The New Zealand Government has provided an investment of NZD13m ($8.5m) to state-owned rail operator KiwiRail to boost the rail connection between the West Coast and Christchurch.

This investment is provided from the tagged contingency set aside in Budget 2020 for infrastructure projects. It is a part of the NZD90m ($59m) assigned to the West Coast.

The funding will be used for the geotechnical work that increases the reliability of the rail and road transport connecting Greymouth.

Last October, a 100m slip at Omoto shut down the rail line and State Highway 7 between Greymouth and Christchurch for over a month.

The work will be carried out by KiwiRail, along with local contractors and suppliers. This is expected to boost the jobs, income and investment amid the difficult economic period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The workers will install horizontal drains between internal layers of the hillside that will remove water.

The work also includes the installation of in-ground piles/retaining structures to connect the top sliding layer and the bottom layer.

The work is slated to complete next year.

KiwiRail Group CEO Greg Miller said: “A long-term, comprehensive solution is required for this slope and we’re delighted that we now have the funding to achieve that.

“Every tonne of heavy freight delivered by rail results in 66% fewer emissions than the equivalent freight being carried by road, so KiwiRail is working hard to encourage companies to make that shift.

“Everything we can do to make rail freight more reliable helps New Zealand lower its emissions, helps make KiwiRail more sustainable, and reduces truck numbers on the country’s roads.”

Last month, KiwiRail resumed operations of the TranzAlpine train service.

In May, the New Zealand Government allocated NZD1.2bn ($717m) in its Budget 2020, which will be available to KiwiRail.