Auckland heat speed restrictions removed

KiwiRail has removed the need for heat speed restrictions on the Southern Line to support more reliable train services for Aucklanders.

The restrictions between Ōtāhuhu and Papakura, which required trains to slow down to 40km/h in certain sections of track, contributed to major service cancellations on 12 February.

“Within 96 hours of the meeting with Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown (14 February) our track teams carried out remedial work at night and removed the 4.4km of heat restrictions on the Southern Line,” KiwiRail General Manager Metros Jon Knight says.

“We have also managed to remove 500m of Temporary Speed Restrictions (TSRs) across the network, reducing the length under restrictions by 7 per cent. We are continuing to work at night to reduce TSRs further.

“There have also been issues with signals in Britomart, following some upgrades for the City Rail Link over Christmas. In the last month this has occasionally stopped trains getting to some platforms. This is due to a technical, software issue which we expect to have resolved by mid-March.

“I appreciate how frustrating ongoing disruptions have been for Aucklanders over the last month. As we continue to extensively upgrade the network, particularly through our Rail Network Rebuild, we will gradually reduce the need to apply heat and TSRs which have contributed to the recent disruption. The network is progressively improving, but areas where we haven’t yet completed crucial civil construction work may still cause some disruption problems.

“Working together with Auckland Transport and Auckland One Rail we have made good progress. We remain committed to minimising disruption levels and providing greater confidence in the reliability of the train timetable, so Aucklanders can get where they need to go across the city.”  

Auckland One Rail CEO Martin Kearney says crew shortages, which can contribute to train delays and cancellations, are also being resolved.

“We have the next intake of trainees graduating soon and expect to have them on the trains by mid-March. There will be further intakes throughout the year. This will give us greater flexibility, to reduce the scale of disruption on a given day if there are unforeseen issues with the network.”

AT’s Director Public Transport and Active Modes, Stacey van der Putten, says the quick response to removing the heat speed restrictions and the crewing improvements is positive for customers.

“We’re grateful that KiwiRail has worked quickly over the past week to resolve this issue and ensure our customers have greater reliability, and we will continue to work with the team closely,” she says.

“The new Auckland Train Control Centre, which will begin operating in late March, will also help. It will mean when there is a disruption, the right Auckland Transport, Auckland One Rail and KiwiRail teams will be in the same place and be able to respond more efficiently.”

“With so much work happening on the rail network some disruption is inevitable, but we are committed to minimising this as much as possible alongside our partners at KiwiRail and Auckland One Rail.”

Mr Knight says it is important to appreciate the scale of rail work going on ahead of the opening of the City Rail Link (CRL).  

“We have undertaken a huge amount of work in recent years and we still have a lot of work to do across the network to make sure it can safely handle the running of more frequent trains that will come with CRL.”

“The kind of upgrades we are doing in Auckland are normally carried out over decades but we’ve only got two more years - all while keeping commuter trains running. It can be difficult at times and disruption can happen. I appreciate Aucklanders’ patience with unplanned disruption and when we have to close lines early at night, on weekends and over holidays. We are committed to building a better, more resilient network for the city over the next few years.”

Heat restrictions and TSRs are safety and maintenance tools used to allow trains to run to a timetable. They are constantly being imposed or lifted based on inspection and compliance demands across the network. They can be put in place temporarily when a track issue is discovered and needs to be repaired or when major upgrade work has been done and time is needed for new track to settle or be destressed by a specialist machine. Given ongoing inspection and maintenance work across the network, TSRs and heat restrictions (in summer only) will always be needed to a certain degree, however we working to minimize these as much as practical.

The Rail Network Rebuild involves replacing aging track foundations, improving drainage and replacing worn rail and sleepers. This work on the Eastern Line was completed over the Christmas break. Work is now being carried out on the Western and Southern Lines.

KiwiRail is also working on a range of projects, including building a Third Main Line in south Auckland, electrifying the network between Papakura and Pukekohe and building new stations around Drury.

For more information on all of KiwiRail’s Auckland projects visit: 

Auckland metro rail | KiwiRail