Temporary Interislander ferry terminal may become permanent

By Samantha Gee of RNZ

The temporary Interislander ferry terminal in Picton could become a permanent fixture as KiwiRail winds up its work on the port redevelopment in the seaside town.

KiwiRail has confirmed there will be no new terminal building or wharf built in Picton after the Inter-Island Resilient Connection (iReX) project to replace the Interislander ferry fleet was canned when the government declined KiwiRail's request for an additional $1.47 billion in funding.

KiwiRail's iReX programme director David Warburton said staff were completing any work needed in Waitohi Picton and Kaiwharawhara in Wellington to ensure its terminal operations were safe.

In Picton, that meant no new terminal building, wharf and passenger walkway, rail yard or vehicle boarding platform.

Warburton could not say if the temporary terminal in Picton was a permanent fixture, or if the old terminal would be demolished. He said the specific details were being worked through with partners and asset owners.

Work would be done to finish strengthening the Waitohi Culvert and on some rail facilities and yard re-alignment.

A decision was yet to be made on the Dublin Street overbridge in Picton, with discussions underway with the New Zealand Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi (NZTA).

In the meantime, Dublin Street remained closed to through traffic. Warburton said it was not possible to reopen the road without reinstalling the level crossing barrier arms.

"If there is a delay in NZTA being able to complete the over bridge, we will reopen the road after installing safety barriers and ensuring safe access for people and vehicles."

At the Kaiwharawhara site in Wellington, work was being done to tidy up the terminal site and close off early construction work.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy previously said $276 million had been spent on the design, consent and early construction work for the new Picton and Wellington terminals.

KiwiRail declined to give a breakdown of what had been spent at each location, citing commercial sensitivity.

"All costs from here on are being incurred only to wind down the project and leave the terminals safe, secure and in good order for our ongoing Interislander operations," Warburton said.

In December, the government announced it would be appointing a three-person Ministerial Advisory Group to look into the current operations and implications for future options for the Cook Strait service.

It had also asked the Ministry of Transport to report on the long-term strategic national transport implications with associated requirements for a resilient and sustainable connection across Cook Strait for people and freight.