Issue 106 - December 2023

Project Update from the KiwiRail Geotechnical Team

It is an exciting time for rail in New Zealand. KiwiRail is in a transformational phase in terms of processes, systems, and asset renewals. The KiwiRail Civil Engineering team has gone through a rapid expansion in the last few years. Currently our Civil Engineering team is a team of twelve comprising a range of Civil Engineers, Water Engineers, Geotechnical Engineers and Engineering Geologists and we are looking to increase in size in the near future. 

KiwiRail are proud to present the Geotechnical team at KiwiRail which comprises:

  • Daniel Rodriguez Troitino (Professional Head Civil) 
  • Romy Ridl (Engineering Team Leader Civil) 
  • David Molnar (Senior Engineering Geologist) 
  • Audi Putra (Senior Geotechnical Engineer)
  • Tom Revell (Senior Engineering Geologist)
  • Aditya Prasad (Senior Geotechnical Engineer)

The role of the geotechnical team within KiwiRail is extremely varied; from responding to slip events along the rail network, developing risk-based solutions to ensure that the rail is maintained at a tolerable geotechnical risk; to amending KiwiRail standards to align with current and best national and international standards. The primary responsibilities of the geotechnical team includes: engineering design and advice, codes and standards, compliance, asset and risk management, and overall short-term and long-term strategies for KiwiRail from a geotechnical perspective. 

Current Affairs

While tracking, along with projects that are part of the Rail Network Investment Programme and the recovery from the impact of ex-tropical Cyclone Gabrielle in various parts of the network, the KiwiRail Geotechnical Team have been busy with a large slip which occurred on Sunday 15 October following heavy rainfall in the Buller Gorge. The landslide engulfed the western end of Tunnel 3 on the West Coast’s Stillwater to Ngakawau Line (SNL).

The westbound train impacted the slip and was partially derailed. The event resulted in no injury to the Locomotive Engineer.

The immediate response from the Geotechnical Team was to assess the slope hazards to determine the risk of removal of the derailed train and works to ‘make-safe’ to enable resumption of operations. 

A variety of drones were used to assess the slip, including the innovative use of lights mounted onto a UAV flown within the damaged tunnel to inspect the lining, a first on the KiwiRail Network. 

Once the train had been safely removed, efforts were focussed on scaling and inspections of the headscarp area. RockControl have provided successful targeted scaling and drilling for blasting operations as part of the emergency works working alongside MBD Contracting, with WSP providing key technical input during the more challenging stages. Of note are two large boulders approximately 800 tonne and 250 tonne, which require removing to enable access to the tunnel.

The next steps will be a structural assessment of the tunnel for a full assessment of the damage.

KiwiRail Standards

KiwiRail’s Civil Team are currently updating a number of the Civil Standards and Task Instructions for use in inspections, risk assessments, design and construction. Updates to these standards will be going through review for release early in the new year.

For any questions on the updated standards or any geotechnical related queries please email 

Tags : #Cyclone Gabrielle

Issue 106 - December 2023, NZ Geomechanics News
Issue 106 - December 2023, NZ Geomechanics News
New Zealand
Project News / Case Study

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