Reality sets in as road and rail freight will take “months” to re-establish as before

As we discussed yesterday with an email from a transport sector contact, the solutions for the transport infrastructure are complex. It is going to take a long time to get even cars moving.

It’s going to be months before the South Island’s freight lines will be fully operational.

Monday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake destroyed parts of State Highway 1 and railway lines between Blenheim and Christchurch.

Most freight, including food, goes north to south.

Companies that send goods via truck and train are already scrambling to sort out an alternative option – shipping.

The extent of the damage was still unknown, said Todd Moyle, KiwiRail Group’s general manager asset services.

Early indications are that the lines will take months to fix, he said.

“We are still in the process of assessing the full extent of the damage. There are areas that we can’t or haven’t gotten to yet,” Moyle said.  

The company was working on alternative strategies that exist – coastal shipping options that were already in play will be used, Moyle said.

“We are working with our freight partners at the moment to figure it all out.”

Maersk was already fielding a flood of calls, said Gerard Morrison, managing director for Maersk Line New Zealand and Australia.

“We are receiving an enormous amount of inquiries at the moment and people looking to see what they are able to do.

“To be fair, there’s a lot of people still dealing with the actual challenge.”

It could be a week until the actual demand of freight movement was realised, Morrison said.

There is a massive amount of dirt and rocks to moved. On top of that, they have to start at both ends and start clearing that way before they can even get at the large slips.

Ferries are going to need to be diverted.

KiwiRail is investigating a Wellington to Christchurch ferry service for freight and people as the repair to the broken lifeline of State Highway 1 is expected to take months and billions of dollars.

The arterial road and rail link between Christchurch and Picton remains torn apart and blocked by land slips following Monday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake. Tracks have been ripped from sleepers and countless cracks have rendered the parts of the road around Kaikoura not buried by rubble impassable.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges described it as “munted”.

“SH1 from Seddon to Cheviot is in an incredibly bad way. There’s no question there’s several slips there.”

He said it would be months before that part of the road and rail network was reopened. The cost would likely run into “the small number of billions”. Finance Minister Bill English said disruption to the route would be the earthquake’s biggest impact on the economy. Heavy commercial vehicles accounted for 16 to 20 per cent of traffic for the rural sections of the highway.

New Zealand has an opportunity now, out of this disaster. That is a complete re-think on transport solutions in that area. Personally, I think rail is forlorn. The building cost per kilometre is exponentially higher than the cost per kilometre for roads.

Some hard decisions are going to need to be made and the wombles should be told to STFU.

 

-Fairfax

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