Conveyor makes light work of shifting ballast

Close-up of conveyor system moving rail ballast inside a tunnel

This month the team introduced a new conveyor system that's been purpose built for efficiently removing large quantities of old ballast (gravel) from inside the Remutaka Tunnel. The special equipment consists of two conveyors with a custom-designed hopper that can be loaded directly with an excavator inside the tunnel, and transported outside using standard rail wagons. 

At almost 9 kilometres long, the tunnel’s single track and confined space makes it a challenging place to work. Project manager David Sauvageon says the conveyor is a game changer in the way it efficiently and safely gets the work done.

"It's already saving time by about a third, and with a bit more experience we expect to get it working even more efficiently," David says. 

So far the team has replaced around 800 metres of track inside the tunnel, with the next block of work scheduled for 27 and 28 July. Work typically happens over weekends and at night when it is least disruptive to passengers.  

This is part of an overall upgrade to get the Wairarapa Line ready for faster and more frequent trains from 2029.   

See the conveyor at work: