Train services between Auckland’s Swanson and Whangarei will stop today as substantial upgrade work begins on the Northland rail line.
As part of the Government’s $204.5 million Provincial Growth Fund investment to revitalise Northland rail, KiwiRail is upgrading the Northland Line to improve journey times as well its resilience and reliability.
The onset of major work replacing bridges, improving tunnels and upgrading the rail line to Whangarei will result in more reliable train services and enable more freight to be carried by rail, KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller says.
The work will include replacing five aging bridges and lowering tracks in the 13 tunnels. When complete, trains will be able to pull hi-cube containers on the Northland Line.
“While our teams were able to continue design and planning work during the lockdown, Covid-19 halted most work on the ground. We’ve also been waiting on the arrival of specialist track laying equipment which has been held up by pandemic disruptions,” Mr Miller said.
“The work will be completed in stages, with the first objective being able to carry hi-cube containers through the tunnels between Whangarei and Auckland by Christmas.
“This type of work can only be done while the line is shut. I regret the inconvenience for our freight customers and thank them for their patience. Once the line is upgraded, we will be able to offer more reliable train services to better meet their needs.
“Being able to carry hi-cube containers will also allow freight that can currently only come in and out of Northland by road, to instead go by rail. That additional transport option could help cut transport emissions and reduce the number of trucks on the roads.
Mr Miller says KiwiRail is committed to ensuring Northland benefitted from the upgrade project, with a focus on using local contractors and suppliers where possible.
“This is a big infrastructure project which will help get Northland’s economy moving again following the disruptions of Covid-19," he said.
“Local firm United Civil Construction has the contract to replace two of the bridges, all the ballast materials for the track upgrades are being supplied by Clements in Whangarei, and Busck, also in Whangarei, are supplying thousands of concrete sleepers.
“We also expect our contractors to be looking to use local staff where there’s an opportunity.”
Next year KiwiRail will continue to make improvements to the Northland Line, including reopening the mothballed section of line between Kauri and Otiria and building a container exchange at Otiria.