KiwiRail rolling stock (foreground) and Toll New Zealand's
Dunedin yard are experiencing busier-than-usual import and
export operations. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Dunedin rail and maritime freight movers are experiencing
a busy start to retailers' Christmas imports and the
approaching peak season for primary produce exports.
Empty container storage throughout the city is filling up and
large numbers of rail wagons are laden in sidings, in
preparation for heading to Port Chalmers or further north.
KiwiRail reported an 18% increase in volumes for October, in
total 130,402 tonnes of inbound and outbound freight, senior
communications adviser Jenni Austin said.
"This year, we are certainly seeing more rail freight
activity nationally than for the same time last year," she
KiwiRail is geared up to increase volumes during seasonal
variations, through spring and summer and the build-up to
Christmas, by operating a high-season train schedule and
using longer, fuller trains. She said recent changes to port
visits by international shipping lines had some impact on
increasing rail use.
Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said the port's peak
export season, usually from December to May, was just
starting and container movements were "slightly up" on a year
ago, as Port Chalmers received some containers that would
usually have gone through Timaru, which had recently dropped
to two shipping lines.
He expected the peak of the season to be about
February-March, when export meat joined dairy products and
apple exports at the same time, which would be followed by
timber exports, albeit more spread over the following months.
Empty containers were being stockpiled throughout the city in
preparation for exporters' use, including the dairy trade.
A spokesman for freight forwarders Toll said the usual
Dunedin Christmas peak had started almost three weeks earlier
than expected, anecdotally, because retailers were placing
orders earlier to stock shelves.
"It's being driven by retail competition, all for the
Christmas and New Year sales," he said.
He estimated that compared with the quietest winter month,
December freight forwarding volumes into Dunedin could be up
50% or more. The peak ends immediately after Christmas, with
January one of the quieter months for Toll.