Up to ‘1000 trucks a day’ on alternative Picton-Christchurch route during busiest freight month of the year – The Southland Times
CHRIS SKLETON/FAIRFAX NZ
A truck stop at Springs Junction . The new inland route from Christchurch to Picton is on State Highway 1, 7, 65, 6 and 63, with traffic on the route many times greater than before the Kaikoura earthquake.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, as many as 1000 freight trucks a day will be forced to take an alternative route from Picton to Christchurch which has already claimed the life of one driver.
State Highway 1 and the coastal railway are the main supply lines for the South Island, funnelling freight and provisions to and from Christchurch for thousands of businesses.
The rail line and the east coast highway are now out of action after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
Most of the South Island’s freight moves by road but non-urgent goods are usually freighted by rail from Picton, which means all that freight is now being loaded on to trucks for distribution by depots in Christchurch and direct delivery.
Next week is the busiest freight week of the year, with pre-Christmas supplies, and an estimated additional 8000 tonnes of freight on the roads . December is the busiest freight month of the year.
Truckies now face a seven-and-a-half hour detour via the Nelson Lakes and St Arnaud to Murchison to get to SH7 and the Lewis Pass before heading towards Culverden.
The route is not designed for heavy volumes of freight traffic and one driver has died in a crash on Wednesday .
After the fatal crash near Springs Junction, the route was closed for at least 12 hours.
Most freight – around 90 per cent – moves by truck but the Picton-Christchurch railway was an essential supply line for non-urgent freight . Nationally, around 10 to 15 per cent of New Zealand freight was transported by port-rail connections5, but all that has changed now the main railway line connecting Picton, Blenheim, Kaikoura and Christchurch has been destroyed.
Mainfreight general manager Don Braid said the company typically used the railway from Picton to Christchurch for non-urgent freight.
“We have some road vehicles for express freight . The majority of freight was carried on rail from Auckland .
The reality is that whatever moved on rail from all of our operations out of the North Island, all of that moved by rail or by road then by rail.
“The reality is now there’s no rail service, we have had to supplement that with road vehicles, not only south to Wellington for shipping but SH7 . The numbers have gone from around 40 trucks to 700 per day.
“Next week is the biggest in the country for freight with pre-Christmas tonnage.”
The number of heavy vehicles using the route could reach 1000 a day during the period before Christmas, Braid said . So far, he said, supply lines were working but the industry needed a solution to the increase in road freight.
It’s not clear how long highway repairs, or reinstating the rail, will take.
“This rail line and SH1 could be out for 18 months.
“We have to find an alternative .
Coastal shipping is that alternative.”
At Murchison, according to New Zealand Transport Agency figures, heavy vehicles doubled in volume from 350 a day to 750 after the quake, at St Arnaud – a small alpine village in the Nelson Lakes – heavy traffic was 40 trucks a day before the quake . Since November 14, the volume rocketed to 400 per day.
At SH7 Lewis Pass the heavy truck numbers jumped from 210 per day to 550.
Alongside the increase in heavy traffic was the light traffic and everyday commuter vehicle increases.
KiwiRail is already offering freight customers a coastal service between Auckland and Christchurch7, but Braid said another dedicated coastal supply service would help alleviate road freight.
Braid said the industry also had the option of international cargo vessels picking up and transporting domestic freight, but this service was not a dedicated one.
“We have to get another dedicated coastal shipping service . The supply chains have become very efficient and customers have expectations .
Shipping is good for non-urgent freight into your Bunnings or Mitre 10 .
What we need is another dedicated service running maybe in the middle of the week.
“The customers are being very patient but they’re expecting it will be short-lived so we’ve got to get that infrastructure.”
According to Mainfreight, the increase of up to 700 heavy vehicle trips a day equates to roughly 16,800 tonnes in freight and before the quake half of this volume would have been sent down the coast via rail.
The very real challenge beyond the Christmas supply lines is the likely further increase in road traffic when peak tourist season kicks off in the summer.
The main route between Christchurch and Picton is now via state highways 7 ,65, 6 and 63.
The freight network moves, for example, milk, livestock, petroleum, coal, building materials, manufactured goods and waste, while the country’s main supermarket firms, Progressive and Foodstuffs, operate South Island logistic divisions .
Foodstuffs uses supply firm Transport South Island’s fleet of 30 freight trucks to service its 158 stores – New World, Pak ‘n Save, Four Square and Henry’s – around the island
Progressive Enterprise operates stores in the South Island including Countdown and Freshchoice and spokesman James Walker said stocks were being delivered on time to all stores but this was continuing to evolve since the M7.8 earthquake disrupted the logistical network.
The transport and distribution sector is huge – it’s the fundamental network of around 16,000 businesses servicing supply chains and transport routes that ensure New Zealanders get goods and products to their businesses and homes.
- ^ JOHN EDENS (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ Inland road handed back to NZTA (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ More cargo through Lyttleton (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ Driving the new route (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ port-rail connections (www.transport.govt.nz)
- ^ Ad Feedback (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ a coastal service between Auckland and Christchurch (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ already working to absorb freight (www.stuff.co.nz)
- ^ New Zealand Transport Agency (www.nzta.govt.nz)
A new report by market research company Transport Intelligence has said that the European road freight industry is on the threshold of a period of systemic change which will transform operating models and disrupt markets.
According to the research, manufacturers are spending huge sums in battery technology, and it appears inevitable that the largest trucks will be able to use this kind of power in the next five years.
However, the report said that despite the UK experiencing growth, the road freight market still remains muted .
Estimates show that the European road freight market grew by 2.5 per cent (in nominal terms) last year, which is less than 2014 at 2.8 per cent.
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