That’s the message from KiwiRail concerning the Napier-Gisborne line, with the railroad currently losing money on every train. In addition to these operating losses, which cannot continue much longer, about $15M will need to be spent on infrastructure maintenance and improvements over a 10 year period.

That’s the bad news.

The good news, as reported by HB Regional Council chair Alan Dick, is that KiwiRail and the region’s political and business leaders seem to be on the same page regarding the economic potential for the line if a full-court press is made to develop additional freight and scenic travel business. For its part, KiwiRail is undertaking an intensive survey of past, present and potential future customers.

Out of a recent meeting of the region’s political, business and transport poobahs in Gisborne, organised by Chairman Dick, came agreement to set up a working party including the Hawke’s Bay Regional Transport Committee, its Gisborne counterpart, Napier and Gisborne Port representatives, the two Chambers of Commerce, and other targeted participants to work with KiwiRail over the next three months on strategy and feasibility.

In his article in the current BayBuzz Digest, Bay Transport Choices Under Threat, Alan Dick makes the case for revitalising the rail link. His conclusions:

  • We must maintain choice in land transport modes;
  • We need rail to keep competitive pricing pressure on road operators and vice versa;
  • Economic development opportunities will be compromised without rail;
  • Safety on the Napier/Gisborne road will be more and more compromised with more and more trucks.

Tom Belford

Join the Conversation


  1. Please let everyone know what we can do to help with this important matter – it would be so good to have the passenger service restored.

  2. One would have thought it was feasible to combine a scenic passenger carriage or two with scheduled freight trains.

    Intercity coach lines do both to make them more viable. There is not only the spectacular vista on the train route but also the hisory of the opening of the provinces to provide a commentary as with Arthur's Pass Scenic train.

    There could be a traditional Maori welcome at Gisborne, Wairoa and Napier

    With flair and imagination it could provide a useful contribution to the lines viability during spring summer autumn months.

  3. It is fantasic news that the Regional Council's Alan Dick and other senior members of the Hawkes Bay community are supporting the retention of the line, unfortunately it is highly unlikely that the two local 'Tory' MPs will be given their Wellington masters view.

    I hope that Hawkes Bay and Gisborne win this one as Alan has summed up perfectly the reasons for retention!

  4. The whole things has been disgraceful. Want to know why people aren't using the line? Because of the historically crap service. Run services into the ground, spend no money (asset-strip where you can), the whinge that you don't make any money and so have to close. The perfect excuse to strip whatever assets are left into some nice deep pocket and disappear into the sunset.

    If they offered a better service, people would use it. There is a lot of economic potential in the form of tourist dollars. They don't just buy a train ticket, they buy accomodation, meals, etc etc.

  5. Please get real here people.

    Be honest, how many times did you, or anyone you know, use the Bay Express to Wellington, or anywhere in between in the last 3 years of its service?

    It connected to a major city, the South Island, international airport etc, yet you didnt support it in numbers to keep it viable.

    Now you want ratepayers & tax payers to prop up your dreamtrain.

    You will expect a standard of platform, shelter, toilet facilities that will cost hundreds of thousand dollars.

    Witness the whinging already from those using the buses that drop off at Marineland entrance, but at least those people are actually using the service.

    Yet your miserable $60 fare wont even cover the price of running the train.

    Business runs on dollars, not emotion…

    As for freight, you want to steal it from another regions port, double handle it , rail it for miles on an uneconomic line, handle it again, then pat yourselves on the back.

    What is 'Green' or sensible about that?

    Ah, to keep the trucks off the road of course!

    Well, the trucks pay big money in road user charges which ploughs money back into the road .

    If all the money that has been, & will be squandered on this line if some of you have your way , went instead into improving the road for the benefit of ALL roadusers, it would open up the East Coast to some REAL tourism…

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