The New Zealand Government is to start an investigation into the potential of expanding and upgrading Northland’s rail line in the Auckland region.

The study will be funded by the government’s Provincial Growth Fund, which said it will spend NZ$500,000 ($349,801).

New Zealand Transport Minister Phil Twyford said: “The business case will test this and determine the appetite for rail as a viable option for transporting freight in and out of the region. It will also investigate whether the upgrade could include a new spur line to Marsden Point to support Northport’s growth.

“The existing sections of the line are in poor condition or not in use. The business case will weigh the costs and benefits of upgrading them to modern freight standards.”

“The business case will test this and determine the appetite for rail as a viable option for transporting freight in and out of the region.”

Twyford further said that the government plans to hold discussions with businesses, local government and other stakeholders in Northland in a bid to identify if there is demand for an improved rail freight service, which would help boost development in the region.

New Zealand Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones said: “Almost all of Northland’s freight leaves the region by road.

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“Around 1,185 heavy vehicles a day travel on State Highway 1 between Northland and Auckland, and truck numbers are increasing.

“A reliable, resilient rail connection would take some of this freight off the road in both Northland and Auckland and help increase the flow of products in and out of the region.”

Improving the rail line comes as part of the government’s plan to enhance connectivity, create jobs and take trucks off the road.