Freight closure 'logical'
It might signal the end of the line for Dargaville, but an infrastructure and engineering business document suggests plans are afoot to move the logging freight hub to Tangowahine.
The plan suggests the final 15km of the Dargaville rail line will be closed with a railhead created at Tangowahine and the line upgraded so it can do two daily return low-speed shunts to Portland.
Northland Regional Council growth and infrastructure manager Vaughan Cooper says the report was meant to be an internal document but was released publicly.
"There is no formal position from KiwiRail, no public statement that it is going to occur," he says.
But closing the last 15km of the Dargaville line is logical, Mr Cooper says.
"It seems Tangowahine is a logical place to have a loading point because it is central for forestry.
"The last 15km is quite lightweight and when you combine that with the logical collection point, you'll get more logs coming into the area."
A railhead is a point where freight is loaded on to rail. It is called a head because it is the end of the line as opposed to a siding or yard, which is so named because the line passes through it.
Mr Cooper says he does not know where the suggested railhead will be sited in Tangowahine if the suggestion goes ahead, but the logs would be stored there.
The business plan outlines the risks, opportunities and priorities for rail over the next 30 years.
The North Auckland rail line, which has been on the chopping block since 2011 as KiwiRail looks at ways to cut costs, is on track to stay open but with minimum service and maintenance to keep it open.
The regional council has been trying to gather information about the North Auckland line and potential users so KiwiRail can make an informed decision about its future, Mr Cooper says.
In a report to the regional transport committee, he says KiwiRail now sees there is a market opportunity in Northland. Given capital upgrade costs are much lower than originally anticipated, the situation merits further investigation.