Track between Picton and Christchurch reconnected three months ahead of schedule

General News

Aug 24, 2017

Two minutes and an intricate sequence of seismic ruptures totalling a magnitude of 7.8 caused immense damage to significant road and rail routes in the South Island. The rumble felt across New Zealand in November 2016 closed rail and road access to Kaikoura, including the critical coastal route from Picton to Christchurch. The scale of quake damage on the Main North Line and State Highway 1 road network is unprecedented in New Zealand history. 

A welding ceremony in August marked a major milestone in the railroad repair efforts. The ceremony started with the joining of the final piece of track and reconnecting the rail line between Picton and Christchurch, three months ahead of schedule.
This is the biggest rail rebuild in New Zealand since World War Two. 1500 people have been working tirelessly for the last eight months to complete the repair. 

Over a hundred people involved in the project attended the celebration. This marked a huge milestone for the South Island, KiwiRail and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Rebuild (NCTIR) alliance made up of the NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail, Higgins, Fulton Hogan, Downer and HEB Construction. It was an emotional day for those involved and an important step in accelerating the rebuild. 

Freight trains will be able to run on the partially repaired line by the end of August. The opening of the line is predicted to see 500 fewer trucks on the alternate Picton to Christchurch road each week. The freight trains will run only at night so that additional repair work on the road and railway can continue during the day. 

As part of the NCTIR alliance, Higgins is leading a collaborative effort made up of team members from Higgins, Fletcher Construction and Brian Perry Civil, totalling 120 people. Higgins Christchurch Area Manager Maru Rout says, “Resources have ramped up significantly in the last couple of months with people and equipment from around the country. Fletcher Construction and Brian Perry’s structures and earthquake experience combined with Higgins’ expertise in disaster management and road building is leading the way and providing an awesome team contribution to the alliance.” 

The Higgins team is working across nine NCTIR project sites including the northern areas of Clarence, Slip 1A; the seawall works; rail track repairs; and the retaining walls in the Hundalee Hills, north of Kaikoura. In the ‘Hundalees’, along a 15km winding stretch of SH1 south of Kaikoura, there are 33 structures that need to be reinstated, including 15 gabion retaining walls that were badly damaged after the November earthquake.