Thousands of Auckland rail commuters face weeks of disrupted trips from today as buses replace trains between Britomart and Newmarket.
About 16,000 passenger trips will be interrupted in this pre-Christmas week while KiwiRail prepares to lower a kilometre of duplication tracks both for electrification and for the construction of a new Parnell railway station.
The Britomart-Newmarket line will be shut for almost five weeks, until January 18, and the rest of Auckland's rail network will be out of action from Christmas Day to January 3.
Limited services will resume then on the southern and western lines, but the eastern line will stay shut for electrification work until January 15 and the Britomart-Newmarket link will not reopen until January 18. That will leave western line passengers having to catch buses from Grafton Station for the final leg to Britomart.
Those on the southern line will have to leave trains at Newmarket Station, and cross neighbouring Remuera Rd to catch buses into the city.
Auckland Transport and KiwiRail are beginning construction and maintenance early this summer so that they can restore all services in time for the Big Day Out festival on January 20.
That is despite a cutback in acts playing at Mt Smart Stadium and concern raised by Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee that commuters are being inconvenienced for the sake of entertainment.
But Auckland Transport believes more rail users would be disrupted by a shutdown running into the third week of January, even without counting the festival-goers, than this week.
KiwiRail is spending $12 million to lower the tracks for the new Parnell station, which Auckland Transport will complete by 2014 for $7.2 million.
Meanwhile, safety warnings are going up at Auckland level crossings to stop truck drivers snagging loads on potentially deadly power lines being erected for the electric trains.
KiwiRail electrification project director Nick French says some of the new 25,000-volt lines will be "energised" as early as the middle of next year.
RAIL LINE CLOSURES
* Today until Saturday - Newmarket to Britomart.
* Christmas Day (Sunday) - no trains or bus replacements.
* Boxing Day to Tuesday, January 3 - Full network closure, buses replace all trains.
* January 4 to Sunday, January 15 - Newmarket to Britomart and Papakura to Britomart via Glen Innes (eastern line).
* January 16-18 - Newmarket to Britomart.