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A daily log train from Whanganui to Port Taranaki is expected reduce traffic congestion and road repairs, and save costs for log exporters.
The new service arrives in New Plymouth for the first time on Tuesday.
The Port Taranaki and KiwiRail joint partnership will see logs harvested in the Whanganui area transported by rail to Port Taranaki for storage and export, Port commercial head Ross Dingle said.
Log exports from Port Taranaki increased 27 per cent in the last financial year.
The arrangement sees six forestry wagons added to the existing daily rail freight service between Whanganui and New Plymouth.
Logging and other freight trucks rumbling through New Plymouth have been an ongoing noise and vibration issue for residents along the city's busy St Aubyn St.
Port Taranaki has made extra room for log storage.
The trucks have also been blamed for damaging the road and there have long been calls to reroute freight out of the centre of the city.
The new log wagon service will be loaded at Whanganui's Eastown rail yard and transported to the New Plymouth rail yard at Smart Rd as part of the general KiwiRail freight service.
The daily KiwiRail freight service leaves Whanganui the day before the log wagons arrive at Port Taranaki, he said.
The wagons, containing 200 tonnes of logs, equivalent to six truckloads, will be de-coupled and shunted through to Port Taranaki and on to Blyde Wharf to be unloaded.
The service could be extended to a dedicated once-a-day log delivery from Whanganui direct to Port Taranaki with up to 18 wagons of logs,
KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller said the service would enable up to 45,000 tonnes of logs a year to be transported to Port Taranaki for storage and export.
He said the log wagons to Port Taranaki will reduce 2700 truck trips annually from the region's roads. Rail also had 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried than trucks, Miller said.
Currently around 36 million tonnes of logs are harvested nationally each year.
Harvesting on the west coast of southern North Island, which included Whanganui, is set to increase from 1.5 million tonnes to 2.3m tonnes by 2024 and remain at that level until the mid-2030s.
"Delivering logs by truck from the forests to Whanganui, to be railed to Port Taranaki, and then be shipped overseas shows how the different transport modes can work together to support regional growth," Miller said.
"The trucking sector alone cannot cope with the volumes of logs, so road and rail have to work together."
Dingle said the service had taken 18 months to finalise.
"With Port Taranaki's log trade continuing to grow, the service has multiple benefits for Port Taranaki, log exporters, marshalling companies, the community, and the environment" he said.
In the past financial year, 878,000 tonnes had been exported from the port - a 27 per cent increase on the previous year.
"This type of record growth has been occurring year-on-year, so we have been working to widen our catchment area and further increase our log trade, while also looking at ways to ensure the increase doesn't impact further on the region's very busy roads.
"Increased log volumes create the prospect of increased ship visits, which is fantastic for the development of our business and helps drive regional economic growth," Dingle said.
A 24,000 tonne capacity former cold store on Blyde Wharf was removed in late 2018 and the area has been re-paved to allow storage space for approximately 12,500 tonnes of logs.
"The log yards are right beside the rail line and the ship berthing, which means the logs can be easily and efficiently unloaded from the train, stored nearby, and quickly loaded onto the vessel when required," he said.
Dingle urged the public to take care at the vehicle and pedestrian rail crossings through New Plymouth.
"Please keep a look out at all rail crossings and keep safe," he said.
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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