Auckland’s metro network is being smoothed down by a rail grinder which will, ultimately, extend the lifespan of the track.
By removing irregularities from worn and corrugated tracks, rail grinders correct the shape of the track and bring significant benefits to maintenance operations, such as reducing track and wheel maintenance and prolonging rail track life.
“Over time the top of the rail track where the train wheels run develops stress points, defects and metal build up from the steel wheels travelling on the track. It’s a problem common to every rail network around the world that has to be managed,” KiwiRail’s executive general manager for operations Siva Sivapakkiam said.
“It’s a bit like driving a car with flat tyres. You still get there, but it uses a lot of fuel, doesn’t steer well and the ride quality is poor. In the same way, if the rail isn’t the correct shape it wears out more quickly than it should.”
As it moves along the tracks the rail grinder can sometimes create sparks from the grinding which, alongside the loud noise, can draw a lot of attention.
“It’s quite a sight when you see it in operation. Most people won’t have seen this type of thing on the rail line before and experience overseas is that some people see the sparks and think something is wrong with one of our trains. Rest assured, we’re working closely with local communities and authorities to keep everyone informed of what to expect,” Sivapakkiam said.
The machine carries water, however, and sprays the track as it passes to manage any potential fire risk.
The Auckland network has 198,000 commuter services each year and 246 freight trains running per week. This level of services makes it hard to schedule maintenance, including grinding.
The rail grinding work around the Auckland metro areas is scheduled for over the summer period. It will start on the Southern and Western lines in December, then travel along the Eastern line in the new year.
Due to the busy commuter service, KiwiRail will conduct the work at night when no commuter trains are running.
KiwiRail will carry out other maintenance and upgrade works over the holiday period to improve the condition and performance of the Auckland network.