Below Rail Infrastructure, Engineering, Environment and Sustainability, Freight Rail, Passenger Rail

First freight trains to run on Main North Line next week

The New Zealand train operator KiwiRail has announced that the first freight services on the Main North Line are to run on 15 September, following months of repair work to the earthquake-damaged route.

Initially, freight trains will service the Picton to Christchurch line during the day, with limited, low-frequency services running at night to allow repairs to both the line and the road to continue.

“There is still a sizeable amount of work to be done before we return the line to its pre-quake state,” KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said.

This limited re-opening of the line is expected to take pressure off the alternate inland route which has, since the earthquake, taken the bulk of freight moving south.

“Even with the restrictions that will be in place, we still expect that up to 2000 trucks a month will be taken off that road,” said Reidy.

Teams have been at work on the line since the November earthquake, replacing damaged track, rebuilding bridges, repairing tunnels, and clearing the large slips along the route.

In early August, when the last track weld was completed, 150 kilometres of line had been tamped, five thousand new concrete sleepers laid, the formation under 12 kilometres of track rebuilt, and 5 kilometres of track realigned.

KiwiRail plans to mark the return of freight services with celebrations in Christchurch and Kaikoura, timed to occur when the very first train makes its journey along the line.

“That is a measure of the importance of the rail line to our national network, especially for connecting the country for our customers.  Before last year’s earthquake we were moving one million tonnes of freight a year on it,” Reidy said.