Work is underway to rejuvenate rail in Northland, following significant investment from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
In early September 2019 the Government announced a $94.8 million investment to undertake much needed maintenance on the North Auckland Line (NAL) between Swanson and Whangarei.
This follows a $2.2 million investment to undertake geotechnical and other assessments along the route of a proposed spur line to Marsden Point and Northport, which was completed in early 2019.
The Ministry of Transport has completed a Northland Rail Business Case and an Upper North Island Supply Chain Study is underway which will focus on the respective roles, opportunities and options for Northport, Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga.
An improved and extended North Auckland Line and Marsden Spur could play a key role in that.
Taking a closer look
Northland’s railway lines are underused at the moment because of their condition. The NAL is around 100-years old, is currently mothballed north of Kauri (above Whangarei) and the whole line has been in a state of ‘managed decline’ until its future was determined.
As a result, rail freight services are too easily disrupted, with at least 70 line outages on the NAL since 2010 – mostly due to slope stability, flooding issues and derailments. Two significant derailments in the last 18 months each closed the line for more than a week and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.
Currently we run one week-day return service to Auckland on the line, predominantly carrying dairy and forestry freight.
The line has lower speeds than the rest of the network. It also has lower weight limits, and, because of its very old tunnels, it cannot carry the same containers carried elsewhere on the network.
The Government’s $94.8m investment will enable the line between Swanson and Whangarei to be properly maintained and upgraded, returning it to a standard similar to the rest of New Zealand’s rail network and ensure it remains in operation long-term.
It also sets a solid foundation for KiwiRail to grow our freight services in and out of Northland, helping taking heavy trucks off the region’s roads, and is necessary to support any further rail investment – such as the Marsden Spur or increasing the size of the tunnels to take the larger containers.
The work KiwiRail is undertaking on the NAL includes:
Track, sleepers and ballast ($40 - $50M)
Replacing five of the 88 bridges on the line ($15 - $20M)
Repairs to 13 tunnels ($7 - $10M)
Clearing drains and culverts ($7 - $10M)
Work stabilising the slopes on nine embankments ($3 - $5M)
Vegetation control along the rail line ($1M)
Review and make improvements to the Whangarei Rail Yard ($2 - $3M)
This work will:
The spend is shown with a high and low estimates because at this time KiwiRail does not have prices in for some of the works.
The work is underway, with the majority of it expected to be completed by September 2020.
KiwiRail has held a designation for a 20km Marsden Point rail spur for several years, and we have investigated the design and potential construction methods for the link, as well as costs and timeframes.
This work has fed into the Ministry of Transport’s business case for Northland rail.
The Government has indicated its strong support for the value rail delivers in the regions and the benefits it brings for New Zealand by taking trucks off the road, improving road safety and reducing carbon emissions.
The work we are doing in Northland is one of a number of projects underway to ensure we deliver stronger connections for a better New Zealand.