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Northland rail rejuvenation work begins



thumbnail Preparatory-work-in-Tunnel-1-311The start 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.

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, resilience and reliability.

From June 1, no more train services will run between Swanson and Whangarei to allow substantial upgrade work to begin, including 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 says.

“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 was 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.

Locally, the section of line from Wellsford to Maungaturoto is slated for a number of upgrades including track renewal, tunnel repairs, slope stabilisation and drainage improvements.

Marsden Point Line progress

Northport is one of the few ports in New Zealand that is not rail connected, so is unable to share the benefits rail brings to other major ports – including Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga.

KiwiRail has held the designation and consents for the construction, operation and maintenance of a rail link from Oakleigh to Marsden Point since 2012.

Studies have found that building a spur line to Northport/Marsden Point offered significant regional economic benefit and considerable opportunity to shift freight volumes in Northland from road to rail.

The $40 million Provincial Growth Fund investment announced in January 2020 enables KiwiRail to purchase land along the designated route of the Marsden Point Line. Some of the land is owned by Northland Regional Council, and other parts by private landowners.

Rail workers will repair lines, replace aging bridges, and lower tracks in 13 tunnels on the line to Whangarei.

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