The 12 months since a 7.8 earthquake struck near Kaikoura devastating the Main North Line railway have been enormously challenging, but a year on it is pleasing to see progress made, delivering some respite for residents and truck drivers, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says.
"It’s been a tough time for everyone involved, but the spirit of the locals and dedicated work from the 1500 people working on the rail and road rebuild effort is really starting to pay off.
"Despite some of the worst winter weather in years affecting our freight programme, more than 8500 tonnes of freight has now been shifted on the line, which will lower supply chain costs for our customers. It has also meant 1200 fewer truck trips on the vulnerable inland routes.
"We are also helping with the rebuild by delivering critical components for the road reconstruction directly into the worksite. Rail has moved tonnes of precast concrete blocks for sea walls, adapting wagons to carry them.
"That's important work as it helps with the reopening of the road which is now set for December 15.
"I want to pay tribute to the strength of the people in all of the communities hit by the quake," says Peter.
"These communities have faced significant upheaval and hardship, yet their hospitality and support has been overwhelming.
"Without their support we would not have made the progress we have, and we are committed to continuing the work to complete the job as soon as possible.
"Getting trains moving again was the result of the commitment from our own people and those in the NCTIR alliance - all of the alliance workers, NZTA and contractors.
"We are hoping to have our passenger tourism service, the Coastal Pacific, running again from mid next year, once the rebuild work is complete."
The rail line between Blenheim and Christchurch was reopened on September 15, enabling a limited low frequency service to resume between Picton and Christchurch. Exceptional weather affected early services but trains are now running regularly. The services run at night to enable work to continue during the day on both State Highway One, and to continue to bring the rail line up to full operating capacity.
The MNL is a critical link in New Zealand’s transport networks and before the earthquake more than one million tonnes of freight was being moved on it each year.