The programme in detail

Our rail network has been helping people get where they want to go for decades now, but parts of it need replacement to make sure services are reliable

The Wellington Metro Upgrade Programme is a coordinated programme of Government and NZ Transport Agency investment packages to upgrade the Wellington commuter rail network.

Each of the packages has a slightly different focus but all work together to allow KiwiRail to replace all the systems and structures that keep existing train services running smoothly, and to allow for growth.

Works can be divided into two main areas:

  • Renewing the existing network infrastructure to ensure existing services run as smoothly as possible. This means replacing and modernising the overhead power system and signals power supply, and improving the track, across the network including inside the four major tunnels.
  • Adding capacity to the network so more people can travel on trains in the future while still allowing for freight services. This includes double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt, improvements to Wellington station approaches and changes at Plimmerton.

We're working hard to improve Wellington's Metro network and there's lots of projects underway and planned across all the Lines.

Thank you for your patience as we work on enabling the trains to run more reliably, more often.

Network upgrade overview

Replacement of overhead power systems and signals power supply: 2018 – 2021

The overhead power system that powers Wellington’s trains was first built more between 1938 and 1960. Over the years it has been well-maintained and recently parts of it were replaced and modernised as they reached the end of their life span.

The poles holding the electrical power system in place are now overdue to be replaced, without doing so the infrastructure will continue to decline with resulting delays and speed restrictions.

This work will see the replacement of all remaining old traction overhead lines on the Wellington electrified network with a modern auto-tensioned system. This includes the Hutt, Melling and Johnsonville Lines, and in rail yards at Wellington and Upper Hutt.

When it is finished, the Wellington network will have a modern auto-tensioned traction overhead line system, with the exception of certain areas not suited for technical reasons (the long Tawa tunnel on the Kapiti Line and a short section of sharply curved track north of Muri).

This work is currently underway with teams working on the Hutt Valley and Johnsonville Lines.

Signals power supply replacement: 2018 – 2021

Signals are critical for the safe and efficient running of trains.  While the Wellington Metro network has a well maintained and purpose designed signals system, the power supply to it in some areas is old and needs replacing to reduce risk of outages.

This work focuses on replacing the power supply system in the last remaining areas of the network. Completion of these works will have replaced all old high voltage power supplies on the Wellington electric network, except Ngauranga to Petone.

This work is currently underway with teams working on the last remaining section on the Kapiti Line after teams completed the Hutt Valley Line over Labour weekend 2019.

This work is funded by a special appropriation from the Ministry of Transport.


Track infrastructure catch-up: Starting in 2020

This intensive renewals work mainly involves replacing the track in areas that standard maintenance can no longer keep it to a standard where trains can continue to run at optimal speeds. To do this we will dig out and replace existing track, drainage and foundations.

The work is focussed on 60 km of the Wairarapa line between Upper Hutt and Masterton, and in the four major tunnels in Wellington (Tawa 1 and Tawa 2 on the Kapiti Line, the Remutuka and Maoribank tunnels on the Wairarapa Line) and sleepers in the eleven short tunnels on the Kapiti and Johnsonville line.

This package also funds works to reduce the risk from slips across the wider network and upgrade four bridges by replacing structural timber elements.

The work will see replacement and upgrading of rails, sleepers, ballast, underlying formation and drains, depending on the specific needs of each location.

The aim is to deliver a large peak of track replacement works coming due at one time.  Without this additional funding to allow the work, speed restrictions will rise significantly and remain at a high level.

Planning and design for these works is currently underway with physical works due to get underway in 2020.

The programme is funded by NZTA, using the “Transitional Rail” fund of the National Land Transport Fund.

Unlocking network capacity and improving resilience: 2018 - 2021

This funding package is intended to add capacity to the Wellington rail network by providing the extra infrastructure needed to allow increased services as set out in Greater Wellington’s Regional Rail Plan.

It includes:

  • Converting the Trentham to Upper Hutt single track section to double track, with associated new signalling system, expanded traction overhead, upgraded stations, upgraded level crossings, a pedestrian subway and modifications to the track in Upper Hutt station in association with the double track.
  • Conversion of Plimmerton to a terminus station to allow a greater number of services to terminate and start from here.
  • Additional traction sub stations to strengthen power supply for longer and more frequent trains.
  • Improvements to Wellington Station approaches to increase capacity.
  • Improved provision for passing loops that allow freight services to continue to operate to their timetables despite increased passenger services.

Planning and design is underway for other areas of the work that is funded by NZTA, using the National Land Transport Fund for “Transitional Rail”.

“Catch up” deferred heavy maintenance (renewals): 2011 - 2019

This work has seen us replace signalling at Petone and Porirua, and the signals power supply on south end of Kapiti line, replace all remaining legacy traction overhead lines on Kapiti line and replace the Petone traction substation.  In addition the Remutuka tunnel was equipped with train radio systems and a new tunnel telephone system. The last element still to be completed is renewal of the signalling system within the Remutuka tunnel. The objective of these works is to improve communications and management in the event of an emergency.

It was funded by a special appropriation from the Ministry of Transport.