Most of Wellington’s commuter train network will shut down over Christmas and New Year while KiwiRail embarks on one of its largest work blitzes in recent years.
While Wellington commuters take a break nearly 150 KiwiRail and NZTA staff and contractors will be hard at work on the rail network to make the rush hour commute more reliable next year.
The significant work blitz between Boxing Day and January 5 is possible because of nearly $300 million in Government funding for modernisation and upgrades, alongside the usual annual maintenance.
The work includes installing the foundations for 60 new masts for the overhead power lines in the busiest part of the network – the approaches to Wellington Railway Station.
“Replacing the masts is not an easy task. Building new foundations for each of these requires a three metre deep hole and it is just not possible to carry out that work while commuter services are running. The masts date as far back as 1938, and need to be replaced,” says KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Capital Projects David Gordon.
KiwiRail is working on sites spread from the Wairarapa to the Hutt Valley and Porirua.
Work includes building underpasses, upgrading level crossings and barriers, replacing rail and sleepers, and improving slope stability and drainage, along with the foundation work.
The NZ Transport Agency will also be working during this shutdown, installing a new walking and cycling underpass on the Melling Line as part of the Petone to Melling section of Te Ara Tupua.
KiwiRail’s work will enhance the reliability of the network.
“Already the network is delivering more than 14 million commuter trips a year to the 500,000 plus people who live in the region,” says Mr Gordon.
“That is predicted to grow, and this work is needed to make that happen.”
“We’ll be taking advantage of the holiday lull, when passenger demand is down, to shut down big parts of the network and give our teams safe access to work on the line.
“We’re managing the shutdowns carefully to minimise the disruption as much as possible. We have postponed some work on the Kapiti line so we can keep part of it open over the break, freeing up buses so they are available to take passengers on the rest of the network and cutting road congestion on State Highway One during the period of high holiday use.”
Greater Wellington Regional Council Rail Operations Manager Angus Gabara says the council regrets the disruption but the work is necessary to keep delivering a good service.
“We’re going to have a special timetable in place from Wednesday 25 December until
Sunday 5 January.
“During this time there will be buses replacing trains on the entire Hutt and Johnsonville lines, and on the Kapiti line between Wellington and Porirua.
“Wairarapa services will also be affected.
“People need to take special note of the fact that many services will still be bus replaced on
Friday 3 January, and the timetable will be different to that of a normal work day.
“We are tailoring our special timetable to expected demand. On the 27, 30 and 31 December, and
3 January, which are not statutory holidays, Melling services – which will be bus replaced - will run on an hourly timetable. There will also be an extra morning and afternoon peak Wairarapa services to help those who need to get to work.”
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