Bad weather closes newly-fixed rail line between Picton and Christchurch
Just a single train managed to traverse the newly-repaired rail line from Christchurch to Picton before bad weather closed it again.
KiwiRail group general manager network services Todd Moyle confirmed freight trains had not been able to run on the Main North Line since the first one made a ceremony of completing the first post-earthquake journey last Friday.
"Due to the adverse weather that we've had over the last couple of days, we've had to close the line, purely as a precautionary measure.
"It's disappointing that it's happened so soon after reopening."
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Moyle said they were taking a "conservative approach" to weather, both for the safety of staff and so freight was not trapped.
He said KiwiRail would monitor the weather to determine when the line could reopen.
"There is reasonably bad weather forecast for the next two or three days through there so we're monitoring that."
He said it would potentially cause a small backlog of freight but KiwiRail would find ways of working with customers to resolve it. Some would have to move freight by road instead.
The rail line would likely shut 20 to 25 days a year due to weather, based on its current state, Moyle said.
The Main North Line was badly damaged in the magnitude-7.8 November 14 earthquake. Rebuild work had been ongoing since.
Work was continuing to make the line more weatherproof. Moyle said the line was likely to be back to a pre-earthquake state early to mid 2018.
KiwiRail planned to run two freight trains on the line each weeknight. Journeys were on hold during the day and weekends so repair work on the track and the adjacent State Highway 1 could be completed.
Moyle said a 650-metre section of track south of Kaikōura was moved onto new foundations over the weekend, while three debris flow bridges, which would allow possible future slips to pass under the line, had been started to the north.
Hundreds of people showed up to welcome the first freight train into Kaikōura last Friday, before it made its way to a celebration in Christchurch in the afternoon.
The bad weather also closed the Inland Road to Kaikōura due to flooding on Tuesday. SH1 south of Kaikoura is still able to be accessed through escorted convoys.
THE RAILWAY REBUILD
The November 14 earthquake caused major damage to about 60 sites along the Main North Line, which had carried about 1 million tonnes of freight annually.
About 1500 workers have been involved in the rebuild – one of the biggest rail rebuilds in New Zealand since World War II.
About 1 million cubic metres of slip material has been removed so far.
KiwiRail has run limited services at night to allow rebuild work on the road and rail to continue during the day.
The line is also being used to bring building materials to construction sites, including some of the 3000 5-tonne concrete blocks needed to build new seawalls.
Its passenger service, the Coastal Pacific, will remain on hold until 2018.
Chief executive Peter Reidy said there was "still a sizeable amount of work to be done before we return the line to its pre-quake state".
Many of the repairs done so far were interim repairs that would have to eventually be replaced with permanent solutions.
The rail corridor was able to be repaired more quickly than the adjacent SH1 because tunnels protected some of the line from the worst slips and because the railway was narrower than the road.