Northland rail investment massive boost for region

  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
  • Hon Shane Jones
Deputy Prime Minister Regional Economic Development State Owned Enterprises

A vital investment in the Northland rail line will finally bring the track out of managed decline and preserve future investment opportunities, State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones say.

The Government, through the Provincial Growth Fund, has today announced a $94.8 million investment to maintain and improve the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, which will have significant benefits for Northland’s economy.

“Without our investment, this rail line to Whangarei will become unsafe and have to close within five years – leaving Northland cut off from rail services most other regions have,” Winston Peters said.

“That’s unacceptable and unfair to the people of Northland. That’s why the Government is addressing decades of under-investment and neglect in the rail line, to support the future growth of rail in Northland.

The funding will see about 54 kilometres of the 181 kilometre track replaced or upgraded; tens of thousands of sleepers replaced, tens of thousands of cubic metres of ballast added; aging bridges replaced; overdue maintenance work on tunnels carried out; ditches cleared and embankments stabilised.

“We are investing more than a billion dollars to get New Zealand’s rail system back on track, so rail can play its proper role in reducing road congestion and emissions across our transport system,” Winston Peters said.

Shane Jones said the $94.8m Provincial Growth Fund investment will also help improve freight services on the line and have direct benefits for Northland’s economy.

“The maintenance work will make the line more resilient to weather events and freight services more timely and reliable.

“Not only does it set the right conditions for KiwiRail to grow its freight business, wherever possible KiwiRail will be using Northland based contractors to carry out work. It will look to Northland first if they recruit more track staff, as well as sourcing materials in Northland.

“This initiative will see many millions of dollars being injected into Northland, helping stimulate the region’s economic growth. I’m proud that PGF funding has been able to make this happen,” Shane Jones said.   

Further information on the announcement of the Government’s $1 billion funding boost to KiwiRail can be found here.

Media contacts:

Zach Vickery (Minister Peters) – 021 867 951

Georgina Stylianou (Minister Jones) – 021 137 0630

Note to Editors:

The planned work on the North Auckland Line between Swanson and Whangarei includes:

Track, sleepers and ballast ($53.1M):

  • Works will target improving track resilience and reducing wear on track and rolling stock. Approximately 30 per cent - 54km - of the network will be either upgraded or replaced, particularly worn areas where there are bends, turnouts, and steep grades.
  • Approximately 50,000 sleepers are expected to be replaced and 50,000 cubic metres of ballast added.

Replacing five of the 88 bridges on the line ($16.2M):

  • Mostly wooden bridges, which will be replaced with concrete structures due to their deteriorating structural condition.

Repairs to 13 tunnels ($7.3M):

  • KiwiRail has begun work strengthening Tunnel 2, north of Helensville, one of the longest on the NAL. This has included installing steel ribs to support the tunnel lining in an area of deformation
  • Work will also be done on the other 12 tunnels, including plaster repairs, crack filling and drainage improvements.
  • As part of the maintenance work on all the tunnels, below ground conditions will be investigated in preparation for later work to lower the ground level in the tunnels (to fit larger, modern shipping containers).

Clearing drains and culverts ($9.5M):

  • Clearing trackside drains along the 181km stretch of line.
  • A quarter (approx. 237) of the 950 culverts (drainage pipes) on the line are in poor condition and will be remediated as required.
  • Maintaining the drains and culverts is crucial for ensuring the stability of the rail line and managing flood waters during weather events. Many have not been looked at for decades.
  • Culvert and drainage work will protect the track condition, reducing clay and mud build up in the track ballast which makes the track more susceptible to movement.

Work stabilising the slopes on nine embankments ($4.7M):

  • The work will include drainage improvements and widening the embankments.
  • There will be ongoing monitoring of the embankments to determine if further civil engineering work is required over the longer term.

Vegetation control along the rail line ($0.8M):

  • As the line has been in “managed decline” vegetation clearance has been limited to removing fallen trees and branches from the track.
  • A significant amount of vegetation needs to be cleared from the sides of the track, which will protect the track and rolling stock, as well as improving access to worksites.

Review and make improvements to the Whangarei Rail Yard ($3.2M):

Changes will be made to improve safety, and make freight handling and storage more efficient. For example, disused track that used to go to Whangarei Port could be removed.