After seven long years, crucial railway link between Napier and Wairoa re-opens

There was plenty of pomp and ceremony as a brass band welcomed the opening of the Napier to Wairoa railway line today.

A special passenger service was scheduled for the route that will primarily be used for transporting thousands of tonnes of timber logs from the East Coast town.

On board was retired train engineer Tom Conrad, who travelled the route hundreds of times over a 40-year career, when the route was fully functional.

Today was a chance to catch up with plenty of old faces as a group of old engineers were invited to travel the route.

Mr Conrad told 1 NEWS it was going to be “amazing”.

It's the first train ride on the line in more than seven years.

Mothballed in 2012 after severe storm damage, the $6.2 million rebuild, financed through the Provincial Growth Fund, has faced the same problem with future washouts a concern.

However, KiwiRail Chief Executive Greg Miller said it was something they couldn’t always control.

“You can never guarantee what nature has in store for us.” he told 1 NEWS.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was on board the journey as well and committed to continuing to finance KiwiRail.

“We are in the KiwiRail journey, it's a long-term journey, it’s about the nation building infrastructure at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty about weather,” he said. 

It’s estimated the service, once operating at full capacity, will take 5000 trucks off the road.

The plan is to start log trips once a marshalling yard is established in Wairoa by the end of August.

But plenty of people want to see the route open to passengers and extend the whole East Coast up to Gisborne.

Minister Jones said investigations were underway but nothing was imminent.

“Subject to them putting forward a business case, they’d be pushing on an open door but I’m not going to dislodge the commercial analysts at KiwiRail,” said Mr Jones. 

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Timber will be the main cargo, but there’s support for a regular passenger service, too. Source: 1 NEWS