KiwiRail is back on track with a lift in freight and profits after the main north line between Picton and Christchurch was repaired following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes.
Freight volumes will increase further this year with the reopening of the Napier to Wairoa line for forestry wagons, and more work on a line to Marsden Point in Northland.
New luxury tourism trains are on the way thanks to a $80 million boost from the Government’s provincial growth fund, KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle said.
KiwiRail’s new commuter service will be running between Hamilton and Auckland next year, and it’s making progress buying two new rail ferries for Cook Strait to begin service in 2024.
Moyle said the company was shaking off the effects of the Kaikoura earthquakes.
The operating surplus of $16.3m for the six months ending December 2018 was 7 per cent ahead of the previous corresponding half-year period.
“It will take some time to get back to where we were before the main north line was closed but we’re seeing increased demand.
The Coastal Pacific scenic train resumed service a few weeks ago with strong bookings throughout the summer.
The Interislander service reach record satisfaction levels at 94 per cent and an award at a Direct Ferries ceremony in London.
KiwiRail’s improved financial result benefited from the “wall of wood” and other freight sectors, with overall revenue up 12 per cent to $328m on the previous corresponding period.
Domestic freight jumped 30 per cent, forestry 15 per cent, bulk freight 8 per cent, and tourism up 8 per cent on the Great Journeys of New Zealand rail and ferry services.
KiwiRail had overcome enormous challenges over the past two years, restructured operations, network services and rolling stock teams for greater efficiency, Moyle said.
“That has seen improvements in network reliability, a plan to rejuvenate our aged locomotive and wagon fleets.”
Moyle said KiwiRail’s improvements were also good for the environment.
“The more freight we get onto rail, the fewer trucks we have on New Zealand roads which increases safety for everyone, reduces carbon emissions and means less road maintenance for taxpayers.”
KiwiRail was dealing with a legacy of under-investment from successive governments and the infrastructure still required a lot of work, Moyle said.
“The Government has seen we are in catch-up mode and is willing to invest for the good of New Zealand.”
The company faced increased costs from regulation, compliance and investments commitments.