Building a better rail network for the Wellington region

FutureRailLogoWith more than 14 million passenger journeys a year on the Wellington Rail Network, while the rail network is well maintained some parts of it are wearing out and need to be replaced. KiwiRail and Metlink are working together to upgrade the rail network to make services more reliable and enable more people to travel on trains in the future, with funding provided by the New Zealand Government. 

Future Rail, also known as the Wellington Metro Upgrade (external link) , is a collection of projects which will deliver a service with fewer speed restrictions and outages, longer trains and more services for our Metlink commuters. Improving the network is an ongoing project with currently funded works which will be delivered until 2026. 

Future Rail projects can be divided into two main areas:

1. Renewing existing infrastructure so services run as smoothly as possible:

  • Replacing and modernising the overhead power system and signals power supply
  • Renewing the track across the network, including inside the four major tunnels

2. Adding capacity so more people can travel on trains in the future while still allowing for freight services:

  • Double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt
  • Improvements to Wellington Railway Station approaches and changes at Plimmerton

Keep an eye out for the project symbol to see the upgrade work underway in your area.

For more detail on the Future Rail project, visit the KiwiRail website (external link)

Works are spread across the wider Wellington region

Much of our current work is on the Hutt Line. Our work will allow more frequent and reliable train services.

These works include:

  • Double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt – improving reliability and frequency of train services
  • Replacing overhead power system – improving service reliability
  • New power supply for signals – improving service reliability

This work will be carried out at several locations along the line and will include:

  • Renewing tracks - Remutuka tunnels and along 60 km between Upper Hutt and Masterton
  • Renewing three bridges
  • Renewing signalling between Upper Hutt and Featherston

Future works planned on this line will include:

  • Changes at Plimmerton Station to make this a terminus station
  • Replacing old track inside the tunnels along the line and stabilising slopes

We're now working on the Johnsonville line:

  • Renewing traction power overhead line systems
  • Renewing sleepers within all seven tunnels
  • Slope stability improvement Ngaio Gorge

The work to manage future demand on the network at the station is important as peak period patronage is forecast to keep growing. Our activities will see us:

  • Improving Station approaches to increase capacity
  • Renewing traction power overhead line systems

What does this mean for me?

With most of the rail lines being used almost 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we’re working with KiwiRail to balance keeping the trains running while planning access to the tracks for upgrade work at quieter times. Some work can only be done when there are no trains on the track, so we’ll provide buses to replace trains to ensure you can still get to where you’re needing to go.

Know before you go by signing up to My Metlink or see the posters at your local station for upcoming track work, project updates and buses replacing trains timetables (external link) .

You deserve a reliable network and we’re working hard to make that happen as we continue to refine and improve the network based on your feedback and our research.

Frequently asked questions

There are several things that can impact on our ability to run your train service on time - infrastructure faults, speed restrictions, natural disasters, emergency service incidents, planned maintenance, etc.

When a train is delayed or affected by any of these incidents, we put a plan in place to manage it. This might mean your service will run with reduced seating, it could also be terminated prior to its destination or may be cancelled and replaced with buses.   

For more information visit the 'What delays trains’ page

Rolling stock is the operational term used to describe the trains and carriages. As part of our rolling stock maintenance program we conduct regular inspections of our fleet. There may be occasions when a higher number of trains require maintenance and repairs.

This may cause services to have fewer than normal carriages or, on rare occasions, a service might have to be cancelled. If you see ‘reduced seating’ in some of our alerts or service updates, you may wish to take an earlier or later service.  

For various reasons train services occasionally have to be replaced with buses. Where possible we aim to keep the trains running while urgent or planned work is underway, however, some work can only be done when there are no trains on the track, so bus replacements are necessary.

For more information visit the ‘Buses replacing trains’ page.  

Patronage on a public holiday and long weekends is typically lower than during the working week, so choosing to work over long weekends will disrupt fewer customers. It gives the KiwiRail team a longer period time to work on the track, meaning larger projects can be worked on and more works will be completed. It also allows the transport of heavy machinery and materials to sites in a safe and controlled manner. 

Due to the government's investment in the Wellington Rail Network, we are undertaking many new and exciting projects at various locations across the network: this is called Future Rail. A lot of this work is happening alongside regular maintenance work which means a larger number of evenings, weekends and public holidays will have services that are replaced by bus. 

To keep our trains running on time, the track and rail infrastructure must be inspected on a regular basis. When something is found to be substandard or worn out, it has to be repaired or replaced, and this is regular maintenance work.

Future Rail looks to improve our rail network by either adding new bits of infrastructure or undertaking significant renewal projects that cost large sums of money. 

Future Rail is split up into many different projects. If new funding continues to be approved, then it’s likely that significant upgrade work could continue till at least 2027/2028.

Within Future Rail, there are many projects that have various end dates. One of the first significant projects that is due to be completed is a new section of track between Trentham and Upper Hutt on the Hutt Valley Line.

This will allow a higher frequency of trains to run between Wellington and Upper Hutt. This project is currently due to be completed by February 2021. 

While large amounts of upgrades and improvements happen across the network, it will mean a large number of evening, weekends and public holidays will have services that are replaced by bus. For those people who live close to the tracks it might also mean some increased noise and disturbance while this work is taking place.

However, once complete, these improvements will mean fewer speed restrictions and outages. They’ll also enable Metlink to schedule longer trains, and more services for commuters, and KiwiRail to schedule more freight services for local businesses. 

Freight trains run much less frequently compared to passenger trains, so it is easier for workers to stop to allow one or two freight trains through, than it is for them to stop and allow 90 passenger trains through.

Occasionally a freight train will also have to make a ferry connection at Wellington to allow it to continue its journey further south. 

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