Ravensdown moves from rail to road

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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Napier is likely to see an increase in truck traffic along Marine Parade after a decision by the city's Ravensdown plant to stop using rail.

The plant at Awatoto has used a rail siding since the 1950s. But the company said KiwiRail raised its charges to an "unreasonable" level, and all fertiliser would now be carried by truck or ship. The last train left the plant on July 8.

A company spokesman said Ravensdown had been committed to the rail link as a transport option, but "the reality is that 85 per cent of the product being shipped from Napier has been freighted by road or coastal ship for the past three years".

He said the company had been in discussion with KiwiRail for months to try to keep rail as an option, but a workable solution could not be found due to "KiwiRail's insistence that we pay more for the upkeep of their rolling stock".

"Their wagons are old and maintenance was getting more expensive for them, so they sought to recover that from Ravensdown as we are the only remaining users of this rolling stock.

"This led to them proposing a rail freight rate that was just uneconomic. If more businesses had used the rail freight option over the years, then of course those maintenance costs would have been spread more evenly."

The spokesman said there were 180 rail trips from the plant last year.

The increase in truck traffic using Marine Parade to access the Port of Napier was likely to further aggravate some residents, who wanted the trucks to use an alternative, longer route.

The spokesman said it was difficult to calculate the likely increase in traffic, as this would depend on how much freight was shifted to coastal transport.

KiwiRail said it "would not discuss commercial arrangements with individual customers publicly", but added that the rail line would continue to be used for "considerable other freight" between Napier and Palmerston North, particularly from forestry.

Freight general manager sales Alan Piper said the two companies "had reached an amicable decision to cease transacting because of significant costs that needed to be incurred by both parties to continue the arrangement".

"KiwiRail is a state-owned enterprise and, as such, has a duty to act in a commercial fashion. In this instance, there were significant upfront costs to be incurred by both parties to be able to continue to trade, and neither party wished to do that - it just didn't make financial sense for either party."

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- The Dominion Post

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