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Northland rail rejuvenation

Trains have returned to the Northland line after a major upgrade to bridges, tunnels and track between West Auckland and Whangārei funded by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

This work has:

  • Allowed hi-cube shipping contains to be carried on the line for the first time, by lowering track in 13 tunnels. For context around 30,000 containers leave Northland each year, so rail will now be able to tap into this market.
  • Provided jobs for Northland-based contractors and helped the region’s economy. Where possible, KiwiRail used local businesses and sourced materials from Northland.
  • KiwiRail has employed local staff in Northland, for ongoing maintenance of the Northland Line.
  • Rejuvenating Northland rail offers another reliable transport option for Northland’s producers and manufacturers.


  • At its peak, more than 600 people worked on the project at one time
  • Lowered tracks through 13 tunnels
  • Replaced five aged bridges
  • Laid 30,000 new sleepers and nearly 63,000m3 of ballast to provide a more secure base for the track
  • More than 400,000 hours went into the construction phase of the project
bridge under construction

Hear more about upgrades to the Northland line in this video from KiwiRail's Group Chief Executive, Greg Miller

Ongoing work

While we are delighted that the line is once again up and running, there is more to be done to return this line to a standard similar to the rest of New Zealand’s rail network, ensuring efficient rail operations for the long-term.

To allow greater train speed and axle weight, over time we will be replacing another 10km of rail and laying more than 100,000 sleepers

We are also carrying out further work to complete repairs to tunnel linings.

workers in tunnel

Another 10km of rail will be replaced and more than 100,000 sleepers laid to allow heavier and faster trains to travel on the line.

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Northland Line investment

KiwiRail has received Government investment of $204.5 to:

  • Upgrade the line between Swanson and Whangārei, including replacing five bridges and lowering tracks in 13 tunnels
  • Reopen the currently mothballed line between Kauri and Otiria and building a road/rail interchange at Otiria
  • Purchase land along the route of the Marsden Point Line

Rail has a number of benefits – including helping to reduce road congestion and road maintenance costs through fewer truck journeys. Rail also helps reduce overall transport emissions, given each tonne of freight carried by rail has 70 per cent fewer emissions than that carried by road.

With freight volumes in Northland expected to increase from 18 million tonnes a year currently to 23 million tonnes by 2042, rail is a crucial part of developing an efficient, integrated road-rail transport system in the region.