February 21, 2018

KiwiRail in profit despite earthquake impacts

Written by  Richard Worrall
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A KiwiRail freight train passes Ethelton between Christchurch and Kaikoura. A KiwiRail freight train passes Ethelton between Christchurch and Kaikoura. David Gubler

NEW Zealand’s national railway, KiwiRail has posted a half-year profit of $NZ 15m ($US 11m) for the six months to December 31 2017.

The result would have been better, but KiwiRail was affected by the ongoing fallout from the Kaikoura earthquake which cut the Christchurch - Picton section of the Main Trunk Line on the South Island and disrupted freight services to and from CentrePort in Wellington. The railway is also battling an aging South Island locomotive fleet with some locomotives 57 years old which is driving up maintenance costs.

KiwiRail chairman Mr Trevor James said ongoing repairs to the affected railway line and parallel highway had limited operations between Christchurch and the inter-island ferry terminal at Picton to overnight services only creating uncertainty for freight customers.

The earthquake had cut revenue for the full year by about $NZ 25m leading to the reduced profit figure with James estimating the surplus would have been closer to $NZ 40m if the earthquake had not occurred. A full-year profit of between $NZ 30m and $NZ 50m is estimated.

There was also some good news with revenue from forestry products up 8% while the bulk freight market was showing signs of improvement.

Meanwhile, KiwiRail is turning up the heat on the new Labour-led coalition government to provide it with secure long-term funding to deal with issues such as its ageing locomotive fleet and infrastructure improvements. James says KiwiRail is working closely with the government over the funding situation.

KiwiRail estimates its services annually cut the number of heavy-vehicle movements on the nation’s roads by 550,000 and saves more than 32m litres of fuel and 88,000 tonnes of C02 emissions.

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