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  An 'enthusiastic and focused' rail operator could take over Northlands rail lines from Kiwirail, say on a 50 year lease(with a right of renewal).      As there are no other railfreight operators in N.Z, the best option may be to entice an enthusiastic and focused operator from another country.

From Stu Dow: Railwayman  28th of July 2011

Hi there,
           Having seen your website and campaign to save the rail system of Northland, I thought I would offer you some thoughts, based on over 30 years rail experience, in a variety of positions, in two countries.
    I believe the retention of Northland's rail system is not only essential for the future betterment of Northland but for the future betterment of N.Z as a whole.!
    Unfortunately it would appear Kiwirail is prepared to sacrifice Northland(and Napier-Gisborne) to appease its political masters(and the road transport lobby) to ensure its plans for the high density lines continue to receive government support.
   This is completely short sighted but then the Minister of (Road)Transport and his advisors don't seem to have any idea as to the railfreight renaissance going on world wide.
 As I see it, what is needed is an "enthusiastic and focused" rail operator to take over Northland's rail lines from Kiwirail, say on a 50 year lease(with a right of renewal).  
   As there are no other railfreight operators in N.Z, I believe the best option is to entice an enthusiastic and focused operator from another country.!  As an example; in North America large
rail operators regularly review their networks and frequently as a result lines become surplus to their requirements. Instead of just closing(or mothballing, which really is just a euphemism for closure) them, the large operators offer the surplus track to specialist rail operators known as shortline or regional railroads(railways). Where a sound business case can be made these lines are
leased or purchased by the specialist operators, who then run the trains, ensuring rail service is maintained.
 Obviously there has to be a sound business case to continue operations, which is something I'm sure could be created for the continued operation of Northlands rail lines. I believe there is immense potential especially if Marsden Point is linked to the network.
Even without a Marsden Point line, I'm sure there is plenty of freight that could be won back to rail, given an enthusiastic and focussed operator!
 This is how I see things panning out :- A business case is put together based on a 50 year lease(with right of renewal) of Northlands rail network, with guaranteed paths through the Auckland suburban area(say 3 or 4 return paths per 24 hours) to enable freight to be exchanged with Kiwirail, the Auckland port, etc and possibly in the future, passenger services. Central, Regional and Local government plus Kiwirail, would need to be won over, but in the case of Kiwirail I don't for see any major issues, as the new operator isn't competing against them but is seeking to operate a complimentary service and would share at least one major customer ; Fonterra.
 Certain things would need to be negotiated such as freight interchange, rolling stock compatibility, use of similar rules/regulations, training of staff, etc. I see none of these issues as being insurmountable obstacles.
  An additional enticement to a new operator could be guaranteed Government approval for the proposed line to Marsden Point, maybe with the proviso that the successful leasee must build it within 10 years of taking up the lease or face having a reduced lease term.
  There are numerous shortline/regional railroad(railway) operators in North America and I have listed 5 below who have or have had operations not only in North America but worldwide. They are listed in no particular order and I have no affiliation with any of them.
      1.   Rail World Inc, U.S.A                                     railworld-inc.com
      2.   Iowa Pacific Holdings, U.S.A                           iowapacific.com
      3.   R.J.Corman Railroad Group, U.S.A                   rjcorman.com             
      4.   Genesee and Wyoming Inc, U.S.A                   gwrr.com
      5.   Watco Companies Inc, U.S.A                          watcocompanies.com
 I am sure that once a business case is put together and distributed to these and any other interested parties, a prospective operator will be found. There is no time to lose if a rail
 presence in Northland is to be maintained.
  Best of luck with your campaign, and should you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them or clarify any of the above,
                                                                                                                                           Stu Dow : Railwayman.


Discussion  ( if you'd like your input to be added to this thread , please e-mail it to us here at saveourrailnorthland@gmail.com

Scott Osmond scottosmond54@hotmail.com
Helensville 1st of August 2011

What an excellent idea.
The writer doesn't discuss rolling stock and locomotives.
A new operator would need to have both, or an agreement with Kiwirail to share rolling stock.
 Perhaps the operator could own their own locos or lease some from KR or an overseas owner.
As for rolling stock some sort of inter-operability agreement with KR would be required. I would go furtherand suggest the operator only run to Helensville, where there would be an interchange yard and KR could run a shunt to and from Westfield and deliver/pickup freight and empty wagons on a one for one basis.
Helensville could also be a road interchange location.
 It has been suggested as an inland port location.
Of course the north line tunnels would need to be upgraded to take hi-cube containers before this became a realistic option.
The difficulty would be in finding an operator with the capital to inject and prepared to take the risk when we have a government so hellbent on supporting their road transport mates.