Tararua railway line safe for now

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 27/08/2012

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The future of the railway line through Pahiatua looks safe in the short term, although few regular services use the track.

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

But an Official Information Act request to KiwiRail has revealed it is safe for now.

"We have no immediate plans to mothball or close it," a statement said.

The Northern Wairarapa route has been used by Wellington to Palmerston North trains over the past two Christmas periods while maintenance work was undertaken on the busy main trunk line over on the western side of the Tararua Range.

The statement said KiwiRail expected it would need to do more work on the main route so would need the Northern Wairarapa line, which had been brought up to standard and could carry extra volumes of freight.

It is currently used by four to five trains a month between Palmerston North and Wellington, as well as a daily freight shunt between Palmerston North and Pahiatua carrying Fonterra milk powder.

There's also a possibility that logging trains could use the route after a log depot was recently set up at Masterton.

All of this was good news for Pahiatua Railcar Society president Don Selby, who said the track was in good condition.

In the past financial year $300,000 had been spent on maintaining the line.

"We're reasonably comfortable at the moment.

"I think the line is reasonably safe."

The railcar society had recently received a licence that allows it to take its trains on to KiwiRail tracks and Mr Selby said it would likely organise between six and eight trips a year.

Tararua District Mayor Roly Ellis was hopeful more freight could be carried on the line, saying forest plantations around Dannevirke could fill up logging trains in the future.

He also stressed the need for the route as an alternative, should the main Wellington to Palmerston North railroad close.

"You don't really want to have all your eggs in one basket."

Other lightly-used lines in North Auckland, and between Stratford and Okahukura, and Napier and Gisborne were also in danger, with the latter closed for most of this year because of a slip.

The Pahiatua Railcar Society's next outing will be on September 9 to Carterton and it plans to bring a railcar to Palmerston North in early November.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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