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The big lift . . . A 102-tonne locomotive is shifted on to a trailer, north of Kaikoura. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By DAVID HILL

KiwiRail brought in a 132-tyre transporter to tackle the huge job of moving two locomotives left stranded by the Kaikoura earthquake.

The first of the locomotives was lifted on to the transporter last Thursday and taken to Kaikoura, with the other making the same journey on Friday.

“This is another sign of the good progress we are making in getting the line open again as soon as possible,” KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle says.

“More than 40 percent of the work needed to get freight moving again is now complete.

“The Main North Line is an important part of our network and before the earthquake more than a million tonnes of freight was moving over the line each year.”

KiwiRail engineering manager Peter Dautermann says “moving the locomotives is a massive job”.

“A team of specialists was needed to manage the shift. The logistics involved in preparing to move these locomotives is enormous.

“They weigh 102 tonnes each. Two cranes are needed to lift each one on to the transporter,” Mr Dautermann says.

KiwiRail freight service 737 stopped in a tunnel north of Kaikoura, near Hapuku on the morning of the November 14 earthquake.

The freight it was carrying was taken off it in December and the 23 wagons were lifted out and taken to Christchurch by road earlier this month.

While they waited for the shift, the locomotives had been wrapped in plastic to protect them from the salt air.

Mr Moyle says the size of the task of shifting the locomotives is typical of the size of the task in reopening the line.

“However the skill of our workforce and the partnerships we have in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance with the New Zealand Transport Agency means I am very confident we will get the job done.”