For the first time since last year’s earthquake, trains have started running again north of Claverley towards Kaikoura on the Main North Line.
Todd Moyle, KiwiRail Group general manager of network services, said that repair work to allow 1000-tonne work trains to move as far as Oaro had been finished. These trains will help complete further work to allow the line to eventually open for freight in the near future.
“Work trains will be laying ballast under and around the sleepers to lock in the track alignment. The work train is followed by a tamper which packs the ballast under the sleepers and makes final adjustments to the alignment and level of the track,” Mr Moyle said.
“The arrival of work trains means progress not just for the rail, but for the whole transport corridor.”
Moyle also implored people to be “extremely careful” around the rail corridor and when using level crossings, now that trains were using the tracks.
“It is not only work trains and tamper units that are moving on the line, but also hi-rail vehicles – vehicles that go on rail. We should all treat the corridor as ‘live’ at all times.”
This message was echoed by Megan Drayton, TrackSAFE Foundation manager, who warned people to stay off the railway and to only cross tracks at level crossings.
“Always slow down as you’re approaching a level crossing and be prepared to stop. Look out for trains, obey the signs and signals at crossings and always stay off the tracks,” she said.
“Trains are deceptively quiet and they can’t stop in a hurry or swerve to avoid anything on the tracks.”
The Main North Line, which runs between Picton and Christchurch, is a major link in New Zealand’s transport supply network, with over 1 million tonnes of freight travelling between the North and South islands every year before the earthquake.
Over 150 kilometres of the Main North Line was damaged in November’s earthquake, and intense repair work has been ongoing over the last six months, fixing tracks, removing debris, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.
Moyle said that allowing the work trains to move north for further work on the rail corridor was a sign of the progress being made towards eventually reopening the line for freight trains.
“This is an enormous project but I am confident we will get the job done safely and as quickly as possible.”