KiwiRail has extended a shutdown of the Eastern Line between Quay Park and Westfield for another two weeks to enable urgent upgrades to the Auckland railway network.
The Eastern Line will now remain closed until September 21.
KiwiRail is conducting repairs across the Auckland network after testing revealed that 100km of rail needs repairing or replacing. The entire Auckland network is restricted to speeds of 40km/h.
KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said that significant work had already been done.
“We have made a good start on the Eastern Line with 1,000 sleepers replaced and close to 6km of new rail laid so far.”
To meet the targeted amount of work completed, teams are working at all times.
“Allowing KiwiRail around the clock access to the track over a four-week period is an efficient and productive way of working and enables our teams to keep momentum and get through a larger amount of work,” said Moyle.
The replacement of significant amounts of rail began in August after testing found that the rail was in a worse condition than previously thought.
However, New Zealand media have reported that a consultant’s report in December 2019 identified $200 million of work was required due to inadequate maintenance and underinvestment in rail infrastructure.
Up to a quarter of all rail on the 190km network will need to be replaced, with grinding required elsewhere.
A shortage of locally based track-welders has also contributed to the maintenance backlog.
While maintenance and repairs are conducted, Auckland Transport is providing commuters with replacement buses. Auckland Transport executive general manager integrated networks Mark Lambert said the repairs were essential.
“This work by KiwiRail is urgently needed and we will continue to support our customers with bus replacement services and other support for as long as we need to.”
The New Zealand government has made major commitments to rail, including a NZ$1bn upgrade package for the Auckland rail network. Prior to 2019, however, investment in the rail network nationally was limited to the minimum needed to keep the network operating. The investment that was made was reactive, rather than planning for the network’s future needs.