A modern rail network for Auckland

 Auckland’s rail network has seen huge growth in passenger services, on the back of investment in electrification, new electric trains and new stations.   At the same time freight volumes moving to and from and around the city are also increasing.  

Along with the rest of the country, much of the underlying rail network in Auckland is old and there has been limited funding available to replace the most dated track infrastructure, which becomes worn over time in the same way that road surfaces deteriorate.

In Auckland this has meant increased journey times which is frustrating for rail users, as temporary speed restrictions are used as a precaution to ensure trains operate safely until the track can be completely repaired or replaced. 

This long-standing issue is now being addressed with funding from Waka Kotahi to resolve historic under investment and enable a programme of catch-up track renewal work across Auckland’s network.

KiwiRail welcomes funding to bring the network up to a modern metro standard that will improve the efficiency and reliability of train services. Alongside the suite of Auckland projects we are leading, modernising the network will ensure it can support the additional services to be introduced when the City Rail Link opens.

Key areas of work:

  • Major track replacement for old sections of track where there are currently speed restrictions for trains.  This includes rebuilding the formation (the earth foundations beneath the tracks) and completely replacing the rail, sleepers and ballast. 
  • Modernising equipment so it is less prone to failures that interrupt services.
    This work will also improve how we maintain and operate railway infrastructure in the future. 

Carrying out this significant remediation work on a live network that operates 24/7 is a massive undertaking and will inevitably mean some disruption for rail users and those living next to the rail corridor.

We will continue to work with Auckland Transport to plan works in a way that minimises disruption while ensuring continued safe operations.

Major track replacement

Much of Auckland’s rail network was built around 100 years ago.

While we have replaced rail and sleepers across the network in Auckland the base that they sit on (formation) has been untouched and there are sections where this has deteriorated.

Repairing this is extremely challenging - the track has to be removed, existing formation dug out and new gravel brought into form a firm and resilient base

We’re also working to replace the older sleepers and worn rail across the network, and to clear and improve drainage.

This work cannot be done when trains are running, so we close sections of the network to do this work. We plan our works carefully so we can complete each job as quickly and efficiently as possible, minimising overall disruption to rail users and corridor neighbours. This can mean working day and night for several days at a time.

As this work can be disruptive, and we will endeavour to give residential neighbours advance warning of our activities.

The video below shows the activities involved for major track upgrades.

Track renewal works at Sylvia Park 2021

Urgent track replacement

KiwiRail has already completed the most urgent track replacement, replacing 130 kilometres of worn rail in 2020/21. For more about these works please watch the video below.

This work was to be included within the wider track replacement programme, but testing showed a particular type of track damage called ‘Rolling Contact Fatigue’ - was more widespread and repairs required more urgently than initially understood.

A report prepared for KiwiRail and Auckland Transport, identified multiple causes of RCF, with historic underinvestment in Auckland’s rail track infrastructure identified as one of the key factors. The report also pointed to insufficient rail grinding, poor underlying track condition, the design of the EMU trains and the wheel rail interface. Auckland’s climate is also another likely contributor.

More information:

This video explains how we are working on Auckland's network