Rail connected Northport could transform golden triangle

Connecting Northport to rail and enabling it to service Auckland bound freight can make a major contribution to the development of the region, said Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones when releasing the business case on Northland rail today.

“The Northland Rail business case, together with the recently released interim report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, present a bold vision for investment in how freight moves around the upper North Island.” Shane Jones said.

“The business case shows how Northland could play a role in transforming New Zealand’s golden triangle – Auckland/Hamilton/Tauranga - into a golden diamond if Northland is once again a fully functioning part of the national rail network.

“At the moment only 1.4% of Northland’s freight moves by rail compared with 7% nationally. This is the result of many years of what both the business case and the supply chain study call ‘managed decline’, including the failures to connect Northport to the main Northland rail line and upgrade tunnels to accommodate modern containers.

“Because of these failures, Northland products are often trucked to Auckland then packed into containers which then move by rail to the Port of Tauranga for export.

“The business case addresses these two problems, beginning with connecting  Northport to the rail network. The business case estimates that a modern and reliable rail network in Northland has the potential to move around 2 million tonnes of freight, taking a lot of trucks off the roads and reducing congestion in Auckland.

“The business case makes a number of recommendations, including seeking more information on freight demand and further engagement with iwi. The most immediately relevant to me as a Minister are their recommendations that:

  • The land acquisition for the rail corridor to Northport be completed and the design for the link to the port be developed in detail, and
  • Ministers seek detailed advice from officials and Kiwirail on how investment in rail could be staged over a four to six year period to facilitate early access to services and to generate revenue from the investment as soon as possible.

“This business case will play a major role in government decision-making about major investments in Northland rail after the final report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study is completed in September,” Shane Jones said.