New Zealand Markets closed

Gisborne rail line economic: report

An independent economic analysis which says KiwiRail could actually make money is unlikely to change the national rail business's decision to mothball the Napier-Gisborne railway line.

State-owned KiwiRail is putting the line into care and maintenance after sections were washed out during a storm last year. It estimates the cost of repairing would be $4.3 million.

But BERL economists, commissioned by proponents of keeping the line open, say there are a number of inconsistencies within KiwiRail's figures report and there are questions about the figures used and conclusions reached.

The report, released on Tuesday, says the line needs to move only about half the tonnage of KiwiRail's figures to break even.

But KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn says the BERL report is too optimistic and doesn't say where $NZ30 million of maintenance money will come from.

"I just don't think it stacks up, unfortunately," he told Radio New Zealand.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon says the region's leaders will continue to lobby to have the mothballing decision overturned, using the report.

Mr Foon said they were still trying to speak to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, but setting up a meeting was proving problematic, he told NZ Newswire.

"He seems to be a very busy man... we'd see him next week, but next week or so was about three, four, six months ago."

Labour says there is a lack of political will to keep the line open.

"If the mothballing goes ahead, more pressure and more logging trucks will go onto the region's roads. It is just crazy to give up on rail," said Gisborne-based MP Moana Mackey.

The Greens say the government has an anti-rail agenda.

"The Napier-Gisborne rail line is a vital piece of infrastructure for the region's exporters. This report shows it can be run economically," said transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter.