the line beyond Whangarei looked as though it hadn’t seen a train for a long time. Very sad.

  5. Jeremy Harris says:

    More evidence Joyce is economically dangerous… We will be fixing up his mistakes and paying back the debt for his wasteful grand schemes for decades…

  6. Luke says:

    The line north of whangarei is used daily, just for logs however. Also the trains look like they’re something from the 60′s though, all four wheel wagons.

  7. jarbury says:

    Luke, that’s because the trains ARE from the 60s!

  8. Luke says:

    Thats not fair, the newest diesel locos are only 30 years old….
    The trains operating within northland are especially bad. See


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