KiwiRail successfully delivers summer holiday infrastructure upgrades across NZ

23 January 2024

KiwiRail teams delivered significant upgrade initiatives across the country’s major commuter rail networks on time and on target over the summer holiday period.

Temporarily shutting down the lines (block of line) allowed KiwiRail to carry out project upgrades, slip repairs and maintenance work across New Zealand’s metro networks faster, at a time of reduced commuter demand.

In Auckland, there were 89 active worksites across the rail corridor involving more than 1800 people, continuing the upgrade and improvement of the city’s rail infrastructure.

Wellington saw the successful delivery of the largest summer holiday block of line KiwiRail has ever carried out in the region, involving 550 workers across the entire network for the duration of the programme.

Auckland holiday work:

Auckland’s metro network saw intensive upgrade and maintenance work on multiple lines across the city.

“This was one of our biggest Christmas closures ever – with around 1,800 people working at 89 different rail sites across the city,” KiwiRail Chief Capital Planning and Asset Development Officer David Gordon says.

“We completed multiple projects and started others that will lift the standard of the Auckland metro network. This will support more reliable services, encourage more people to use the trains and get the network ready for the increased services that will come with the City Rail Link.”

Auckland’s Rail Network Rebuild (RNR) Stage 2 works on the Eastern Line were completed on schedule with Eastern Line services restarting between Manukau and The Strand last week. Services resumed from/to Waitematā (Britomart) Station from yesterday (22 January).

Mr Gordon says the holiday closure also saw a focus on the Western Line – which included slip repairs and the carrying out of the most invasive part of the RNR. 

“Between Newmarket and New Lynn, we lifted away the tracks and sleepers and dug a metre below ground level to remove and replace the compacted rock foundations under the tracks. This ongoing work is crucial to enable more reliable and frequent rail services.

“It’s rewarding to see that our work on the Western Line has already successfully enabled the removal of some speed restrictions.”

Other Auckland work included:

  • Further enabling works for the new Third Main Line and signal upgrades at Wiri
  • Ongoing commissioning of new overhead lines between Papakura and Pukekohe to extend electrification
  • Further City Rail Link program milestones delivered, including significant track and civil work at Waitematā Station, Quay Park and Newmarket. 

Wellington holiday work:

Eighteen months of intense planning resulted in the successful delivery of the largest holiday shutdown KiwiRail has ever carried out in the Wellington Region with all lines returning to operation on time.

Mr Gordon says that while important maintenance was carried out during the shutdown, most of the activity related to the Wellington Metro Upgrade Programme - a $700 million programme of works to upgrade existing rail infrastructure and build capacity to support Greater Wellington Regional Council’s plans for rail.

“We hit some significant milestones during this shut down. Some of our key long-term upgrade projects came to a close, while others were kick-started. We appreciate that this work can be disruptive, but it’s our best chance to make progress, and it allows us to keep disruptions to a minimum during the rest of the year.”

With teams working 24/7, major progress was made with the complex re-signalling work at Wellington Railway Station, as well as much-needed work on various tracks, foundations and platforms. This project is a major step towards modernising Wellington’s rail network and will improve operations in what is New Zealand’s most complex railway junction.

Round-the-clock work on the Kapiti Line saw the completion of the last major portion of the Plimmerton Station upgrade project. The upgrade, which included adding a third track and platform at the station, will allow commuter trains that currently run from Wellington to Porirua to be extended to Plimmerton, helping with capacity at peak times. Bridge 23 (just north of Paekākāriki) has also been replaced.

Maintenance on the Hutt Valley Line, largely between Ava Station and Taitā Station was also carried out.

“On the Wairarapa Line, the 572m long Māoribank tunnel had all the track and ballast ripped out (which dated back to the opening of the tunnel in 1955) and replaced with heavyweight rail and composite sleepers,” says Mr Gordon.

“In New Zealand’s second longest tunnel – the Remutaka – our team replaced all 18 kilometres of drainage. This massive effort drove the need to shut this line for 20 days and prepares us to replace the track in this tunnel next summer, which will allow long-standing speed restrictions to be lifted.”

The Wairarapa level crossing update work also began, with the installation of a new concrete track slab on the state highway 2 level crossing at Featherston, eliminating renewal work at this site for generations to come.

“This has been another tremendous effort by the entire team: KiwiRail, our contractors and supporting staff, to move closer towards the goal of providing our customers with a reliable and resilient level of service.” Mr Gordon says.

Urgent inspections on the overhead lines, closing Hutt Valley, Melling and Wairarapa rail lines between 9.30am and 2.30pm on Tuesday to Friday this week are in direct response to an unplanned outage caused by heat and not related to pre-planned block of line work. These are essential to minimise further disruption and must take place in daylight and on closed lines for safety reasons.