New Fairton rail hub on track

Published: 23 November 2022

Breaking ground at the site of the new Fairton rail hub were (from left) Mark Wareing, Alan Piper from KiwiRail and Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown.

The first dirt has been turned in a project that will bring big changes to the way goods and produce are moved out of the Ashburton District to market.

Rail will be doing the heavy lifting, taking containers from a new hub at Fairton to ports and other destinations.

The new rail hub is a joint effort between local and central government, and state and private enterprise, and spearheaded by Fairfield Freight Hub (part of the Wareing Group); it will cost about $14 million.

Ashburton District Council has given $2.33 million as its share of the project and agreed to loan another $3m; Government has given $2m.

Mayor Neil Brown said relocating the rail hub to Fairton would see the end of trains stopping in the town's CBD and blocking crossings while wagons were shunted into place.

The mayor had the honour of turning the first spadeful of dirt last week at the new site, which is near the old Fairton freezing works, now owned by Talley’s.

“I've waited for this day for four years, from the first phone call asking for assistance to get the yard moved,” he said.

It was Mark Wareing who phoned him to outline plans for a collaborative venture that would have wins for the whole district.

“Mark had a vision to get trucks off the highway and more containers onto rail.  The concept ticked so many boxes ... trucks off roads, the shunting yard out of the CBD, and reducing carbon emissions.

“It will also complement Council’s north-east business park, which is just over the road, and give those businesses there an option of using rail as it will be on their doorstep.”

The mayor said the group then enlisted the help of Rangitata MP Jo Luxton to bring the Ministry of Transport on board.

Fairfield Freight currently operates the rail hub in Ashburton and container movements have grown from 2000 a year to 6000 a year. The target is 20,000 a year from the new location.

Kiwirail Executive General Manager Sales and Commercial Alan Piper said those containers would carry produce from farms and businesses to the port in a more efficient way, for all the district’s farms and businesses.

Rail would be doing the heavy lifting after trucks brought the containers to the terminal.

“This is an outstanding example of central government, local government and private and state enterprises working through a problem and it is really great. It is really the future of how we can add value to our community.”

It would be similar to the rail siding built at Synlait.

Mr Wareing said it would be great for the local economy and the district would soon be able to compete with Rolleston’s business park.

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