Lines Future: Minister’s Warning


“KiwiRail simply cannot afford to keep lines open to transport fresh air.”
That’s the line Transport Minister Steven Joyce used this week to discuss the question marks that hang over provincial rail lines.
In a speech to a rail conference in Wellington, he singled out the North Auckland Line, currently under a cloud.
He said that that line carries only 3% of the freight task in Northland.
AKT reported this week that it’s estimated that it would cost in the order of $100 million to bring the Northland lines up to an acceptable level of service, including work on the tunnels to enable their use by hi-cube containers which may encourage greater rail freight volumes.
As we know no funding has been allocated for this work and a decision on what will happen is expected to be made by KiwiRail in mid-2012, for implementation later that year.
“Viable anchor customers will need to be found and this is something KiwiRail will be continuing to work on with affected regions,” he said but added: “You can’t put a gun to someone’s head and tell them to use rail,” he said.

This week,  Auckland Council transport committee chair Mike Lee strengthened a resolution before the meeting on the Northland Line.

As passed it read: That the Transport Committee supports (rather than ‘notes’)the Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy supporting inter-regional movement of freight by rail to Northland, in order to maintain maximum resilience for land transport links.”




  1. Joyce Hates Rail says:

    Joyce is just out of his depth as Minister of Transport. He’d be great working for a chartiable trust though and do the fundraising as he know’s how to get money out of donors, kind of like what he does now with the trucking lobby and construction companies.

  2. Luke says:

    Over-exaggerating as usual. Northland line carries several trains a day.
    Official reports to the Minister remind that closing lines is not free, can be cheaper to keep it open for a few years until traffic picks up.

  3. Matt says:

    JHR, Joyce was one of National’s principal fundraisers during the ’05 campaign. It’s one of the reasons he is where he is now. Nicky Hagar refers to him as “National’s bag man” in The Hollow Men.

    So your suggestion is actually quite well made.

  4. Matt says:

    $100m? Is that all? For crying out loud, that’s what they’re spending on scoping Puford.

  5. Patrick R says:

    Remember he has to kill this line to try to desperately push up the ‘need’ for his pet Puford. There are already two roads and one rail line from AK through Wellsford north. Much better to spend 2+billion to end up with three roads instead. That’s resilience and gives the country more options for freight traffic, yeah right.

    NZ is a country rich in electricity and poor in hydrocarbons… so what’s is the best policy: commit us to only burning diesel in the least efficient way. Bonehead.

  6. Luke says:

    As Joyce is saying this the Northern Wairarapa line is in use again this weekend. Costly road bridging would be required if this short 60km length of line is to be shut.

  7. tim says:

    Joyce has a good point though - if no one or not enough customers wants to use the line, why on Earth should it be kept? Why not listen to the potential customers? Use it or lose it folks!

  8. Patrick R says:

    Joyce does not have a point, he has a plan. And that is to remove this competition for his friends and supporters businesses, to kill off any possibility in a rail revival [as is happening globally especially because of the inexorable rise in fuel costs] before it starts.

    If he merely had a point as the Minister charged with running these assets of ours, and with providing security of movement and supply, he would be open to ways of making this line function and in safeguarding its future, its value and its cost effectiveness.

    The prejudices and partiality of this Minister are all too plain to see. In particular he has a problem with the viability of the Puford highway which he has bizarrely commit himself building at any cost. Every vehicle and every container that he can find to help prove the worth of this project must be directed on to Northland’s roads, no matter what damage this causes.

    If he were even handed or working for the whole nation he would not be lobbying for the demise of this line as it is scraping by even as it is. It is not making a vast hole in the country’s coffers. This would at least keep a functioning asset on the books and not willfully diminish the nations capabilities. At the very least we may very well find a renewed enthusiasm for this lower energy intensive network as this decade unfolds. This plan is vandalism.

    And is about politics, not economics.


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>