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The Main North Line restoration project is the first from outside the US and Canada to win the AREMA’s WW Hay Award for Excellence

Main North Line restoration project wins major international award

Work by KiwiRail and its project partners in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR), to restore the railway line between Picton and Christchurch devastated by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, has won a prestigious North American rail industry award.

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The New Zealand entry is the first from outside the United States and Canada to win the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association’s (AREMA) annual WW Hay Award for Excellence.

“This is further recognition of the remarkable efforts by all our teams in NCTIR to have the Main North Line reopened to restricted freight services within 10 months of the earthquake and a return to 24/7 operations for both freight and tourism services the following year,” says KiwiRail chief operating officer – capital projects, David Gordon.

North America’s freight railways are widely acknowledged as the best in the world. Given that the biggest of those railways have regularly won this award, it is an honour to now be recognised, adds Mr Gordon. Previous winners include the project to rebuild stations and rail links damaged by the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack, and the reconstruction efforts following Cyclone Katrina in 2006.

“The Main North Line restoration project was one of the largest ever undertaken here in New Zealand, and while we now have a reliable line for running our freight and tourism services, there is still work being done to complete the job,” says Mr Gordon.

Further awards

The rail recovery efforts following the Kaikoura earthquake have already received awards from the Institute for Civil Engineering, which has a global membership from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, and an Australasian rail industry body.

More than 1.1 million tonnes of freight has been moved on the line since it initially reopened in September 2017, and KiwiRail’s Great Journeys of New Zealand Coastal Pacific service began its 2020 season on 27 September.


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