KiwiRail is planning to take on prisoners as track workers - in the wake of the government's new investment in Northland rail.
The $94.8m cash injection from the Provincial Growth Fund was announced on Friday by the Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
The company's advertised for about 20 paid staff as it begins the job of rebuilding the old line between Whangārei and Auckland.
Rail spokesman Albie Barr said KiwiRail was also looking to recruit 20 trainees from Ngāwhā Prison, near Kaikohe.
"We'll be out there interviewing and shortlisting from 100 potential cadets or workers; then we'll narrow it down to 20," he said.
"It'll lead into full-time jobs, so they will get jobs with KiwiRail eventually, when they're released."
Ngāwhā prisoners had already proved to be among the best workers recruited to help with government's tree-planting schemes in the north, Mr Barr said.
He expected the same would apply to those selected as railway trainees.
KiwiRail said it would take a year to rebuild the North Auckland line, enabling it to carry containers and other freight at a speed that would make it economic.