Pahiatua rail link looking up

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 07/02/2012

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The future of the railway line through Pahiatua is looking up.

Two years ago KiwiRail announced the historic line from Masterton to Woodville could be mothballed, as the rail operator tried to balance its books.

Other lightly-used lines in North Auckland, and between Stratford and Okahukura, and Napier and Gisborne were also in danger.

But Pahiatua Railcar Society president Don Selby was positive about the northern Wairarapa line's future.

"There's a lot of work being done. I believe the line is in the best order it's been in many years."

It was also a valuable alternate route for trains heading north from Wellington.

"I think KiwiRail's attitude to it now is it's a valuable piece of track," Mr Selby said.

Tararua mayor Roly Ellis was also upbeat, saying many trees planted in the district would mature soon and would require transport – possibly by rail – to Napier's port.

"KiwiRail know our feelings about it all. We'd be horrified for it to be closed down."

In 2010, the Government railway operator said the line cost about $2m a year to run, despite there being no scheduled freight services.

KiwiRail spokeswoman Kimberley Brady said that since then, about $1.5m had been spent on upgrading the line, including repairs to a dozen bridges.

"The line is continuing to be maintained to be fit for purpose. The cost for the general maintenance for the 2010-11 financial year was around $200,000."

During the dairy season, there was a daily Fonterra service between Palmerston North and Pahiatua. Trains from Wellington had been diverted for the past three weeks to allow maintenance work on the capital's tracks, Ms Brady said.

Total freight on the line had increased from 74,031 tonnes in the 2009 financial year to 97,139 tonnes in 2011, although that was inflated by a 10-day closure of the Manawatu Gorge railway line due to a slip.

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- Manawatu Standard

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