New Zealand First wants Northland rail line completely overhauled

Northland's rail line is in such poor shape that KiwiRail has banned passenger trains using the tracks.

The future of the aging line is a major issue in the minds of voters and New Zealand First wants the rail line completely overhauled.

Rotten railway sleepers are a common sight on the line between Auckland and Whangarei.

The route is in a state of disrepair and workers have had enough.

Two trains travel the line each day - those at the helm say the state of the track has gotten so bad, they fear for their safety.

KiwiRail banned passenger trains using the line in June this year, saying the condition of the line in some areas doesn't allow passenger trains to safely travel at an appropriate speed but KiwiRail says freight-only trains are safe because they travel at lower speeds. 

Prime Minister Bill English says he didn't know passenger trains were not allowed to travel on the line north of Auckland

"No I didn't, I haven't got down to that level of detail," Mr English says.

When asked by Newshub, Whangarei locals said they are worried about the line's future.

Winston Peters has picked up on those concerns and is calling for the route to be overhauled and extended to Whangarei's Northport too.

"This though for the north is so critical that experts in the field say it's a no brainer," Mr Peters says.

KiwiRail says making the line safe for passenger trains would cost up to $7million.

To lower tunnels, replace some bridges, and lay proper track would cost an initial $100 million, but then there's legacy and catch-up works costing $200 million which is on top of actually building a new line to the port, all up costing more than $500,000,000.

"We're working hard to make sure KiwiRail is sustainable. We have put in $5 billion since we came into government," Mr English added.