Ports of Auckland did a press release back in September that didn’t really get picked up on:
Working with KiwiRail, Ports of Auckland has doubled the rail services between its Waitematā seaport and Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub.
The increased service starts this week and will bring the port to the doorstep of importers and exporters in South Auckland, potentially reducing the number of trucks coming into the seaport and opening up more space to handle growing volumes.
Ports of Auckland General Manager Commercial Relationships Craig Sain said, “This is just the beginning. With our developments in Palmerston North and Wiri, we’re on our way to make more effective and increased use of rail to improve our service offering.”
“Containers moved by rail was up by 64% in 2013/14, but it is still a small percentage of the total containers coming through the port. We’d like to see this number grow over the coming years,” he said.
In 2010, with the opening of the Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub, KiwiRail ran four services of 23 wagons a week in each direction. Over time, this number increased to eight services and starting today there will be sixteen services a week.
“There is ample capacity on the line to the Port to increase services further and we will continue to work with KiwiRail to get the most out of the line,” Mr Sain said.
KiwiRail General Manager Sales – Freight Alan Piper said, “Ports of Auckland’s drive to increasingly move freight by rail to its Wiri inland port has seen a rapid increase in growth of daily services this year. This is a great example of KiwiRail working closely with its customers and provide flexible growth capacity to enable more use of rail to transport goods around the country.”
Now sixteen services a week may still not sound significant, but each train can haul about 70 twenty foot equivalent containers. Each train is at least 35 trucks off the road. Take a look at this video – it’s been sped up 4x, since the train is so long:
With freight volumes increasing though, the need for a third track on the Eastern Line (in particular between Wiri and Southdown, with an estimated capital cost of between $50m – $70m) becomes more apparent as passenger services are increasing too. Kiwirail might argue that Auckland Transport should contribute to the cost, but I’ve heard that Kiwirail charge Auckland Transport a track access fee in excess of $18m annually .
As the owner and landlord of the Auckland rail network, it would be fit the current charging model for Kiwirail to invest more in the network, and recover the costs through an increased charge in exchange for higher passenger rail frequencies. This needs to happen before the opening of the CRL if Kiwirail wants to continue to grow its freight operations. Would it be too much to ask that the Goverrnment’s contribution to the CRL be in the form of a capital injection to Kiwirail, so that not only the CRL track could be built, but the third main as well?
On the other hand, $50m – $70m is at the bottom end of NZTA’s project expenditure, so perhaps it could be included as a line item in the freight focussed East-West connection project.