KiwiRail has hailed the opening of a section of railway between Picton and Christchurch as a "huge milestone" after it was reopened to freight services today.
There were more than 1500 workers involved in the project which sought to repair the tracks after the massive November 14 earthquake struck the South Island.
Today was an emotional day for some, with a welding ceremony joining the final piece of track which reconnects the line between north and south.
"Great today to get the trains running. Just about bring tears to your eyes," KiwiRail worker Bob Day told 1 NEWS.
"Over 1300 people working in atrocious conditions, so to have what we have today to connect NZ, it's a great effort from the people involved," KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy said.
"The progress we have made to date is also due to the local community and the goodwill they have shown. The support of the people of Kaikoura, and the others up and down the line, for the rebuild has made our work easier."
Mr Reidy also said a sizeable amount of work still remains to be done and this opening is a restricted one.
The railway was opened three months ahead of schedule and trains will run mainly at night so work on the tracks can continue during the day.
The opening of railway freight services between Picton and Christchurch should see 500 less trucks on the Lewis Pass Route every week.