Limitoo News

Derailed logging train could take weeks to get back on track

A derailed log train in Te Puke.
The train was carrying logs and pulp from Kawerau to Mount Maunganui when it derailed in Te Puke. Photo: Bay of Plenty Times / Tyson Smith

No one is sure how long the railway track connecting Kawerau industry to the Port of Tauranga will be closed, but Kajavala Forestry managing director Jacob Kajavala has been told it could be weeks.

The KiwiRail freight train that carries logs and wood pulp, among other goods, from Murupara and Kawerau to the international port, was derailed on Sunday when it tried to cross a flooded section of track near Te Puke.

Kajavala, whose business oversees log movement, said it had been operating from the Kawerau railhead of the East Coast Main Trunkline for the past 20 years and they had never seen anything like the derailment near Te Puke on Sunday.

"The question on everyone's lips is how long it's going to take to get running again. KiwiRail have said it will be weeks but they haven't said how many weeks," Kajavala said.

He said it would definitely create a slowdown for his business.

"The export component of the logs will be slowed right down to the port until that rail is back up again. There will be a bit more trucking going on but there are nowhere near enough trucks to compensate for the loss of that train. Not even close."

He remained optimistic about his company's ability to weather the storm.

"There have been bigger market slowdowns, usually driven by sales. This is the first time we've seen a significant slowdown due to logistics. We got through all the other ones, we'll get through this one as well."

He said having the railway out of action would affect a number of businesses.

"For this region there will be a slowdown until that rail is back up. How much of a slowdown, we're not quite sure, but it's already slowed down. Everyone is trying to establish timelines as to when it might get going again but it's uncertain right now. It's a very big repair job."

A KiwiRail spokesperson said on Monday its teams were still assessing the site of the wagon derailment near Te Puke and undertaking preparation to recover the track.

"Currently, water levels remain high at the site and this is impeding the investigation and track assessment. The locomotive is still on the tracks but up to 10 wagons, carrying logs and pulp, derailed. The two-person train crew were uninjured."

A spokesperson from Oji Fibre Solutions said the incident would not adversely affect the Kawerau pulp mill operations.

The spokesperson confirmed the company lost some pulp, destined for export markets, as a result of the derailment.

"Three wagons of pulp would need to be reclaimed. This pulp would likely be made into recycled paper at Penrose or Kinleith," the spokesperson said.