New Zealand operator KiwiRail says the first stage of planning is complete for a 20-kilometre rail spur to Northport at Marsden Point.
Workers have spent the last three months drilling into hills, land and coastal areas north of Auckland to understand the challenges of building what would be the country’s first new significant branch line in over half a century.
KiwiRail acting CEO Todd Moyle visited Northport on January 31 to see workers completing the last drilling of the first stage of exploration works. He said stage two would begin later this year. “This is not an easy job but it is a real signal of the Government’s commitment to boosting regional economies through rail,” he said. “Our investigations have focused on areas where the most significant engineering works would be needed.”
The next planning stages include further work along the route to advance the design of the line and prepare for the next phases of the project.
“Concurrently we are looking at how we can upgrade the North Auckland Line between Auckland and Oakleigh,” Moyle continued. “The tunnels on that line are old, low and narrow. We have had two significant derailments on the line in recent months due to a lack of funding for maintenance. It has been unable to carry passengers for the past year and freight options are restricted. This is the result of low freight volumes on the line and KiwiRail needing to spend its limited capital where the most freight flows.”
KiwiRail Chairman Greg Miller said an efficient supply chain would be critical for Northland to respond to significant agricultural and horticultural investment. “What we are seeing now through the Provincial Growth Fund is a renewal of regional rail and an acceptance of the wider benefits rail brings to regions such as taking trucks off the road, reducing road maintenance costs, improving road safety and producing fewer carbon emissions,” Miller said.
“There is a long way to go in Northland but we are heartened by what we have found so far.”