Rail in New Zealand
The railway runs through the length of the New Zealand, from north of Whangarei as far as Bluff in the south.
There are over 4,000 kilometres of track and over 3,000 level crossings.
KiwiRail is responsible for freight operations on the rail network, manages the movement of all trains (passenger and freight) and is also responsible for managing the infrastructure, including rails, bridges and level crossings. There are also level crossings on non-KiwiRail lines, such as those operated by the Taieri Gorge or Glenbrook Railways.
Urban Passenger Trains
Each week KiwiRail (under the Tranz Metro brand) operates 2,200 suburban passenger services in Wellington under contract to Greater Wellington Regional Council.
In 2010/11 a significant amount of investment went into the Wellington rail network. KiwiRail has extended the double tracks from McKay’s Crossing to Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast.
Other projects, such as an upgrade of the Johnsonville line and a new line into Wellington Station were also undertaken to improve the reliability of Wellington’s passenger services.
Greater Wellington Regional Council has also purchased 48 new Matangi trains from Korea which are being progressively introduced into service.
In Auckland, Veolia Transport operates passenger rail services under contract to Auckland Transport. Around 1,490 trains move around Auckland each week.
A series of improvements are being made to the Auckland network aimed at providing improved reliability and more frequent passenger services.
Some of the improvements have included the New Lynn rail trench, station improvements (including the redevelopment of the Newmarket Station), double tracking on the Western Line, the reintroduction of the Onehunga Branch Line and the construction of the new Manukau branch line. Signalling improvements have also allowed for more frequent services.
Auckland is also in the process of electrifying its network, which will see 80kms of the rail corridor being electrified from Papakura in the South to Swanson in the West, and including the Onehunga and Manukau branch lines.
A comprehensive public awareness and education campaign will be implemented to alert Aucklanders to the safety risks associated with electrification, including the ‘quietness’ of trains, and the potential dangers from contact with overhead electric wires.
More information about electrification and the associated safety risks is available here.
Long Distance Passenger Trains
KiwiRail also operates four long-distance passenger trains under the Tranz Scenic brand. These are:
- the Overlander (Wellington to Auckland),
- the Tranz Alpine (Christchurch to Greymouth),
- the Coastal Pacific (Christchurch to Picton), and
- the Capital Connection (Wellington to Palmerston North)
The Coastal Pacific (formerly the Tranz Coastal).
Every week over 900 freight trains move around the country, transporting general freight and goods such as coal, milk and dairy products, wood and timber products, iron, steel and meat.
A report by the Ministry of Transport in 2009 forecast overall freight volumes to rise by 75 percent over the next 20 years.
Changes in use of lines
The Onehunga Branch Line was brought back into use for passenger trains in 2010 after a 37-year absence. The new Manukau Branch Line is due to open in Auckland in 2012.
The Castlecliff Industrial Line in Wanganui also reopened in 2011 to meet a need to transport dairy products to the Port of Taranaki for export. In 2012 the Rotorua Branch Line will reopen after a 10 year hiatus.
The future of other railway lines in New Zealand is currently being assessed, including the North Auckland line and the Napier to Gisborne line.
When railway lines re-open, there is a need to raise public awareness about the increased safety risks due to the renewed movement of trains around level crossings.