Fuseworks Media

Wairarapa rail passengers hit with more speed restrictions following KiwiRail track works

Despite the completion of newly laid tracks, rail passengers on the Wairarapa line will be disappointed to learn of more speed restrictions and delayed services while issues with the interface between the new track and the Wairarapa carriages are dealt with.

Areas within a 16km section of track, near South Featherston, have been laid on average 4mm narrower. While it is within KiwiRail’s normal engineering tolerances for a safe network, the interaction between the track and wheels of the Wairarapa service carriages is resulting in vibrations, which affects ride quality, and premature wear and tear on the carriages themselves.

While the vibration issue has had no impact on the locomotives pulling the Wairarapa trains or KiwiRail’s freight locomotives and wagons, its impact on carriages means trains cannot run at their top speed and are restricted to 60km/h instead of the intended 100km/h.

Since the new track was laid and certified by KiwiRail in December, passengers and staff have complained that Wairarapa trains are vibrating abnormally. Metlink and Transdev initially carried out tests on its carriages and wheels to isolate the issue, before the interaction issues with the track were discovered.

Daran Ponter, Chair of Greater Wellington, says Wairarapa passengers are fed up with their second-class status.

“Wairarapa passengers have had to put up with a lot over the last few years with the promise that better times were coming. But now they are faced with more work to get this, and other parts of the line, up to a fit standard.

KiwiRail General Manager Metros Jon Knight acknowledged how frustrating the situation is for Wairarapa commuters.

“We understand the frustration commuters are experiencing. KiwiRail has been working extremely hard over the last few years, replacing old track so the people of Wairarapa can have improved train services. This issue is not affecting our locomotives, it seems specific to the Wairarapa passenger carriages.

“We have identified multiple options to resolve this vibration issue and are currently finalising the best approach. We have trialled replacing the clips that hold rails to the sleepers and could grind the rail to improve the interface with the Wairarapa carriages. Grinding is not an option right now, given the specialist machine produces sparks, but can be done once the fire ban is lifted. Another solution could be to reprofile the carriage wheels but this would take up to 18 months to complete on the whole carriage fleet,” says Jon Knight.

Cr Ponter says all options are time consuming and expensive fixes for something that could have been avoided in the first place.

KiwiRail have been undertaking significant works along the Wairarapa line to prepare for increased use in the future. So far, they have replaced 40km of rails and sleepers, replaced 3 bridges, replaced track through Māoribank tunnel and upgraded level crossings.

They are currently undertaking work on the Woodside passing loop and signalling system trenching. Future works include replacing track through Remutaka Tunnel and the Waingawa passing loop as well as platform, depot and stable upgrades.

Including the 16km of track, Wairarapa Line customers are currently experiencing 15 minutes of delays and disruption to their service due to a range of factors:

  • A warning device fault at the Renall Street Level Crossing is causing 1.5 minute delay with speeds currently restricted to 10 km/h.
  • Recently completed bridge renewals at Bridge 56 Waterson’s Lane are causing a 1 minute delay, with speeds currently restricted to 60 km/h until the works are bedded in.
  • A safety related issue at Speedie’s Crossing is causing a 3 minute delay, with speeds currently restricted to 60 km/h.
  • 8.8km of aging track needs replacing at the Remutaka Tunnel causing a 3 minute delay, with speeds currently restricted to 60 km/h. This is a complex piece of work that will take weeks to complete. Work will begin over the 2024 Christmas break.

“Greater Wellington is in urgent discussions with KiwiRail and Transdev to see what else can be done to expedite and resolve the remaining issues on the Wairarapa line,” adds Cr Ponter.


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