Improved revenue from domestic freight (up 30%), forestry (up 15%), and bulk freight (up 8%), all contributed to the increase, along with an 8% increase in tourism revenue from the rail and ferry services. Overall, group revenue increased by more than $NZ 36m to $NZ 328.8m, with the operating surplus up 7% to $NZ 16.3m.

The strong increase in freight followed the full reopening of the Main North Line from Picton to Christchurch following the Kaikoura earthquake on November 14 2016.

“It will take some time to get back to where we were before the Main North Line was closed following the quake but we are seeing increased demand in this result,” says KiwiRail chairman, Mr Greg Miller.

KiwiRail is planning to continue expanding its network in 2019, with the reopening of the Napier -Wairoa line for forestry traffic, as well as preparing for the construction of a branch line to Marsden Point. The company is also preparing for the launch of Hamilton - Auckland commuter services, and has begun the process of purchasing two new train ferries for the operation in the Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton.

“KiwiRail is dealing with a legacy of underinvestment from successive governments and our infrastructure still requires a lot of work to bring it up to a modern transport standard so we can really deliver what we are being asked to deliver,” Miller says. “The government has seen we are in catch-up mode and is willing to invest for the good of New Zealand.”

“This result shows the green-shoots of growth across all of our tourism and freight businesses which requires our teams to really focus on performance delivery for our customers,” says KiwiRail acting chief executive, Mr Todd Moyle. “We have restructured our operations, network services and rolling stock teams to ensure greater alignment and efficiency. That has seen improvements in network reliability, a plan to rejuvenate our aged locomotive and wagon fleets and a commitment to further improve our on-time performance and efficiency.”