Rail set to play larger role at Ports of Auckland

21 February 2014 10:10AM

Rail freight movements between the Ports of Auckland’s seaport and its inland freight hub at Wiri have doubled, with further growth in traffic being signalled over the next two years.

The number of shunts moving between the two have climbed from just four to around eight a week over the past year,  and the Port  has  signalled its aspirations for up to 16 trains a week, says KiwiRail Freight  general manager sales,  Alan Piper. 

“The Port has indicated to us that rail will play a crucial part in its plans to make better use of its sea port through increased use of its inland freight hub at Wiri. 

“Rail can move large volumes quickly off a busy the seaport and to alternative site for that is closer and more accessible for cargo owners .   This makes rail a very attractive option, even for a comparatively short   distance,   particularly in busy urban areas where roads are congested.” 

Last financial year Ports of Auckland moved just 58,440 TEU by rail, barely 7% of its container throughput and well down on the 95,405 TEU moved by rail in FY2011.  This fall was the result of Fonterra business moving to Tauranga in early 2012. 

However, since then  Ports of Auckland has lifted its productivity and captured back business as a result.  That, plus a general lift in the economy, saw record container volumes at POAL in  the final quarter of  2013.  To handle those volumes, the port had to once again look to rail. 

Craig Sain, General Manager Commercial Relationships for POAL, said “With KiwiRail’s help we roughly doubled the number of trains serving the port, from four a week to around eight, and numbers have kept up this year.” 

“Making more effective use of Wiri and our rail link reduces congestion on and off the sea port, so putting more on rail is a no brainer.  We have aspirations for up to 16 trains a week over the next year or two.” 

Beyond that, there is potential for a great deal more.  Ports of Auckland’s rail grid has a capacity of up to 600,000 TEU and the line linking the port to Wiri has more still.  According to Sain, the recent lift in rail use is “just the start of what we hope will be a significant shift to rail”. 

The shunts are being mostly run at night or weekends.  Because of the   current focus of the Auckland electrification project on the  NIMT between the Port and Sylvia Park, many of those services are being run via  Newmarket,   requiring additional locomotives to get the services up the  branch line.