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The New Zealand Airport With A Railway Across Its Runway

Many major airports have their own dedicated metro or railway stations. These allow passengers to travel to and from the facility without the burden of car parking fees. However, while this is commonplace, a less rare phenomenon is a railway line that intersects an airport’s runway. Still, if you know where to look, you can find one down in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand Dash 8 turboprops are common traffic at Gisborne. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Gisborne Airport

The location where a railway and a runway intersect is Gisborne Airport (GIS), located on New Zealand‘s North Island. The airport is a small regional facility, with a single terminal and just four tarmac gates. Funnily enough, it has as many gates as it does runways.

The longest of the four is a 1,310-meter long asphalt-paved landing strip, designated as 14R/32L. The remaining three runways are all grass strips, with 09/27 being the longest at 1,170 meters in length. Shortly behind this is the 1,150-meter long 03/21. Meanwhile, 14L/32R is the shortest grass runway by a considerable margin, measuring just 763 meters.

Eastland Group manages the facility, which covers an area of around 160 hectares. Its main asphalt-paved runway can also be used for nighttime operations. This runway also sees the very rare phenomenon of an intersection with a working railway line.

Gisborne Airport
Gisborne Airport from above. The railway line is clearly visible. Photo: Google Maps

rare railway intersection

As seen in the aerial map above, a railway crosses Gisborne Airport’s asphalt-paved runway towards its southern end. This is part of North Island’s Palmerston North–Gisborne Line (PNGL), which has not seen scheduled passenger services since 2001.

Today is #InternationalLevelCrossingAwarenessDay.
So here’s the railway line that crosses the runway at Gisborne Airport in New Zealand; the tracks of the Palmerston North – Gisborne Line run straight across it. Here, train stops plane.

— Tim Dunn (@MrTimDunn) June 11, 2020

Meanwhile, freight services have also decreased. However, the most eye-catching sight has to be when a steam train crosses the railway. These classic locomotives occasionally run on the 3 ft 6 in gauge Gisborne City Vintage Railway on the northern section of the line. This sees the train travel for around 17 km (10.56 miles) from Gisborne to Muriwai.

One of the highlights of the journey happens fairly on, and is, of course, the intersection with Gisborne Airport’s main runway. According to the Gisborne City Vintage Railway’s website, it operates “the only train in the Southern Hemisphere” which crosses a runway. reports that the trains even have to be given ATC clearance to make the crossing.

Gisborne Airport
Gisborne Airport plays host to various regional flights. Photo: Phillip Capper via Flickr

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The airport’s typical operations

Gisborne Airport serves a total of six domestic destinations. These include connections to some of New Zealand’s major cities. Indeed, the airport’s website markets itself as “an easy hour’s flight from Auckland or Wellington.” Air New Zealand serves both of these routes, with showing that it deploys Dash 8 turboprops on them.

In terms of smaller destinations, Napier is served by both Air New Zealand and eponymous Piper PA-31 operator Air Napier. Meanwhile, regional carrier Sunair operates flights from Gisborne to Hamilton (focus city), Rotorua, and its Tauranga hub.

Did you know about Gisborne Airport’s intersecting railway line? Perhaps you’ve even been there yourself either by air or by rail? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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