The first freight train to leave the Blenheim Freight Hub heading south has successfully completed its journey to Lake Grassmere this morning, opening the way for commercial goods to run again on this section of the South Island’s Main North Line following November’s 7.8 earthquake.

Freight from Dominion Saltworks at Lake Grassmere was then carried on the first stage of its journey to the North Island, arriving in Blenheim just after noon.

KiwiRail’s Chief Executive Peter Reidy says today’s journey is a significant milestone in the restoration of the MNL.

“Our crews have worked tirelessly throughout the holiday period from both Picton south and Christchurch north to get New Zealand moving again. Today’s successful run is a real credit to our people who are working to restore rail in the South Island for our customers.

“There were more than 50 medium scale faults along that section of the track and a lot of twisted and broken rail to fix. There are much bigger issues to tackle further south where the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance, which includes NZTA, will join forces to fix the coastal route.

“KiwiRail worked quickly after November’s quake to set up coastal shipping services for our customers and additional rail services from our inland hubs to ports at Tauranga and Auckland.

“But for many of our freight customers, it is crucial that we get the “just in time” services running again in the South Island as quickly as possible.

“There is still considerable danger to our crews due to the ongoing seismic activity but we are using the latest technology, and the considerable skills of our workforce, to complete restoration work as quickly and safely as possible.

“Today it is Blenheim to Lake Grassmere that is back working. Each week we hope to have made progress on a little more of the line.

“This is an enormous project of work but I am confident that we will complete the task in the fastest time possible,” Peter Reidy says.

 Contact: Sarah Stuart 021 684 564