KiwiRail has linked up the track between Picton and Christchurch for the first time since November’s Kaikoura earthquake devastated the line, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today.
“Staff held a small ceremony near Rakautara, north of Kaikoura this morning, and completed the final weld,” Mr Bridges says.
“This is an important milestone in getting the line open again, and in easing the pressure on upper South Island roads.”
Teams from around the country have been working to replace twisted track, rebuild bridges, repair tunnels, and clear enormous slips along the route in order to get freight moving again on rail in the South Island.
“The line is a critical component of the New Zealand transport network, carrying around 1 million tonnes of freight annually before the earthquake,” Mr Bridges says.
“While there is still work to be done, KiwiRail is making good progress towards returning freight services to this route.
“Getting it open will ease pressure on the alternate road, which has been the main route to shift freight south since the earthquake closed the coastal road and rail networks. It will also help with the reinstatement of State Highway 1 and the railway by moving materials to worksites along the route.
“A lot of work still remains to be done, but the workers from KiwiRail and its partners in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance have done a great job getting it to this stage,” Mr Bridges says.
There were close to 60 major damage sites including tunnels, bridges, embankments, and the line had been buried under more than 100 slips and landslides. Approximately 60 bridges were damaged and repairs are being carried out at more than 750 sites.
“The Government is committed to restoring the road and rail services along this important coastal corridor, and it is great to see the significant progress being made,” Mr Bridges says.