Roads needed to support rail freight plans near Palmerston North


The land northeast of Palmerston North is the planned site for KiwiRail's new marshalling yards and freight distribution center.

Warwick Smith / Stuff

The land northeast of Palmerston North is the planned site for KiwiRail’s new marshalling yards and freight distribution center.

One of the main drivers of the KiwiRail Freight Distribution Center in Palmerston North is to bring more freight on the trains and more heavy traffic off the roads.

But during construction, it will have the opposite effect, and once operational, it will have to connect to a regional freight ring road, which is not yet there.

Palmerston North City Council Acting Chief Engineer Robert van Bentum described some short- and long-term challenges during a Commissioners hearing on KiwiRail’s notice of requirement to designate 177 hectares of land For the development.

He said there should be conditions ensuring that KiwiRail pays for damage to roads during construction, and has helped create proper connections to roads directing heavy traffic away from residential areas and to highways in the state. .

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The panel learned that the hilly area that stretches from the northeast industrial area past Palmerston North Airport and down to Bunnythorpe will need a lot of backfill material to create yards. level.

During two years of construction, 145,000 trucks and trailers carrying 15 cubic meters of fill each would need to enter the site.

“There is no doubt that these heavy vehicle movements will cause deterioration and faster damage to the roads they travel on,” van Bentum said.

“Some of our roads are basically built on pug, and construction traffic will blow them up.”

Van Bentum said the council could not afford to run the risk of ending up with a multi-million dollar road reconstruction bill, when its estimated budgets only allowed 500 meters to 1 kilometer of road to be rebuilt. from the foundations every year.

He said it was possible for a side deal to be made, which meant KiwiRail would compensate the board for any damage, but that had yet to happen, so Commissioners would have to make it a condition if they argue designation.

Van Bentum said there also had to be an agreement or conditions ensuring that road freight entering and leaving the center would be directed to the routes the council wanted it to use.

For example, the board would not support site traffic using the Bunnythorpe end of Railway Rd to get to Kairanga-Bunnythorpe Rd.

The intersection was near existing houses, next to the railroad tracks, and already had safety issues without even heavier traffic attempting to use it.

KiwiRail planned to close the rest of Railway Rd as part of the development. Two level crossings that had been the scene of fatal accidents could be closed sooner.

The city council planned to spend millions of dollars on strategic roads in the coming years, but there was still a lot of uncertainty about the timing of subsidies from the Waka Kotahi NZ transport agency.

Kairanga-Bunnythorpe Rd was going to be an important corridor, but at the moment it included two bridges that needed to be improved, one with a weight restriction.

Van Bentum said ideally the improvements would be made in time to receive KiwiRail traffic, but there was no certainty that would be the case.

Further work was required to modernize the Richardsons Line, Setters Line and major intersections.