The long-awaited KiwiRail freight hub in Palmerston North, backed by $40 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, finally has a design plan, Marc Daalder reports

More than a year after it was first announced, a KiwiRail freight hub in Manawatu now has a “master plan” showing how the three kilometre-long train station will operate. 

The hub, which could bring as much as $200 million in business to Palmerston North, is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It will link rail and road transport infrastructure together to better facilitate the movement of bulk goods and timber.

“It brings road and rail freight together in a much more integrated and seamless way, improving efficiency and saving in costs. The design allows for consumer imports and bulk exports to be managed at one place, and there is plenty of room to co-locate freight partners and meet their warehousing needs,” KiwiRail’s chief executive Greg Miller said.

The hub will be three-kilometres long in order to accommodate 1500-metre trains which could be used in the coming decades. In addition to road infrastructure, the hub will contain a container terminal, warehousing for road and rail operators, and bulk goods and forestry loading operations.

“This is a major step forward in New Zealand’s approach to freight logistics,” Miller said. “With freight volumes expected to increase in the decades ahead, this intermodal hub will be a crucial freight centre for the lower North Island.”

“The efficiency improvements will make rail more attractive and help manage the numbers of trucks on our national and regional roads. A purposely designed facility to link rail and road together like this hasn’t been seen in New Zealand. We are creating something world-class, which will support the growth of Manawatu’s logistics industry well into the future.”

A site around Palmerston North has yet to be identified, but the PGF’s $40 million will fund the design of the hub and the purchase and designation of the land. Miller said KiwiRail expected to identify a site and begin public consultation in early 2020.

When the project was announced in November 2018, it was scheduled to take three years of planning and another two to construct the hub, meaning it would begin taking in trains by 2023.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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