KiwiRail offering coastal shipping service in response to quake-affected rail line
KiwiRail has entered the coastal shipping market amid criticism of the Government's support.
The state-owned enterprise is now offering customers a coastal shipping service between Auckland and Christchurch.
"The disruption to New Zealand's key supply route between Auckland and Christchurch will continue for many months as the rail and road links are rebuilt," KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said.
Using existing capacity on ANL shipping's North to South Island line, KiwiRail cargo will be shipped from Auckland's Wiri Inland Port to Lyttelton's Midland Port or the company's Christchurch terminal.
* Quakes send more cargo through Lyttelton as coastal shipping takes up slack
* Freight companies pass on increased quake costs
* Wellington-Christchurch ferry link considered as SH1 quake repairs cause freight chaos
* Trucking companies at a standstill
There are plans to provide a similar service from the South Island to the North Island.
KiwiRail general manager of sales and commercial Alan Piper said the service was a "fairly cost-effective" way of moving freight and will run "as long as there's demand for it".
"There were conversations of freight doubling, but I think it's something in the 500 to 1000 boxes a week that the market's looking to move via coastal, that's over and above what's already going," Piper said.
NZ First transport spokesperson Denis O'Rourke said it took the Kaikoura earthquake to "awaken" the need for a coastal shipping service, "which successive governments have allowed to be run down".
The Government must consider funding KiwiRail roll-on roll-off ferry services between Wellington and Lyttelton, he said.
"State Highway 1 may be out of action for possibly a year or two causing intense congestion on the Lewis Pass route so we need a better freight route.
"I'm not sure Lyttelton has capacity so the Government needs to step to ensure it happens."
O'Rourke said such a service should be permanent.
Meanwhile, the Taxpayers' Union is calling on KiwiRail to disclose the extent of its insurance and expected cost of damage to the South Island rail network from the Kaikoura earthquake.
Taxpayers' Union executive director, Jordan Williams, said KiwiRail was lobbying the Government for funding before the full costs of rebuilding hundreds of kilometres of Kaikoura coastal line becomes clear.
"It knows that previous analysis by the Treasury has questioned the viability of most of the South Island rail network, even prior to the quake.
"Rebuilding the rail needs to be weighed against a higher capacity, or more secure, road corridor inland from the east coast."