Work to restore the railway line between Picton and Christchurch, devastated by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, has won a prestigious North American rail industry award.

The work was carried out by KiwiRail and its project partners in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR).

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.

KiwiRail’s chief operating officer for capital projects, David Gordon, says it is recognition of the remarkable efforts by all the teams in NCTIR to have the main north line reopened to restricted freight services within 10 months of the earthquake.

It returned to 24/7 operations for both freight and tourism services the following year.

“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.”

Previous winners include the project to rebuild stations and rail links damaged by the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack, and reconstruction efforts following Cyclone Katrina in 2006.

Mr Gordon says the restoration project is one of the largest ever undertaken in New Zealand.

“While we now have a reliable line for running our freight and tourism services, there is still work being done to complete the job.”

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

More than 1.1 million tonnes of freight has been moved on the line since it reopened in September 2017.

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