Railway from Picton to Christchurch closes again after wet start to October
The newly rebuilt railway line from Picton to Christchurch could be closed for the rest of the month after recent rain brought slips down across the tracks.
Hundreds of spectators turned up to watch the first freight train since the November earthquake take the Main North Line on September 15.
The celebration was short-lived. Heavy rain closed the track after one train went through. It reopened 10 days later, and 14 freight services ran on the line before it closed again after its last service on Saturday.
KiwiRail blamed the latest closure on an unusually wet start to October for the Kaikōura region.
* Freight trains to start up again on Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch
* Bad weather closes newly-fixed rail line between Picton and Christchurch
* Hundreds welcome first freight train to Kaikōura
* Picton to Christchurch railway line reopens for freight
Acting chief executive David Gordon said the "unusually heavy rainfall" caused 31 slips in the area, including three major slips onto the railway line and next to State Highway 1.
He said KiwiRail was working to "make repairs and add resilience" ahead of the peak freight period.
"At this stage we expect services to operate on the line again at the end of this month."
KiwiRail ran two freight trains each weeknight on the line, leaving it clear during the day and over the weekend for additional repairs to the track and SH1.
Gordon said some disruption was always possible with the limited reopening, but the rain created "much greater disruption than we could reasonably predict".
He said KiwiRail regretted the impact on customers – and that they could not take some of the freight burden away from the Lewis Pass, which is on the alternative highway route while SH1 is repaired.
KiwiRail previously claimed the Main North Line reopening would take 2000 trucks a month of the road, a figure some in the industry disputed.
At the last closure, general group manager network services Todd Moyle said the Main North Line was likely to shut up to 25 days a year, based on its current state.
MetService forecaster Cameron Coutts said Kaikōura had received 84 millimetres of rain so far in October, which was "well above" the month's average of 57mm.
He said it should be dry and relatively warm before showers returned on Monday and Tuesday. A "settled spell" was expected for the latter half of next week.
"In saying that, we're still in spring, so it's still pretty changeable," Coutts said.