Support for resilient rail connection to the West Coast

2 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 8, 2020

A $13 million investment from the government will create jobs and improve the resilience of the rail connection between Christchurch and the West Coast, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones and Regional Economic Development Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau have said.

The funding comes from the tagged contingency set aside in Budget 2020 for infrastructure projects and forms part of the $90 million allocated to the West Coast.

“This is a critical regional infrastructure project to ensure transport connections to the West Coast are resilient and reliable,” Jones said.

“The rail line to Greymouth brings more than 80,000 tourists into the region each year, and gets the equivalent of 50,000 truckloads of exports to port. It‘s a vital part of the regional economy.”

It comes after a 100m slip at Omoto in October 2019 closed the rail line and State Highway 7 between Christchurch and Greymouth for more than a month.

Though there are alternative road routes to the West Coast, the slip stopped the popular TranzAlpine tourist train reaching Greymouth and prevented freight leaving the region by rail.

“The slip last year was felt by West Coast businesses – with a drop in tourist numbers and additional costs for dairy and forestry exporters,” Fletcher Tabuteau said. 

With the government‘s support, KiwiRail will be able to install drainage and strengthen 2.5km of the hillside at Omoto.

“It is about KiwiRail getting ahead of future problems and helping to ensure rail outages do not happen.

“The work at Omoto will also support about 20 local jobs. It‘s important that the West Coast sees maximum benefit from government investment. Not only does the Omoto work give certainty for the future, KiwiRail is focused on using West Coast civil contracting firms and suppliers to carry out the work wherever possible.

“That means the bulk of the government‘s investment is expected to go back into the regional economy, where it is needed,” Tabuteau said.