At 12.02 am on November 14, 2016, the world changed for thousands of people living along the Kaikoura coast on New Zealand’s South Island, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake brought down mountains, twisted steel and cracked concrete.
The physical damage to both KiwiRail’s Main North Line railway and neighbouring State Highway 1 was extensive, with rail tracks thrown into the sea. One freight train was stranded between slips, some 10km north of Kaikoura.
There were 60 sites along the Main North Line from Picton to Christchurch needing major repairs, including tunnels and bridges.
The impact on local communities was devastating as they struggled to keep going while cut off from the rest of the country.
The first freight train to the travel on the Main North Line winds its way around the coast south of Kaikoura in September 2017.
The severed rail link between Picton and Christchurch also meant there was a critical gap in the KiwiRail network. The Main North Line had been one of the last pieces to be put in place in the national rail network and it enabled freight to travel by train and ferry the length of New Zealand.
Before the earthquake, we were moving one million tonnes of freight a year on it and carrying passengers on the scenic Coastal Pacific Great Journey of New Zealand.
The loss of that link meant all that freight had to move on to the fragile post-quake road network road, and we rejigged our freight hub in Blenheim to make that shift as easy as possible.
It made it imperative to get the line open, even in a limited way, as quickly as was safely possible. That meant using temporary bridges in a fast but ugly approach.
Rebuilding the line was one of the biggest rail rebuild projects since World War II and the more than 1700 workers who tackled it showed enormous grit and dedication.
This massive disaster reconstruction effort was more than just a rail and road opening - families and friends were reconnected, businesses welcomed tourists back, freight could move easily to and across the South Island.
The scale of the achievement has been recognised both here and overseas. Among the awards it has won are: