• Hastings to Napier rail line reopens after Cyclone devastation

Hastings to Napier rail line reopens after Cyclone devastation

The railway line between Hastings and Napier is officially opened after Cyclone Gabrielle.

The section of line between Hastings and Napier, particularly around Awatoto, was badly damaged in the cyclone, with track and embankments washed away, and major damage to Bridge 217, which lost piers and spans in the floods.

The work included rebuilding two-metre-high embankments, replacing 800 sleepers, 140 metres of rail, laying 3,000 cubic metres of formation (the rock foundation under the tracks) and 3,500 tonnes of ballast.

KiwiRail also railed steel casings to Hastings from Christchurch for replacement bridge piers on Bridge 217 – which have been driven 30 metres into the riverbed.

The railway line was opened yesterday and KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says the reopening, which will allow rail freight to once again get to Napier Port, is an important step for the Hawke’s Bay cyclone recovery.

Scheduled freight services will resume on Monday (18 September), following a seven month pause after the rail line was badly damaged in Cyclone Gabrielle.

 “This is another step towards Hawke’s Bay’s recovery from the cyclone, but it is also important for NZ Inc. Napier Port is a key part of central New Zealand’s economy, and to once again get our customers’ freight to and from the port efficiently, and using low-emissions rail, is an important step toward reinstating the Hawke’s Bay supply chain and ensuring the region’s economic success,” Reidy says.

 “A huge amount of credit must go to the dedicated KiwiRail staff, engineers, contractors, and our contracting partners, such as United Civil and local firms like Eastbridge, who have helped to bring the railway back online.”

Napier Port Chief Executive Todd Dawson welcomed the opening of the line through to Napier Port’s operations.

“It’s a fantastic result by KiwiRail and everyone who collaborated in the rebuild, as well as our partners who have supported the interim road-bridging operation set up to keep freight flowing to our port during this time.

“The re-opening will enable imports and exports to move freely on rail to and from Napier Port. This is positive for Hawke’s Bay, but also for cargo owners throughout the North Island who rely on Napier Port and the many international shipping services that call, to move cargo to and from international markets.

“As one of New Zealand’s key international gateways with good capacity across our wharves, Napier Port is a vital link in the New Zealand supply chain. Reinstating the rail line to connect directly through to our container terminal and bulk cargo yards means increased efficiency and service to customers needing to move cargo in and out of the North Island, as well as adding resilience and more value to the NZ Inc supply chain,” Dawson said.

Cargo that is typically carried by rail includes chilled and frozen meat, wood products such as logs, pulp and timber, food products and imported machinery and consumables used in manufacturing.

Following the cyclone in February, KiwiRail reopened the Palmerston North – Gisborne Line to Hastings at the start of April. Temporary Container Terminal sites were also set up in partnership with Napier Port, transport operators and cargo customers so that freight could be railed to Hastings, then trucked to Napier.

“The rail rebuild to Napier has been a major undertaking and, thanks to the commitment of everyone involved, it has been done thoroughly and in good time,” Reidy says.

“It is a great result for the local community and highlights what true collaboration can achieve.”

The rebuild of Bridge 217 is temporary, in order to get rail freight moving as quickly as possible. A permanent new bridge will be designed and built over the next couple of years.