Tuesday 25th Feb, 2020

KiwiRail to investigate faulty mast installation

Photo: Cody Cooper / Creative Commons

KiwiRail has suspended a team of contractors from its $300 million Wellington metro upgrade program while it works out how a new mast installed on the Hutt Valley caused a fault and widespread disruption on August 15.

The state-owned operator last week apologised for the disruption caused to Wellington metropolitan commuters, following a fault to the overhead power lines in the Hutt Valley.

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the operator understands the importance of a reliable transport system.

“We are hugely apologetic about the disruption caused to commuters today,” Moyle said. “It has been all hands on deck since early this morning as our teams work to identify the issue and carry out the necessary repairs and inspections so we can get trains running again.

“Preliminary investigations indicate the outage was caused by a fault with one of the new masts being installed by contractors on the Hutt Valley line, as part of the $300 million project to upgrade the Wellington metro network. Some of the structure was installed incorrectly and made contact with trains passing beneath it.”

Moyle called the incident “unacceptable,” and said the contractors involved would not be doing any more work of that kind until a thorough investigation has found the cause of the incident.

Processes will then be put in place to ensure it does not happen again, Moyle said.

“As a safety precaution, we also needed to conduct checks across the wider network to ensure there were no further issues,” he added.

“There is a huge amount of work ongoing in Wellington to improve the reliability and capacity of the network. This includes replacing the aging overhead power system – masts and wires – that power the trains, on the Hutt, Melling and Johnsonville lines.

“That work has been underway since mid-2018, and until now has been carried out without incident.”

So far the project team has replaced more than 1,274 old timber poles and over 70 kilometres of overhead wiring.

“Delivering this type of project is always a juggling act as much of the work can only be done when there are no trains running and the overhead power system is turned off,” Moyle said. “We work in evenings, weekends, and holidays to minimise disruption to the thousands of rail commuters who use the line every day.”

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