Plan for rivals to share terminal

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 09:17 22/07/2014

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Rivals KiwiRail and Bluebridge could be operating from the same ferry terminal in Picton under a proposed port redevelopment plan.

A briefing note from a Picton think tank looking at the township's future now it has been confirmed the Cook Strait ferries will stay and not move to Clifford Bay, says the port company would prefer one ferry terminal for both companies.

"Both the Interislander and Bluebridge are looking at new vessels."

Port Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb said yesterday the idea had "a lot of merit".

It would reduce the cost of building to serve the two companies, and would have "operational efficiencies" as well, he said.

"It's just about whether we can get the operators to accept that at the end of the day."

However, what the two companies intended to do with their fleets could affect what was built, particularly if KiwiRail moved away from having rail on the ferries.

McNabb said KiwiRail had been talking for three years about "road bridging" both sides of Cook Strait, where rail freight was moved onto trucks to travel Cook Strait on the ferries and then moved onto rail at the other end.

It did it for Kaitaki, which doesn't have rail onboard, while Aratere was away, he said. "I think it's a good move."

The company confirmed it was looking at all options, including having an "intermodal operation", using "road bridging".

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said an intermodal operation for rail freight, using road bridging, "had certainly been proven" during the dry docks of Arahura and Aratere in the past few years.

"This gives us the option of considering both roll on/roll off and rail enabled ferries. It's fair to say all options are being actively considered at present."

Kaitaki had been chartered from British-based P&O Lines for four years until 2017 with an option for a further three years, she said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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