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Mainfreight welcomes Clifford Bay inter-island terminal idea

Monday 9th May 2011 1 Comment

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Logistics company Mainfreight is giving the thumbs up to the revival of the idea of a new Cook Strait ferry terminal in Marlborough's Clifford Bay as it positions itself to put more freight on rail.

The Government said today that it had asked transport officials to investigate the use of Clifford Bay as a new sea freight terminal to improve links between major cities in the North and South islands.

The terminal could cost $200 million but it would cut travel times and ferries could do more return trips in a day. It is seen as a potential public private partnership (PPP), which could introduce a new port operator to New Zealand.

Mainfreight is already a major user of rail and is investing in a new terminal in Wellington beside the railyards near the ferry terminal. Its existing site in Wellington at Gracefield was not as well located for rail.

"By being located centrally in Wellington by the railyards, we will be able to use rail in and out to the South Island and to and from the North Island," managing director Don Braid said.

"It is a big change for us. Absolutely it will increase the amount of freight Mainfreight puts on rail."

Braid said it was also important that wagons could be shunted on and off ferries.

Cook Strait ferries are traditionally rail capable but Australian owner Toll Holdings introduced a non-rail capable ferry when it owned Tranz Rail, and Bluebridge ferries are also not rail capable.

"We want to move more freight by rail and this gives us a quicker transit across the strait. But they must run ferries that can take rail wagons because we need that continuity," Braid said.

It was stupid decision to introduce container ships on the Cook Strait.

"Those of us involved in transport in New Zealand have to be starting to congratulate the Government for thinking a long way forward and investing in more infrastructure that will help rail growing in this country," he said.

A PPP might also expose the Government to the abilities of port ownership professionals.

New Zealand ports are mostly council owned and there have been few opportunities for global port companies to operate here.

Braid said KiwiRail was operating with a different attitude and was better run than under Australian ownership.

Joyce said the proposed terminal would cut 30 minutes off the ferry trip between the North and South islands. A road trip from Wellington to Christchurch would be 50 minutes shorter, and a rail trip 80 minutes shorter.

Joyce said the project could be a prime candidate for a PPP.

"KiwiRail would not have the resources on its own to build and operate the facility," he said.

"It's the sort of facility that could provide a steady long term revenue stream to infrastructure investors."

If commissioned, building was expected to take 2-1/2 years.



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Comments from our readers

On 10 May 2011 at 1:30 am Steve W said:
Interesting - although Mr Braid proclaims to support the use of rail. There are disused sidings past Mainfreight's Whangarei and Gracefield premises, these seem to contradict these proclaimations.
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