First freight train arrives in Christchurch

The first freight train to travel on the Main North Line since the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016 successfully completed its journey into Christchurch this afternoon.

The train, carrying general domestic freight from KiwiRail customers Bascik, Toll, Mainfreight Group and Maersk, pulled into KiwiRail’s Middleton site at 2pm.

“We’ve had a remarkable 10 months to get to this point, and what it has highlighted is the importance of rail to our economy, and how critical it is that road and rail work together,” says KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy.

“Before the earthquake, KiwiRail was carrying one million tonnes of freight on the line for our customers per year. After the quake, freight has had to be moved south by road, which has put pressure on the inland route.

“It’s meant additional costs for freight forwarding companies and it hasn’t been easy for truck drivers.

“While our initial services on the line will be low frequency and take place at night, to allow rebuild work to continue during the day, we estimate they will help take 2000 trucks a month off the inland route.

“Each tonne of freight carried by rail also represents 66% fewer carbon emissions than when carried by road.

“The economic and social benefits of rail have been very apparent over the last 10 months, and that’s why today is such a significant milestone in what is the largest rebuild of rail since WWII.

“I want to thank our people who have put in long hours and spent time away from their families to get us to this point today.

“I would also like to thank our partners in the NCTIR alliance-all of the alliance workers, NZTA and other contractors-for all of their hard work in this rebuild.”

Today’s train was driven from Kaikoura to Christchurch by KiwiRail Locomotive Engineer Wayne Sullivan, who was driving a locomotive on the Main North Line when the Kaikoura earthquake struck.

Mr Sullivan, who shared his story for the first time today, felt his train move “horrendously” and saw dust coming from the ceiling of the tunnel he was approaching.

With freight services and work trains now operating on the Main North Line, KiwiRail reminds everyone to take care around the rail network, and always expect trains at any time, from either direction.

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