Pas­sen­ger trains to re­turn to Kaiko¯ura


Pas­sen­ger trains along the east coast of the South Is­land are ex­pected to be up and run­ning be­fore the end of the year.

Ki­wiRail has an­nounced plans to re­in­state the pas­sen­ger ser­vice be­tween Christchurch and Pic­ton in time for sum­mer.

The pas­sen­ger ser­vice, which has been out-of-ac­tion since the 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake in Novem­ber 2016, is ex­pected to re­turn to pre-quake timeta­bles, in time for the busy sum­mer pe­riod.

Main north line project di­rec­tor Wal­ter Rush­brook said most of the work on the rail had been com­pleted and there were only ‘‘iso­lated re­pairs’’ to be com­pleted.

While the date as to when the first pas­sen­ger train will dis­em­bark has yet to be fi­nalised, the ser­vice is ‘‘likely’’ to take off be­fore the end of the year, a Ki­wiRail spokesper­son said.

‘‘The date for Coastal Pa­cific’s much-an­tic­i­pated re­turn is still to be con­firmed, but is likely to be in time for the peak sum­mer sea­son to­wards the end of this year,’’ they said.

Freight trains have been op­er­at­ing along the rail­way since Septem­ber 2017 at night time, how­ever, pas­sen­ger ser­vices have been out-of-ac­tion since earth­quake.

‘‘For the track, there’s still some iso­lated re­pairs that we need to do; re­plac­ing cul­verts, fix­ing drainage sys­tems and do­ing other sta­bil­i­sa­tion works,’’ he said.

Some of the work in­volved en­sur­ing the rail­way would be upto-scratch in the heat of the sum­mer, Rush­brook said.

‘‘We do this thing called de­stress­ing, that’s the process to pre­vent track buck­les from tak­ing place.’’

‘‘In hot weather metal ex­pands, that can lead to track buck­les.

‘‘There’s an en­gi­neer­ing process which is called de-stress­ing and essen­tially what hap­pens there is the rail gets pre-stretched so it thinks it’s sit­ting there on a hot sum­mer’s day even though it might be the mid­dle of win­ter so that just means that when there is a hot sunny day, no buck­les oc­cur,’’ he said.

Ki­wiRail was re­stricted to night ser­vices to al­low road crews to con­tinue work­ing safely dur­ing the day.

‘‘Cur­rently there is two re­turn trains per night, six days a week and the rea­son why we don’t run trains through the day is so we can keep go­ing at high speed to re­pair the road and the rail, it just be­comes re­ally im­prac­ti­cal,’’ Rush­brook said.

Most of the freight car­ried on the main north line is gen­eral mer­chan­dise and com­modi­ties in­clud­ing malt and grain.

Loss of earn­ings and re­pair work on the line have been one of the causes of Ki­wiRail’s re­cent $193 mil­lion loss, with a rev­enue short­fall of about $25m at­trib­uted to the main north line.

Crews were still work­ing on sec­tions of road and rail along the coastal cor­ri­dor, north and south of Kaiko¯ura.

Project man­ager Zach Knut­son said crews at Waipapa Bay, a ma­jor slip site north of Kaiko¯ura were work­ing to build a new em­bank­ment, which moved the road and rail fur­ther away from the slip.

Work on the 540m em­bank­ment at Waipapa Bay started in Jan­uary and since then 46,000 cu­bic me­tres of slip ma­te­rial had been laid which equated to 4600 truck and trailer loads of ma­te­rial, he said.

Knut­son said the sec­tion of rail at Waipapa Bay was go­ing to be shifted away from the slip and closer to the sea ‘‘hope­fully’’ within the next month.

The Marl­bor­ough Flyer, known for­merly as Pass­chen­daele, was the only ‘pas­sen­ger-train’ op­er­at­ing along the coast of the South Is­land at the mo­ment.

The century-old steam train trav­el­ling be­tween Pic­ton and Blen­heim em­barked on its first trip on De­cem­ber 1 2017 and has proved pop­u­lar.

Pas­sen­ger numbers for the in­au­gu­ral 2017/18 sea­son were sit­ting over 12,000.


Kiwi Rail Coastal Pa­cific pas­sen­ger trains are ex­pected to be up and run­ning be­fore the end of the year.

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