Port of Tauranga congestion: Extra rail services to move ‘container mountain’

Extra rail services have helped clear a large backlog of containers at the Port of Tauranga.

New Zealand’s busiest and biggest port has had to handle a wave of unscheduled container ship calls diverted from Auckland since October due to that import port’s productivity and congestion issues.

KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said they had worked hard to put more freight trains on to this route and to increase the volumes they were shifting.

“The impact of the additional capacity has really made a difference. At the height of the congestion in early April, when ship arrivals were occurring out of planned sequence, there was a two to three week wait between a container being unloaded from a ship in Tauranga, and it being railed to Auckland.

“Now it is down to three days,” Miller said.

KiwiRail is now running 86 trains a week between Tauranga and Auckland, 43 each way.

“That’s up from 72 trains a week in early April – or an additional 1500 standard [20ft] containers each week,” Miller said.

“We managed to increase it to 78 trains a week later that month, and to help improve freight flows we also cancelled some planned stoppages for work on the line.”

The number of services increased again at the beginning of May.

Miller said the extra trains had been made available by rescheduling KiwiRail’s train plan to prioritise the Tauranga services, including access to the Auckland network. KiwiRail was also working with other ports facing congestion issues to provide more capacity.

“There are still pressures on supply chains both here and internationally and it will take some time before things return to normal. For example, empty containers are not always available where they are needed.

“We will continue to do all we can to increase capacity options to support importers and exporters throughout the country.

“There is still some way to go but, working with Port of Tauranga and our other customers, we are making good progress.”

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