New Zealand is to invest $NZ292 million (around £150 million) to upgrade parts of a commuter network that are “nearing the end of their useful life”, a spending package that will improve reliability and allow for longer trains. The announcement from the national operator, KiwiRail, comes in a month that it reopened round-the-clock freight services on a 190-mile section of track in the South Island, following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.
The spending on the Wellington Metro Rail Network Wairarapa commuter line comprises around £96 million to renew track infrastructure and improve capacity, while around £47 million has been set aside for track infrastructure.
KiwiRail has said that among its primary targets on the Wairarapa Line is to renew tracks, sleepers and bridges, action that will enable it to remove speed restrictions, with the busiest sections of the track converted into a double-tracked configuration to help minimise delays.
“The network is aging and parts of it are nearing the end of their useful life, which means there have to be speed restrictions and more likelihood of delays. This funding will allow KiwiRail to get the network up to standard and make improvements that will allow for more and longer trains,” said KiwiRail acting chief executive, David Gordon. He added that geotechnical upgrades would also form part of the work to stabilise and secure high-risk slopes, helping prevent the landslides that can cause major delays.
Meanwhile, work is also being carried out to replace the old overhead traction masts and wires that power Wellington’s commuter trains. KiwiRail and Greater Wellington Regional Council are in the process of completing the government funded four-year, £48 million project that will run more than 20 miles of cabling underground, replacing than a thousand timber poles.
The section of track on New Zealand’s South Island that was affected by the Kaikoura earthquake was made available to daytime freight services between Blenheim and Christchurch, which previously could only be used at night in order to rebuild it. KiwiRail said: “Running trains again both day and night means we will be better able to meet our customers’ needs as we move into the busiest period for freight.”
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