Wellington Scoop

Rail needed for safe jetfuel transport, says union

Media release from RMTU
The debacle surrounding the Marsden Point refinery gas pipeline is totally unacceptable in a first world nation. Where was plan B from the National led Government?

“‘There was none, sound advice ignored, leading to major air travel disruptions at our largest airport, Auckland”, says Albie Barr, chairman of the Northland branch of the Rail & Maritime Transport Union.

A proper integrated transport strategy would have seen no disruption if the port rail link to Marsden Point had been built, and was in operation. Fuel used to be widely hauled by train in this nation, it is safer, proven worldwide.

In a panic to keep planes flying, the ‘risky option of trucking’ highly flammable aviation fuel 140 km to the airport is being used. “It should have been a simple case of rail freighting it to Auckland and transferring from there”, said Barr.

The irony of this failure, is another failure. The line speed between Auckland & Whangarei has been dropped to 50 kph for freight trains. The line is deemed too unsafe to maintain a higher speed. This comes hard on the back of the news passenger trains are banned by the operator from travelling the route, too dangerous for the public.

After 9 years in government there is no future vision of a truly integrated transport strategy from National. ‘We have had enough’, they are tired, they are spent, they are running on empty.


  1. Rod, 19. September 2017, 17:53

    Sounds about right, someone should start listening to Winston Peters.

  2. luke, 20. September 2017, 11:33

    Rail freight should play a far greater role in the country’s freight task than it does. Fuel is a classic example of something that should go linehaul by rail but instead goes on a lorry.

  3. Neil Douglas, 20. September 2017, 19:34

    Luke, in general you may be right regarding the advantages of carrying fuel by rail versus road tankers but there have been accidents most notably the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail crash in which an unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed, killing 42 and destroying half a small town.

  4. Ross Clark, 21. September 2017, 1:47

    “Rail needed for freighting everything, says RMTU”.

    More seriously, the long-term statis in rail freight is a function of the longer-term change in the economy which has seen us shift from the economy making things which are best shifted in bulk (e.g. coal), to moving around much smaller items which are generally moved by truck (e.g. FMCG). The proportion of the freight task which is best suited for rail has been declining over time.

    As well, rail freight faces significant competitive challenges from coastal shipping, and much of our freight task could as easily be transported that way. Any talk about an ‘integrated transport strategy’ should acknowledge this.

  5. Paul, 21. September 2017, 8:01

    Neil. That accident was caused by a runaway when the train crew didn’t apply enough parking brakes and shut down the locomotives. When the air ran out on the tank cars, it all went down hill and crashed into the town.