Reasons for train delays Reasons for train delays

Trains can be delayed for a variety of reasons such as infrastructure problems, people or objects on the tracks, medical incidents and occasionally the weather. When a train is delayed we come up with a plan to manage it and minimise flow on effects to later services.

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We understand it can be frustrating when a train is running late or service is cancelled. We will do our best to keep you updated around your train service by sending out service updates, notifications and updating the website.

How to stay updated when there’s a train delay

If you are in the station:

  • check for any messages on the real time information boards.
  • listen for any station/platform announcements.
  • if you are directed to use alternative transport, check information displays for maps which show bus stops for scheduled bus services.

If you are on a train impacted by delays:

  • listen for on board announcements.
  • check with staff on board.

Reasons why trains may be delayed

Adverse weather

Fog, light rain and/or hail causing reduced train speed.

Bridge struck by vehicle

A car or truck has hit a rail bridge. The bridge needs to be inspected by a structural engineer to make sure it’s safe, and any debris cleared, before trains can run over the bridge again.

Customer matter

An on-board or station incident concerning the safety or wellbeing of customers.


Contact between the train and rail has been lost. This service cannot operate causing delays across the network.

Emergency services incident

A serious incident on or near the rail corridor with emergency services in attendance. Emergency services site clearance is required before services can resume.

Engineering work

Emergency track maintenance work or scheduled works running late.


Confirmed fatality on the network. Expect delays or cancellations while the incident inquiry is in progress.

Freight train

A disabled or delayed freight train affecting the running of passenger services.

Heat related speed restrictions

Rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20℃ hotter than the air temperature. Because rails are made from steel, they expand as they get hotter, and this can cause defects. The rail network is monitored by a remote system, which measures the temperature of the track and the air temperature. When these reach a certain point, usually 40℃, heat inspections are carried out. Temporary speed restrictions may be introduced in selected locations as a precautionary measure.
Work is done throughout the year to prepare the rail for warmer weather in summer and to minimise the impact of speed restrictions due to heat. Rails are artificially stretched to allow room for expansion and over time this needs to be repeated across the network, usually every 10 years. This is called de-stressing.
Disruptions and delays impact on trains, rosters and staff, and there are often flow-on effects on later services. If rail buses are required to replace trains, these will try and follow the train timetable.

Industrial action

Action taken by a union where regular train services are temporarily affected.

Level crossing issue

A faulty barrier arm that needs urgent repair. Trains must run at reduced speeds until resolved.

Network Control issue

An operational incidents affected by signalling systems across the wider rail network.

Onboard medical emergency

This service must wait at a train station for medical assistance, impacting other services.

Overhead line problem

Damage or interference to overhead lines meaning electric trains can't run until the lines are cleared or repaired.

Reinstate train

A train service that was cancelled earlier has been reinstated.

Severe weather

Extreme weather conditions can occasionally affect train services. This includes flooding, slips, fallen trees, high winds or damage to power lines.

Signal issue

Signals relay information to the train driver on the state of the line ahead, and whether they can proceed, at what speed, or to stop. If a signal fails the driver needs to contact train control to get clearance to proceed, the train is likely to travel slower as a safety measure.

Special event

Services impacted by increased patronage or changes to special events

Station Facility issue

Station closed due to fire alarm or power outages.

Track fault

Track faults include points failure, temporary speed restrictions and broken rails. Points are movable sections of track, allowing trains to move from one line to another. When they stop working they require the train crew or KiwiRail to electrically isolate and manually operate the points.

Trackside fire

Train services held, due to fire or the effects of fire including smoke.

Track obstruction

Trees, animals or other obstruction on the tracks preventing trains from passing until the obstruction is cleared.

Train crew matter

Any matters involving train crew as a result of an operational incident.

Train fault

A problem has occurred with a train causing a service to be delayed or cancelled. This could be an isolated issue quickly rectified such as a door fault; or may delay other trains if a train is disabled and blocks the line.


A person on or near the tracks making it unsafe to pass this area without risking harm to that person.  Trains will be held until confirmation it’s all clear. Note: Trespassing is illegal and people can be fined up to $10,000.

Learn more about safety around trains, stations and tracks.


Damage to a train, track or overhead line caused by vandalism making it unsafe to run the train/s.

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