Five train stations have re-opened on Auckland’s Eastern Line after a major rebuild effort, however, there’s more pain ahead for commuters in other parts of the city as workers prepare to roll out the next stage of closures.

After nine months of work, stations in Panmure, Glen Innes, Ōrākei, Sylvia Park, and Meadowbank re-opened this morning. However, due to ongoing track work at Britomart, citybound trains only ran as far as The Strand – a station on the outskirts of the CBD.

The re-opening of the line coincides with the resumption of services on other lines after Auckland’s usual three-week-long network shutdown over Christmas.

KiwiRail capital planning officer David Gordon said speed restrictions on the Eastern Line have now been removed because of the completion of stage two of the rail rebuild programme.

“We appreciate the understanding and patience shown by passengers. This is the kind of work that needs to be done every 50 to 100 years, and it was long overdue,” he said.

“Not only is our rail network rebuild work making sure the line can safely handle the more frequent trains that will come when the City Rail Link begins operating, there will also be immediate benefits.

“Speed restrictions have now been removed from the line, and the many Eastern Line train users will experience a smoother ride and more reliable services.”

He said the Eastern Line works had been extensive but necessary.

“We’ve had around 130 people and contractors working on the line … replacing the compacted rock foundations up to a metre below the track, improving drainage to make the line more resilient to weather, and replacing worn rail, sleepers and ballast.”

Auckland Transport public transport director Stacey van der Putten said the agency thanked passengers for their “patience and flexibility” over the past 10 months.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming them back onboard our trains in time for the busiest time of year on our public transport network in February and March when people return to work, school and university in large numbers,” she said.

“The return of our full Eastern Line services will also help to improve a wide range of public transport connections, such as our airport link service via Puhinui Station.”

AT said bus services upgraded at the beginning of the closure, lines 74 and 76, would continue to retain their improved frequency permanently.

Next round of disruptions for train users

Weekend and late-night closures are expected across parts of Auckland’s train network in the remaining stages of KiwiRail’s rail rebuild programme.

Workers are replacing the rock foundations underneath tracks across the city’s 130km rail network.

The overall rebuild programme is expected to be finished only after the City Rail Link is complete in 2026.

“Previously, stages one and two have involved lengthy closures of parts of the Southern and Eastern Line. However, for stage three, on weekdays, most trains will continue to run to minimise customer impact,” according to Auckland Transport.

“KiwiRail will return to Stage 3a and the Western Line in early March through to May 2024 to complete drainage and track work between Avondale and Morningside Stations.

“Some works will be completed during weekdays; however, train services will continue to run on a reduced frequency.

“Stage 3b will start on January 26 and run through to March 7 on the Southern Line between Puhinui and Papakura. This work will be completed during weekends and overnight to allow train services to run on weekdays.

“Additional work will take place on the currently closed section of the Southern Line between Papakura and Pukekohe from late May until late June 2024.”