The running of a test train last week means the rail line between Whangārei and Swanson in West Auckland is back in action after an upgrade funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.
KiwiRail said that in seven months, five bridges were replaced and the tracks in 13 tunnels lowered to allow the passage of hi-cube shipping containers that are standard in international shipping.
KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said that at its peak the project had more than 600 people working on it.
"In addition to the new bridges and improved tunnels, the team laid 30,000 new sleepers and nearly 63,000m3 of ballast to provide a more secure base for the track."
More than 400,000 hours went into the construction work, but it was not over yet.
"While we are delighted that this section of the line is up and running, there's some more intricate work to the tunnel linings required. Additionally, to allow greater train speed and axle weight, over time we will be replacing another 10km of rail and laying more than 100,000 sleepers," Miller said.
For now, re-opening the line was a "big achievement", he said.
It would support importers, improve sustainability, and help with KiwiRail's efforts to address the freight backlog, Miller added.
"Fewer trucks on roads also means less congestion, lower road maintenance costs, and greater road safety. It also means fewer emissions. Every tonne of freight carried by rail produces 70 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent freight carried by road."
Miller said the re-opening of the line was a good opportunity to remind people to take care around the railway line and to always look for trains before crossing the tracks.
KiwiRail does not yet have a spur directly to Northport but the PGF funding has allowed it to begin buying land along the route.
In the meantime, freight is trucked from the port to the rail line in Whangārei, then carried by rail, south to Auckland and other destinations.