The Northland rail project is already providing jobs for locals, with 200 contractors and KiwiRail staff needed over the coming months.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has pledged $204.5 million for the project - $164.5m to upgrade the Northland rail line and $40m to buy land.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his caucus colleague, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones visited the KiwiRail yard in Whangārei to meet some of the new rail workers.
Minister Jones said more than 200 contractors and KiwiRail staff will be needed to undertake the upgrade work over the months ahead and KiwiRail is using Northland contractors and suppliers where possible.
Northland suppliers include Clements Quarries, which is supplying ballast, and Busck Prestressed Concrete, which will be supplying sleepers.
The project has meant that KiwiRail has been able to employ 12 additional track staff to work alongside its existing team on the project. Eight of those will be based in Whangārei, with two in Maungaturoto and two in Helensville.
Minister Jones said the work will allow freight trains to travel faster between Northland and Auckland.
Currently 30,000 containers leave Northland each year by road and lowering tracks in the tunnels means many could be transported by rail, which would mean fewer trucks on Northland's roads.