New Zealand state-owned enterprise KiwiRail has started the work to upgrade the Northland Line to boost the journey times, resilience and reliability.

The work is carried out under the NZD204.5m Provincial Growth Fund investment from the New Zealand Government.

KiwiRail Group CEO Greg Miller said that commencement of major work to replace bridges, improve tunnels and upgrade the rail line to Whangarei will boost the services.

From 1 June, services will not be operational on the rail line between Swanson and Whangarei.

This will permit the work to commence to replace five ageing bridges and lower tracks in the 13 tunnels.

Miller said: “While our teams were able to continue design and planning work during the lockdown, Covid-19 halted most work on the ground. We’ve also been waiting on the arrival of specialist track laying equipment, which has been held up by pandemic disruptions.

“The work will be completed in stages, with the first objective being able to carry hi-cube containers through the tunnels between Whangarei and Auckland by Christmas.

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“This type of work can only be done while the line is shut. I regret the inconvenience for our freight customers and thank them for their patience. Once the line is upgraded, we will be able to offer more reliable train services to better meet their needs.

“Being able to carry high-cube containers will also allow freight that can currently only come in and out of Northland by road, to instead go by rail. That additional transport option could help cut transport emissions and reduce the number of trucks on the roads.”

In June 2018, the New Zealand Government started an investigation into the potential of expanding and upgrading Northland’s rail line in the Auckland region.