Thursday 15th November 2018
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KiwiRail is planning to relocate its Palmerston North operations out of the city as part of plans to develop a regional hub to better handle freight flows throughout the lower North Island.
The company has just received a $40 million commitment from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund to help it with the planning process for the project and for land purchase.
“KiwiRail is now beginning detailed plans for the freight hub, which will include identifying potential sites and seeking resource consent to designate land for rail use,” acting chief executive Todd Moyle said. “We will work with key customers on major infrastructure requirements to encourage freight businesses into the area.”
Palmerston North is KiwiRail’s key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the lower North Island. Rail freight comes and goes from the north, Wellington, Taranaki and Hawke’s Bay. About 2.4 million tonnes moved through the current facility in the past year and that is expected to grow.
“This project leverages the region’s strengths and will be fully integrated into the other large investments being made in the regional transport system, including the new Manawatu Gorge road,” Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said.
“This is a future-focused investment", with freight tonnages expected to increase by 60 percent during the next 20 years.
The main trunk rail line originally ran through Palmerston North. It was diverted around the city and the current rail yard established in 1964 on what was then the city’s north-western outskirts, but is now surrounded by urban development.
KiwiRail didn’t immediately indicate a preference for the location of its new facility. Nor was it able to offer an expected timeframe for selecting a site, getting the land designated and then building the facility.
Moyle said the inter-modal rail and road hub needs to be near the city so it can be easily accessed by distribution companies and other businesses. It also needs to connect well with the airport north of the city, a freight ring road being planned by the New Zealand Transport Agency and the proposed replacement road for the Manawatu Gorge.
The firm would relocate from the current location over time, allowing the existing land to be used for business and housing.
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