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Northland rail rejuvenation

Significant Government investment is enabling KiwiRail to improve rail connections in Northland, supporting the transfer of freight from road to rail and reducing transport emissions.

In June 2021, funding was also allocated from the Government’s New Zealand Upgrade Programme to build a rail link to Northport at Marsden Point.

This follows earlier investment to upgrade the North Auckland line to allow for larger modern containers and heavier loads to be carried on the line.

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 for the region. 

Rail helps reduce overall transport emissions, given 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.

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Marsden Point Line

At present the vast majority of freight in Northland is carried by truck.

Northport is one of the few ports in New Zealand that is not rail connected, and only a short spur is needed to join it to the national rail network.

Connecting Northport to the rail network will add much needed resilience to the wider North Island supply chain by creating more transport options.

The route is approximately 19km and runs between Oakleigh, south of Whangarei, and Northport. The route was designated in 2012.

The rail corridor width future proofs for double tracking and all five road crossings will be grade separated.

We expect the project to take up to five years to deliver.

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

Our next steps will be to:

  • Complete a delivery case for the line – which will confirm costs, exact scope and when construction will begin
  • Consult with iwi and other stakeholders
  • Finalise the design for the route
  • Complete land acquisition


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

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Previous Northland Line investment

KiwiRail has received Government investment of more than $200 million 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 build a road/rail interchange at Otiria
  • Purchase land along the route of the Marsden Point Line


Swanson to Whangārei

Work already completed on the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangārei has:

  • Allowed hi-cube shipping containers 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 can now 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

Further work is still underway 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.

That work includes  replacing another 10km of rail and laying more than 100,000 sleepers.

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

Kauri to Otiria

Funding has already been allocated to reopen the currently mothballed line between Kauri (just north of Whangārei) and Otiria, and to build a rail/road transfer site at Otiria.

Additional funding through NZUP will allow the line between Whangārei and Otiria to be further upgraded so it is capable of carrying 18 tonne axle loads. 

We expect the work on this section of line to begin in 2022.