http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/ne ... borne-line wrote:KiwiRail is preparing what could be a final effort to keep the loss-making Napier-Gisborne rail line going.
The line - the only rail link out of Gisborne - carries just one train a week and there have been suggestions it should be turned into a tourist cycleway.
"We're not making any money on the line and there has been speculation that we might close it," KiwiRail commercial manager Aaron Temperton said. "But if you rip up the rails you lose the asset for ever."
Hopes of reviving the line now rest on a plan to make the line capable of carrying bigger "high-cube" containers by opening up two of the tunnels on the route.
A new investigation shows this could be done at relatively low cost.
The ability to carry bigger containers would make rail transport more attractive to many companies. "I'm planning to go to Gisborne for a few days and beat a path to as many prospective customers as we can find," Mr Temperton said. "I'll do that in the next few weeks.
"It's a chicken and egg situation - you can't get the business without the frequency, and you can't get the frequency without the business."
Containerised export goods, raw and processed timber, wine, meat and squash were among cargoes suitable for rail.
Mainline Steam Trust operations manager Michael Tolich said it would be "a huge loss" if the line was closed.
"We run excursions at least once a year, with a train brought up from Plimmerton. It's very scenic and in some ways it rivals the Tranz Alpine line in the South Island.
"We'd do more trips but KiwiRail charges us $30,000 or more each time. If we could get the costs down we could keep an engine in Napier and do regular trips."
The cycleway proposal was not realistic because the route included many climbs and tunnels, and cellphone and radio coverage was limited, Mr Tolich said.