New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail has secured independent panel approval of the resource consents for the main works related to its electrification project in South Auckland.

The sanction for the electrification of the rail line between Papakura and Pukekohe has been given as per the Covid-19 fast-track legislation.

The Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 involves a short-term consenting procedure to speed up projects that can support economic recovery and employment.

Under the fast-track consenting process, the rail operator, along with its contractor eTRACS, discussed directly with Mana Whenua, stakeholders, and lineside neighbours.

The application for the main works covered overhead wiring, masts, signal work, and five level crossings improvement along the 19km route.

In 2015, Auckland’s entire metro rail network from Swanson to Papakura was electrified to provide faster, quieter, and cleaner commuter trains.

KiwiRail acting group chief executive Todd Moyle said: “We are also taking the opportunity to do some improvements to the tracks at the same time. When completed, travel times will be reduced, making travel by rail an even more attractive option for commuters and other passengers.

“It’s all part of the government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by investing in rail through the NZ Upgrade Programme.

“Unfortunately, disruption is inevitable and KiwiRail will work with AT on how best to manage this. We are committed to keeping the public informed.”

The company’s Auckland Metro Programme includes over $1.05bn (NZD$1.5bn) of projects that aim to upgrade the rail network in Auckland.

The programme comprises track improvements throughout the Auckland network, construction of three new train stations between Papakura and Pukekohe, as well as a third main line to separate freight and passenger services.

By increasing the capacity for freight and passenger services, the programme is expected to maximise the benefits of the City Rail Link.

Key works on the electrification of Papakura to Pukekohe will commence later this year.

The first electric train is expected to operate in 2024.

In May this year, KiwiRail unveiled details of a redevelopment project for its Hillside railway workshop, which will commence this year.