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State-owned rail track company Ontrack said it will need another $400 million over five years to bring the tracks up to speed.
This is on top of normal maintenance and the $200m special funding that was injected after the network was purchased from Tranz Rail in 2004.
Chairman Cam Moore said such investment was not a "black hole" for spending when fuel prices were rocketing.
"Compared with some other forms of infrastructure development, the planned investment in rail is modest and will enable rail to grow and take pressure off the roads - saving money, improving safety and benefiting the environment," he said.
The Government this year agreed to buy back the national railway and ferry operations from Australia's Toll Holdings for $665m.
Ontrack said today it had confirmed a goal of 2010 for clearing the backlog of a decade of deferred maintenance it inherited when it took responsibility for the railway network in 2004.
It has just completed a rail deviation west of Wanganui which eliminated a tunnel incapable of taking standard large containers.
"We said at the time we took responsibility for the rail network that addressing the decade of underinvestment during private sector ownership would present a challenge," said Moore.
"With the planned increase in funding for basic maintenance work, we think we can catch up on the backlog within two more years."
Moore said there was a "bow wave" of infrastructure replacement work looming in coming years including upgrading lines so they would handle heavier axelled wagons.
Around 200 kilometres (5 per cent of the network) of rail is approaching the end of its predicted life and 23 per cent of all bridges were at least 90 years old. Thirty three per cent are 80 years or more. Ninety to 100 years is the normal age at which a bridge should be replaced.
Thirty bridges on the network are subject to speed restrictions because of the age or condition of the bridge. Bridges are understood to cost on average about $30 million.
There has also been a huge backlog of work clearing drains and culverts that had been suspended for many years, resulting in an increase in track geometry and track formation faults, Moore said.
For the story with pictures, go to:
The New Zealand Herald
Friday, June 20, 2008
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