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The reopening of the Napier-Wairoa rail line is expected to be delayed after heavy flooding last week left sections of rail “hanging in the air”.
Heavy rain and flash flooding last week damaged parts of the line, including one large washout affecting more than 100m of track, along with multiple smaller washouts, and debris such as trees on the line.
The impact of the weather event is still being assessed by KiwiRail and it expects it might delay re-opening of the line.
Work on reopening the mothballed line had been under way for only 10 days when the rain hit.
KiwiRail group general manager network services Henare Clarke said “for this to happen so soon after we started work is a setback, but we will overcome it”.
“The initial work that was already under way will continue while we assess the latest damage and come up with a plan,” he said.
“Where possible, we will look to combine the rebuild work that had already been programmed with the repairs to damage from last week’s severe weather”.
It was initially hoped the line would be open by last OctoberWork began two days after the Government announced a $5 million contribution toward the line.
The first log train was expected to run on the line by the end of the year. While the damage was expected to impact the reopening, it was not known yet what any delay might be, he said.
“This is a fairly complex process and inspections of the line are continuing, but we expect to have a clearer idea of the repairs needed in the coming week.”
This is not the first delay for the line — it was initially hoped to be opened by last October.
Hawke’s Bay Regional transport committee chairman Alan Dick said he did not see the need for an “inordinate” delay, as the funding had been granted and the need for the rail was increasingly urgent.
“Other than these washouts, it’s been in pretty good condition.
“If the reopening of the line extends beyond the end of this year, it’s putting the whole deal in jeopardy, in my view.”
He also questioned how the washout was able to happen.
It appears when the Esk River broke its banks the flooding pushed sections of rail out of alignment, or left parts “floating in the air”.
Eskdale resident Chris Geddis spotted a 30m section of Bay View rail that was unsupported, as the ballast underneath had been washed away.
The shingle meant to be underneath the rail line was instead strewn over State Highway 2.
“In a way, it’s kind of funny — there’s supposed to be a wall of wood coming from Wairoa along it, and it was a wall of water that took it out.”
Last week’s deluge also led to the flooding of more than 80 homes and the closure of some roads for several weeks as debris is cleared.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council had already set aside $5.4m towards the project.
A spokesman said KiwiRail was responsible for maintenance of the line. — NZ Herald
This article first appeared on gisborneherald.co.nz
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