The Campaign For Better Transport is calling on the Government to urgently reopen a direct rail link to the Taranaki region.
The 143km rail link runs from Stratford to Okahukura, near Taumaruni and has been mothballed since the end of last year following a number of derailments. As a result, Fonterra milk products now travel 200km further between Taranaki and the Port of Tauranga.
Spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport, Cameron Pitches, says it is vital the link is reopened.
“It would be incredibly short-sighted to close it. This rail link is a the only alternative route between Auckland and Wellington for the main trunk line. If there is a washout or a volcanic event, rail freight between these two cities will be stuck,” said Mr Pitches.
“In the future there are large areas of logs to be felled close to the rail route and there are even coal deposits in the region.”
KiwiRail says it will need less than $15 million spent on upgrading the line over the next 3 years to have it up to full operational standards capable of carrying freight and tourist services.
“It’s an incredibly scenic, unspoilt part of the country,” said Mr. Pitches. “For a country that prides itself on tourism and a clean green image, it should be a no-brainer.”
“We also know from the experience of the Rotorua line closure that once a line is closed, it becomes exponentially more expensive to reopen due to deterioration and theft.”
“It is galling that tens of millions of dollars have been spent already on economically unviable projects such as the Puhoi to Wellsford highway, yet we struggle to maintain a basic rail network. Oil prices continue to be volatile – having a functioning rail network is an excellent hedge against future declines in oil supply.”
KiwiRail has insisted that closure of the line is not a foregone conclusion, and is taking submissions on the decision until this Friday. The Campaign for Better Transport is urging concerned members of the public to send submissions to Kevin Ramshaw at KiwiRail –