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The rail from Christchurch to Greymouth has been closed since a fire damaged bridges and signal equipment in early February. The fire burnt a large area of about 300 hectares in a remote place where it was difficult to get fire fighters close to the fire. Ten helicopters helped to put out the fire. Some bridges with wooden supports were badly damaged.
Before the fire, there were four freight trains daily, transporting coal and dairy products from the West Coast to Lyttelton Port. Since the fire, trucks have transported dairy products but it was not possible to transport large quantities of coal by road.
As well as freight trains, a tourist train, called the TranzAlpine, left Christchurch every day on the five-hour trip to Greymouth. It returned later in the day but many passengers chose to stay longer on the West Coast.
This trip travels over high viaducts through the Southern Alps with wonderful views, especially in the winter when the mountains are snow covered. About 17,000 people were booked on the TranzAlpine during February, March and later in the year. Because of the damage caused by the fire, buses have been used; however, the scenery that people can see from the road is not quite as interesting.
Fortunately, repairs took less time than expected and the rail will open again on Wednesday.
Check out the views from the TranzAlpine train.
• remote (adj) – a long distance from where people live (your TV remote control operates at a distance from your TV)
• freight (adj, n) – goods, cargo
• TranzAlpine – trans means across, alpine means mountains
• viaduct (n) – high bridge over a river
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