Container Hubs in the Hutt Valley

The big growth in rail transport around New Zealand recently has been around container terminals (CT) or intermodal hubs, where containers are railed between the hub and a seaport with the benefit of taking the container closer to its destination without having to contend with road traffic near the port.

Examples around the country are numerous, from a container hub between Lyttleton and Woolston to longer distances like between Palmerston North and Tauranga.

At the moment, the Hutt Valley and Greater Wellington region have no such arrangements, despite the local port, CentrePort, being a major port for the lower north island.

Ironically, Lower Hutt did have a container hub on the Gracefield Industrial Line, but it closed in April 2002, as a result of the Car Assembly Industry closing in New Zealand, and a subsequent drop in freight going to Lower Hutt in General.

straddle crane, container crane

Straddle Crane at the Wiri Inland Port. Small cranes like this are used to move containers around the site and between trains and trucks

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Since the 2002, the Gracefeild and Seaview areas have become freight hubs, and now all major transport companies are present. Other industries include scrap metal merchants, the Seaview waste transfer station (this alone generates 40 containers each week), Wellington’s fuel supply and occasional log-stockpile. A casual 15-minute drive from Wellington to Seaview will see about five container trucks driving between Centreport and Seaview.

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A view of the Gracefeild line in Lower Hutt. A lot of land is still owned by KiwiRail and GW. The purple-shaded areas show land still owned by KiwiRail, Red is the former Gracefield container terminal,  and the blue area has been used to store logs for Centreport (though usng road transport). As the Hutt Valley’s main transport and manufacturing hub, there is solid potential to move container loads to rail.

Further up the Valley, Upper Hutt could also use an old siding for a CT site (EuroCell) and plenty of room at Wingate, where there is already a container hub of sorts.

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Oblique View of the new train stabling facility. If all of the land were bought, the remainder of the area could be used for a Container Terminal or a Train Depot

(Aerial views of wingate)

The Wairarapa line has grown in recent years with freight volumes for the timber industry steaadily increasing – this includes wood pulp from JNL and KiwiRail’s log transfer site, both in Waingawa, outside of Masterton.

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Masterton Railway Yard

I am unsure of container volumes to Masterton, though there must be some that go by road.

Fuel will also be coming from Gracefield, and could be taken to Wairarapa by Rail.

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Could we do better? Greater Wellington owns the port company and would be the biggest customer on the line, though it already is; all passenger trains on the line are funded by GW, and the wood products from Masterton all head to Centreport.

Roads are congested at peak times, and trucks travelling along the Petone esplanade are obnoxious. Freight forwarders could use rail to avoid congestion and better utilise their assets.

NZTA are funding roading projects that make sense, but seem to ignore anything smart – completing the Woburn triangle for better rail access to the GF line would be a good start over building the Cross Valley Link, at a fraction of the price (GF needs new bridge at Waiwhetu stream, bridge at Randwick Road, new track at GF) .

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