Disruption to South Island rail services caused by the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake masked a continuation in improved operating earnings from state-owned railway operator KiwiRail in the six months to December 31.
The company reported an operating surplus of $15 million for the period, which would have come in at $40m once the one-off costs associated with the closure of the main trunk line between Picton and Christchurch were stripped out.
While quake impacts would still be felt in the second half of the current financial year, KiwiRail was still on track to deliver operating earnings of between $30m and $50m, said chief executive Peter Reidy in a statement.
In the previous comparable period, which included the first few weeks of the outage caused by the massive Kaikoura quake, KiwiRail reported operating earnings of $11m, or $23m underlying once quake impacts were backed out.
As always, the national rail carrier did not report a statutory profit on its activities, reporting a $193m loss for the half-year.
The result for the half-year was achieved on revenue of $292.7m, 1.9 per cent down from the $298.3m recorded in the last six months of 2016, and reflecting the fact that the Kaikoura link was only restored in September 2017.
Ports revenue from KiwiRail's trucking and rail services was up 16 per cent on the half-year, which chairman Trevor Janes said was a "strong result" when placed against overall container volume growth of 7 per cent nationally in the same period.
Forestry revenues rose 8 per cent as the so-called 'wall of wood' from maturing plantation forests starts to come on-stream.
Dairy industry and coal volumes rose, contributing to a 6 per cent increase in bulk freight revenue.
The Interislander ferries showed a 12 per cent increase in commercial vehicle 'lane metres' while passenger revenue rose 7 per cent and yields on vehicle crossings improved.
Announcements relating to the revival of some mothballed regional rail services are expected when the government unveils detail of its $1 billion a year regional economic development fund, in Gisborne, on Friday.