The first work train to reach Kaikoura on the Main North Line following November’s devastating earthquake arrived today, marking a significant milestone for the rebuild project, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

The work train, travelling north from Oaro, is the first to reach Kaikoura from the south.

“The train’s arrival demonstrates the progress that KiwiRail is making to restore this vital part of New Zealand’s freight network,” Mr Bridges says.

“The train, carrying a load of rail and sleepers, will help progress KiwiRail’s rebuild and will be used to replace buried and damaged track.

“Opening this connection is a key part of reopening this important line. Being able to get trains to Kaikoura means resources can now be positioned in Kaikoura, allowing work trains to operate in the north, south and middle sections of the Main North Line.

“This will allow the pace of the reconstruction to continue and help not only KiwiRail with their important rebuild work, but also assist with the reinstatement of State Highway 1 by helping to move material for the road reconstruction.

“Before the quake struck KiwiRail was shifting a million tonnes of freight a year over the line. They are working hard to fully reopen this important freight connection as soon as possible.

“KiwiRail is working closely with the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) effort to ensure the reinstatement work is done safely, quickly and well,” Mr Bridges says.

The train that arrived in Kaikoura today had to be pushed through a tunnel and then pulled out from the other end. Damage to the tunnel means further repairs are needed before it can be opened to other locomotives. Once today’s wagons are unloaded they will be returned to Christchurch and the tunnel will be closed to compete additional repairs.

“The Government’s priority is to restore the pre-earthquake transport links to Kaikoura and its surrounding communities, and ensure these vital links are resilient for the long term,” Mr Bridges says.

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