Work underway to smooth Auckland rail commuters’ ride

A smoother ride for passengers and freight is on its way, as a rail grinder make its way along the Auckland metro network. The rail grinder extends the lifespan of the track through smoothing and removing defective metal.

KiwiRail’s Executive General Manager for Operations, Siva Sivapakkiam, says that the grinder will bring significant benefits to KiwiRail’s maintenance operations and prolong rail track life.

“Over time the top of the rail where the train wheels run develops stress points, defects and metal build up from the steel wheels travelling on the track. It’s a problem common to every rail network around the world that has to be managed.”

“It’s a bit like driving a car with flat tyres. You still get there, but it uses a lot of fuel, doesn’t steer well and the ride quality is poor. In the same way, if the rail isn’t the correct shape it wears out more quickly than it should.”

Rail grinding corrects the shape of the track and has long term cost saving benefits reducing track and wheel maintenance and saving fuel.

The Auckland network is increasingly busy with 198,000 commuter services each year and 246 freight trains running per week. This makes it hard to schedule maintenance, including grinding.

Over the summer period, the rail grinder will gradually work its way around the Auckland metro areas. It will start on the Southern and Western lines in December, before travelling along the Eastern line in the new year. Due to the busy commuter service, KiwiRail needs to do the work at night when the commuter trains are not running.

As it moves along the tracks the rail grinder can sometimes be loud and it creates sparks from the grinding. The machine carries water which is used to spray the track as it passes and to manage any potential fire risk.

“It’s quite a sight when you see it in operation. Most people won’t have seen this type of thing on the rail line before and experience overseas is that some people see the sparks and think something is wrong with one of our trains. Rest assured, we’re working closely with local communities and authorities to keep everyone informed of what to expect,” says Mr Sivapakkiam.

KiwiRail will also carry out other maintenance and upgrade works over the Christmas and New Year period to improve the condition and performance of the Auckland network.