Replacing and repairing bridges badly damaged in the Kaikoura earthquake is a key part of the next major phase in the rebuild of the Main North Line.
KiwiRail and its recovery partner NCTIR (North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery) are gearing up to tackle the big issues on the line – major slips, and damaged bridges and tunnels.
“We’re about to get into the crunchy sites,” says KiwiRail Group General Manager Network Services Todd Moyle.
“We’ve got surveyors out in the field at numerous sites, geo-tech testing is underway to prepare for the major earthworks we will need to carry out, and we’ve done laser scanning of several of our tunnels to determine the work that will need to be done on them.
“At the end of the process we will have developed plans for what we need to do to get the line open as quickly as possible.
“Some bridges will need to be demolished and replaced with new structures, while others will need to be partly replaced,” he said.
In the meantime KiwiRail track teams are continuing to fix misalignments caused by the earthquake.
There are 709 rail sites on the line. Work has already been completed on around 100 of those sites.
“The track work is vital to getting the line open again. It is not the same scale as the big bridge or earthworks sites but it is crucial,” says Mr Moyle.
“We’re utilising our local KiwiRail track teams out of Blenheim, Kaikoura and Mina, alongside local contractors, plus mobilising KiwiRail teams from around the country. For example, a team from Dunedin has been doing great work with our Blenheim guys around Grassmere.
“We need to schedule the track work carefully so it is co-ordinated with the big projects like the bridges and the tunnels. It also needs to be synchronised with our overall approach which is to work from the north and south towards Kaikoura fixing the tracks.
“There is continuing seismic activity in the area and so the safety of our work-crews is our number one priority. That makes a final completion date difficult to commit to but there is no doubt that despite the size of the project, we are working to schedule.”
KiwiRail has already reopened the section of the line between Spring Creek and Lake Grassmere. Getting the line back into commission in mid-January allowed freight services from the Dominion Saltworks at Lake Grassmere to resume.