Electrical Safety

Some parts of the rail corridor is electrified. These areas have traction overhead wires. If you wish to work within four metres of an electrified area including traction poles, overhead wires, substations or switchgear equipment you will need an Electrical Safety Permit or Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines. Training in Electrification Awareness may also be required.

Applications MUST be received at least two weeks prior to your proposed access. Contact your local KiwiRail Network office to begin the application process. For a local area map click here.

Everyone working in the rail corridor where there are traction and power distribution overhead wires or equipment, requires the approval of the local KiwiRail Area Manager.

What is the aim of this policy?

It aims to protect persons, property, vehicles and mobile plant from harm or damage from electrical hazards associated with railway electrification. As part of this we ensure anyone working in the rail corridor near traction overhead wires and equipment has:

  • The necessary approval
  • the required knowledge to maintain electrical safety, and if necessary,
  • the required training.

Background to this policy

On the North Island Main Trunk line, between Palmerston North and Te Rapa the traction for electric trains is provided by 25kV AC power. 50kV AC traction feeder overhead aerial feeder lines are also present along the rail corridor between Frankton and Claudelands in Hamilton.

In the Auckland area the rail lines between Papakura and Swanson, 25kV traction overhead lines are being provided for new electric multiple unit passenger trains to be introduced.

In the Wellington Area the electric multiple unit passenger trains run on 1500 Volts Direct Current. In addition there are 3.3kV AC overhead power wires run along the rail corridor and these are normally attached to the traction poles in some locations.

On the rail lines between Heathcote (Christchurch) and Stillwater on the West Coast there are 3.3kV AC power distribution overhead lines along most of the rail corridor.

Short lengths of 6.6kV or 11kV overhead power aerials exist in some rail yards nationwide. In addition to this there are a considerable number of overhead power lines owned by others that cross the rail corridor, for which owners consent may be required if encroachment is likely to take place.

It is dangerous to come too close or to touch overhead electrical equipment. This could cause injury or death by shock or burns.


Every person (other than KiwiRail staff,) require approval before working on KiwiRail land. This approval is obtained from the local Corridor Access and Protection Manager in the form of a Permit to Enter.

An electrical safety permit known as a Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines, issued only by designated KiwiRail Traction or Electrical staff, may also be required for most work within the rail corridor where traction overhead wires and/or power distribution wires are present. This Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines will detail safe approach distances, voltages, work method restrictions, safety information and emergency contact details.

Any Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines application must normally be made at least two working weeks before work is due to commence.

The Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines will be issued to the person in charge who MUST remain on site. He/she must sign the Permit and accept responsibility for ensuring that all people on the site under his/her control abide by the Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines conditions.

When work is complete, the Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines must be cancelled by the person in charge signing at the bottom and returning it to the KiwiRail traction or electrical person who issued it. NON RETURN OF THE PERMIT WILL DELAY RESTORATION OF POWER.

In addition any person prior to working under the Permit to Work Near Railway Power Lines in electric traction areas may need to have attend a formal KiwiRail Electrification Safety Awareness course and hold current validation, or be required to be under supervision of a designated certified KiwiRail person. The Area Manager will define any KiwiRail requirements which will generally depend on the nature of the work and the type of supervision being provided. Note that to maintain current validation for Electrification Safety Awareness a person must have attended a refresher course within the previous 24 months.

Emergency Rescue Procedure

If the victim (or anything touching the person) is less than one arm's length (750mm)* from the overhead line or equipment:

Don't touch the victim

Ring Train Control immediately and say it is an emergency call (or use the Emergency Number 0800 808 400) Explain what happened and ask for advice

If the victim is more than one arm's length* from the overhead line equipment:

Drag the victim clear, keeping yourself and the victim at least one arm's length from the overheads equipment or anything which is touching it Apply resuscitation as soon as possible Raise the alarm when you can and ask for an ambulance

*Note: The normal safe distance is 2 metres and may only be reduced to 750mm when life is at stake