Budget 2023 continues rail rebuild and looks to the future   

Budget 2023 will continue work upgrading the national railway, improve rail resilience in weather damaged regions, and look towards the future with an investigation into electrifying more rail lines, KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says.  

 The $569.2 million Budget investment includes:   

  • $359.2 million for the fifth year (FY 2025/26) of the Rail Network Investment Programme (RNIP).
  • Up to $200 million to ensure KiwiRail can get on with rebuilding North Island rail lines damaged in extreme weather events and make those lines more resilient.
  • $10 million to take further rail electrification in the North Island to a detailed business case stage, with initial design and engineering to scope the work, enabling funding on major decisions to be considered within this decade.

 Rail Network Investment Programme

 “The Government’s changes to funding rail infrastructure, using the same mechanism that pays for roads through the National Land Transport Fund, is creating certainty that allows KiwiRail to properly carry out network upgrades and improvements across the national rail network,” Mr Reidy says.

 “The $359 million contribution in Budget 2023 continues the investment through previous Budgets.

 “Shifting from an annual funding regime to a long-term funding programme, as we now have, means KiwiRail is better able to plan, manage costs and recruit the staff to carry out the crucial work that will lift our national railway to a reliable and resilient standard.”

Reinstating rail after recent weather events

 Mr Reidy also welcomed the Government’s investment of up to $200 million to rebuild and strengthen rail lines damaged in the 27 January weather event and Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year.

 “The national rail network is insured, and insurance will cover the cost to reinstate damaged lines. The Government’s funding goes above and beyond, meaning we will be able to do some targeted investment in the affected regions to build back better, making damaged areas stronger, but also replacing some old assets so that the rail lines are more resilient to future weather events.

 “The cyclone has already shown the benefit of investing in resilience. For example, the Government-funded work we did in 2018 to reopen the Napier-Wairoa line held up well in the cyclone, while older sections of the line around it were affected. This funding means we can limit the disruption that could be caused by weather events to come.”

 Mr Reidy says rail lines in Hawke’s Bay and Northland were badly damaged in the weather events, with tracks undermined, and in some cases washed away. There were also numerous slips onto and beneath rail lines, and near Napier one of the rail bridges lost spans and piers in the floods.

 “Last month we were able to reopen the line to Hastings, and we’re  working hard on reopening the line to Napier later this year. Work is also underway on the line between Napier and Wairoa and in Northland, between Swanson and Whangārei. We are trying to get the lines open is quickly as possible, but the sheer scale of the damage and issues with slope stability means it will take time.”

 KiwiRail is currently considering the best places to improve network resilience in Hawke’s Bay, Northland and on the Auckland metro network, which was also damaged in the 27 January weather event.

 Electrification business case

 While track investment will help the national railway resist the impacts of climate change, it is important to maintain a focus on reducing emissions, Mr Reidy says.

 “Rail already produces 70 per cent fewer emissions per tonne carried, compared to road freight, and Government support is enabling us to extend the Auckland electrified network from Papakura to Pukekohe. But we need to go further to reduce our transport emissions.

 “The Government’s $10 million funding will allow us to look in detail at how best to electrify more North Island rail lines – such as the Golden Triangle (Tauranga – Hamilton – Auckland), which carries around half of all rail freight in New Zealand. We’ll also look at how best to complete electrification along the main North Island rail line, between Palmerston North and Wellington.”

 “Electrification is costly, and doing the planning and design work now, rather than years away, will allow us to fully understand options and costs so that the Government can then make informed investment decisions.”

 “We will be regularly reporting progress to the Minister of Transport, as it is a key strategic opportunity for decarbonising the transport system - lifting the already strong emissions credentials of rail freight and broadening options for electric passenger rail services as well.”