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Northland rail

The North Auckland Line from Swanson to Whangarei was badly damaged in the January 2023 extreme weather event and again during Cyclone Gabrielle. Repairs are underway and we are aiming to reopen the line around mid-2024.

These two videos illustrate the level of damage. The first was a massive 35,000 cubic metre slip over the road and rail line at Tahekeroa. The second video highlights a range of other repairs going on.

Prior to the storm recovery work, KiwiRail was committed to improving Northland’s rail and providing sustainable transport connections with Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. The Northland Rail Upgrade supports the movement of more freight by rail, helping to lower transport emissions.

Freight volumes in Northland are expected to increase to 23 million tonnes by 2042. Rail is crucial to developing an efficient, integrated transport system for the region.  Each tonne of freight carried by rail has 70 per cent fewer emissions than that carried by road. It also helps reduce road congestion and road maintenance costs through fewer truck journeys.

The benefits of rail are opening up to Northland as KiwiRail delivers several stages of work, made possible by significant Government investment through the NZ Upgrade Programme.

KiwiRail is re-opening the line between Kauri-Otiria and acquiring the land needed for a rail link to Northport at Marsden Point.  This follows earlier upgrades to the line between Swanson and Whangārei to allow for larger modern containers and heavier loads to be carried on the line.

Kauri to Otiria

The rail line between Kauri (just north of Whangārei) and Otiria (near Moerewa) will be re-opened and upgraded to carry 18 tonne axle loads, enabling larger, heavier trains to run. KiwiRail will also build a road / rail transfer site at Otiria.   

Work began in 2022, and will include replacing rail and sleepers and strengthening some bridges before the line can be re-opened to regular freight services by the end of 2024.

While freight trains are not yet running, work trains and other rail vehicles are using the line so it is important people take care as they approach level crossings in the area.

Swanson – Whangārei

Around 30,000 containers leave Northland each year and rail can now tap into this market. KiwiRail upgraded the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangārei, allowing hi-cube shipping containers to be carried on the line for the first time.

Highlights of the project:

  • Lowered track through 13 tunnels
  • Replaced five aged bridges
  • Laid 150,000 new sleepers and nearly 63,000m3 of ballast to provide a more secure base for the track
  • More than 400,000 hours went into construction phase of the project

The line re-opened in early 2021 after a four-month closure to allow for the tunnel and bridge upgrades.

Hear more about the upgrades between Swanson - Whangārei in this video.

Marsden Point Rail Link

Northport is one of the few ports in New Zealand that is not rail connected. A short spur is needed to join it to the national rail network, adding much needed resilience to the wider North Island supply chain by creating more transport options.

The route, designated for rail use in 2012, is approximately 19km and runs between Oakleigh, south of Whangārei, and Northport. The width of the designated rail corridor future proofs for double tracking and all five road crossings on the route would be grade separated if the rail link goes ahead.

Government investment has enabled KiwiRail to begin the necessary land acquisition for the route.

The next steps are to:

  • Complete a delivery case for the line – which will confirm costs, scope, planning and funding for the next stages of the project
  • Consult with iwi and other stakeholders
  • Finalise the design for the route
  • Complete land acquisition

Once the rail link project gets underway, we expect it to take five years to deliver.

This map shows the designated route for a Marsden Point line.

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